Rich Koslowski Interview

Rich Koslowski is the creator of the popular The 3 Geeks and Three Fingers. This month, he explores the Elvis mythos in The King from Top Shelf. Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Koslowski about his new book.

Westfield: What can you tell us about The King?

Rich Koslowski: The King is going to be out in July. We just finished up all the artwork a couple weeks ago and the edits and all that. It's my interpretation - or fictionalized version - of what actually happened to Elvis Presley after his... "demise." When he died back in 1977, I was ten years old and my grandfather used to always bring over the National Enquirer when he'd visit us on Sundays. At that time, in the late 70s, early 80s, every week seemed to have some tabloid story about Elvis and what really happened to him and some sort of sighting. I used to get a big kick out of that as a kid and I actually believed that something really was going on conspiracy-wise. At this adult age, of course, I don't believe any of that anymore. I'm fairly certain that he's dead. But my publisher, Chris Staros, I found out after doing my first book with him, Three Fingers, I found out Chris was this huge Elvis fanatic. One of these guys who makes the pilgrimage every year. I was fascinated by that. Although I was not at the time a huge Elvis fan like Chris, I appreciated his music. I liked a few of his songs. I was really more a fan of the fans. I thought that their story had to be told. So I proposed a story to Chris, and he loved it, and the rest is history.

As far as what the story's actually about, I really have to guard my words because I don't want to give too much away. There's this guy creating quite a stir out in Vegas, this impersonator, so to speak, and he wears this gold helmet which covers his face. He sounds just like Elvis and has taken Vegas by storm. He claims to be the god of song. He says that he was at one time Elvis Presley, but he had to die to transcend humanity and take his rightful place as the god of song. An old Enquirer reporter who used to do all the stories back in the day goes out there to debunk him. The rest?... I won't say what happens.

Westfield: Will this be in the documentary style you used in Three Fingers?

Koslowski: This is more of a straight forward story. I don't like to retread too much of the same style as far as the storytelling goes. I wanted to do this one differently. It's more straight forward. There's a lot of mystery involved... there's some humor... there's more main and secondary characters that I have fun with developing storylines and secondary storylines and question marks as to what's really going on. There's also questions of faith that I bring in. What are gods? I just have a lot of fun with the whole Elvis mythos and how it's affected people and how it still does to this day. On the surface, it's a straight forward story, but I hope that people pick up on the underlying messages as well. I don't want to knock people over the head with them, or spell it out for them, but there's a lot of subtle things going on as well.

Westfield: How much research did you do for the book?

Koslowski: Quite a lot. This goes back to what I said in the first question. When I started off, I was more a fan of the fans and not so much a fan of Elvis, although I always recognized that he was a great talent, had a great voice, great charisma. The more I researched Elvis for my book and went out and bought albums - so every time I sat down at my drawing board, literally, I would put Elvis music on in the background to get in the mood, get in the spirit, invoke him so to speak - the more I grew to appreciate him as a performer. Over the course of the last two years working on the book, I have become quite an Elvis fan. The more I've watched of him on DVDs... he was a special person. A special performer. He had that certain X factor that a lot of stars just don't have. There are stars that are good looking, that can sing, they have charisma. He had it all and then a little bit something extra that makes certain people a superstar as opposed to just a star. The Michael Jordan thing. He just had that certain special extra something.

Westfield: I know this is an odd question but, you've done Three Fingers. You did The 3 Geeks. No "three" in the title of this one. Any worries about that?

Koslowski: I was actually thinking of a way to do that because my publisher said the same thing. I started off with 3 Finger Prints, the name of my company, and The 3 Geeks and Three Fingers. I have this big master plan that's going to unfold one day about the power of the magic number three. I wanted to drop something in this title as well, but it just would have been pushing it too hard trying to do that. I still have this big opus planned one day to explain all the threes. It's funny because people started pointing it out to me a while back, and now I sit back and I realize just how many threes are actually in my life and it's really kind of scary. I'm the third child. My wife was born on 3/3, my daughter was born on 3/6. I was born on 11/1 so if you add those three ones together, you get three. Hundreds of these things I've been writing down over the last couple years. It's kind of fun. And probably a little stupid.

Westfield: Any desire to go back and do more 3 Geeks?

Koslowski: The 3 Geeks, it was never a problem of numbers; how much I sold. It was a time thing for me. I've got all these stories I want to do and originally when I did the 3 Geeks I did the one-shot How to Pick up Girls if You're a Comic Book Geek; the full color 40-page special. I didn't even know if I was going to go beyond that. But people really liked that. There was a buzz about it at the time. So then I planned a three-issue story arc (there's another 3!) where they went to a comic book convention and I didn't know if it would go beyond that. Of course it did. We did the 11 issues before changing into Geeksville where we self-published three issues (another 3!), then Image picked it up where we did another seven issues and the numbers were always solid. Unfortunately, they were never enough that I was ever making any real money doing it, but I always had good critical response (3 Eisner nominations!) and a good fan following. So I was sad when I had to pull the plug, but I had done it for four or five years and there were these other stories like Three Fingers that I really wanted to get going on. I just didn't have the time with working on the 3 Geeks being a bimonthly title and having my full time job with Archie Comics. I had to make a decision, and it was a tough decision, but I invariably had to stop 3 Geeks so I could do other things. I'm happy I did, but I was also a little bit sad, so I came up with the compromise a couple years ago of doing one double sized issue a year, which I've done the last two years; Summer specials. I thought the numbers would drop dramatically, too, since I hadn't been in the public's eye, so to speak. But the two Summer specials have held the numbers. They've been right there. I'll hopefully be able to keep doing that; one jumbo sized issue a year. And apparently, there's a movie studio out in good ol' Hollywood, they've been talking to me the last couple years about doing a live action version of the 3 Geeks. So you never know. If that were to happen, of course, I might be able to bring them back with more regularity.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on?

Koslowski: Now that The King is in the can, I also have another series that Top Shelf wants to do with me called Farm System. Other than that, I've got about a dozen really solid stories that are almost fully developed and about two dozen fragments, or notions I call them, on my computer that are waiting to be developed. Most writers like myself probably have the same amount of storylines that they're always working on. With The King and Three Fingers, I'm beginning to get noticed by other publishers now and a little bit more exposed out there. I'd like to work with other publishers as well and work on some of their established characters like Marvel and DC. I've got some storylines that I think would work really well for them. And Dark Horse currently has me contracted to do one of their Escapist stories that I submitted that I think's going to go over well. Hopefully, I'll be spreading my wings a little bit more in the next couple years in addition to continuing my relationship with Top Shelf.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Koslowski: My motto in this industry has been as long as I keep moving forward and not taking steps backwards, then I keep going. I'm happy to say that over the past 7, 8, 9 years that I've been working in the industry, that every year I take a little step forward, so I'm gonna keep going strong hopefully. They're baby steps, granted, but as long as I'm moving forward and not backwards, I'm gonna stick around and hopefully keep producing stories that people enjoy because I sure enjoy doing it.