Dead End Kids, a new 3-issue miniseries coming this July from Frank Gogol, Nenad Cviticanin, and Sean Rinehart, the creative team behind 2018’s critical hit GRIEF. Source Point Press is publishing and was able to get me in touch with DEK writer, Frank Gogol.
I hope I get a change to meet Frank and con some day. He seems like a guy you want to sit and have a drink with. Also, his answer to the last interview question has me on the edge of my seat. Without further ado, Frank Gogol.
Dead End Kids is your next project following Grief. What’s your elevator speech for Dead End Kids?
Dead End Kids is a story about three kids in the late 90s trying to solve their friend’s murder. So, think Stand By Me or Stranger Things meets the Hardy Boys but set in 1999 and with a darker edge to it.
At its core, though, Dead End Kids is about the very real traumas of childhood. It’s about these four kids from broken homes who find stability one each other and what happens to the stability when one of them is murdered and the other three are left without one of their emotional anchors.
I’ve read the first issue of Dead End Kids and loved it! What do you think is the draw to stories about “misfit” kids that makes them so popular?
At their core, these kinds of misfit, coming-of-age stories are pretty universal, I think, because, at that age, what kid doesn’t feel like a misfit on some level? Only a handful of kids get to be the “popular” ones, which mean the vast majority of kids feel misfit-y.
So, I think the appeal of stories like IT, Stranger Things, and the like is that the characters are so very real and easily identified with. I also think that a lot of people identify with the idea of a found family in that same way.
You’ve created a great cast of characters. Is there one character you identify with more?
Probably Murphy. Murphy is a very angry kid. He’s had all of this horrible stuff happen to him in such a short life and he doesn’t understand why, so he’s just so incredibly pissed off. And that was very much my experience growing up. But I’d say that there’s a little of me in all of the main characters and there’s a little of each of my childhood friends in all of them as well.
I try very hard not to base my characters on a single person because I want them to have an identity unto themselves, but I also make it a point to bring what I know to the characters, so it’s a delicate balancing act.
Where did the inspiration of for the kids come from?
It’s very much rooted in both my love/hate relationship with coming-of-age stories and my own personal sense nostalgia that I’ve been feeling in my 30s.
I had a pretty troubled homelife and so did many of my friends and we sort of found one another and relied on one another growing up, so the coming-of-age story has always had a very special place in my heart. But I’ve always hated that so many of these kinds of stories have the kids coming into one another’s lives, having them sort of fix one another, then you find out at the end of that summer, they all grew apart and grew up and that was that.
I’m still very good friends with my friends from childhood. My Best Man in my wedding this September is one of those kids. That’s my experience. So, it’s never felt genuine to me that these kids who had this shared experience and this shared trauma would just drift apart. That’s not in-line with my experiences, and I suspect that is true for many, many people. So I wanted to write that story.
The setting plays a huge role in the story. Is this wintery town based on a real place?
For me, this story is very much about change, so when I set it in the late 90s I settled on 1999 specifically because what bigger cultural change was there in the 90s than The New Millenium? And I wanted to set the story as close to the turn of the century as I could, so I landed on December 1999.
The town itself is very much based on the small shore town in New Jersey where I grew up. It was a lower-middle-class / lower class, and so are the kids in the book.
So, all of these elements kind of came together to create the overall setting and vibe of the book.
I was a teen in the mid-90s and this issue is packed with 90’s nostalgia. What made you choose the 90s as the time for this story?
I turned 30 about a year and a half ago, and I started getting nostalgic for my early teen years, which were the tail end of the 90s and the early 2000s. And I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories like Stand by Me, so it was a mix of me wanted to tell a specific kind of story and me wanting to tap into that nostalgia I was feeling.
I do want to touch on your partnership with artist Nenad Cviticanin. He is able to convey huge amounts of emotion with his art. Does that change your creative process at all?
For me, writing is all about the characters, especially the emotional beats. So, having worked with Nenad before (on GRIEF) I wrote this book with him in mind and that gave me the flexibility and freedom to write the script a certain way. And let me be clear–Nenad is the real star of this book. He absolutely nailed the major beat and even elevated them.
You’re publishing your book through Source Point Press, who has become a great place for creator-owned projects. How has it been working with them?
I, honestly, can not sing Source Point’s praise enough. Everyone at SPP has been so incredibly welcoming and I’ve learned so much over the last year and change. And it’s been wild to be a part of all of that and of the company’s growth. There are such big and cool things coming up and I cannot wait for people to hear about them.
When can we expect to see Dead End Kids in comic shops?
Dead End Kids #1 hits LCSs on July 24th and the order code is MAY191908. Preorders *officially* close on 5/31, but the book will still be available in limited quantities after that for shops to order. So, if you miss the cutoff, you’ll still have a shot at grabbing the first issue.
Any hints on your next project?