Seeing Double: DECOY Pits Clone Spy Versus Spy

By Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor
posted: 07 September 201; Pulled from:


 Have you ever wanted a clone of yourself so you could leave them to do all the menial chores of your daily life and leave you to do the exciting things? What if you were the clone and someone else was living it up in your shoes? In the upcoming graphic novel Decoy from Kickstart Comics, an unassuming family man named Zekiel Dax finds out that he’s the stand-in duplicate for a jet-setting secret agent. When this Decoy finds out the truth of his existence and that his original is not the stand-up guy he is, he’s forced to make a choice --- but not before having to partner with his counterpart to save their wife and kids.

 Set for release on October 24th, Decoy is the latest in a string of creator-owned stories from writer Mark Sable after recent releases likeGraveyard of Empires and Rift Raiders earlier this year. Joining him on this standalone story is artist Andy MacDonald (NYC Mech, Terminator), who brings his penchant for robots, espionage and firepower to create this unique team-up drama. Sable spoke with Newsarama about this book, as well as the upcoming collection of his indie series Fearless from Image.


Newsarama: What can you tell us about Decoy, Mark?

 Mark Sable: Decoy is the story of an seemingly average guy who learns he's a robot when he miraculously survives a terror attack. But not just any robot - he's a robot replica for Agent Zekiel Dax, the world's deadliest secret agent.

   Unlike the Life Model Decoys that say, S.H.I.E.L.D. uses, Zekiel's Decoy wasn't created to be used in the field or fake his death. The Decoy was designed to safeguard Agent Dax’s family and otherwise provide cover while he's off saving the world.

   When Agent Dax is captured, The Decoy is forced to rescue him...only to learn that the man he was created to replace is a gambling, womanizing gun for hire. When the “family” the Decoy was programmed to protect is put in jeopardy; this unlikely pair has to team up to save them. 

Nrama: And this perfect family man who’s the Decoy -- tell us more about him, and what makes him so different from the original Zekiel Dax.

 Sable: The Decoy has been programmed to protect Agent Dax's family both at all costs. Unfortunately, that also makes him overly cautious. He's a beloved husband and father, but his family wishes he would take some more risks and loosen up.
    When the Decoy learns he's a robot - he has to ask himself if he's REALLY the perfect family man. Along from his caution, all his good qualities – loyalty, caring etc.- were not something he worked for. They are a function of his programming.

   Although he's an artificial being, that's something I think we all can relate to. Are we who are because of how we were born or raised? Are the choices we make our own? Are we capable of change?


Nrama: You described the original Zekiel Dax as a bit of a loose cannon. But just who is he? 

 Sable: Zekiel Dax is an agent of T.A.L.O.S., a centuries old organization dedicated to the advancement of artificial intelligence. In Greek mythology, Talos was a giant bronze automaton created to protect the isle of Crete. From the Bronze Age to the present, Talos has been protecting progress from those who would retard or reverse it.

   Agent Dax is an action junkie, and loves his work - and the perks that come along with it - more than his family. He's great at his job...but at least when the story starts, he's not a great guy. In fact, when he first learns his Decoy is aware of his existence, he wants the Decoy’s memory erased. He's effectively asking for another living person to cease to exist.

    The story is about Agent Dax and his Decoy working together to bring down common foes, and hopefully bring about the best in each other. The question is whether there's room in the world for both of them.


Nrama: These two sides of the same coin are pulled together when Dax’s wife and kids are in danger. Set it up for us. 

 Sable: When the terror attack on Decoy fails, Agent Dax disappears. That leaves Decoy standing between Agent Dax's enemies and his family. The Decoy lacks Dax's combat training, but despite the revelation of his false existence, he can't help but want to care for his "family".  

     The Decoy is under threat from two villainous organizations that I had a lot fun creating. The first is Vulcan, a neo-Luddite group named ironically for the Roman god of fire and smithy - essentially the armorer to the gods. From the longbow to the atom bomb, Vulcan believes that more technology means more war. And they kind of have a point.

     Vulcan wants to stop the creation of artificial intelligence for fear of a Terminator or Matrix-style "Artilect War"...even if that means taking mankind back to the Dark Ages.

On the other hand we have I.E.D, a cartel of hackers and criminals who are all for the technology that T.A.L.O.S. creates and safeguards - as long they control it. While they are criminals, they have the opposite view of Vulcan when it comes to what they see as the inevitable rise of AI.

     They believe that instead of robots turning on their masters, there will be a technological singularity where man and machine will merge together to become godlike beings. They are optimists...albeit greedy, amoral ones.

Despite these threats, it's not an easy choice for The Decoy to face them. Agent Dax and T.A.L.O.S. regard him as mere property. And although he loves his family, isn't that just because T.A.L.O.S. made him that way?

Nrama: You’ve always had a penchant for working with hot up & coming artists, from Paul Azaceta to Robbi Rodriguez and Sean Murphy. How’d you hook up with Andy Macdonald for Decoy? 

