Fans of Kazu Kibuishi’s work as editor of the Flight have already experienced the imaginative worlds found in his strip Copper. This deceptively simple story of a boy and his (talking) dog takes readers through breathtaking landscapes and touching questions about human nature. Now, Scholastic, publishers of Kibuishi’s hit Amulet series have collected the Copper strips into one volume. Kibuishi took time out from his (very) busy schedule to answer a few questions about it.
Newsarama: Kazu, tell our readers about the basic premise of Copper and about our heroes.
Kazu Kibuishi: Copper is a boy who, along with his dog Fred, embarks on a series of dreamlike adventures. Copper is generally very hopeful and is a voice of reason, while Fred serves as a slightly more cynical counterpart.
Nrama: What made you want to do a collection of the strip?
Kibuishi: The Copper strips were always popular in printed form when I created prints to sell at conventions, so it seemed natural for them to be collected in one book.
Nrama: What do Copper and Fred reflect in your own personality?
Kibuishi: They reflect the two sides of my daily thought process, where I generally have a bunch of idealistic goals, but there's a hyper critical side that works to keep me in check. It's the nature of trying to fuse art and business. There's always a battle between ideals and practicality.
Most people think I'm like Copper, but I feel a lot more like Fred. I'm generally pretty filled with worries but I do my best to keep it to myself.
Nrama: What do you draw from for inspiration in terms of the environments Copper and Fred visit?
Kibuishi: The most evocative environments come from my own experiences, such as spending time at Yosemite, traveling through Italy, surfing in Southern California, or commuting on the New York subways.
There are, however, some environments that are inspired by films and video games. In every case, I'm working to create an environment that I want to spend time in. For years, the strips served as an escape for me.
Nrama: Tell us a little about the girls in Copper and Fred's lives, and their odd relationships.
Kibuishi: The Bubble Girl was inspired by the red-haired girl in Peanuts. The red-haired girl represented an unrequited love for Charlie Brown, and the Bubble Girl serves that purpose in Copper. In fact, you can see Copper waking up underneath a poster using the design element on Charlie Brown's shirt in “Bubbles.”
The strip was created as a tribute to Little Nemo in Slumberland, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and Tintin, and the mash-up elements were more apparent in the early strips. On top of this, I was single at the time, and I felt like I could relate to Charlie Brown and his situation.
The Glasses Girl in “Bridges” was inspired by the film Amelie and the Nicolas Roeg horror film Don't Look Now. She's supposed to be a ghostly presence that haunts Copper with no intent to have a serious relationship.
Last, but definitely not least, there's Penny. She is Copper's perfect match, and very much inspired by my wife Amy. In fact, "Signals" was written just for her. What's eerie is that I actually drew an almost perfect representation of Amy's apartment in New York without ever having seen it before that drawing.
Nrama: Do you see yourself doing more extended stories like "Maiden Voyage" in the future?
Kibuishi: Definitely. I'd actually really like to do some short graphic novels with Copper and Fred.
Nrama: The stories deal with some pretty existential themes about feeling threatened by the world, though there's also a sense of imagination and wonder. What do you hope people take away from the strip, ultimately?
Kibuishi: You know, this is perhaps the only project I've ever undertaken without the audience in mind. For so many years it was simply a personal project that I did on the side. It was a place for me to go to meditate and practice my storytelling and drawing.
I do hope that the book can provide that meditative place for the reader as well, and what they take away will be completely up to them.
Nrama: What are the challenges of working on Copper in tandem with your other projects, and what is uniquely rewarding about working on this strip?
Kibuishi: Well, at the moment, the challenge was a little too great for me to continue the strip while working on
Amulet 3. The closer my daily work got to the feeling I have while making Copper, the harder it became for me to pull away to draw the strip without feeling I'm being unfocused.
Right now, Amulet is my focus. One of my goals for this year is to iron out my plan for future Copper projects.
Nrama: Of the strips, do you have any personal favorites, and if so, what are they and why?
Kibuishi: Hmm, this one's difficult. I can't pick a favorite, since different strips become my favorite depending on how I feel at a given time.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Kibuishi: Nope! I hope everyone enjoys the book! Now I have to get back to my workstation to finish Amulet 3...
Copper is in stores now. You can also find it online right here.
Zack Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a regular contributor to Newsarama.