Talking ‘Adherent’ With Creator Chris W. Kim

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but in Chris W. Kim’s new graphic novel, Adherent, Em is determined to meet her favorite writer, even if she doesn’t know their name… or where they’ve gone… or anything about them. Yes, the obstacles against Em are many, yet the journey is beautiful, which made the chance to ask Kim some questions recently special.

Rachel Bellwoar: While the lack of technology makes the world feel post-apocalyptic, it’s never actually defined when this book is meant to be taking place. Do you know when it’s set, or is “when” not really important in the context of this story?

Chris W. Kim: The “when” of the story is meant to be undefined. I didn’t show any contemporary technology in order to avoid the impression that it was simply a post-apocalyptic version of our own world.


Bellwoar: These days it’s pretty hard to fathom traveling without GPS or trying to find someone without the use of the internet. Em does both, plus she’s leaving a village where leaving — in and of itself — is a massive no-no. Do you think that kind of bravery or foolishness (depending on how you look at it) is necessary sometimes?

Kim: Definitely, and I think it’s especially the case when doing something creative. To start a project without an established rubric to guide you is essential if you want to do something that is, hopefully, new and interesting.

Bellwoar: Even the early pioneers probably had compasses and medical supplies at their disposal. Em’s case is pretty extreme, in that she hasn’t really accounted for anything going wrong. As a traveler, are you more of planner or someone who likes to wing things?

Kim: I’m someone who wishes they could totally wing it, but in reality I always have a fallback plan. Maybe Em does what I wish I could do, that is, to follow her curiosity in spite of the things that may go wrong along the way.

Bellwoar: In a movie silence can mean music or white noise but, in a graphic novel, silence feels that much bolder. Did it feel like a risk, using that much silence in Adherent, or did you always know how effective it would be, as Em is traveling solo?

Kim: I think I knew from the start that there would be a lot of silence in the story because so much of it involves Em walking alone. It didn’t feel like a risk though, since there are so many silent, or nearly silent, comics that I like.  Sound of Snow Falling, Prosopopus, and Travel are a few examples. And I’ve always liked the idea of a story that has dialogue but feels as if it was silent once you finish it. I tried to capture that feeling in Adherent.

Bellwoar: One effect of silence, as a reader, is you become that much more aware of the passage of time and how it can be reflected through lighting. Was it difficult to remain that conscious of lighting or limiting, in terms of preventing you from moving scenes around?

Kim: My intention was for Em’s journey to take place in a world that’s almost outside of time, and so practical considerations aren’t really factors on her journey. I wanted to have a kind of casual, dreamy disregard for the difficulties she would have on such a long trip, and things like the lighting of a scene obeys the mood more than it does the time of day.

Bellwoar: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yet in Adherent there are a number of people who try to dictate what’s a waste and what’s worthwhile. Why do you think society’s so quick to judge people for the things they enjoy?

Kim: Hard to say! Em is a pretty nonjudgmental character, but it may be for that reason that she seems much more adrift than others.

Bellwoar: One of my favorite details to make note of while reading was how each of the settlements uses different building materials to make their homes. It felt very Three Little Pigs and I was wondering if you had a favorite, amongst the villages?

Kim: I like the fourth settlement, where Em is denied entry by the guard. Having that enticing glimpse into their world without being able to enter makes it more alive in my mind.

Bellwoar: As diverse as the towns are, the one thing they have in common is their fear of outsiders. Why do you think that’s the common denominator?

Kim: Each settlement is depicted as self-sufficient so there’s no practical use of straying too far from home, and this goes hand in hand with being wary of outsiders. That’s what makes the writer so unusual, and why Em finds her so interesting.

Bellwoar: The title, Adherent, could apply both to Em’s commitment to adventure or the fact that she’s following in the writer’s footsteps. Is there a reading you prefer, or is that part of the title’s appeal – the fact that it can be interpreted multiple ways?

Kim: At first Em follows the writer in a physical sense, so she is sticking close to the path the writer has taken. Then we see that the writer has adherents, in the sense of people who follow a leader or cause. I saw the title as a way of suggesting that Em is not sure which type of “adherent” she is, or wants to be, in relation to the writer.

Bellwoar: It’s a question Em faces when she meets the writer, but do you think authors should have final say over the meaning and value of their work, or should that control eventually pass to the fans?

Kim: I think authors usually write with some kind of strong intent, but it’s hopeless to try and strictly control how a reader interacts with the work. It’s an activity that both sides contribute to.

Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Chris!

Adherent goes on sale May 24th from Conundrum Press.

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but in Chris W. Kim’s new graphic novel, Adherent, Em is determined toCOMICONRead More

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