At the recent HeroesCon in Charlotte, N.C, we caught up with comic artist and radio show host Chris Schweizer, who gave us the scoop on his art, his show The Crogan Adventure Radio Drama and his kid-friendly style. Here’s what he told us.
Nerdy With Children: Hi Chris.
Chris Schweizer: Hi!
NWC: How are you doing?
Schweizer: Beautiful, here in Charlotte with the hurricane weather and the drenched clothing, car pileups. It’s been an act-of-god sort of show, I think, across the board.
NWC: So for those not in the know, what is the Crogan Adventure Series all about?
Schweizer: Crogan Adventures are a collection of stories about a fictitious family at different points throughout history, so it follows a family line and each book is a different family member, a different time period, a different genre. So far I’ve done pirates, the French foreign legion, the American Revolution, and I’m working on one set in 1920s warlord era China.
It gives me the opportunity to do a World War I flying ace story, a western, a ninja story. And so it gives me a chance to try something different with each new project, so that’s exciting to me. It keeps me from falling into a rut.
NWC: The books have a very all-ages feel? Was that intentional?
Schweizer: A big part of that was just wanting to do the types of books that I enjoyed reading as a kid. I write books intended for an adult audience, but make sure they are safe for kids, because when I was a kid, most of my favorite books were books that were initially written for adults. So, you know, whether it be Three Musketeers or King Solomon’s Mines or Rudyard Kipling stories or whatever it might be, I think they resonated with me as a kid because they had adult protagonists and I was a kid and so I didn’t necessarily want to read what another kind was doing at school. Sometimes that could be fun, if it was well-written, but generally speaking, I wanted adult adventure stories.
So I wanted to do something very much in that vein. But I also feel in comics that there seems to be a tendency to sort of shoehorn in adult material. My stuff, it does deal with death, it does deal with larger philosophical questions that might arise, but I don’t think that means they can’t be handled in a way that is tasteful. And I think it’s the handling of the subject matter, rather than the subject matter itself, that sort of makes the difference between being something for all ages or just for mature audiences. I think that’s something that comics, as a result of sort of this push away from feeling like you have to do stuff for kids in the mid ’80s, has sort of fallen prey to this sense that if you do stuff for adults, it needs to be just for adults. I think that you can make something that adults will enjoy, but it doesn’t prohibit a certain section of the audience from being able to read it.
NWC: How did you get started making comics?
Schweizer: I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid, as most of the folks here can probably say. I did a comic strip in my college newspaper, which I got paid $25 a week for — which was pretty nice and was my only source of income for a while, aside from life drawing modeling, which was not the best work but it is what it is. So I had always thought that I wanted to do a newspaper comic strip, at the time, of course, when newspaper comic strips are dying off considerably and even the folks who are doing them are having to do two to three strips to try and make ends meet.
Luckily I came in at a period where, although that avenue was drying up, the graphic novel industry was starting to really flourish, and so having the opportunity to try different stuff and to see what bookstores were carrying really made a big difference. And seeing that there were things beyond Spider-man and Star Wars, and I like Spider-man and Star Wars, but my style and sensibility don’t necessarily lend themselves well to either. And so seeing that you could do a story about pirates was really exciting to me. I think I picked up Blacksad and Blankets at the same time, and I thought well that’s fantastic, you can do anything. So that really prompted me to want to do it on my own.
NWC: What’s up next?
Schweizer: The next one is called Crogan’s Escape, and it is about a young escape artist…he’s a circus daredevil, but he comes dangerously close to dying and subsequently had a big fear of risk which makes it difficult to do his job, and it’s more difficult because the crew of the tramp steamer that he works on has run afoul of a Chinese warlord who kind of wants all of them to suffer for something that they’ve done. So it’s sort of a pulp adventure, 1920s sort of Eastern-frontier type of thing that I’m really excited to do.
NWC: Where can we find you online?
Schweizer: You can go to CroganAdventures.blogspot.com. I’ve got a lot of stuff on there. If you’re a teacher or homeschooling parent or just somebody that’s interested in learning, then I have a teaching guide for the most recent book, Crogan’s Loyalty. Also, there are links to the Crogan’s Adventures radio dramas that are airing. I think three of them are out now, fourth one comes out this week and there will be six of those total.