KICKSTART COMICS

Tuesday
Apr032012

I usually hate family dramas. The father is stupid, the mom is often whiny and the kids are always much smarter than any adult in the show. Thankfully, Kickstart has a very cool and fun title that bucks all those trends masterfully.

It’s called Knowbodys, and here’s the description: “Derk and Betty Knowbody struggle to be loving parents by day while at night they regulate the world of the supernatural. From keeping the Hell Hound next door at bay to talking depressing Poltergeists into finding their inner anger, Derk and Betty are the best.  But when a high profile case moves their whole family to New Orleans, they will find not only their family, but the very fabric between life and death endangered.”

You’d never know that this is Matt Maeillaro‘s first comic script because the characters shine brightly and the pacing is quick and engaging. Of course, fans will know Maeillaro from his work on Space Ghost Coast To Coast, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021. He has a wry, quirky wit that is fun to listen to (and now read).

My favorite person in the title is Derk, the father of the bunch. His wit is so dry and his desire to dive in and fix the problems is so appealing that I wouldn’t have minded having him as my own Dad (if I had to choose someone else than my father). He’s clearly the leader of the family, and he’s usually the one who knows what to do next. When the final battle is about to happen, he leaps in to resolve the situation.

Still, he knows when to step back. One of my favorite things he says takes place when he lets his wife charge into their home to take on the baddies. He tells his son, “Mom is code for heavy artillery.”

Betty takes Derk with a huge grain of salt, also having fun with her husband. At one point when asked where the family is going, she responds, “A place called a restaurant. Maybe your father has heard of them.” The tone of the book is such that these jabs are not nasty in nature, but fun. Given the way comics struggle at times to communicate nuance, this is quite a accomplishment. I also liked that both parents genuinely care for their kids and each other, struggling with their “job” while providing for their children.

While I’m on that subject, the kids are, well, kids! What a welcome change that is!

Even the various supernatural beings have unique personalities, distinguishing one from another. Nice job!

Laced in among the characters is an interesting mystery that challenges the Knowbodys to both solve and resolve. It’s a fun, yet danger-laced story that concludes with an interesting change in the family structure.

The art by Jesus Redondo Roman is clear and dynamic, perfect for the story. It has something of a Dick Giordano or John Romito Jr. feel to it.

If you’re looking for an intelligent, entertaining supernatural story, be sure to pick up Knowbodys! It’ll grab you from the first page until they ride off into the sunset! It’s not to be missed!

You can listen to my recent interview with Maeillero during my Wayne’s Comics podcast by going to the sfp-now.com website. We talk about how he created the script for the book as well as his other projects, so don’t miss it!

Tuesday
Apr032012

Our friends at Kickstart have a new graphic novel in stores today, and this one is of special interest to me.  KNOWBODYS is written by none other than Aqua Teen Hunger Force creator Matt Maiellaro.  I got to interview him about the book late last year, which is easily one of the coolest things that’s happened to me in my Internet career.  Now, it’s finally out.  And here’s the thing – it’s not what you expect.

It’s not an Aqua Teen-style orgy of non-sequiturs and over-the-top violence.  There are no elaborately worded insults or pointless cruelty.  Instead, it’s a story about a family.  Granted, the family in question is a family of paranormal investigators who are the last line of defense against the destruction of all life on Earth, but a family nonetheless.  Tonally, it’s very much different from ATHF / AUPS1, but it’s funny and sometimes even touching.

Derk and Betty Knowbody are paranormal investigators, but not in the Mulder/Scully sense.  They work for an organization that regulates the spirit world – not just arresting fugitive poltergeists, but serving unruly werewolves with noise complaints and busting unlicensed street sorcerers.  (The mundane facets of the supernatural are probably the closest connection to Aqua Teen – Vampire Landlord Markula would have fit right in here.)  Their organization, The Practice, relocates the couple and their unwitting children toNew   Orleans and almost immediately sends the Knowbodys in pursuit of a madman named Sylbert Raven.

Tuesday
Apr032012

 

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Aqua Teen Hunger Force co-creator Matt Maiellaro

Aqua Teen Hunger Force has become a bonafide hit for a generation of animation and comedy fans thanks to its decade-plus long run on Cartoon Network. With that, co-creator Matt Maiellaro has taken his years of work in the trenches of animation and become an “overnight success.” In addition to helping guide ATHF into its 12th season, Maiellaro has two animated pilots up for review and he’s entering the world of comics with a graphic novel called The Knowbodys from Kickstart Comics.

