Interview: Animator Norm Konyu Discusses His Debut Graphic Novel ‘The Junction’

by Scott Redmond

Making the leap from one storytelling medium to another always comes with a learning curve, but Norm Konyu definitely hit the ground running with his debut graphic novel The Junction from Titan Comics. An animator by trade, Konyu was the lead animator for the BAFTA and Emmy award-winning preschool series Hey Duggee! and has worked for companies such as BBC, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and DreamWorks.

The Junction tells the tale of a young boy named Lucas who twelve years ago mysteriously disappeared alongside his father. When he returns seemingly not aging a day and is uncommunicative, it sets Detective Sergeant David King and child psychologist Jean Symonds down a mysterious trail as they attempt to uncover what happened. A story that unravels through interviews, medical and police reports, and Lucas’ own diary.

With the graphic novel set to release on Tuesday April 12th, Konyu agreed to speak with us about the book, its origins, and what the transfer from one medium to another was like for him.

Scott Redmond: Hello Norm, first of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

Norm Konyu: Not a problem. Thanks for asking.

SR: Storytelling as a whole is such a varied and amazing thing; some facets are shared across a variety of mediums while others are very unique to their specific medium. In making the leap from your animation work to working on this graphic novel, what was that transition like for you? Were there specific things that stood out as different or was it an easier transition since both are visual mediums?

NK: I found the initial planning phase of the book very similar to the storyboarding process of animation. As you say, they are both visual storytelling mediums and share a lot of the same rules. I think I pictured it in my head as a movie first before committing it to the page. What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that I wasn’t constrained by the 16:9 ratio of film. If I needed a frame to be tall and thin, there was nothing stopping me!

SR: Origin stories are always a big thing within the realm of the comic book medium, so what is the origin story behind how The Junction came to be? What inspired you to tell this particular story.

NK: It’s really difficult to pinpoint a single origin for The Junction. I had several images swimming about in my head for a while, and they lead me, strangely enough, to the ending. I then had to figure out the story events that would lead to that conclusion. So I wrote it backwards. For those that know me, that might not come as a surprise. I do a lot of things backwards.

SR: In wanting to tell this story, was it apparent right away that you wanted to make it a graphic novel or did you consider telling the story in the world of animation?

NK: It was always going to be a graphic novel. It began as an exercise in finding a personal visual style that I had ‘lost’ while working  on other people’s animation projects for so many years. Whether or not I would actually ever finish the graphic novel was another question entirely. On workload alone, one person could create The Junction as a graphic novel (after all, I did!), but turning it into an animated production would simply be impossible for one person.

SR: Are comic books and graphic novels something that you have been interested in for many years, reading-wise, or was this move sort of your first time within that medium overall?

NK: As a kid, I read plenty of comics, mostly garage sale purchases. I wasn’t so much into the superhero variety (though I read plenty of those), but really loved the EC type horror, The Spirit, the Jack Kirby runs of The Eternals and Kamandi, and as a teen I played around with the medium, mostly on terrible takes of popular culture with imaginative titles like Star Bores and Star Wreck. Very original. Once I began working in animation, I didn’t do anything in the comic medium until The Junction, which is a gap of something like 20 years. I did purchase plenty of graphic novels in that interim period, but I had absolutely no intention of producing anything of my own.

SR: What was the process like when crafting The Junction, were there things that you learned along the way that you didn’t know at first and might be helpful for the future?

NK: Oh, I learned plenty during the process! I learned the painful lesson of forward planning- you can never do too much of that! I was too eager to leap in and start artworking and I paid the price. A lot of work went in the digital trashcan simply because I hadn’t planned enough. I also approached the pages in what I now perceive as a weird way (It’s so easy to see the error of your ways after the fact). Each panel was a separate piece of artwork, rather than treating the whole page as a single entity, which made for extra work in balancing the separate panels on each page and compiling them.

SR: Speaking of the future, after bringing this story to life are there any other ideas you might consider bringing to life in this medium going forward?

NK: I’m working on another book now, tentatively called “Downlands’, keeping in mind the lessons I learned on the production of The Junction. It’s amazing how much more streamlined the process is now! Its story is based in the history and folklore of the area where I currently live in the UK.

SR: Thank you for your time Norm, are there any other projects or things you want to bring to our reader’s attention?

NK: I’ll have a short comic in the upcoming second issue of the Skrawl anthology magazine here in the UK, which I believe will be Kickstarting later this year. Beyond that, ‘Downlands’ sometime in the future, but the timeline on that is very hazy indeed.

The Junction is available at comic shops, bookstores, and digital devices from April 12th, 2022. For more details visit Titan Comics here.


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