Russ Kazmierczak Jr. has been a contributor to Nerdvana Media since 2010, when he moved back to Phoenix from Southern California and began self-publishing his minicomic, Amazing Arizona Comics. This month, Russ shared the cover and official synopsis for his minicomic’s landmark 50th issue, and Nerdvana asked him for more details …
Nerdvana Media: Congratulations on 50 issues!
Russ Kazmierczak Jr.: Thank you! Technically, with the specials and one-shots I’ve made alongside my ongoing series, I’m well OVER 50 issues, but this one really is special.
NM: You’ve shared that this issue is inspired by The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd — which isn’t as Arizona-centric as your past stories. Why change the formula?
RK: Actually, the inspiration for this issue is VERY Arizona-centric, but on a much more personal level. When we were high school, one of my oldest and best friends, Nathan, and I found out about this phenomenon, where, if you start Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon after the third roar of the MGM lion at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, the album acts as a cosmic soundtrack, matching things happening in the movie with its lyrics, rhythm, mood, whatever. It blew our minds — and we weren’t even high! A year or so later, when I went away to college in California, those memories with Nate and all of our friends became synonymous with Arizona. When I reached issue #50, I wanted to celebrate what Arizona means to me, and this is it.
NM: Are you concerned readers might not make that connection?
RK: Well, a lot of people connect with The Wizard of Oz. It’s a timeless story, and I really emphasize that imagery in this issue. Arizona is turning into Oz — and some of my favorite landmarks throughout the state will play a part in ways I don’t think many people will suspect. And, if you’re a Pink Floyd fan, it just so happens that The Dark Side of the Moon is celebrating its 50th anniversary THIS MONTH — while I’m honoring it in my 50th issue?! I didn’t plan it that way, I swear!
NM: What have you learned from making over 50 issues of the same comic?
RK: I’ve learned I couldn’t stop making comics even if I WANTED to — and there were times when I thought about it. I’ve learned how to look at my earliest work and not totally cringe — every weird looking drawing or short-sighted story were just lessons to make the next one better. So, I’ve learned perfect is impossible, so GOOD is better than perfect, and DONE is even better than good!
NM: You recently finished a residency at The Atlantic Center for the Arts. How did that contribute to #50?
RK: Basically, I drew over half of this issue there, during those three weeks. The residency was process driven, not product driven, so artists were encouraged to bring works-in-progress. I had about 12 pages done, and with the help my mentoring artist, Dean Haspiel, I laid out and drew the rest of the issue, adding a few pages that I didn’t expect were necessary — and fun — for the story.
NM: What’s next for Amazing Arizona Comics? #51?
RK: Eventually, but I have some other projects in mind, first. I have some fan fiction/bootleg stories I’d love to get out of my system. Then, without giving too much away, let’s just say that finishing #50 issues of Amazing Arizona Comics kind of gives me permission to take things in a different direction. Yes, there will be an issue #51, but this is a great place to start things fresh, and I’m planning on doing that, too.