Sometimes you come across a concept so interesting that you’ve just got to find out about the person who created it. That’s the feeling you get when you read the West meets East online comic, Fried Chicken and Sushi. I sat down with the creator, Khalid Birdsong, for a short interview.
Tell me who you are and where are you from?
I’m Khalid Birdsong and I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia. Living in California now and loving it!
Where did you get your training as an artist?
I graduated from Howard University in 1997 with a bachelors in Graphic Design.
Howard is a great university. Did you know at school that you wanted to create comics?
Oh, yes! I’ve been drawing comics ever since I was in elementary school! I went to art school to get a more well rounded art education and up my cartooning skills.
Did you want to work for the big guys or did you always have your eye on indie comics?
In high school and college I thought it would be amazing to work for the big two. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy making super hero stories. I would try to draw pages and just get bored. It was more natural for me to tell stories I created.
I know that you spent some time in Japan, how did that effect your art?
Living in Japan gave me a chance to see how limitless the art of making comics can be. I would go into a comic book shop and see books about everything and anything imaginable. I learned to open my mind to more wild ideas and art styles outside of mainstream American comics. Living around that kind of creative energy made me see how anything is possible in comics form.
When I first met you, you had a manga inspired graphic novel by the name of Youngbloods. Was this your first foray into indie comics or did you do something prior?
My first comic was called ORA and I self-published it in 1999. A small publisher agreed to put out the first three issues. I worked like a dog to finish them then the company went out of business! I was determined to have my work out there so I studied the industry and decided to save up and print the first issue myself. I learned that anyone could get a table at a comic convention and sell their stuff so that’s what I did.
Would you consider ORA a success?
It was not a commercial success but I learned so much about how to print and sell comics on my own that I got hooked on indie publishing.
What was your next project?
My next project was the vampire adventure, Youngbloods. It’s based off of a film project idea that my friends and I had in college. We never did anything with it but I always loved the concept of vampire gangs in a city. While in Japan, I wrote the script for the graphic novel and designed the characters. When I moved to California, I started drawing the comic and it was a huge challenge for me.
How was Youngbloods received?
People have really enjoyed the storyline and characters. I put up the entire comic online a few years ago and received wonderful feedback from readers letting me know that they don’t usually see a comic like that on the shelves. I’m currently putting together the entire two hundred pages into a graphic novel format.
Speaking of online comics, I know your latest project is something called Fried Chicken and Sushi. Tell us about that.
Fried Chicken and Sushi is more of a humor comic strip loosely based on my two years living in Japan. It updates every Tuesday and Thursday and I’m having a blast creating it! The art style is different than my long form comics. Growing up, I enjoyed drawing in a more animated, cartoony style but got out of that when I wanted to do serious comics stories. It was tough at first to tell funny stories but I’m getting the hang of it now.
Where can we find Fried Chicken and Sushi?
That’s easy! www.friedchickenandsushi.com
Very easy. So you’ve been in the indie comics game for over a decade. What are some of your thoughts on the movement?
I’m excited that there are so many more ways to read indie comics now via digital distribution and webcomics. When I started out, all you could do was print your comics and sell them to a limited audience. Now, you can put your work out there to the world. I’m impressed and excited by all of the great comics that are out there now!
Who are some of your major influences?
That’s a tough one! I have so many influences in animation, manga and American comics! My work is such a combination! I read a lot of Asterix and Tintin as a kid and watched way too many 80′s cartoons. They gave me a love for adventure stories. I remember Todd McFarlane’s art style got me excited about mainstream comics in high school. In college, I discovered anime and manga and that took me into a whole new direction. When I created ORA, I felt like I was able to put all of that together.
Do you have any advice for up and coming creators?
My advice would be to work on comics that bring you joy, no matter what eveyone else is into.
If you want to draw comics. Draw comics! Practice the art of visual storytelling and then put something out there online or in a book so that people can see it. You’ll learn a lot by just doing it and getting feedback.
Lastly, are you developing any new concepts?
I’m not working on any major new project now. Once I get the Youngbloods GN out, I might have some time to think about what to create next. Doing my webcomic always gives me chances to try new ideas out on my readers.
Where can the fans contact you?
They can follow me on Twitter @friedchicksushi or ask questions over at the Fried Chicken and Sushi forums http://friedchickenandsushi.com/forums/#/
Great, thanks so much for the time.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you, Andre!