We caught up with Maiellaro to talk about his venture from the world of cartoons into comics and the transition from surreal humor to supernatural action.


iFanboy: We know who you are, Matt… but who or what is The Knowbodys?
 
Matt Maiellaro: Mom and Dad work for an exclusive, secret agency called Practice, an agency which is set up to police the supernatural and keep that world in-check. So like, if you’re a werewolf and you live in a human neighborhood, you’ll be ticketed for disturbing the peace if you howl at the moon at 3 in the morning. Like our human society; the supernatural world has its share of good and bad. Mom and Dad have these extra sensory abilities so they are able to see the supernatural world. Mom and Dad also do their jobs in secrecy – the kids have no idea. They tend to move around a lot, putting up the front of being the All American family with nerdy jobs while really they’re investigating a supernatural crime. The kids get tired of moving around, changing schools, meeting new friends while the parents are so immersed in their job they lose focus on the most important part of their lives; family.

iFanboy: But according to the previews of the book, that family life gets put aside when the parents have a job to do in New Orleans. What’s the threat there?

Matt: A bunch of toys have come to life and they’re threatening a pack of talking cars that just got back from Rio. Sold?

How about, a colleague of the head of Practice has broken out of prison and is threatening to disrupt the fabric of human existence. The prison is located under the Gulf of Mexico outside of New Orleans so the Knowbodys are called in to find this guy and stop him before all heck breaks loose. New Orleans is the perfect setting because it is one of the most haunted places in America.

iFanboy: You’re best known for your comedic work on Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies, but The Knowbodys. What brought you to tell this story?

Matt: The Knowbodys is serious, yes, but it’s also fun and mildly light-hearted even with the stakes-at-hand, so there is a balance I think. Knowbodys has structure while an Aqua Teen Hunger Force has random silliness and tends to de-struct mainstream templates. I wanted a chance to tell a real story and follow characters on an emotional journey and that’s what excited me about writing Knowbodys.

iFanboy: Besides The Knowbodys, what are your current projects right now in animation, comics and music?

Matt: I’m still making Aqua Unit Squad 1, we are about to hit season 12 and begin writing season 13. I have a pilot with Fox Animation and one with Disney XD… fingers crossed for pickups. I’m also developing the Mad Libs movie with Appian Way (Appian is run by that guy who starred in that little boat movie, Titanic). I don’t have much going on musically, just noodling the guitar at home while working. I figured after playing Download at Castle Donnington last year opening for ACDC (one of many bands that did so) I deserved a break from rockin’ out.

iFanboy: With a break from music, do you plan on spenting that time doing more comics?

Matt: I would love to do another comic. I have some ideas already brewing so… let’s do it!

Tuesday
Jan312012

Matt Maiellaro On "Knowbodys" & "Aqua Teens"

by Steve Sunu, Staff Writer | 

Fri, January 27th, 2012 at 11:30am PST|Updated: January 27th, 2012 at 5:49pm

 
Matt Maiellaro makes his comics debut with  "Knowbodys" from Kickstart

Even if you don't recognize the name of Matt Maiellaro, there's a good chance you know his work.

Maiellaro has been involved in the animated shows of Adult Swim since the network's debut as a programming block on Cartoon Network, beginning with "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast" and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" -- shows that redefined irreverent animation. While most of his work to date has been rather chaotic, featuring random insanity utilized to generate maximum humor, Maiellaro enters the world of structure this April with his debut graphic novel from Kickstart Comics.

"Knowbodys" is a detective story centering around two super-powered parents who work for a government agency that polices supernatural activity. Their job ranges from yelling at an overly-loud werewolf to talking down a poltergeist from a bridge -- and then heading home to spend time with their kids.

Maiellaro spoke with CBR News about his debut graphic novel, making the transition from animation to print, the 2007 "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" Boston bomb scare and retitling the upcoming season of "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad."


CBR News: Tell us about "Knowbodys" -- what the general story and who are the people involved?

Matt Maiellaro: "Knobodys" is really a detective story involving a family that is able to see supernatural urban legend worlds. They basically police that whole world. They work for a section of a government program that keeps all that in check so the supernatural world doesn't come zipping into our human world and screw everything up. It revolves around a family called the Knowbodys. The parents do all the work and their two kids don't know what they're doing -- it's a big secret. Ultimately, I think it's about the fun of policing the supernatural world, but it's also about family. It's about recognizing what's important to you. Maybe your work takes over your life and you don't see what's important in your immediate vicinity. It's a lot about focus.

