Stephan Franck has worked on some of the biggest animated hits over the past two decades such as Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, The Iron Giant, and Marvel Studios’ What If…?, but the artist and writer returns to his passion project this month in the form of his graphic novel series Palomino.
Franck’s third volume in the neo-noir thriller Palomino is now available on Kickstarter and we got a chance to talk to him about the latest installment and his love of noir storytelling in this exclusive interview.
Why is Palomino your passion project and what are the origins of your story?
Stephan Franck: Palomino is a neo-noir crime story that takes place in 1980’s Los Angeles. We Follow Eddie Lang, ex-cop, now P.I. by day and working musician by night, and his teenage daughter Lisette, who, believe it or not, is even more hard-boiled than he is, as they work at keeping their family together while untangling a bunch of gnarly mysteries.
As a former musician myself who’s played the clubs since I was a teenager, including the ones in LA, and as a father of three, including two insanely badass daughters, a lot of the things I know and love in real life are in there. As far as the crime mystery, that’s a type of story that has captured my imagination all the way from childhood, reading Jim Thomson at a way-too-early age.
What aspects of Palomino stand out the most to you and which elements of noir do you revel in the most in the graphic novel?
Franck: Although this story is purely fictional, the Palomino Club was an actual legendary place, where the music world, actors, stuntmen, teamsters, local cops and politicians all crossed paths–some chasing their dreams, others just trying to get through the night. What better setting for a noir story? So on one hand, what I tried to do with Palomino was to be authentic. To have a lived-in, slice of life quality to it all, as it is a world that I know well. Then I merged it with the noir aspect: hopelessly romantic characters trying to navigate a corrupt and cynical world. Characters who are painfully aware that it would be a lot easier to look the other way and to NOT do the right thing, but goddamnit, they just can’t help themselves.
1980’s Los Angeles is certainly known for its punk and hair metal scenes, but most do not think of country music when they think of this era or location. What can you tell us about your choice to ground your story in a county music club?
Franck: Back in the 80’s they used to say that rock musicians always rehearsed but never worked, while country musicians never rehearsed, but worked well-paying gigs 6 nights a week! So most of the working musicians worked country gigs. Back in that world, being a working club musician was enough to raise a family and live a good middle-class life in Los Angeles, but that’s a thing of the past. The historical working musician was a canary in the coal mine for what happened to the American middle class in the last thirty years.
Crime and neo-noir comics have been some of the medium’s best stories in recent years. Why do you think the medium is a natural fit for these types of stories?
Franck: As I was saying, I think noir is about characters bumping against the moral limits of their world, so the ability to create a world that the reader can immerse themselves in is key. That’s even more true for neo-noir, where you’re visiting traditionally noir themes, but in non-traditional settings. That immersion is exactly the experience that a graphic novel offers–you sit down comfortably on your couch, with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, you hold the book in your hands, and you disappear into that world.
You have a long history in the film industry. If Palomino were adapted into a film, would it work better as an animated feature or live action film?
Franck: I firmly believe that any story could be told in any medium, I know Palomino could be wonderfully done in animation. I’m totally seeing it in my head. That said, at the present time, as far as an adaptation, I’d be thinking of it as a live action project. If for no other reason than it would be wild to rent the actual building that used to be the Palomino club, and to bring it back to its former life for the time of the shoot.
Why did you decide to return to the world of Kickstarter for the second volume of Palomino?
Franck: Along with the comic conventions, Kickstarter has become an indispensable element that makes independent publishing possible. It goes beyond funding. It is a place for the readers to come together for no other purpose than to support and help make projects they believe in happen. It’s the antidote to toxicity. It’s life-giving. So with this campaign, we’re going epic, as we unveil not one but two books! Palomino Volume 2 & 3, which the fans have been so patiently waiting for!
If readers missed volume one, will they have a chance to pick it up with your new campaign?
Franck: Absolutely! Volume 1 will also be available through the campaign along with Volumes 2 & 3.
Franck: Too many for my own good! First there is the 4th and final volume of Palomino. I’ve fallen deeply in love with these characters, and I’m champing at the bit to complete telling their story. Then, there is the new and super gorgeous hardcover edition of my graphic novel series SILVER, which is being republished by Abrams. We’ve worked insanely hard on this edition to make the Silver hardcovers absolutely gorgeous. The second and final one is coming out this fall, and can be pre-ordered through the Palomino Kickstarter campaign.