Hell Is A Sad Place: KC Green On ‘Graveyard Quest’ [Interview]
KC Green’s Graveyard Quest is the tale of an odd little man who works as a graveyard and keeps his mother’s remains in a box in his shack. His father was the gravedigger before him, and his spirit haunts the graveyard, berating his son for his perceived weaknesses. When The Gravedigger wakes up one morning to find his father has absconded with his mother’s remains, he finds the resolve within himself to chase his father through the underworld and into Hell to bring his mother back.
Originally published as a webcomic in 2013, Graveyard Quest drew wide praise and has been likened to a modern day Dante’s Inferno. The comic balances wacky situations, Curb Your Enthusiasm style misunderstandings and very heavy emotional moments, and is now coming to print courtesy of Oni Press on March 23. Ahead of the collected edition’s release, ComicsAlliance spoke to KC Green about Graveyard Quest, father issues and the inherent differences that come with stories published as webcomics.
ComicsAlliance: At the core of Graveyard Quest is the story of one man’s attempts to escape the shadow of his father’s expectations in the wake of his mother’s death. Despite the jokes and the wacky comedy, at times it’s a heavy, heavy book. Was it a personal project at all for you, and were there times it was tough to work on?
KC Green: No, not at all! I have a great relationship with my parents! Growing up, my own expectations were my worst enemy, and what I thought my parents wanted for me or thought of me, instead of, y’know, listening to them. I found they were heavily down to support me as a cartoonist even in high school when it became a realer identity for me.
There is a similar feeling of having an artificial relationship with them, like the mom in Graveyard Quest. The mom is not in this story. Her bones are not her. But they are treated as such by these sad men. Gravedigger may not get to really know his mom as a person and I worry about that myself too. Same for my dad and the dad in the comic, you see them as these forces and not flawed normal people. It was only tough in the sense that I wanted to get that across and make it hit at the right spot.
CA: The Mole is arguably the breakout star of the book, often showing back up when you least expect him. How important was it to give The Gravedigger a recurring character along the way on his journey to Hell.
KCG: For comedy’s sake, a straight-ish man for Gravedigger’s quest was important, and I liked having him be the Virgil through this Dante’s Inferno-esque travel downwards. It gave people a personal landmark to enjoy each time I brought him back (tho not at all in the worm chapter, which made his return more enjoyable). And making him speak in terms of sound and smell was fun and different.
CA: While often used as a cutaway joke, The Gravedigger’s neglect of his day job is also a running theme throughout the book. Is it fair to say that Graveyard Quest is as much about balancing responsibilities with personal goals?
KCG: In a broader sense sure, but it also showed his obsession with getting his security blanket, his MacGuffin if you will. The one thing he knew how to do well is being let go of because of his need of the bones. And it was a fun gag to make it into a plot point for the worms.
CA: Are there any depictions of Hell in popular culture that you took inspiration from when creating the world of Graveyard Quest?
KCG: I’m pretty sure Hell being depicted as a dreary city was in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and for this story, Hell being a sad place made sense. I mentioned Dante’s Inferno, but that never occurred to me while writing this story, even though, I had Inferno in the back of my head for a while a couple years before I started GQ. Something about adapting it took hold of my brain and then I let it go or forgot. Oni Press actually wrote in their write ups for it that it was kind of a modern version of Dante’s and I was like “oh boy, maybe I really did do it!” Or maybe in a very very slight way. That’s for smarter people to decide.
CA: How much of the story did you have when you started out? Did you know exactly where the book was going at every point, or did the hiatus’ in the webcomic’s publication allow time to tinker with the beats along the way?
KCG: I had all the main chapters and their major beats planned before I started drawing. All the details were made while writing/drawing them. Even that big on in the Government facility near the end! Yes! That one! I came up with that before I started writing the chapter and it fit and I won. I won a big trophy for coming up with that turnaround. The hiatus’ I had during GQ were probably for other projects that came up around then. I can’t quite remember what that would have been then. I was storyboarding an Adventure Time episode! Maybe…. Maybe that? Or maybe I dropped that for no reason other than to brag. Again, I don’t recall.
CA: Graveyard Quest moves at a mile a minute, with the Gravedigger thrown from one ludicrous situation to the next without time to process the events happening around him. How much of that was a stylistic choice, and does any of it come from the traditional publishing model of webcomics?
KCG: When you read it all in one go, it feels that way, but each chapter had a good bit of waiting from when I finished it to when I started up again, as it was being released on Gunshow. Even the gag in the beginning of chapter three where it says, “A MONTH OR SO GOES BY,” was literally a month or so last since chapter two. It does read quick, which is fine, but that’s hard to see when you are drawing it page by page and updating three times a week. So, stylistically no it was not a conscious choice. But I’ll take it!
CA: Graveyard Quest is now being collected by Oni Press, what can readers expect from the physical version even if they’ve already read the webcomic edition?
KCG: Well it reads better all at once and people like the book format so there’s a pro! Another pro is I added a three page epilogue I was saving for the book since the story finished. It takes place… in… Heaven! Beyond that, it’s a nice simple book. Just wants to be read by ya. Oni did a great job puttin' this boy together. My book designing is always Keepin’ it Simple (stupid) but they added nice touches to the design using art from the comic, and it was just a nice surprise. I appreciate that kind of stuff.
Graveyard Quest is released via Oni Press on March 23.