Quicksand Jack Interview

Hey Dikrats!  I was really lucky last month, to get to interview the creative team behind Quicksand Jack (the super cool comic written by the writers from Starkid Productions).  It took me waaaay too long to finish writing it up, but they’ve been really patient with me.  I can’t express how much of an honor it was to sit down for half an hour and talk to these folks.  Nick and Matt have been my heroes since high school, and I went into full Fangirl mode when they just replied to my email.  It reminded me of why I love doing this.  So without further ado, my interview with the Quicksand Jack Creative Team!

From left to right; me, Teia Smith, Jenny Lang, the elusive Lang cat, Nick Lang, and Matt Lang.
From left to right; me, Teia Smith, Jenny Lang, the elusive Lang cat, Nick Lang, and Matt Lang.

What type of school did each of you go through?

Matt Lang: Kindergarten, elementary school, all of those ones.  College, where I first went for art school and then said, ‘No, I hate art.’  Then I went to film school and said, ‘Nah, I hate film.’  Then I went to school that was…these were all schools inside the University of Michigan, and then I took… I didn’t want to take a language class, which they make everybody take, and I think is completely unfair.  So I took a degree that only usually the football kids take; General Studies.  It’s a general knowledge of things.  So that’s what I ended up with, it took me awhile, but I finally got out of school with that one.  So I generally know things.

Nick Lang: (cough cough) I went to school for acting.

Jenny Lang: I went to Ringling School of Art and Design.  I started in Illustration, but switched to Fine Arts freshman year.  So I graduated with a Fine Arts Degree.

Teia Smith: I went to Ringling School of Art and Design for Illustration.  Then after that I went to San Francisco and got my masters at the Academy of Art.

How did the story come about?

NL: It’s just drawing a picture.  I drew a picture of a cowboy guy.  I don’t know, you never know how you come up with an idea, you just sorta go, ‘eh, he’s like a cowboy, but its like magic, I guess.’  The thing that we really liked is the name, Quicksand Jack, and that’s the only thing that stayed consistent throughout the 13 years.  We kept going, ‘ugh, this story sucks, but we really like that name!’

ML: Yeah, so the idea that we worked on 13 years ago, we were in middle school or high school, either way, you’re just like a little spaz that can’t think of anything that’s good.  It was just a dumb idea.  Like, Quicksand Jack bought a dragon and hung out with a pirate, and it was really stupid.  But again, we said, ‘we have to make this name work.’  So we worked on it for years and years, and maybe 2 years ago, we came across the current story that it has become now, what’ll be in the 7 Deadly Issues, once they’re out.

So you have a lot of ideas past the 7 Deadly Issues?

NL: For Quicksand Jack?

JL: Don’t be modest.  They do.  They’re so modest.  They have so many ideas it’s not even funny.  But they’re not all concrete stories, they’ve got a million ideas.

NL: The prequels, well, the prequel is pretty good.

ML: Well, we’ll see.  We don’t want to say too much.

How far into other media did you get?

NL: We were just coming up with the ideas, trying to imagine it.  Obviously, we never actually tried to make a movie.

ML: When we were little, well high school we tried to make a short film, that lasted 2 days, about a week.  And then we gave up.

NL: We made costumes, but that was it.  We were going to do the script after.

ML: Because that was the easy part.

NL: Then we gave up.  We only wanted to do the fun part; making the costumes.

ML: Yeah, so a lot of stuff, you just need..

NL: It being a book was… back when I used to live in LA, me and Eric Kahn Gale were roommates, around the time that Eric was writing (not the book he has published) the book he is going to publish very soon.  He was working on that as well, he was like, ‘Alright, Nick, we have to force each other to write,’ so we had to write a page every night.  He started to write (not the Bully Book), but the book he’s going to publish next year, and he was like, ‘You can write Quicksand Jack.’  So I  finished a chapter and a half of Quicksand Jack, and it was a different incarnation of the story, and it was kind of stupid so I gave up.  At one point, we tried to make it into a musical, saying it’s going to be the Western Spoof, and we realized that we didn’t really like Westerns.  Or know much about them, so we said nah.  No one could agree on what the should be, and everyone was busy, but then eventually we decided on the comic.  It turned out fine.

Is writing a comic different than writing with Starkid Productions?