 Sable: I have to thank Ivan Brandon (DC's upcoming Men of War), Miles Gunter (Bastard Samurai with Mike Oeming) and Jeff Amano and Sal Cipriano for that. Andy MacDonald is comics’ best kept secret. Those guys were some of the first pros I met, and Ivan edited my first book (Grounded) and helped me out tremendously in my career.

      Ivan and Miles co-created NYC Mech with Andy, which proved nobody can create robots better than Mr. MacDonald. Jeff wrote Red Warrior, which showed me Andy could do espionage as well as hard sci-fi. I've been dying to work with him ever since I first saw his work. Given the mix of genres I'm dealing with in Decoy those projects made Andy seem like a perfect fit.


Nrama: You’ve also got a collection of your old miniseries Fearless coming out in this month’s Previews. It’s been a couple years since it’s original release, so there’s a lot of people who never heard of it. Since we have you, can you break it down for us?  

Sable:  Fearless is about a vigilante with a crippling anxiety disorder who needs an anti-fear serum not only to fight crime, but to function in everyday life. Our story concerns what happens when someone cuts off his drug supply. It's co-written by David Roth, a successful TV/feature/Don Draper advertising guy. The art is the real treat though - PJ Holden is best known for 2000 AD and Garth Ennis's Battlefields, but Fearless was his first American work. 

       I generally don't go back and read my own work, so there was a tiny part of me that was cringing when I heard it was finally being collected in trade paperback. But without jinxing anything, there's coincidentally been some heat in terms of Hollywood stuff with the book, so Dave and I have had to go back and read it to start working on treatments for other mediums. I think it really holds up.

     Mostly it's exciting because next to Unthinkable - the trade of which is no longer in print and extremely hard to find - Fearless is the book I get asked most about at conventions. Whether readers sampled some Fearless in singles issues and are craving more, or you're looking to get hooked on something new, I really hope you’ll give Fearless a try. Like any good drug...the first taste is always free! 


Nrama: There’s a lot of “Fear” titles going on in comic, from Fear Itself to Marvel’s upcoming miniseries The Fearless. Have you talked to anyone about the name similarity to your book?

 Sable: Some people have tried to get me riled up about the title similarities. That's not hard to do. I've had to change titles because of similarities to titles from the big two. But working for Marvel has been a joy, and from what I've read so far Fear Itself has nothing in common with Fearless. Having been through it myself, I would never want to cause anyone the hassle of having to change a title, even if I could. Particularly Matt Fraction, since I'm a huge fan of Casanova, and any espionage book like Decoy stands in its shadow.



   Ultimately, it's not titles or even concepts that are important - it's execution. Hopefully with both Decoy and Fearless we've created original material that reads like nothing out there on the market.

Nrama: Coming full circle, what would you do if you found yourself a Decoy, Mark?

Sable: Honestly, I think I'd do the same thing that Zekiel did. I'd use him to fill in for me in all the unpleasant tasks in life so I could focus more on what I enjoy. The only difference is that I enjoy writing, not spying. No comment on when it comes to sleeping with femme fatales, though.



Our friends at Kickstart Comics have been putting out some excellent graphic novels over the last year.  I’ve been excited about each of their new releases, but when I found out about the upcoming KNOWBODYS (out in October), I freaked out a little.  See, it’s written by Matt Maiellaro, co-creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.  I’ve frequently gone on record with my love of ATHF (and its new incarnation as Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1), so I was really excited to see what he had brewing over at Kickstart.

I got to read a preview copy, and I loved it.  It’s the story of a husband-and-wife team of paranormal investigators, trying to save the world while not letting the kids know what they really do for a living.  There will be a full review later, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s a lot of fun.  It’s very funny, but in a different way than you might expect.  And it’s a story where the stakes are high and there are actual heroes, which is as far from the Aqua Teens as you can get.  It’s surprising and it’s really great.

And just to make things even better, I got to interview Matt Maiellaro.  (Yes, I totally freaked out.)  We talked about KNOWBODYS, Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, andAmerica’s next favorite character.  He is, unsurprisingly, a very funny guy.

You’ve been working in TV for a long time now – what brought you to comics?  Was KNOWBODYS created specifically to be a graphic novel, or did you initially think of it in terms of a TV series?

KNOWBODYS  was an idea I had for a movie a few years back.  In the original idea, the Knowbodys were created to track down a series of mutants that had escaped a secret bio-weapons lab.  The Knowbodys had powers – but not efficient ones – more like, stupid ones.  I pitched it around a tiny bit and then put it on the shelf.  Kickstart caught wind of the idea through a friend of mine and they called, wanting to make it into a graphic novel.  Since I had never written a graphic novel, I said yes immediately.  As the project developed we ended up changing some elements to give it a more grounded tone:  we added ghosts, goblins, ghouls, the Mothman, werewolves – all the ingredients of a well-grounded story.   I wanted to add a Tree-Shark but held back on that knowing it would make its own great story up the road “Shriek of the Tree-Shark.”  So yes, it was a television series turned into a comic.

