Drugs, sex and murder, oh and sleepwalking — that’s just a taste of what’s happening in the new comic Dream Thief. University of Kansas alumni and Lawrence native Jai Nitz teamed up with artist Greg Smallwood to capture our fears about what can happen while we sleep. Nitz, who has done work for Disney, DC Comics and Marvel, has won numerous awards for his comic writing. He transitioned to being a full-time comic writer in 2012. Nitz met Smallwood in 2009 and, the two have been collaborating on the comic since. The first issue of Dream Thief was published by Dark Horse Comics in May and the fifth came out on Sept. 19 . The next issue will be published March 12 and can be pre-ordered online. You can also buy Dream Thief in Lawrence at Astrokitty Comics & More on 15 E. 7th Street. I sat down with Nitz to discuss Dream Thief.
JN: My dad worked for the federal government, and we would move to wherever he got a new job. In that time, I read comic books pretty much the whole time. After awhile, I realized this is what I wanted to do – this is a job you can actually have. Real people do this for a living. And that’s when my dad says things like: “I’ve ruined my son’s life because it went from this fun hobby and wanting to be a lawyer to, oh shit, he wants to write comic books.”
NF: How did you get started?
JN: In order to break into comics, you had to publish things. So I self-published my first comic, got a job and thought I made it. But, I didn’t make it. I did the same thing again, got another job, and thought I made it, but again, I didn’t. That went on for almost 10 years.
NF: The comic is about a guy who can’t go to sleep because when he does, things happen that he can’t remember. How did you get that idea?
JN: Sleepwalking has been in entertainment forever, but it’s also fixated in the minds of people forever because we don’t know what happens to us when we go to sleep. What happened if you killed somebody while you were asleep? That frightens the crap out of all of us.
NF: In Dream Thief No. 2, you start introducing gay military porn. Why ?
JN: I read a story on NPR— this was before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed — so it was still taboo to be gay in the military. And basically, you had this guy who was making porn for the gay military crowd. It was really deep niche stuff. It wasn’t just gay porn; it wasn’t just porn for military people. It was gay military porn. I remember hearing that story, and it made me think about it all. Do I care if the guys defending my freedom in Afghanistan are gay? I don’t care, but why does it matter? I couldn’t let the story go. When ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ got repealed, the first thing I asked was, “What’s going to happen to that gay porn director in North Carolina?” That was the first thought I had, I swear to God.
NF: Dream Thief has been getting a lot of great reviews, were you expecting this much success?
JN: I’ve been making comics for awhile, and I’ve never made a comic as good as Dream Thief. So I know what garners good reviews and what doesn’t. I knew Dream Thief was good enough to get a really good critical response and it has.
NF: What’s been the best thing about all the trips for promoting Dream Thief?
JN: People are starting to see Dream Thief rather than just hear about it. And people are coming up to me saying that they’ve read it and they love it. That’s the coolest thing. It’s for people to enjoy my work, and when they do, and tell you, it’s pretty awesome.