Alumni ProfileKevin Huizenga '99
A thoughtful cartoonist

In both 2005 and 2006, Time magazine named Kevin Huizenga '99 one of the top 10 comic book artists of the year. Its reviewer called him “one of the most promising of a new generation of cartoonists.” Many of Huizenga's stories are told through a character named Glenn Ganges who feels, in his average life in Grand Rapids, theological, cosmological and mythical reverberations. Nine Glenn Ganges stories are collected in the hardcover Curses, published in 2006. These are Huizenga's answers to questions Spark asked him about his uncommon art form.

28th Street - click to enlarge“I didn't draw at all until I was 13 or so. My family was athletic, not artistic. One day I was in a drugstore and noticed the comics rack, which I hadn't ever noticed before, and I bought one. That night I started copying the drawings and began to be really interested in superhero comic books. They're written for a 13-year-old mindset, which I suppose I had when I was 13. Later I mostly outgrew that.

“No one really encouraged me early on. I suppose my parents were sort of bewildered and figured it was a phase. Then again, I didn't show any special talent in my early comics, and they were right, of course, to be worried about the practicalities of how I spent my developing years. In high school I lost interest in superheroes, and I started thinking of comics more as a literary form.

“I remember being surprised by the encouragement I got at Calvin from Professor Conrad Bakker, who talked me into becoming an art major. I hadn't planned to study art at Calvin, because, after all, I was interested in comics, not art! But Prof. Bakker said something along the lines of, ‘Hey, even though you don't think of yourself as an “artist,” you spend all your time drawing and writing, so art is what you do whether you call it that or not, and maybe you should think about studying it.'

“From the time I started, in high school, I've Xeroxed about 30 or so of my comic books and just given them to friends and sold them through the mail. I've never been interested in publicizing my work. Then, around 2001, I was asked to be in a few anthologies, and since then I've been lucky to have publishers interested in putting out my work.

Glenn Ganges - click to enlarge“I think of what I do as similar to what literary novelists or short story writers do, except in comics form. I'm inspired by the work of writers like Borges, Calvino, W.G. Sebald, Gogol, to name a few.

“Coming up with ideas hasn't been a problem. Finding time to get them all on paper is the problem! I can get interested in doing comics about almost anything. I read a lot and usually write in response to something I've read about—folktales, evolution, urban planning, theology of hell—and mix that with day-to-day stuff from my life. I feel very fortunate to be free to dwell on what I'm enthusiastic about or interested in and to write about those things.

“I want to make comics that are really interesting and beautiful. Whether drawing comics is my ‘vocation' or not, I don't know. It's what I enjoy doing more than anything else, and I've been able to stick with it by being stubborn and lucky.”

To see examples of Huizenga's work, visit www.usscatastrophe.com.