Creating Against All Odds
Neil Kendricks’ “Comics are Everywhere!” documentary is more than a decade in the making.
By Lisa Haney
July 21, 2021
Comics are a major influence for educator and artist Neil Kendricks (’06). As a member of the [email protected] collaborative, the lecturer brings comics into the classroom at SDSU through his Comics and Sequential Media class, Drawing course and a proposed new course for 2022, Comics and the Visual Odyssey.
Comics have also played a role in the personal work of the multitalented artist, photographer, writer and filmmaker who earned a master’s in television, film and new media from SDSU. He taught himself to draw at a young age by looking at comics. He started attending Comic-Con when he was in high school. Then he began writing about comics and interviewing famous comics artists while he was in college.
And for the last 11 years he’s been working on a feature-length documentary in progress, “Comics are Everywhere!” The documentary follows emerging artists JJ Villard and Danni Shinya Lou, and includes interviews with established comic creators Daniel Clowes and Jaime Hernandez, and other cartoonists and comics scholars.
“One of the things I think that separates my documentary from maybe some other comic book-related documentaries that have emerged in the past is mine isn’t really about superheroes,” Kendricks says. “I’m really more interested in alternative comics and underground comics.”
As the film has progressed, his subjects’ careers have evolved as they’ve gone through life transitions like marriage and having children.
“One of the questions that’s sort of a primary line of inquiry in the documentary is: ‘What does it take to create?’” Kendricks says. Especially when the responsibilities — and financial pressures — of life interfere. “How do you persevere when those things could eclipse your dream?” he asks.
The question resonates for his own creative work on the film too. Kendricks didn’t expect the documentary to take quite so long. The COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of in-person Comic-Con for two years has limited his access to the artists he’s filming. Another challenge: Funding. Except for a couple of grants, Kendricks has been paying for the project out of his own pocket from his teaching gigs (he’s also an instructor at San Diego Miramar College and NewSchool of Architecture & Design). Right now he’s applying for grants to help him buy a new camera to complete the project; the equipment he started it with is outdated.
A short sample of the documentary in progress debuted, along with some of Kendricks’ drawings and other film work, at his exhibition “Mirror, Mirror: Lights, Camera, Dreams,” in May at the Bread & Salt gallery near San Diego’s Chicano Park. His dreams — a passion for filmmaking and art and storytelling — were on full display.
“There are lots of other independent filmmakers — truly independent — making films on their own and flying on a wing and a prayer and in talent, in perseverance,” Kendricks says. “And I guess I’m part of that tradition to a certain extent.”