Kean’s Soo Good

The cover of Flight.
The cover of Flight.
Credit: 
Supplied
Kean Soo’s self portrait.
Kean Soo’s self portrait.
Credit: 
Image courtesy of keaner.net

Kean Soo graduated from Queen’s in 2002 with a degree in electrical engineering, and as the best laid plans of mice and men often go, he is now a promising comic book artist and graphic novelist, who stands poised at the edge of real success.

Soo is included in the Flight anthology, published by Image Comics, which was the belle of the ball at this summer’s San Diego and Toronto Comic Book Conventions. “I would never have imagined that I would be where I am now,” the 24-year-old Soo said in an interview with the Journal. “I’d mostly thought of [comic books] as a side pursuit, a hobby,” he said.

That all changed just over a year ago when Soo was contacted by fellow web comic artist, Kazu Kabushi about joining a collection of other artists to create a small anthology of work.

“Basically, we all did web comics and we were mutual admirers of each other, but we had never met,” he said. “Kazu Kabushi, who is the editor of the project, decided to put together a small, black and white, self-published anthology, and he just started contacting people whose work he liked and who he wanted to be in the anthology,” he said.

The group of artists worked on the project without expecting to attract any interest from publishers.

“We figured it would be too alternative for mainstream comics right now,” he said.

By February of this year, the group had the stories finished and were able to showcase sample pages and artwork at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. It was at that expo where the publisher for Image Comics, Erik Larsson, first noticed Flight.

“Without even looking at any of the pages, he saw the art and said, ‘We want to publish this,’” Soo said.

That was the first meeting the group had with Image and from there they worked out a contract and by the end of July, Flight was ready to go.

At the comic book convention in Toronto just a few weekends ago, every single copy of Flight was sold. At the convention in San Diego earlier in the summer, 600 copies of the book were sold, and it was one of the most talked about releases at the convention.

Kean Soo is not your typical comic book artist. His work can be plaintive, thoughtful, and introspective one minute, and near flawless, slice-of-life wit, the next. His stories can be about everything and nothing. And his style is rarely consistent from piece to piece. This is especially evident in the journal comic on his website, one he had committed himself to for nearly two years, but has since retired.

“I feel the need to experiment because I wasn’t formally trained,” he said. “I don’t really feel that I’ve found my voice yet.

“I’ve been influenced a lot by Wong Kar-Wei films,” he said. “So, I’m more geared towards the quieter, subtler forms of storytelling. It’s more purely fiction than some of the more fantasy-type stories that you’ll find in Flight.

If Kean Soo made music, he might be considered lo-fi.

“I always worry about how I intend to over-write dialogue,” One of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of experiencing Soo’s stories on the web is the music that accompanies them. “It’s just another form of experimenting with different styles,” Soo said. “In this case, experimenting with music and images to see if I can evoke some response from the reader,” he said.

“I find that music engages a different part of your brain,” he said. “There are certain things that only music can do to evoke certain emotions out of people.”

Currently, he’s working on his story for Flight II, which he says is a science fiction story, something he has never really tried before. In addition to the sequel to Flight, Soo is also working on another auto-biographical story for True Porn II, which will be ready for next summer. In addition to all of that, he’s working on his first graphic novel, which compiles the short stories available on his website.

Soo related why it is that after studying engineering for four years, he still decided that he would rather pursue the far less stable career of comic books, “I’ve realized that I really like telling stories,” he said. “Even just sitting at a bar with a couple of friends, I just like telling stories and I find that comic books are another outlet for that need.”

Visit keaner.net or flightcomics.com, for more info.

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