We spoke to Lovern Kindzierski, creator of Underworld, about how the concept has existed in many different guises over his career, and about how it finally graduated from the drawing board and came into being as the paperback published this week
It was the best of times, it was – a Dickens of a time. My father had died and my first marriage had ended. I had hit the wall in my career as a printer and realised I couldn’t do the job anymore and so I was in university pursuing my BFA. I was also taking Film Studies and, more specifically, Screenwriting. Mythology has always been one of my interests and in one of my classics courses we discussed how Odysseus just wanted to get home and be a husband and father again. Just like that, the seed was planted!
At first I thought I’d use the idea for an assignment for my screenwriting class. I wrote the first synopsis. I met with my instructor to discuss my update on The Odyssey as a project for the course. We decided it wouldn’t fit, but later that week at one of my counseling sessions I brought up how the story was making elements of my own separation clearer to me. My psychologist suggested I complete the screenplay as a therapeutic exercise. I went home and sat up late that night making notes.
So many of the archetypes of the story locked into place in my life. I was working on the design and layout of a local arts magazine at the time. On my bus trip to the office the next day my brain was awash with images and concepts for the story. The prostitutes that worked the streets around the Midcontinental offices became sirens or harpies. Some red plastic packages for graphic design tape gave me the idea for the packets of cocaine that appear to be blood packs. After our meeting over the next issue of the magazine some of us went to a local bar for a drink. It was at that meat market that I saw my Herakles. It was a short step from seeing him to seeing all the singles trolling for relationships as lost souls in Hades. One of the contributors to the magazine was Guy Maddin, and since he was at hand and an inspiration I discussed the concept with him. I asked him if it was something he would be interested in. He told me that I would have to work on something this personal by myself. I agreed, but was intimidated by the idea of putting together and directing a feature-length art film.
Before I knew it, that school year was over and I was working on my pre-Masters honours year. Underworld was one of a couple of ideas that I could illustrate in my newly crafted graphic storytelling project for my Masters, but I rejected my Odyssey as too big a story and worked on another story for that year. I had some discussions with several people about producing an Underworld movie, but I didn’t pursue any of those directions.
After some time I came back to Underworld again; this time I was planning on doing the story as a three-issue graphic novel series. I would be doing the art using a photocopying technique that combined photography and line art to tell the story. I applied for some art grants without any success. At the same time, my career as a colourist really took off. I was working crazy hours, often working for 48 hour bursts without sleep. I was entirely wrapped up in a dream career working with the comic book heroes of my youth as well as being part of developing the new world of comic books. Underworld found itself relegated to pile of projects that would happen when I had time.
Years went by.
I had written a number of smaller projects with some success and wanted to pursue more writing. One of the projects I pitched then was Underworld, but now I was looking at working with an artist. I was excited to share my ideas with artists whose talents were so far beyond my meagre abilities. However, I had to find a publisher first. Underworld is not your usual comic book fare, so I wasn’t able to interest anyone in publishing the story right away. However, many of the editors I showed Underworld to did encourage me to keep looking because of the strength of the story, even if it wasn’t a good fit for that publishing house. I took them at their word and kept pushing the project. In the meantime some of the editors I talked to found other projects for me to write, and write I did.
Underworld was always floating around the shores of my mind looking for somewhere to make a landing. After years I was lucky to make the acquaintance of Alexander Finbow [the editor of Underworld] and he too saw that Underworld was a great story. Renegade Arts Entertainment were brave enough to publish it. Now I had to decide what to do with the art chores. I had recently come to know Greg “GMB” Chomichuk and his artwork. When I asked Greg if he would be interested in being the artist of Underworld he was thrilled, but curious as to why I picked him. I brought him over to my studio and I was able to pull some old work I had done when I was originally considering doing the artwork myself. When he saw the similarities of what I had envisioned then and what he had produced for his book The Imagination Manifesto, he broke out in a broad grin. What I had begun to play with, Greg had already developed in to a full blown graphic style. A big plus was that Greg, too, lives in Winnipeg and knew the path that my hero Hector travels to get back to his wife and son.
The odyssey of the story was complete. Underworld had found a home.
Underworld is published 17 December by Renegade Arts Entertainment
Browse all Renegade Arts Entertainment titles here
Browse our entire graphic novel range here