ML: In practice, it’s not too different.  There’s a lot of talking about it, talking about the basics.  Then there’s the characters getting to where they have a voice, as that character, forever, which is exactly how we do the plays.  Make up jokes for the characters.  In the comics, they still say jokes.  So the only thing that’s different, is that it has to be way way way waaaay shorter than a musical.  In a play, all they have to do is talk.  It’s not like they could have a fight scene on stage.  On stage, you can talk or you can sing.  In comics, I guess the main challenge is keeping it short and concise, but not much is different.

Have you lost any characters?

NL: There’s the Seven Deadly Syndicate, who are like the bad guys of this arc, and throughout the many years, they’ve had the road of like, who’s in it and who’s not; who’s the main one and who’s not the main one.  There’s been a ton, and it won’t mean anything because there’s just been one issue, so there’s nothing to compare it to, but there have been tons and tons of them.  We’ve been like, that guy’s stupid, let’s replace him with this guy.  This is a good idea, but this character is too corny, so let’s make up a better version, or a version of this character that can talk.  Because at one point there is a character who can’t talk; he just fights.  But that never worked.

ML: But the main guy who got kicked out was the pirate.  When Quicksand Jack hung out with a pirate for some reason; when we were little kids, well high school (I guess that’s little kids) and you think, Oh yeah, they’d probably hang out.

NL: At the time, we were big into Anime on Cartoon Network, like Cowboy Beebop and Outlaw Star that had future cowboys and future pirates and they seemed like the same thing.

ML: So we said Eh, it’s totally fine to put them together and we ended up removing that pirate and incidentally we made a story about pirates and I thought to just take him from there and move him over.  So he got a pretty good other story.

The dragon?

ML: That dragon.  Yeah, he hasn’t found a way into a story about dragons; he’s just gone.

He’s not the dragon in AVPM?

NL: No, this dragon looked like a human.  It was stupid.

ML: We were in high school, so it was pretty dumb.

Is this the first comic you’ve illustrated?

JL: Yeah, it’s our first comic.  Teia’s done a children’s book before, but I’ve never done a book.

TS: We were working.  There was a story that the boys were doing when we lived in San Francisco and they were like, ‘We have an idea for a story,’ and they sent us a couple pages that we turned into a comic book format, but then they were like, ‘We’ve got a better story, so scrap it.’  So we started working on Quicksand Jack.

Has illustrating this been way different from your other work?

TS: It’s not very different.

JL: It’s not different from the other art and illustration that we’ve done before.  Now, all of the little pictures have to go together in the story.  It’s just one big piece of art.  It’s not too different, it’s just a lot of work.

TS: Again, the only thing that’d be different is in the past I’ve worked by myself, but now it’s a collaboration, and I like that.  Art can be lonely sometimes.

Do you read a lot of comics?

JL, NL, & ML: Oh yeah.

NL: We used to read comics a lot more when we were younger.  I’ve got stacks of comics here in my room, tons of them upstairs.  Mainly older comics.

ML: We mainly read comics in the 90’s.  Late 90’s, 2000’s, we got into Spawn and things like that.

JL: I’ll read stuff that’s current, what’s out, what’s the cool new thing; I like to keep on top.  But then years later, you hear about the cool things from the 90’s, like Creature.  I didn’t read that until recently, and I enjoy it.  You know now, buying all the old comic books from my childhood, reading them again.

ML: Yeah, I mean, since we’ve gotten out of college, waaaay way way less free time.  So a lot of current stuff I don’t read.  The last series I was religiously collecting we Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s Batmn & Robin series; which everyone hated because Batman swore too much, beat up Robin, and lit people on fire.

NL: And had sex with people all the time.

ML: Beneath the light of criminals he’d set on fire.  I was like, Why wouldn’t anybody like this?  But everybody we like, Nah, this isn’t Batman.  So they cancelled that series before it got really good.  It was cool.

JL: It was gritty.

NL: And he was going to have to fight the Justice League and all of this different stuff.

JL: The Joker had a big tattoo.

NL: The Joker was coming into it.

JL: The Joker was cool.

ML: It was great.  A lot of comic fans didn’t like that.

NL: There’ve been so many different versions.  I think the only version of Batman that everybody likes is the Animated Series.

ML: I think we can all agree that’s probably…

NL: That’s the real Batman.  Unnuanced Batman.  Otherwise he’s old or he’s young; he swears or he doesn’t swear; he’s this or he’s that.

ML: He’s mean or too nice.  But the animated show was spot on.

Have you considered approaching Image with Quicksand Jack?

JL: We would love to do that.  We just haven’t done it, yet.