"Knowbodys" mixes typical family drama with supernatural secret agents

The story mainly takes place in New Orleans. What was the reason for that particular setting?

It's one of the most haunted cities in America, next to Savannah, Georgia. I'm from the south -- Florida -- so I grew up going to New Orleans all the time. I love New Orleans. It's such a decadent place to be and when you're there, you can walk through fog of Voodoo. You can feel it. I think it's just a fun town for that kind of exciting supernaturalism. It just makes sense to have the crux of the whole story in New Orleans. It's such a great set piece for this.

So Mom and Dad both have these extra-sensory powers -- what about the kids? Do they have powers, too?

No, they're just normal kids. They don't have these powers. They're fifteen and seventeen years old, your average cool kids. They're pretty much in the dark about what their parents do for most of the story. The parents get relocated and there's the problem of moving to another state. They keep moving around and get kind of tired of it. They don't feel settled with changing schools, making friends all the time. There's some family tension.

Was it difficult transitioning from writing the average family life to the adventure and powers sequences?

Well, the adventures and powers were fun and easy because that was almost limitless. [Laughs] Doing the normal family was also pretty easy. I worked with Samantha [Olsson] at Kickstart and we nailed it down. It's not my typical work, which usually involves talking food items, but I always wanted to do this story. I felt like there was a great story in your average, run-of-the-mill, everyday family where you never know what they really do. It wasn't hard, but it did take a long time. It was a lot of work for Samantha, working on seventeen books, but it was great. I'd do it again, today.

This is your first graphic novel, and, obviously writing a comic book is a different activity than writing an animated series like "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad," but could you speak to challenges you've faced in making that transition?

You know, the struggles and challenges were really just aesthetics. It wasn't hard to tell the story, it was hard to tell the story in the amount of frames and words I was allotted per page. When I first wrote the story, after Samantha and I agreed on the synopsis, I basically turned in a 90-page-screenplay thinking, "Okay, there's the screenplay -- now you guys make the comic book." [Laughs]

She was like, "No, no. This is how it works: page one, panel one. We can do up to six panels per page." It was just the aesthetics and wrapping my head around getting specific. Every panel, the challenge was -- in one panel -- you have to be able to tell a whole lot, even though there are three words in it, describing the action, what's going on, what's happening. That was all new to me. I do admit, that bogged me down a little bit, trudging through it, but I always had the story there. I just overwrote, overwrote, overwrote, and I let Samantha come in and help me edit. She made suggestions and we finally narrowed it down and made it work. Overall, it was just a different style, a different actual format.

So, was "Knowbodys" originally intended to be a screenplay?

Well, yeah. I had written it a long time ago, thinking it would be a great TV movie for a kid's channel, back when people were doing movies of the week and stuff. I fleshed out the treatment that way. Obviously it's different than what the book is, but it turned into a screenplay working on it with Samantha. After that, it turned into, "this is how you write a comic book." I had a little Comic Book 101 course and started working on it.

You're working with artist Jesus Redondo Roman on the book -- how did the two of you find each other and partner up for this project?

EXCLUSIVE: "Knowbodys" artist Jesus Redondo Roman's character designs for the book's lead characters

Jesus came to me through Samantha. She had sent me a bunch of people's work, people [Kickstart] wanted to work with who they hadn't worked with before. Jesus was one of those people. I never got to meet the guy -- he lives in Spain. I started seeing his pencils of the characters and I was really surprised at how close he got to what I had envisioned. I really think he nailed it without really any sort of -- maybe it was just my magical descriptions that he translated into Spanish. [Laughs] He's amazing. The look of the book is great. It's almost timeless, like it could be any time, anywhere. He did a fantastic job.

From the way you describe it, it seems like "Knowbodys" is pretty different from your previous work in animation. What kinds of specific differences will fans of your work be able to expect?

"Knobodys" is a cohesive story. It has a structure -- it has a beginning, middle and end. "Aqua Teen" and "Space Ghost" didn't have any structure. They were designed to be anti-television. We just did what we wanted -- we messed with the English language, we confused people on purpose. Tthat was the fun of those shows, and it still is.

With "Knobodys," I just wanted to show people I could tell a real story where you get emotionally involved with the characters, you really liked them and you want them to win -- you root for them. I think it's got some pretty silly stuff in it that, if you know my other work, you'll read some of this stuff and -- like when they have to go tell the werewolf next door to shut up because they're too loud, and when the Mom climbing a bridge because the poltergeist feels like he's not doing a good job anymore and she has to convince him to go back to his job. There's stuff like that in there that speaks to the animation stuff I do.

