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Interview: BRAVEST WARRIORS Artist Ian McGinty

For most of comics history, tie-in comics (comic books with original stories starring characters from other media like cartoons or TV) have been considered terrible, the occcasional Carl Barks or a Don Rosa excepted. However, that’s shifted in the last decade or so as tie-in comics have undergone a massive uptick in quality.

A key player in this public facelift has been Kaboom!, the all-ages imprint of BOOM! Studios. The line has become a commercial smash and a critical favorite–racking up multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards–for its roster of licensed material, which ranges from current phenomenons like Adventure Time and Regular Show to new versions of comic strip classics like Garfield and Peanuts.

A key feature of the imprint has been its willingness to rope in webcomics creators–like Dinosaur Comics‘ Ryan North (Adventure Time) and Gunshow‘s KC Green (Regular Show)–as well as young, relatively unknown creators. Notable examples of the latter are writer Kate Leth and artist Ian McGinty, who’re the current creative team on Bravest Warriors, a comic tying into and expanding the world of the beloved YouTube series.

We caught up with McGinty who graciously agreed to take time out of his busy schedule and multiple projects (Bravest Warriors #24 hits comic shops and digital on September 24th) to explain just how he wound up drawing Catbug for a living.

When did you first fall in love with comics? What were/are your favorites?

Actually, I learned to read from comics in the newspaper, specifically Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Garfield and Peanuts. Calvin and Hobbes was far and away my favorite of the options, and the huge Sunday spreads were just amazingly cool. I’ve got a photo album in my attic back home with a ton of them I cut and pasted from the actual paper when they premiered. I also like to think The Far Side had a hand in my love of any comics with offbeat humor and dark comedy.

In your appearance on the first episode of Kate Leth’s Less Than Live podcast, you mentioned you were a film/English major in college. How did you go from that to drawing comics?

My dual majors came from a desperation to land a career somewhere remotely near a creative field and to watch free movies. The film department was small but they played cool films every night; all silent films (awesome) and Fargo (even better). By the way, The Last Laugh is the greatest German expressionist film of the silent era, in my opinion. But, yeah, I graduated with a BFA in both English and Film. I was also touring with a band up and down the east coast and designing our logos and shirts and stuff, so I was drawing a lot.

I didn’t know what I could do with a BFA in English and Film (I was living in Annapolis, Maryland at the time), so I enrolled at Savannah College of Art & Design hoping to do SOMETHING with comics, which I liked and noticed was a field that seemed to be growing really fast and had a lot more opportunities to grow as an individual artist than, say, painting or graphic design. Plus, I’d get to travel a lot and meet new people, which is something I love. Got some cool scholarships and everything just kinda came together! I’m super grateful, ‘cause I was lucky enough to have a really great experience.

Your book CHOMP (due next year from Top Shelf) is a book you described on Less Than Live as “a cookbook/graphic novel.” You also said it was your senior thesis project. How did that come about and how did it get Top Shelf’s attention?

SCAD has this thing called Editor’s Day, where a bunch of editors from different publishers fly in and give portfolio reviews, advice, etc. It’s really great. CHOMP was the visual component of a thesis paper I did that focused on the functionality of comics to transcend age, language, etc. It featured a young boy, Maxington, who is trained by a childhood friend of his, Honeybee, to become a chef and save her restaurant from various villains. So, I showed my work to Chris Staros of Top Shelf during Editor’s Day.

A few months later he called me and seemed to dig the idea of a comic/cooking book! It was great, ‘cause Editor’s Day isn’t focused on hiring students so much as offering help and guidance. I really lucked out. AND Top Shelf was my first choice for CHOMP and Chris is just the best dude ever. Super supportive of me and very passionate about all the projects coming through. He is a warrior.

You’ve done a lot of work both for Viz Media—with Hello Kitty and Uglydolls—and BOOM!’s all-ages line, Kaboom, first with Adventure Time: Candy Capers and now Bravest Warriors. How did you come to their attention? What’s it been like working with your various collaborators?

Ha! Again, Editor’s Day. Traci Todd was kind enough to offer me work on Uglydolls, and later, Hello Kitty based off my portfolio. She is AWESOME. And she took a chance on me [offering me] my first major published work. Whitney Leopard, Assistant Editor of Boom, contacted me after I posted a Facebook status message about wanting to work on an Adventure Time comic. She sent me a test page and offered the miniseries Candy Capers, which was focused on my favorite AT character, Peppermint Butler.

After that was all done, I was extremely lucky to be offered a series book run, and oddly enough my favorite comic, Bravest Warriors. Typically, miniseries artists don’t do multiple mini’s, so to get to work on an ongoing series is really rewarding. Working with everyone has been amazing.

A lot of the credit for the strength of Kaboom’s line has been given to editor Shannon Watters. What’s it been like working under her?

