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QRD #73 - Father's Day 2015
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Cartoonist Dad Interview with Mike Kitchen creator of Spy Guy
June 2015
Mike Kitchen
Name: Mike Kitchen
Comics: Spy Guy
Websites: www.ultraist.net

QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?

Mike – Some things are in your DNA. Telling stories through drawing was always just something I did. Never gave it much thought really.

QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?

Mike – My cartooning career quickly turned into an animation career, which quickly turned into a computer animation career. & animating on a computer is a lot more like a monkey typing on a keyboard. But for the sake of the question, let’s use the word “career” in the loosest sense of the word. The first & last time I ever really got paid for my drawing was doing development work for the software company Alias|Wavefront where I designed characters & drew up storyboards that were used for in house production pieces that were used as demos to sell Maya, which has since become the standard in computer animation. If you Google “Bingo The Clown,” you’ll see some of that work. But my personal highlight was self-publishing my own character Spy Guy.

QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?

Mike – Again, I think this comes down to DNA. It was never so much a decision, but instead a key component in this whole cycle of life thing we’re experiencing. I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea that there are people that don’t take that instinct for granted.

QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?

Mike – The most positive impact my family has had on my career has been as a reality check. When you know who you’re fighting for, it’s easy to fight the good fight. You can work a hard day, knowing that there is a home with people that love you that you get to return to.
The most negative effect my family has had on my career is that they have always been more important, so they get first dibs on time & energy. Of course, the financial energy comes from the day job, so there is a symbiotic relationship there.

QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?

Mike – This is another case where the definition of career can alter the answer, so lets answer this one twice. First with the definition of CAREER as computer animation. Second with the definition of “career” as self-publishing comic books...
The positive impact of my CAREER on my family is that it has provided the financial energy to fuel their existence. Here’s another fun positive impact; for a time we were able to travel. Three years in Hawaii. Two years in Montreal. A year & a half in California. Quite the adventure. A very memorable moment was a Thursday “drink night” at Tippett Studio where my daughters got to play with the live action animatronic puppet for the movie Constantine. Just Google “Constantine Demon” to see what I’m talking about. These days I’m working at Rockstar Games, so you can imagine the neighborhood kids reactions when they find out, “Your dad worked on Grand Theft Auto!?!?”
The negative effects of my CAREER only creep up during production “crunch time” where hours get long.
As for self-publishing... The positive impact of my “career” in this case? Maybe being able to show the kids that you CAN do something yourself. If you have an idea you can create it. Even if it is a cash drain... wait... this is the positive answer... isn’t it...
The negative effect of my “career” is that for years it devoured what little free time & vacation time I had available. & for very little pay off. I made the decision a couple years ago; no more vacation time making comics. Those days are now for the family. As a result, a lot less pages are getting done (but a whole lot more memories are being made).

QRD – Have your children effected the comics you make &/or read?

Mike – Read? No.  Make? Sort of... Foul language is something I’ve found myself trying to dial back knowing that my children are going to be looking at it. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen once my children are all grown up & the kid gloves are able to come off. Time will tell.

QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from an artistic career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?

Mike – My CAREER has managed to make ends meet. We live relatively comfortable for a family of seven on a single income in 2015.  Whereas my “career” has been a cash drain since day one. Hence the CAREER.

QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on going on the convention circuit, would you have showed more earlier in life if you’d known?

Mike – My family has never been the source of any sort of limitations on the convention circuit. Full credit to having a great wife & kids.  The real limitations come from the whole economic ecosystem surrounding the convention circuit that’s been going through a very noticeable change since 2006. That’s a whole other discussion...

QRD – Do you think being a father or a cartoonist has a greater impact on your community?

Mike – Comics primarily expose people to ideas in the form of entertainment. The people who read them are scattered across the planet & comics are inherently a very personal, solitary, form of entertainment consumption. So that would be a very loose definition of “community”.  Whereas being a father, who is active in the lives of his children, is very different. Incomparable, really. You interact directly with your children & their friends IN the community, providing an example on what it means to be a father, & to have a family. They witness the family structure & the stability that can provide. When you sit on the bench as a hockey coach, you help them through adversity. How to work together as a team. How to handle victory & defeat with honour. It really is very different.

QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become cartoonists or parents?

Mike – All I want to see from my children is for them to live up to their potential. To be the best people they can be. To have a good life experience.  But put a gun to my head & tell me to properly answer the question as it was written?  The easy answer would be “parent”.
Comics are just lines on paper, but becoming a parent is passing your genetic information into eternity.

QRD – Both family & comics seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?

Mike – Family first.  Comics second.

QRD – What do your kids think of your comics?

Mike – To be honest, I’ve never asked them.

QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your children?

Mike – If you can get your hands on Indie Comics Magazine #2, you’ll see the result of the collaboration between myself & my three oldest children. It might just be the best comicing experience of my “career”. I think I’ll do some more of those collaborations. Good times.

QRD – Any words of advice to young people?

Mike – N’ah.  If you’ve got your head on straight, you’ll figure it out.  It’s all part of the life experience.
Mike Kitchen