I like writing complex stories that really make me sweat.
Finnish strong: Writer Hannu Kesola hasn't slowed down from making sure that horror comics keep coming in all flavors.
MagiciansHouse: You're a prolific guy. You've been at this game for awhile, too. When you look side to side at your peers does it seem to you that you're out-hustling everyone else?
Hannu Kesola: I think everyone who has collaborated with me and especially when some new series is coming out, I try to do my everything to make it as successful as it can be. Of course, sometimes I might succeed and sometimes I definitely fail, but at least I try to do my everything. I kind of like to keep myself busy, so if I'm not writing or inking I'm still doing some stuff related to my comics. Whether it's individually contacting over 400 comic shops, or contacting production companies for movie rights or trying to find publishers for other language areas.
I don't still think that I'm outhustling everyone else. There is lots of great hustlers that I see out there. For example Alterna Comics' Peter Simeti, Cody Sousa and Rats and Crows' Kevin Parent are guys that are definitely outhustling me and I try to learn from those guys.
You're obviously very influenced by a lot of things across the board; superheroes, exploitation films, noir, history, sci-fi. But its horror that always seems to win out with you. What is it about that aesthetic which keeps you coming back as a creative element?
I grew up reading superhero comics, but I never really enjoyed much writing them, so when I started to do my own comics, I turned my attention to all the horror, exploitation etc. movies and tv-shows I loved for an influence. And like you said, horror has always been one of my favourite genres although in the last few years I've started to love to write crime fiction equally as much. I don't know what it is on those genres that makes me enjoy writing them so much. Maybe because it allows me to explore the darker side of human mind that I find very interesting. I also like to write complex stories that really make me sweat, so that I can get everything to work on the story. I'm still not saying that all my stories are that complex. It's really refreshing to do some very straight forward stories too.
I've also written lots of other genres like scifi but those are usually basically crime or horror stories set in scifi settings.
In today's landscape where billion dollar superhero movies are about the only thing keeping the big publishers afloat, do you long for the days of an EC Comics-style stranglehold on the mainstream market? Or is it the fact that horror comics aren't the mainstream precisely what makes them so fucking cool to you?
I don't say that I wouldn't find that cool, but I still like the market as it is, although I don't read many of the top selling titles anymore myself. It's still nice to see that there are quite many horror titles on Diamond's top 300 comic books, biggest horror seller being of course The Walking Dead.
But for myself, I would be doing horror titles whether they would be popular or not. I believe that comic creators should be doing genres where they have stories to tell. If they would be doing stories only based on the popular genres, I don't believe those would be very good if their heart wouldn't be in it.
What's your creative process like? You've got a family to think about so are your stories always playing in the background while you move about the day or do you have to compartmentalize your time so as not to go off the deep end? What is it that is going on between your ears when you're attacking a creative opportunity?
I think creative-wise my brain is always working. When I start to write a new series, I've usually been plotting it in my head for months, so that it's quite easy and fast to write, when I start the actual writing process. Family and dayjob keep me quite occupied during the days so I usually write during the night when everybody else is sleeping. I still don't have too much time to write daily, but even a hour or so is enough for me to get quite many pages written. Of course the setting isn't ideal, it would always be good if I could write longer periods of time so that writing wouldn't be so choppy.
Have you ever failed at publishing stories multilingually? Is scary the same all over?
Oh yes, many times. Or been rejected when I've been submitting series to publishers that work on non English markets. I've been published in English, French, Swedish and Finnish this far but I would love to get some of my stories published in Spanish and Italian, but to get through those market, especially in Italy, seems to be very hard. But I'm always trying so I think the hard work will eventually pay off. But I'm very happy that I've been able to work with great Swedish Publisher, Ades Media, and great French Publisher, Editions Reflexions, as well as several Finnish publishers of course!
Last month you dropped the first installment of The Last Hunt, a collaboration with one of my favorite artists Paul Moore, along with Ken Janssens and Beth Varni. Is it more than simply a horror tale disguised as sci-fi? Is there a subconscious message about the unnoticed strength of classic horror narratives and their potential to lay dormant and take over the future of the business?
Basically it's just that, a horror tale disguised as scifi. There is a twist at the end of the first issue and I can't go too deep on telling about the series, as I don't want to spoil it, but basically the whole book was built around that idea when I got it. Usually I don't have any too deep messages in my stories. I just want to entertain people and most of my work is just based on that goal. I hope people will find The Last Hunt entertaining and that they will love the twist, turns, actions and great artwork of course! I've been lucky to have so great a team on this book! Paul Moore and Beth Varni are working so well together. Every time I see finished page I just go like wow! And Ken has been doing a great job on co-writing the book with me and lettering it. I also have to thank our publisher, Amigo Comics, for picking the series up and doing great work on it! The second issue is coming to shops soon, so if someone missed the first issue, go and check it on Comixology.
Aside from the completion of Last Hunt, you've got projects like Burning Rubber and Haunted Mississippi peaking just beyond the horizon. What are you working on right now?
I'm currently writing a few series. Untitled scifihorror series with Finnish artist Henri Tervapuro. I think it will be quite different from the stories people think would be coming from me. I'm also finishing a few scripts that I'm doing with artist Patrick Wong. One of them is a supernatural crime series titled The Knifeman, and if you want to check out some preview pages, those can be found www.knifemancomic.com. I also have few series where I have written the first issue and will get back to those after we have pitched the first issues to publishers. This year there is a still-coming short story in Alterna Comics' IF anthology, written by me and my new biker series titled Blood, Skulls and Chrome will launch on Kickstarter this November from Pond Scum Comics.
Dude, thanks for chatting. I'm onboard with everything you're doing these days. Where can everybody find you online?
I'm most active on Twitter where I can be found @hannu_kesola. I also post some news to my Facebook writer page: www.facebook.com/writerhannukesola and listing of comics I've done can be found on my wikipedia page (that is in Finnish): https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannu_Kesola