ML: Yeah, I think we sort of wanted to try it out on our own and wait until more issues were done before going to publishers with it.  At some point, in the future, we’ll probably be talking to different people.

JL: I know time-wise, we wanted to give ourselves leeway to do things.  I know Nick and Matt are always busy.  If we were working for Image, it’d be their time constraints.  They’d be like, You have to do this by this time.  It’s more free this way.

ML: We’ll see.  Once there are more issues out, you’ll be able to say, “I get what this is about.”  But the first issue is just the beginning.  Once there are more out, I’ll feel more comfortable going to Image, but we’ll see.

JL: I know it’s really frustrating for me; I don’t know about story like them, but I do all of the broad strokes and can’t jump ahead and talk about it.

ML: I mistakenly called a character Quicksand, but I forgot that in the comic we hadn’t called him Quicksand Jack yet, just Jack.  So I have to remember; if I ever say Quicksand, I mean Jack.

Is there any meaning behind the name Quicksand Jack?

Everyone: You’ll see!

JL: I guess it”s not too much of a spoiler to say…(Everyone cuts her off with nos.) He’s really cool.

Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?

JL: Practice your craft every day.

TL: I’m a big advocate of that, because there’s always 1000 reasons not to.  Oh, I could be doing this.  Instead, just find the time.

JL: Put your work out there.  You never know when people will like it.  I used to horde it, and keep it to myself, but you want to put it out there.  It could be popular.

NL: Have finishing things in your mind from the beginning as well.  You can’t just work on things indefinitely.

ML: My  other big piece of advice would be if you want to do something, start early.  If you’re in middle school or high school and you say I want to write, or I want to draw, start early.  There’s a chance that you’ll try it and find out you don’t like it.  Everyone wants to be a film maker until they hold a camera and go, Ugh, I hate this!  This is boring!  Or you go to a film set and see that this is hard, I don’t know how to light this, how do I do it like the real movies?  It’s not that fun.  I tried drawing.  I used to draw my whole life until I was like, I actually hate this, I don’t like like it that much.  Writing – start early because at the beginning your ideas probably won’t be that good.  It takes a long time to refine it.

NL: Start coming up with ideas when you’re young because those will be the ideas that you will work on for the rest of your life.

JL: And also, I started with comic books but I switched to Fine Arts halfway through.  I do not suggest that, stay put.  You can always do Fine Arts on the side.  Build your portfolios, use the school to fool around and do what you want to do.

ML: Or just do it.  What we do with StarKid, we wouldn’t be able to do, unless we were doing it at the University of Michigan.  Our webseries, Little White Lie – it cost $20,000 to make.  But only because we had the school’s stuff.  It had $50,000 worth of stuff.  AVPM did cost about $5,000, but if we tried to do that now, it’d cost at least $50,000 if not $100,000 with renting the costumes.  The renting of the costumes for the sequel; we got those for free, but if we had to pay, it would have been $30,000.  So take the good opportunities.

JL: Take full advantage of the facilities while you can.

ML: If you’re at college, ignore your school work, it doesn’t matter.

NL: Just start doing what you want to do.

ML: …if you’re in an art field.

NL: If you’re in a real field, please do your school work, don’t do a play.

ML: If you’re trying to be a doctor, don’t skip to operating on people.  But if you’re in an art field, it’s probably a good idea.  Especially if you’re in an art field where you have to take classes that have nothing todo with your field, it’s a good idea to put as little effort into those as possible.  Because they won’t care even a little bit how well you do in them.  Do what you want to do, no one’s going to say (like if you went to Image), Oh, Matt, did you pass a language?  How did you do in Japanese?  They’re not going to care.

TS: I’m pretty sure one the Image submission page it says, “I don’t care where you went to school, I want to see what you did.  I want to see your work.”

ML: School can be a very valuable thing, but also a very dangerous thing.  Because 1 it eats up a lot of time. 2 money 3 encourages you to sit around with your friends and not do anything.  I encourage you to at least do something.

Do you consider yourselves Fanboys and Fangirls?

NL: Eh, certain things.  I would consider us fans of things.


So Fangirls, StarKiddies, and comic readers alike, that is my interview with the creative team behind Quicksand Jack.  Sitting down to talk with them was amazing, and I felt on top of the world.  Nick, Matt, Jenny, and Teia were extremely nice and gracious, and even understanding that it took me forever to transfer all of this.  They said that the next issue should be out soon, and I’m very excited!  Have a happy and safe New Year, Fangirls, and read on!

All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.

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