In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Frank Gogol talks about his coming-of-age tale and murder mystery, Dead End Kids #1 (Source Point Press). Find how how the Dead End Kids writer came up with such interesting characters through suspenseful and somber storytelling with a satirical wit.
It’s 1999. Ben, Murphy, Tank, and Amanda are four screwed-up kids from broken homes… but they have had each other. When Ben is murdered, Murphy and his friends set out to find who killed him and find themselves in the cross-hairs!
With Dead End Kids #1 arriving in stores, Frank Gogol discusses how the concept came about, the influences behind the premise, and teases what readers should expect from the second installment. Check out our review as Gogol and I head into the writer’s studio to discuss the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: Tell me how Dead End Kids came about.
Frank Gogol: Dead End Kids is the byproduct of two things.
The first was me turning 30 about a year and a half ago. Like so many people, as I am getting older, I’m getting more nostalgic and it really hit me hard when I hit the big 3-0. So, I started remembering playing outside and building clubhouses in the woods and being home before the streetlights came on.
But the more I thought about it, the more I remembered that my childhood years, and those of my friends, were a lot less golden than they seemed. There was a lot of bad stuff going on at home.
The second part was my wanting to write a coming-of-story like a Stand by Me.
Dead End Kids is the story of three kids in the late-90s trying to solve a murder. It’s, essentially, what you’d get if you crossed Stand by Me with The Hardy Boys and made it more violent.
But at its core, it’s a story about this group of kids who find one another and rely on one another for stability and what happens to that stability is torn away because one of them is murdered.
So, Dead End Kids is the synthesis of my take on a coming-of-age story and my own nostalgia examined without rose-colored glasses.
VM: Amanda, Michael, James, and Ben are so interesting in back-story, clothing,and personality. Tell me about the challenges you and artist Nenad Cviticanin faced to differentiate each character from the other.
FG: The big challenge–and the only challenge, really–with creating these characters was to make them feel real. For me, character is the most important aspect of any story. It’s what people connect with when they read.
So, I spent a lot–A LOT– of time developing these characters–giving them flaws and distinct personalities and life experiences that have defined them.
And Nenad took those characters and give them life on the page. Most of what you see beyond the looks of the characters–their homes, their bedrooms, their character acting–that was almost entirely Nenad.
One of the great pleasures of working with Nenad (whom I worked with on my first book GRIEF) is that he bring so much to the story. It feels like a true collaboration. Most of the visual 90s references in the book were him adding little details that weren’t in the script. And he brought that same attention to detail to each of the four kids.
VM: The lettering by Sean Rinehart does a great job switching fonts and style between narration and dialogue. Tell me about switching the perspective from first-person to third.
FG: Let me say first: Sean is a genius. He REALLY gets lettering.
When I brought Sean onto the book, we probably talked more about the lettering than I did with Nenad about the visuals. I had a vision for the lettering, especially the sound effects, and Sean just got it. He didn’t just get it, he elevated it–which is the mark of a great collaborator.
And when you’ve got a talent like Sean’s putting all of that on the page, it’s going to be ten times more effective.
VM: Tell me about the meta-dialogue and the references to coming-of-age stories in literature and movies.
FG: I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with coming-of-age stories. One the one hand, I find them incredibly relatable–this idea that a bunch of kids who all need some kind of stability in their lives find in friendship.
On the other hand, these stories almost always inevitably end with the kids sort of fixing one another and parting ways at the end, which I find kind of unrealistic.
I’m still very good friends with the kids I grew up with and I wanted to explore the idea of best friends means best friends forever.
Personally, I had a very rough childhood, especially at home. Both of my parents struggled with drug addiction. And my friends, for different reasons, had less-than-stellar home lives. But we always had one another. We didn’t fix each other, but we supported one another, and for me that kind of experience is the kind of things that bonds people for life.
What I love is the little details the timeline of 1999 and the setting. The small town feels relatable and grounded, especially in the wintertime. Tell me about the emphasis on location and the season.
