Monday, October 17, 2016

Kickstart the Week with Monster of the Week #1

By: Nicole D’Andria

The creators call it “A Giant Monster/ Kaiju book in the wonky tone of Adventure Time”. Monster of the Week #1 is the Kickstarter being showcased today, along with interviews from the creative team. Ready for wacky adventures with giant monsters?

Monster of the Week has the style and tropes of 80's Amblin films. For three months in the American Mid-West, a giant monster falls from the sky once a week. Amidst the monster hunting rogues, state armies and scientists who use the beast to further their careers, there is a group of kids ready to use these monsters to become great.

The writer of Monster of the Week is Ryan Little, who has previously worked on comic anthologies such as Alterna Press' Steam Punk Originals, Santa's Favorite Tales, and Death Saves. He is joined by artist Mike Vasquez, whose artistic works include jobs with Upper Deck, Topps, Cryptozoic and is well-known for his work on Adventure Time. He’s also worked for Star Wars, Marvel, DC, The Walking Dead, and Lady Death. Mike is collaborating with colorist Joe Hogan once again on this project, who has also worked for the same trading card companies, plus Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Ghostbusters, Adventure Time, and Firefly (to name but a few).

This Kickstarter is attempting to raise $1,500 before November 4, 2016 by 12:32 PM EDT. Rewards include a digital ($5) or physical ($8) copy of Monster of the Week #1, as well as Halloween variants ($25). If you’re interested in backing the project, check it out here.

I previously interviewed Ryan Little about his Kickstarter Lonesomes, a comic book series inspired by monster-catching media such as Pokemon, Digimon and Monster Rancher. I’m speaking with him and the rest of the creative team about Monster of the Week #1.

Writer Ryan Little

Me: What inspired you to create a monster of the week type of comic with an Amblin film feel?

Ryan Little: I've always loved the giant monster genre since I was a kid. It's just so inherently epic. Better yet, there's been a real resurgence of it in the last few years with a new Godzilla franchise, Pacific Rim, and Skull Island launching next year. That said, I found those movies to be steeped in a sort of dour veil that seems to cloak a lot of major tent pole movies. I wanted to make something that could engage the enormous elements of the genre while still getting to frame them in an adventurous light. Once I made that decision, the iconic Amblin aesthetic was the obvious choice.

This book is both a love letter and continuation to the giant monster genre that both celebrates and engages its glorious iconography.
Me: How would you describe each of the kids who will be going up against these monsters?

Little: It was really important to me that this book take place in a fully functional universe. Within the story, the mid-west United States is the only place where these monsters touch down. Although the rest of the world may not care, it's essential to the fun of the book that the appearance of these monsters turn the children's section of the world into a microcosm all its own. The team, therefore, is made up of four members who each represent a new aspect of this new world.

Neil and Mason, the two young men, are best friends and rivals who both want to tackle a monster for their own reasons. Lisa is the Steve Jobs of the group. Monster hunting weapons are as burgeoning a field in Monster of the Week as smartphones are in our real world. Lisa's goal is to have a monster hunter take down a beast with one of her original weapons. Lastly, there's Sam, the biology expert who is helping the team research the monsters in the hope she'll someday be able to turn herself into one.

Me: How did you begin working with Mike Vasquez and Joe Hogan on this project?

Little: The meeting was absolutely coincidental, which is what makes it all the more awesome. I posted an ad in a comic artists’ forum saying the book was "Adventure Time meets Kaiju," which was almost the literal definition of Mike's portfolio. He saw it and we immediately clicked. He then brought Joe into the mix and the two of them proceeded to absolutely knock it out of the park.

Me: What is your favorite 80's Amblin film and why?

Little: I'm going to have to go with Jurassic Park. It may have its dark/horror elements, but the movie is also packed with a sense of majesty that I just don't think has ever been topped. That was a lot of where I drew the idea for this. My favorite scene was always when the kids are sitting in the tree after the T-Rex almost kills them and they're still awestruck by the brontosauruses. It's that same youthful capacity to see the beauty through the terror that I try to channel with the team in Monster of the Week.

Me: What is your favorite monster of the week show and why?

Little: It's absolutely Doctor Who hands down. I love how that show on so many levels and have always been amazed how it’s able to concisely introduce whole new worlds and mythos through the appearance of a singular weekly villain.

Me: If you had to fight against a giant monster, which monster would you pick and what would be your strategy to take them down?

Little: There are a dozen different things that come to mind for this one. Part of the Monster of the Week mentality is that you measure yourself by the size of your victories, so the bigger the baddie, the better! That said, I think I gotta go with the Colossal Titan right now. I absolutely adore what they're doing with Attack on Titan and have been hooked since chapter one.

As for my personal plan of attack, I was an avid pole vaulter when I was younger and think my training on the gymnast's rings would make me an ace handler of the 3-D maneuvering gear.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Little: My comic is always the one I'm working on. I adore Marvel, DC, and the indies as well as a whole host of manga, but they don't hold a candle to seeing the characters I dream up manifested into real life. Take the leap. Start with a four page short. You can be a bus boy and afford a four page short. I promise you, you won't be sorry.

Artist Mike Vasquez

Me: What is your favorite 80's Amblin film and why?

Mike Vasquez: Not sure if it falls under the label of Amblin, but in that same vein of film types I'd have to say my favorite movie was the Monster Squad. When given the choice to watch Monster Squad or Goonies, I always chose Monster Squad as a kid. I love monsters and as a kid I think I related to the characters’ love for monsters. I’m pretty sure I tried to start a monster club with friends at school after I watched the movie lol.

