Kelly Yates Interview (DEC 2008)

 height=Kelly Yates is a freelance artist who loves drawing comics. While his name may not be on the tip of comics fans tongues, his work on Amber Atoms, coming this month from Image, may well change that! Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Kelly about this exciting and fun new series.

Westfield: How long have you been working on Amber Atoms? Looking at your web site, it seems like Amber Atoms is an idea you've had for a while.

 height=Kelly Yates: I think the initial idea probably started in the late 90s. Oh my gosh! Now that I say that, I realize it's been almost 10 years. It's one of those things where you have an idea and you don't know how to get it out there. Image was still evolving at that time and so was Amber Atoms. Over those years I've worked on a few small projects here and there while working on Amber Atoms in the background. At this point, I've got three issues in the can; penciled, inked, lettered, everything. The third issue will be colored soon so I can get the issues out in a timely manner.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the book?

Yates: I think most creators had a dream when they were kids of creating their own superhero. I wasn't getting full-time work from Marvel or DC and although I was getting offers to work on backend comic deals that usually don't pay anything, I thought if I was going to work for free I was going to work on my own material for free. I've always been influenced by Star Wars and the old Flash Gordon serials so I pulled from them and created my own modern day female Flash Gordon.

Westfield: Who are some of the characters in the book?

 height=Yates: Obviously, we have Amber Atoms. She's a young girl, late teens to early 20s. She's from a working class family and she's hasn't really been out in the universe. A lot of her family history ties into the history of the galaxy, but she doesn't know anything about it because her father sheltered her from it. She's kind of a blank slate at this point who we can watch and grow with through some difficult situations. She still lives with her mom and dad and we'll eventually be introduced to some relatives who hold more secrets to the Atoms' family name. Another character is the handsome and cocky Ace Armstrong. He's a type of galactic police officer that Amber has a thing for, but there's another character who might turn this into a love triangle. The thing I'm discovering as I'm doing this is that the characters are starting to write themselves. I've developed the universe and the characters are saying, "I want to go there."

Westfield: I'm assuming there are going to be various alien races in the book. Has it been fun developing their culture and their look?

 height=Yates: Yeah! And it all ties into the back story of their galaxy. How much of that will actually come out in the book, I don't know, but I established a back story for the universe so I know the parameters to work within. One of the main alien races are the Dar-tongians. Basically, they're the oldest known race in the galaxy so they tend to be more gorilla and ape-like in design. Who doesn't like to see monkeys and gorillas in comic books? [laughter] I can't tell you how much I love seeing Art Adams draw Monkeyman and O'Brien. If you're going to draw something, you need to draw what you want to draw. I enjoy drawing girls and sci-fi stuff so that's what I went with. Other characters you just draw as you need them based on what the storyline calls for. It leaves us a lot of room to play and have fun and grow some characters in the future.

Westfield: What can people look forward to in the book?

 height=Yates: I'm just trying to have fun working on Amber Atoms and hopefully it will show. By tapping into things that influenced me when I was growing up I've been able to creating something new and exciting that comic books fans haven't seen in awhile, a strong leading female character and those exciting cliffhanger ends.

Westfield: Is there anything else you're working on?

Yates: I recently did a backup stories for Perhapanauts #3 and Fear Agent #24. I'm also the fill-in artist for Doctor Who: The Forgotten #4. I'm a huge Doctor Who fan. While I was cleaning out my studio a couple months ago and found a cassette tape where I had taped an episode or two of Doctor Who off the TV back in the early 80's so I could listen to it. Anyway, I went to San Diego this year and met the editor. I said, "If you ever need a fill-in artist to do this, let me know." and it was a case of being at the right place at the right time. I'm really excited and proud of that work.

Westfield: Do you have any closing comments you'd like to make?

Yates: After collecting comic books for over 25 years and working on a few projects along the way, I wanted to take a more active role and make my contribution to the comic book industry. This is my opportunity to create fun books that people will hopefully want to check out. Something new. Something different. I think people will enjoy it.

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