Speaking of your animated work, what's the current status of the "Aqua Teen" movie sequel?

We're working on the sequel called "Death Fighter." I don't actually live in Atlanta any more, so my writing partner and I have been batting it back and forth -- but we're working on it! We just have to convince the network to do it. Since the movie was such a -- for us, it did really well. It did giant profits even though it was a fan-based film, the way it was marketed an distributed. It just seems like it's a no-brainer. We'll just do it. I hope! [Laughs].

By the way, the title -- "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad" -- has changed again. The new season is going to be called "Aqua Something You Know Whatever." We have a whole new theme song, a whole new open and we're going to change it every year. [Laughs]

I can't actually tell if you're being serious...

No, I'm totally serious! It's just something fun for us to do. The show is fun to do, but it's a little bit the same for us. We try to create fun and interesting, crazy stories, but to be able to go in and do something fresh like change the open and the close all the time is really fun for us. Our latest theme song is -- we hooked up Schoolly D with a mariachi band and kind of mixed those two genres. It's sounding really good.

So is every season from now on going to be "Aqua Teen Adjective Noun" or something to that effect?

Inked and colored art from "Knowbodys"

Yeah. Well, it's actually called "Aqua Something You Know Whatever" and they sing those words in the song! The next DVD will say "Aqua Teen Hunger Force - previously known as Aqua Unit Patrol Squad, now "Aqua Something You Know Whatever." We're going to have to get bigger DVD packages to get all the words on there!

That reminds me a lot of "Mad Libs," the film -- you're doing some work for that as well, aren't you?

Yeah, I'm still with that. I teamed up with the producer that owns the option for the whole "Mad Libs" empire and have written two different takes on it. We're out with a spec right now. We're talking to some studios who had garnered interest -- one, lately, totally out of the blue. We didn't think these guys would ever be interested in this thing. So yeah, we're pushing that really hard. It's been a three-year endeavor for me, but I feel good about it and I have faith in it. The film we have right now in script form is really fun and great. It's a really organic way to use the book and not have it be some magical book that just makes stuff comes to life. Hopefully that'll happen soon.

I actually live in Boston, where in 2007 there was a bomb scare featuring a promotional material for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," specifically the Mooninites. There's an episode of the show that's never been released in any format called "Boston," and it's a response to that situation. Could you speak a bit to that episode and whether we'll ever get to see it?

Yeah. Well, the episode -- first of all, it's really tame compared to what you might think. If this had happened to "South Park," they would have just ripped Boston a new one. We actually approached it with [the attitude that] we know the network is really sensitive about this issue, so let's write an episode that doesn't make it look like -- that just calms it down to a "this could happen" level. There's nothing to do with bombs or anything like that. We went through a couple of actual versions of the show. It's probably one of the only shows where we went back in and re-wrote the whole middle section because the network was a little nervous about it. They ultimately just said, "No, it's never going to air, it's not going to ever be on a DVD." It's a hidden gem. What we should do is throw it onto a DVD and hide it somewhere in America and put out a big scavenger hunt. [Laughs]

That was an unfortunate incident for Boston and for us. Within a week of shutting Boston down, the city was blowing up anything they didn't understand. They were blowing up those things that cars drive over to catch cars on the highway. I think we rattled 'em pretty good. We didn't mean to.

That day was so surreal. We were all standing around at the network staring at that little Err figure -- I actually do the voice for Err -- and I was just thinking, "This is not happening. I can't believe this is happening." People crawled out of the woodwork I hadn't heard from in years, calling me -- it was just crazy. [Laughs]

That's got to be one of the weirdest Adult Swim stories ever.

It is, it's so weird. I was on a panel last year at Comic-Con International for Kickstart. It was me and six of the other authors up there and it was a really serious panel. I'm used to panels where people are just throwing the water pitchers at people and stuff. This was just super comic book aficionados and new people that wanted to get into the business. They're looking at us like, "You have done this -- how do we do what you've done?" I was the greenest one up there when it came to this -- and somebody did ask, "How do you get your work out there? How do you get people to look at it?" Some of the more experienced authors responded with the right words which were, "Distribute it yourself, put it online, put some of it on your blog, never give up." I just said, "Or you could just wrap a bunch of Christmas lights around it and hang it on a bridge." [Laughs] Then people will probably notice your comic book!

Could you tease a little of the randomness in store for the upcoming season of "Aqua Something You Know Whatever?"