Me: What is your favorite monster of the week show and why?

Vasquez: Well I have more than a few that I really enjoy and used to enjoy in my younger days. When I was younger I loved the Godzilla Animated Series (the 1998 version). Those monster designs were amazingly inspiring. I also really enjoy Supernatural and X-Files when they have monsters and creatures on their episodes.

Truthfully if there's a show (animated or not) that has monsters or horror, odds are I've probably watched and enjoyed it.

Monster of the Week #1 Pokemon Halloween Variant By Mike Vasquez and Joe Hogan

Me: If you had to fight against a giant monster, which monster would you pick and what would be your strategy to take them down?

Vasquez: Man, you'd think you'd be prepared for a question like this but the truth is I really don’t know. I feel like the most realistic dramatization of an average person in the midst of a giant monster attack was portrayed in Cloverfield and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have done much different than they did. I mean, I'm sure if I had the funds and resources of someone like Bruce Wayne I may have a better chance on taking on a giant monster, but honestly I don’t think there is much a single human can do against a Kaiju. That's why Neil is such an amazing character.

I can attest that, from my own, children are fearless. They don’t fear what adults do. Maybe we’re onto something lol, an army of children raised on 80s horror movies might be the key to our survival lol.

Me: You’ve done quite a few fun crossover pieces, including Pokemon meets Stranger Things and a Rick and Morty mash up with the Army of Darkness. Why did you start doing these crossovers and which have you had the most fun drawing?

Vasquez: Well I started the crossovers when I exhibited for the first time in Artist Alley for Long Beach Comic Con about four or five years ago. It was a Star Wars/Adventure Time crossover done completely in Copic markers. The print did so well that I felt like I had to do more. So I started doing a few more in pencil and inks and tried getting in touch with some colorists because I didn’t have the proper equipment to digitally color anything at the time. Joe had been an awesome friend and agreed to take on the paid commission of coloring my next two crossover prints, which were based on original trilogy Star Wars and The Walking Dead. We got such a huge response that we both agreed to collaborate together on future crossover prints.

Adventure Time/Star Wars Crossover Piece By Mike Vasquez and Joe Hogan

We both learned from each other and definitely have a really great understanding of the others’ artistic thought process. Joe is an amazing artist and his colors on my inks bring so much life. You’d think after working with him for so long I'd come to expect what his colors might look like on my lines, but every time I get a file back from him I'm blown away. Every time.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book artists?

Vasquez: As an aspiring comic artist myself, the only thing I can say is to keep hustling. Don’t be afraid to put your art out there. Take feedback and criticism and learn from it. Keep drawing. Keep drawing. Think Dory's song about swimming but replace it with drawing. And then keep drawing.

Colorist Joe Hogan
Me: What is your favorite 80's Amblin film and why?

Joe Hogan: Geeze, starting with the hard-hitting questions! I think for me, it has to be E.T. There's so many great ones, but E.T. just really captured my imagination as a kid. Plus, come on, so many Star Wars references! E.T. himself was a great example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and I've always been drawn to that philosophy.

Me: What is your favorite monster of the week show and why?

Hogan: Oh, man, I know I'm gonna get flack for this, but it's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. That was honestly my first introduction to the concept of giant monsters. Since then I've branched out, but the nostalgia factor is too much for me to resist giving the title up to anything else. Bright colors, cool helmet designs, giant robots beating the crap out of giant monsters, cheesy 90s dialogue/drama, and plenty of comic relief. So good.

Monster of the Week #1 Stranger Things Halloween Variant By Mike Vasquez and Joe Hogan

Me: If you had to fight against a giant monster, which monster would you pick and what would be your strategy to take them down?

Hogan: I'd definitely go with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (from Ghostbusters, for those maybe two people on the planet that haven't seen that movie). And don't tell me he's a ghost and not a monster, because Gozer is an inter-dimensional being and was bound to the physical world in the chosen form -- a giant monster made of marshmallows. Obviously, the best way to take him down is by crossing the streams, but I think I'd rather just skewer him on a giant stick and roast him over a volcano. Efficient and delicious!

Me: You’ve colored a lot of Mike’s crossover piece before. Which was your favorite piece to color and why?

Hogan: Oh, man. That's absolutely impossible to choose. Mike has presented me with so much great lineart to color over the last few years. If I absolutely HAVE to choose, I'll go with our Adventure Time/Legend of Zelda one. Not only was it an absolute blast to color, but that was the first time I really took charge in the brainstorming phase when deciding what characters should get mashed up between the two things we're crossing over.

Adventure Time/Legend of Zelda Crossover Piece By Mike Vasquez and Joe Hogan

Typically we discuss and bounce ideas off each other together, and occasionally Mike will bang one out already fully realized and ask me to color, but that was the first time I ever knew who every character had to be. But the Zelda mashup ideas came straight to me out of the gate and Mike was so cool about taking my ideas and running with them. Stuff like that is the reason Mike and I work so well together. We have a lot of give and take and have really learned to pick up on cues from one another. So MotW is a dream project!

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book colorists?

Hogan: To aspiring artists in general: Be kind, be easy to work with, work your ass off, and put yourself out there. I know those are very common and borderline cliché words of advice, but it works. Every artist's journey is very different, so you need to keep fighting and scratching and screaming to make your own path. Work will come slowly, then more frequently, and before you know it, you'll be turning work down. Be patient and keep moving forward. Stay hungry and find time to treat yourself to work you're inspired to do and to be inspired by others' work. 

Me: Thanks for taking the time to enjoy a monster mash-up with me! If you’re interested in backing the Kickstarter, check it out here.

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