Johnny Boo and the Silly Blizzard: Interview with Author James Kochalka
“Johnny Boo and the Silly Blizzard” is a newly released book by IDW Publishing. It marks the 12th installment in the beloved Johnny Boo series which has been recognized with an Eisner Award. Written by author James Kochalka, the series chronicles the adventures of a little ghost named Johnny Boo and his ghostly pet named Squiggle. In “Johnny Boo and the Silly Blizzard,” Johnny Boo and Squiggle discover the delights of eating snow until the dreaded Ice Cream Monster arrives with a gigantic Ice Cream Fork intending to keep all the deliciousness for himself.
Author James Kochalka recently discussed this series via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in creating stories and what drew you towards the graphic genre?
James Kochalka (JK): I started drawing comics when I was a little boy, and I did it all through my childhood, my teens, my college years and now here far into my adulthood. The kind of stories I tell have changed as I’ve gone through these different phases of life. When I was a kid, I drew the sorts of fun and hilarious adventure comics kids love. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I did edgier, snarkier stuff. And when I became a dad, I started drawing comics for my own kids to read… and so now I’ve come full circle back to drawing fun adventure comics for kids!
MM: How did you come up with the idea for the Johnny Boo character?
JK: I started with the name. I just liked the cadence of the name “Johnny Boo.” Then I did a page of sketches of little ghosts, all different, until I drew one that had the right spark of life to the drawing. Then I was ready to go!
MM: How did you find Top Shelf Productions and come to work with them?
JK: I was in the very first anthology Top Shelf ever published. So, I’ve been with them since the very beginning of the company! Before they were comic publishers they were fans of my homemade photocopied mini-comics, and then when they were ready to start their publishing business they asked me if I would like to work with them. So, it was really quite a different beginning than pitching a book to an established publisher.
MM: You’ve created twelve books in the Johnny Boo series. Do you have a personal favorite, or recommend a good one to start with?
JK: My personal favorite is Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer, which won the Eisner award. Gotta love it for that. Also, it’s very very silly. I really feel like absurd times call for absurdist fiction.
MM: How do you come up with the storylines, and how many books could this series ultimately include?
JK: I basically just ad-lib the storylines. The early ones were written as bedtime stories for my kids… who aren’t so little anymore. The oldest is just about to graduate high school, in fact. But I imagine I’ll keep drawing these books forever. Some books are a struggle to write… but Johnny Boo never is.
MM: Why did you decide to make his pet, Squiggle, a tiny ghost rather than an actual dog?
JK: Squiggle is a pet ghost, but I don’t define it beyond that, on purpose. I just like the shape. It’s not important what kind of pet Squiggle might be. They’re just Squiggle! That’s all you need to know!
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten so far? What has been the highlight of your career?
JK: I do like the Johnny Boo and Squiggle cosplay I’ve seen. That’s always amazing. But also, just seeing a kid clutch their worn-out copy of a book that’s been read 500 times… that feels good. It feels really good to know I’ve made someone’s FAVORITE book.
MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?
JK: Hopefully within five years, we’ll have a Johnny Boo tv show. Time to start pitching! I don’t want to just farm it out, I want to write it myself. I wrote the pilot already. But if that doesn’t work out, I’m beyond thrilled just to keep drawing comics.