"Aqua Unit Patrol Squad" becomes "Aqua Something You Know Whatever" next season

Eventually, every character is going to die off and we're going to replace them with other characters. There's also a cool twist on how we get our characters back. It's going to be 12 episodes. By episode 3 of the 12, there's going to be no more Aqua Teens, but we managed to fill it up with a lot of interesting characters. It's super fun. We've been on the air now 12, 13 years. I think we beat out "M*A*S*H" [Laughs] We're not running out of ideas -- it's fun to do, but it's easy, too. Anything we throw at the wall sticks and we do it! [Laughs]

It must have been really interesting, then, to go from that unstructured environment to working on "Knowbodys," which seems to have a really strict story structure.

Oh it was. It was, and the structure -- I had been writing screenplays for a long time, just because I like to write movies. I was used to the structure and I understood it. Every day you learn a new way to get more experience, but I was finally able to do it for real in a medium that was going to go out to America. It was very exciting. It was great!

You've been doing promotion on "Knowbodys" since summer 2011 -- why has it taken so long for the book to come out?

It was supposed to come out for Halloween. I was talking to a lot of people and doing a lot of online interviews and then it kept getting pushed -- I'm not sure of the reason. I do know that Kickstart set up a deal with Wal-Mart and Target, so they're getting more exposure than the typical comic shops. I hope people check it out and like it because I like it. I think it's great.

It did take almost two and a half years to finish, but there was a point where I didn't want to look at it or read it for a while because I had worked on it so much. I think that's true of anybody with anything they do a lot. Like when we make an "Aqua Teen," by the time we're done with it -- obviously, I don't watch it when it airs. When we get the DVDs, I don't even take the shrink-wrap off, I just put it up on the shelves because I've seen it, I've lived it.

You've mentioned before, you're not a huge comic book guy. After having done "Knowbodys," have you gotten a little more into comics? Have you found you're a little more interested in the medium?

Not as a reader, no. I was never exposed to it when I was a kid. Nobody around me was doing it. We were doing other things. The comic books I looked at were comedy things, I never really picked up on any of the superhero stuff. Now, I like superheroes! I like that stuff, I just don't read it.

After starting "Knowbodys," I went out and bought about five graphic novels. I think I skimmed through one, but I didn't want to be influenced by it. I'd already been through treatment with Samantha, so I felt like I was on the right path. She wasn't putting on the brakes, so I didn't go through the rest of the books. I would love to do another one, but it hasn't made me want to go out and read them.

What do you think the major merits are of the presentation format as compared to animation?

I'm probably going to reach a totally different audience with this coming out. I think the merits are it's going to be good for me, it's going to be good for a whole new audience. This stuff is also going electronic. It's just going to broaden my audience, I hope, because I'm going to find people who have never heard of "Aqua Teen" that just really love to read comics -- well wait, maybe that doesn't jive. [Laughs]

You never know. I'm just going to meander on this, but I've run into people in parks that are in their late 50s and when I mention the cartoon, they totally know the cartoon. Somehow they know it. I don't know if that's the audience that's going to read this book, but I love publishing. I'm happy I got published and I hope people dig it.

Besides "Knowbodys" and more "Aqua Teens," is there anything else coming down the line this year for you?

I'm writing a pilot for FX right now. The deal is almost closed and we're working on that really soon. It'll be an animated show. I'm screwing around with a show that Ringo Starr wanted to develop, so we're messing around with that right now. I've got a couple of shows in the works. I'm just trying to collect the right people and materials to get them out there and get them up. If I can't do two movies a year or 25 comic books a year, then I want to have six shows running. My goal is to have a show on every network -- or every cable outlet at least! [Laughs]



Tuesday
Jan312012

Danger Academy Cartoon In Development For US Television

Danger Academy is a comic book by the familiar team of Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood for Kickstart. It’s been featured om Bleeding Cool a few times, just not on the right hand side of the site.

It’s here today because I understand that Kickstart are developing Danger Academy with a Hollywood writer/producer for American television. And that concepts are being created right now.

Danger Academy is a spy school, for the children of super spies of every nationality and loyalty. The good guys and the bad guys. Harry Potter meets James Bond, if you must. Here’s a preview of the comic.


Fresh from Kickstart, from the Bleeding Cool favourite team of Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood, comes Danger Academy. Harry Potter-meets-James Bond, that kind of thing, with a certain subtle family tree of international espionage.

The first book is out in December, but here’s a sizeable preview to whet your appetite.

Say, Brella couldn’t possibly be the dughter of one John Steed could she?