Mayim Bialik: I loved everything about Shrinkage: I love the art and the story and the chaotic madness of it all. It reminded me a lot of Robt Williams in its visual complexity and intensity. Tell us about it in a nutshell.
Rob Kutner: Thanks! That’s a very cool and flattering comparison. The art is by John Lucas, a Marvel/DC pro. The publisher introduced me to him (and several others), but his unique “real but inflated” style popped right away for me. SHRINKAGE is the the story of tiny, microscopic aliens who feed on radiation and invade the brain of the POTUS (President of the United States) in order to puppeteer him into causing WW3 (or as they call it, “Brunch”). Humanity fights back by shrinking down a crusty retired Cold War General and brilliant young neuroscientist (based in no way on people who might be currently interviewing me!), to go in and stop them. All while the Prez is trying to do his daily job.
MB: How did this idea come about?
RK: I love brain science and keep abreast of it, and one day thought, “What if there was a way to make this fascinating, so-much-unknown world the background for a funny adventure story?”
The political stuff sort of poured out unconsciously, probably because of my professional background. Once you think you’re out, it pulls you back in!
MB: You have so much Emmy-winning writing experience for TV; what made you want to use a comic book format for the telling of this story?
RK: It was just so crazy and visual; I thought it would be too daunting to try and get a studio to bring all this to life. So that’s my advice to the kids today: “Be daunted!”
MB: What’s your relationship with comics? Were you always a fan, and if so, what kind of comics did you like? What about the medium inspires you?
RK: As a teenager, I fell in love with them during the “serious” turn of the Dark Knight Returns/Watchmen era. I kept up an interest for a while, but then it petered out. Then, I came back to the medium as an adult when I started embracing my “inner geek” (which is nice because those guys don’t get embraced nearly enough). However, I must say, I’m really not a superhero fan! I started feeling like most comics fell into either “superhero” or “lonely crank who writes about being a lonely crank in Brooklyn.” I wanted a third way – cool high-concept stories that are like “mini-movies” that only comics can provide. So I set out to make that happen myself.
MB: Your wife is an accomplished writer and you have two kids. Are they comics fans as well? How have they influenced your sense of storytelling?
RK: My wife is a great comedy writer but prefers more grounded stuff. She is a very, very patient woman. My 8-year-old daughter is getting really into graphic novels about life and relationships among friends – especially Raina Telgemeier and others of her ilk. I can’t say this is exactly her thing — she grudgingly let me come talk about it to her class during “What Does Your Parent Do?” week, worried that it was “too weird.” However, one of her classmates kept asking if — when our heroes are injected into the president’s brain through the nose (the shortest route) — they would “crash into boogers.” So I decided to make that a plot point in the final episode! As for my 4 -year-old son, he’s naturally into robots and aliens and tiny things, so that’s a no-brainer (so to speak). I was just describing the plot to him recently and I thought, “That’s something he could have come up with!”
MB: You have chosen to tackle Alzheimer’s and neuroscience in this story; what’s your relationship to both of those? I know your father (may his memory be for a blessing) passed away of Alzheimer’s: How has your grief been ‘bound’ or tied up with what was happening with your father? (For me, my father’s passing has become a sort of creative focal point around which much revolves, whether I like it or not.) I also know you had already started Shrinkage when he was diagnosed, but can you define the impact of your dad’s life and struggles on this project?
RK: It’s funny, I don’t like to write lightly about serious conditions like that and cancer because I have a crazy old superstition about such things coming true. But I needed the heroine, Dr. Lana Percy, to go on a journey from career-driven and narcissistic and bitter, to becoming inspired by something greater and personal. So I hit upon the idea of a family member having a brain disease that — while stuck in one — she realized she might have found a cure to. And this transforms the rest of the story. But then, when my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it almost felt like this story was meant for me to tell. I will say, this marriage of story and real-life pumped extra motivation for me to drive the story home when I was at a point where it was tough and slow-going. Also, my Dad was always a huge booster of all my efforts, even — especially — the ones he had no understanding of. This story comes out of that love and I hope reciprocates it in full.
To learn more about Rob Kutner, visit www.robkutner.com