Kyle Starks’ name resonates strongly within the realm of comics, thanks to his remarkable journey as the longest-standing writer and occasional artist for Oni Press’s acclaimed “Rick and Morty” series. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – he’s also the mastermind behind “Peacemaker Tries Hard” for DC Comics, showcasing his versatility and talent that spans different universes and genres.
Earning multiple Eisner nominations, including recognition for his works like “Sexcastle,” “Rock Candy Mountain,” and “I Hate This Place,” Kyle’s ability to infuse humor into his creations has garnered him a devoted following. His forthcoming project, “Marvel Unleashed,” promises to be yet another exciting addition to his growing repertoire. We had the opportunity to discuss the ‘Peacemaker Tries Hard’ with Kyle to gain a better understanding of how this phenomenal series came to be.
Comics Basics: What was your main inspiration behind ‘Peacemaker Tries Hard’? Given the R-rated and graphic nature of the humor in the series, how did you balance the elements of humor and action while staying true to the character?
Kyle Starks: The inspiration was, absolutely, to give people more of the sort of energy and tone that the ‘Peacemaker’ TV series had. It was so popular and so well done we’d be silly not to endeavor to create more of that.
In regards to how I did that balance, I don’t have a good answer. It’s just what I’ve done in comics to date. In books like ‘Sexcastle,’ ‘Kill Them All’ and ‘Assassin Nation’ I have big dumb action guys with a lot of emotional subtext stuff going on underneath, and in Rick and Morty and others, I prided myself on recreating the “voice” of those shows. So bringing that to this Peacemaker series is just what I do well!
What has been the most enjoyable aspect of working on the series so far?
Oh, this is a tough one. Getting to work with an incredible art team like Steve Pugh and Jordie Bellaire is huge, obviously. The Editorial for this book was, honestly, an absolute dream. The whole team was great – I’d love to work with all of them again. And because the team was so good, I was really free to do what I wanted, to play in this incredibly popular sandbox, and that’s incredibly enjoyable for me.
Given your extensive experience in writing humor, how do you approach pacing and timing to ensure that moments with humor land effectively?
This is another tough one to answer, but, like I said before: it’s just what I do. Some people can play baseball well. I can pace a humor book pretty well. I think there’s a lot of personal sensibilities that play into making things like that work. Consuming a ton of media – comics, movies, books, tv – surely doesn’t hurt. You sort of absorb what works and what doesn’t, but there’s a lot of “feel” to it for sure.
‘Peacemaker Tries Hard’ has been compared to James Gunn’s show. Did you expect that to happen? How did you approach making the character “your own”?
I mean, absolutely, that’s what we wanted. I think that’s why DC asked me to do the book. Gunn and I do very similar things – we do big dumb action with a lot of character and subtext underneath.
Now, obviously, he (Gunn) does it better and on a bigger stage, but I was asked to do this book for my strengths, and doing that very much wanting to give people more of what they like – it’s just good fortune and great hiring in this case that I believe, I was a perfect fit for the character and the book.
Same for Steve! Big, great, traditional, mainstream-looking art with a killer sense of humor. Sincerely, shout out to DC editorial for bringing us together on this one.
The series also has moments of lightheartedness and deep character exploration. How do you find the right balance between these tonal shifts?
I really don’t think there’s a trick to it. You just do it how it feels right. Honestly, the character exploration is the thing that interests me most, but also delivering it in a way that’s fun or interesting for the reader is probably second to that.
I want people to love these characters, to want to spend time with these characters, and to tell a part of their lives that readers want to read about!
What do you believe sets the series apart from other superhero and humor comics on the market?
Humbly, it’s really good at both. That’s, again, a ton of thanks to Steve Pugh, who does an incredible job, and lifts a ton of that weight. I think it’s hard to do both but I, again humbly, think we bring both in a really great way.
Can you give us a glimpse into your future plans for the series?
Well, it wraps up with 6, and if all goes well after four issues of laughing, I get some crying in the last two. I think it ends really strong. I’m incredibly proud of this book this team was able to put together. I sincerely think it’s something special whether you saw the show or are a fan of Peacemaker or not.
With your Eisner nominations for works like ‘Sexcastle’ and ‘Rock Candy Mountain,’ what do you believe makes for a successful humor publication in regard to comics?
I think it’s balance. Comedy is so subjective – what’s funny to one person isn’t always to another. So you need to find a way to be humorous in a lot of different ways to appeal to the funny bone of a lot of different people. The best comedies, historically, do that.
I also think that I try to avoid being hammy or just gag-based – they can push something from fun and funny to silly pretty easily, and while I like silly, you want it to exist in a framework of a well-told story, and silly can break that.
If ‘Peacemaker Tries Hard’ were to be adapted into a live-action show or film, who would be your dream cast for the main characters?
It would, of course, never happen, but if it did, the clear first casting is John Cena as Peacemaker. He is that character.
I’m so bad at this game. I think you want someone with a great voice for The Brain, so maybe like Willam Dafoe? Red Bee is tough because he’s older, but he’s fit, and he’s positive.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can discuss?
I am unable to discuss the majority of my upcoming projects, but ‘Marvel Unleashed’ my Pet Avenger series – like you’ve never seen them before! Comes out in August, and I have a story in the new Harley Red and White series with long-time creative partner and best friend Chris Schweizer coming out soon.
Otherwise, I have a lot of irons and the fire and a lot of great stuff coming down the pike. I’m excited for people to read! Keep your eyes out!