The following is an interview with Marcellus Hall on his upcoming graphic novel, Kaleidoscope City, from Bittersweet Editions. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Hall about the inspiration behind the graphic novel, his creative process in taking on both the writing and artistic duties, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on your graphic novel debut with Kaleidoscope City! What inspired you to tell this story, and how did you develop the unique format of the book?
Marcellus Hall: The character in the book has an urge to get it all down, his “life, and all the serendipitous things about it.” I have the same urge.
Although the book is not autobiographical, it is based on real events. These events are jumping-off points for an imagined plane. The city has always been inspiring to me. I began this project with an idea to depict lyrically the urban experience. The panel format of traditional comics has always felt claustrophobic to me, so I wanted something free and less linear. As a songwriter, I am less inclined towards narrative and more inclined towards mood. My sense of narrative is not strict… I was inspired by the prose of Henry Miller or Jack Kerouac, and the poetry of Walt Whitman. William Blake‘s and Raymond Petitbon’s art were inspirations and the writings of Joan Didion and Jeff Dyer were equally inspiring. As a working description of the project, I often used the term “graphic poetry” rather than a “graphic novel.” But now I prefer the term “graphic lyrics.“
BD: Do you feel that your previous work in the arts – both as an illustrator and musician – prepared you for this undertaking?
MH: My experience as a songwriter prepared me in my attempt to distill impressions in succinct lyrical prose. Illustration is about communicating ideas. My years as an illustrator taught me ways in which to reach a viewer.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in working on Kaleidoscope City, and how did you balance the creative duties as both the writer and artist?
MH: The process for this book was backwards in a way. I started by making drawings in which I tried to capture moods. After amassing dozens of drawings, I saw patterns and attempted to make a narrative. I feel an affinity for words in the same way I do for line and two-dimensional images. The challenge for me was to streamline and simplify both the text and the drawings, so they could coexist harmoniously and tell a story.
BD: What do you hope that readers will most take away from this story?
MH: My hope is that a reader will have his or her existence rendered in a new way. And that he or she will feel inclined to return to the book occasionally for alternate perspectives. Although there is an elegiac tone to the story, my aim was to be optimistic.
BD: What makes Bittersweet Editions the perfect publishing home for Kaleidoscope City?
MH: Bittersweet Editions is the right publisher for Kaleidoscope City, because of the unique, nurturing role that editor Marco North played in the making of the book. His encouragement from the beginning and ongoing commitment to my vision was critical. Over the course of several years and many versions of the book, he reviewed material and offered invaluable suggestions. Very few publishers, I think, would be as committed to as unconventional an endeavor as KC.
BD: Do you feel that fans of your band, Railroad Jerk, will easily transition or segue to your work on this graphic novel?
MH: To be honest, I’m not in touch with the RRJ fans, or White Hassle fans for that matter. I’m not sure where they are in their lives, but my hope is that having been fans of my music, they will find something of value in this book also.
BD: If given the opportunity, to what other entertainment mediums would you like to adapt this story?
MH: I would like Kaleidoscope City to become a major motion picture someday. Or perhaps a comic book.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Kaleidoscope City?
MH: If they are already fans, then first I would like to thank them. Secondly, I would love to hear from them. Thirdly, I would tell them to keep on the lookout for themes and patterns in the book both visually and textually.