Coming-of-age stories, as a rule, are about endings. They track a character’s journey from the end of one stage of life into the next. So, the end of the millenium felt like a really rich setting to explore the idea of change. So much was changing and ending in 1999, and that plays directly into the themes I wanted to explore.
And the winter of 1999, in December, felt like the exact right time to set the story. It’s right on the cups of the new millennium, but it’s also the time of year when everything is cold and dead. I felt like those aspects really lent themselves to a murder mystery.
I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t also say that the late 90s were about the time I was these kids’ ages. Some of that nostalgia I mentioned earlier definitely fueled my decision to set the story when I did.
VM: What can you tease about the second issue?
FG: The second issue is titled “Holes” and explores the various cast members’ personal traumas–the experiences that have made them who they are. I can’t say much more than that without possibly spoiling the issue, but I will say that anyone who has read my writing before knows that I love titles with multiple meanings…
VM: Tell me how Dead End Kids changed you as a creator.
FG: With each new project, there’s always growth. This was my first extend, multi-part story, so there was a learning curve and lots of lessons along the way. And the growth is showing in how much more easily newer projects are coming together on the page for me.
VM: Where can readers find you and your comics?
FG: The first first place readers can find me is at the local comic shop. Dead End Kids #1 and #2 both available for preorder right now. The Diamond order codes are:
Dead End Kids #1: MAY191908
Dead End Kids #2: JUN191916
Anyone who’s interested in Dead End Kids should take those order codes to their LCS and tell them they want the book!
I’m also super active on social media and online. In order of preference:
I’m on Instagram (By far my favorite way to connect.)
I’m on Twitter (I don’t love it, but it’s the darling of the comics world, so I’m one it.)
I’m on Facebook (Feel free to add me, as long as you’re respectful.)
I also have a website (I keep this up-to-date, mostly.)
Like I said a minute ago, I’ve got some really cool stuff in the pipeline. If any of it sounded interesting, feel free to connect and keep up!
VM: What are you working on now?
FG: I’ve got a few things in the pipeline.
There’s another miniseries that’s green-lit but not yet announced that’ll be coming out next year. I’ve got a graphic novella that explores life after a major natural disaster. I just got one of the last pages of a one-shot comic I’m doing that is sort of a modern, darker retelling of Pinnochio but with robots. And I’ve got another one-shot that’s about to go into production that’s a golden-age Hollywood slasher story. Those last three will all be coming to Kickstarter next year.
I’m also at various stages of writing two new miniseries for 2021.
So, I’m keeping busy.
Dead End Kids #1 arrives in stores on July 24th, 2019.
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?Happy New Comic Book Day! DEAD DEND KIDS #1 drops next week, but don’t forget: you can still order DEAD END KIDS #3! It’s the final chapter of this unrelenting story about childhood, murder, and revenge. You won’t want to miss this, so when you go to your LCS today, tell them you want Dead End Kids! • Things get worse as the kids come face-to-face with Ben’s killer! And, as Murphy continues to take more drastic measures to avenge his friend, Tank and Amanda are faced with the question of how far are they willing to follow their friend down that dark path. Friendships are tested and broken, and that’s not the worst of it as this breakout series from Frank Gogol, Nenad Civiticanin, and Sean Rinehart barrels toward its final chapter! • The Pitch: It’s 1999. Ben, Murphy, Tank, and Amanda are four screwed-up kids from broken homes, but they have…had each other. When Ben is murdered, Murphy and his friends set out to find who killed him and find themselves in the cross-hairs! Dead End Kids is a dark coming-of-age murder mystery set in the ’90s, from the creative team behind 2018’s critically acclaimed Grief. • The Point: “This story is about the very real traumas of childhood. It’s about four messed up kids with traumatic home lives and the stability they find in their friendships and what happens when that stability is torn away because one of them is murdered.” • DEAD END KIDS #1 is still available using Diamond order code MAY191908 • DEAD END KIDS #2 is still available using Diamond order code JUN191916 • DEAD END KIDS #3 is now available using Diamond order code JUL192188 • Tell your LCS that you want Dead End Kids!
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]