Amazing. I mean, I haven’t had one bad encounter with any single person from Boom! or KaBoom! Everybody is super cool and professional, and I do mean everybody. It’s been a pleasure and I look forward to hearing from my editors, they are my friends.

Describe the process of collaboration on your end. When drawing a story, how many months in advance do you see a script? Where does it go from there?

Typically, I get the script about a month before the deadline on inks is due. This can change though, depending on convention schedules and typical things you run into with life. Kate Leth and I are a bit unique in Boom! because we often collaborate together on story and pitch ideas (as opposed to someone just shooting me a script and telling me when it needs to be done).

Working together on Bravest Warriors like that really lets the ideas come together and shine. We both have our favorite characters we like to showcase, we have a similar sense of humor, and we are huge fans. At this point, the series is really just the two of us working together to come up with ideas we think are rad and fun! Then, I draw everything out and make sure it looks good, that is sent to a colorist and letterer, a final proof is made to be sure and then it goes to the printer. It’s a complicated process but definitely worth it!

You’re launching a multimedia project called Roberto Roboto from Frederator Books with Eric Esqueviel and Hannah Nance Partlow that’s going to be 3 e-books, a comic series and, potentially, an animated series. How did this idea did come about? Why the decision to pursue it across multiple media? 

Hannah and I worked together on Adventure Time: Candy Capers (she lettered it and designed the books). Her boyfriend Eric and I also hit it off and the three of us have become good friends. Obviously, that led to wanting to do a project between the three of us, and Eric proposed Roberto Roboto, a pitch about a robot boy and his pet kaiju.

It’s been a blast. We wanted Roberto to reach people in different ways and Frederator was kind enough to get the ball rolling with a series of e-books. From there, we are hoping to move ahead with a comic series and potential animated short, fingers crossed.

The designs in Roboto Roberto somewhat echo Akira Toriyama. Was that intentional?

I designed the look of this entire world and the characters, so it’s very cool to see how everything is coming together. I designed Roberto to somewhat echo Astro Boy and Toriyama’s Dr. Slump series, while maintaining elements of my own style.

How long does it take you to draw a page on average? What tools do you use?

I’m generally banging out two fully inked pages a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on my deadlines and other stuff I have going on. I work mostly traditionally, and I’m using combinations of brushes and pens I’ve modified in various ways to get the desired look. For example, on Bravest Warriors, I’m using [a] set of microns I’ve altered a bit to produce a slight brush effect. On Candy Capers, I used a very thick Pentel Pocket Brush to really push a different take on the characters.

What’s it like working primarily on all-ages comics, something comics fans and press often ignore?

It’s the best. I find I have a lot more freedom to really explore the comics and characters, and fans are generally into seeing different variations or new characters based on the established world. I think the world of all-ages comics is getting huge, and it’s only going to get bigger, so I’m looking forward to the future!

You’ve described Candy Capers—your first monthly comic—as a “learning experience.” Could you elaborate on that?

[Laughs] Yeah it was, big time. Mostly just figuring out time management, templates and more of the boring stuff you run into sometimes in comics. It’s not wacky stuff all the time, plus it was very daunting to be working on a property like Adventure Time and hoping people would like my take on it. A lot of pressure. !

The life of a modern comics professional involves a lot of traveling. Does constant preparing for cons take its toll?

Hoo boy, it certainly can. It took me a bit to realize just how crazy it can be when you’re traveling to conventions 3-5 times a month. It’s a blast but, yeah, it can be nuts. A lot of new people and new places, and you’re constantly “on”, so to speak. But, honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people, so! Thankfully, I’ve got a great travel bag that’s constantly ready to go and I get a lot of help from friends and family.

What else can we expect from you in the future?

A lot! CHOMP should be out sometime next year, and I’m working on pitches for various books and television projects. Roberto Roboto will be hitting soon, and I’m working on a lot of new projects for licensed stuff. Life is good.

Finally, as a huge kaiju fan, what was your reaction to the recent news about Pacific Rim 2?

Bring it on.

Ian McGinty can be found online at his official website and on Twitter @ianmcginty. He’ll be appearing at Memphis Comic Expo on September 13 and Asheville Comic Expo on September 24th.

Cover Image: BravestWarriors.Wikia; AshevilleComicExpo.org

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Categories: Comics, Interviews

Author:Tom Speelman

A lifetime of reading comics and watching television has left Tom with an inexhaustible supply of pop culture knowledge from the obvious to the obscure. Rather than keep it all in his brain for use at parties, Tom turned to writing a few years ago to help him share that knowledge with as many people as are remotely interested. Tom writes for several websites including The Mary Sue, Strange Horizons, Loser City and others. For even further rambling, follow him on Twitter @tomtificate.

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