Comics rock star 

The double threat of Andy Kuhn

The double threat of Andy Kuhn
Comic book artist” makes for a great line on the “occupation” blank. For Andy Kuhn, it’s just not enough to be a penciller and inker on the rise; he’s got to be a rock star, too. Dividing his time between Indianapolis and Albuquerque, N.M., since 2001, Kuhn hits the drawing board in addition to hitting the fretboard as the bassist for The Fuglees. His attitude for both media remains an approach of unbridled fun. Kuhn has plied his artistic trade for several years; he broke into comics after extensive work in advertising art and animation, including a stint with Perennial Pictures. Kuhn’s first actual comics work came in 1988 and 1989 when he did some art for Innovation and Rock ’n’ Roll Comics. It wasn’t until 1995 that he broke through with the larger companies. After handing out some samples at Chicago ComiCon, Kuhn caught the attention of Marvel Comics. Marvel ordered a five-page story from the artist, and by 1996, he had enough work to make comics his full-time job. He went on to handle stints on individual issues of Rock ’n’ Roll Comics, Spider-Man Unlimited, Marvel Adventures and Image’s Freak Force. Three years ago, he got the chance to work on Dark Horse’s version of the hot Japanese property, Digimon. During that job, Kuhn had a realization. “I started inking my own stuff,” he said proudly. For those unfamiliar with the intricacy of the comic art process, art is typically rendered first by a penciller, then given depth and shading by an inker. Both are specialized talents; by establishing himself as a double-threat, Kuhn was able to shave time off of his work and open up new avenues of possibility. After the Digimon project, Kuhn teamed with writer Matt Fraction to produce the critically acclaimed Rex Mantooth, Kung-Fu Gorilla. Kuhn began to understand the impact of the character at the massive San Diego Comic Convention. “[The book] really didn’t sell that many copies, but I had more people who knew me from that than just about anything else.” Response to the individual issues was strong enough to merit the release of a collected volume from AiT/PlanetLar, The Annotated Mantooth, that’s also drawn critical hosannas. More recently, Kuhn and writer Phil Hester (of The Coffin and Green Arrow fame) brought out Firebreather from Image Comics. The four-issue mini-series features a teen-ager who’s the result of a union between a human woman and a fire-breathing dragon. Pairing great art and a terrific sense of humor, the book has built considerable buzz and is on schedule for its own collection in the fall, not to mention a T-shirt that debuts in May. Sales are weak overall in the current comics climate, but Kuhn remains philosophical. “It sells great here and in Albuquerque; my problem is that I don’t live everywhere. We hope the word of mouth translates into a decent selling trade [paperback collection].” On the upside, Firebreather will eventually return in a second series, which will likely be a six-issue run titled Monster Fight. Kuhn plans to keep quite busy in the immediate future. He’ll be inking Cory Walker on a Masters of the Universe: Triklops one-shot as part of a larger MOTU comics revival. “They’re doing one-shot specials on most of the villains; it’s coming out through CrossGen Entertainment.” Duncan, the lead character from Firebreather, continues to get some play in other quarters, such as an appearance in Savage Dragon No. 107. Savage Dragon, which is written and drawn by Erik Larsen, remains one of Kuhn’s favorite comics. The admiration is mutual; in issue No. 108, Larsen will print Mexican Wrestler Funnies, a six-page short that Kuhn did primarily for his own amusement. After it made the rounds among friends and professionals, it found a home with Larsen. “Erik called and asked what I was doing with it; I said nothing,” Kuhn laughed. As for his other love, Kuhn and The Fuglees are halfway through recording their second record right now. After finishing third in Indy’s Battle of the Bands last year, they’re ready to go this year with a June 11 slot at the Patio. The Fuglees are also featured on the most recent Showcase CD, and plan to play the huge Midwest Music Summit here in the Circle City in August. Of course, the furious musical activity doesn’t cut into the comics output. Expect more Rex Mantooth, for one thing. “I plan on doing more KFG at some point; I own the character. I have an outline for a two- or three-issue story, but it’ll be on down the road.” He also has pitches in at several companies with other high-profile creators, such as a proposal for Marvel’s new Epic line with Phil Hester, and pitches at Vertigo and WildStorm with Keith Giffen. “My impression of creator-owned work is that I need to go back and forth,” Kuhn said. “Make some money off of work-for-hire, and alternate back to creator-owned projects.”

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