How did you come to work with artist Jesus Redondo?  Was the script finished before you had an artist, or did his style influence the way you told the story?  (And did you have any idea Sylbert Raven was going to look that disturbing?)

Jesus was recommended to me via Samantha at Kickstart.  I like how he gave the book a unique, timeless, style.  Jesus lives in Spain, doesn’t speak English, and I’m not sure if he’s ever been to New Orleans but he sure nailed it.  I saw pencils of the characters in the beginning and I felt like he was hitting the mark pretty well, so I forgot about the drawing part while I was writing the script.  So no, he didn’t influence how I wrote but I strangely found myself listening to more and more Flamenco music.

How did you approach writing KNOWBODYS as opposed to the way you write Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1?  Is it harder to write a story where you don’t have the option of, say, killing everybody and bringing them back next week?

Here is what it’s like to write Aqua Unit:  10am.  “What if Meatwad made friends with a giant, inflatable gorilla who was secretly out to sacrifice Frylock to the original Planet of the Apes film print?”  “That’s good, let’s write it.” 12noon – done.  Record it tomorrow.  Move on to next episode.  Total anti-television and anti-storytelling, yet fun.  With KNOWBODYS, I wanted to graduate to real storytelling and have the reader embark on an emotional journey with characters that they cared about.

Speaking of Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, I just have a couple of questions I’m dying to ask.  Why the relaunch?  For me, it’s worth it for the new theme music alone, but what caused the title change?  Are you carrying the gag from “One Hundred” over into the real world?

We had to relaunch it under a new title because the ratings were so huge and we were starting to embarrass other shows on the network.  We thought a new title would curb the viewing audience but we discovered that our ratings were more enormous than ever.  As for the music, we reached out Josh Homme, who had done a voice on the show in the past, and he was game for creating a new theme.  We gave him the vibe of the new direction; 70’s style cop show and he turned in absolute gold.  For the end credit theme, we did a remix of his original instrumental stems from the open and I plugged in a Steinberger and shredded over the music.  Michael Kohler made the end-theme remix, he’s the genius sound designer behind all the shows and the movie.  We have to now change the title of the show each season.  What was the question?

There have been a couple of episodes that implied the end of the series.  (I’m thinking specifically of “The Last One”, and “The Last One Forever and Ever”.)  At the time, did anybody believe those actually were the last episodes, or do you just enjoy causing message board controversy?

We love causing controversy, as in the alleged fake bombs that shut down Boston.  We would run ads that would shut the show down every year just to give us something to giggle about.

This is probably a ridiculously nerdy question, but I have to do it.  When the show was called Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Frylock was the only one of the main characters who never died during an episode.  And now that it’s Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, he’s died several times.  Was that a conscious change with the new incarnation?

Hurt the ones that don’t deserve it?  I don’t know.  Maybe we haven’t persecuted Frylock enough, or maybe we’ve persecuted Shake, Meatwad and Carl too much.  The audience loves it when we turn a 180 and destroy what has never been destroyed.  It’s like showing Al Gore the video footage of snow in Burbank last year; it’s unexpected.

Back to your new book, I was really surprised by the tone of KNOWBODYS – While I think fans of your TV work will really enjoy it, I was surprised by the idealism of the characters.  You have characters who really care about one another, and Derk and Betty spend the book risking their lives to do good.  On AUPS1 and your other shows, the lead characters are cynical, simple, or sometimes both.  Basically, Derk Knowbody is the exact opposite of Master Shake.  Along those lines, there’s the scene with the Hallowed Passage.  It’s just this lovely little moment before all the monster fighting.  To me, it seems like it establishes that there’s good in their world that makes it worth fighting for, and I find it really interesting.  Is there anything you want to say about that scene?

It’s a great moment in the story that defines Derk and Betty, especially Betty.  She is keeping her pregnancy a secret and is discovering what’s most important in her life, while Derk is enjoying the romance of passing souls and probably hoping they will all obey the laws of the supernatural world.

I love Gymjangle.  I realize that’s not a question.  I just feel it needs to be said.

I love Gymjangle too, thanks. America will love him in the movie as well.  I foresee a whole spin-off with Gym.

Wrapping things up, do you have anything you want to say about KNOWBODYS, and in particular, why people should be ordering it?

I want to say that KNOWBODYS embraces a global value, which is; pay attention to what is most important in your life.   And one more thing; if you visit New Orleans, you are being watched.


Interview with Aqua Teen Hunger Force co- creator Matt Maiellaro

Pulled from:

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!

And here's five exclusive pages from The Knowbodys, which is scheduled for release this fall.


Interview with HEADACHE Writer, Lisa Joy

Pulled from:

A couple of months ago a friend turned me on to a new comic called Headache. He knew how to sell me on it - he said it was by a Pushing Daisies writer and shared some ass-kicking DNA with Buffy. Indeed it does - here's how Kickstart's website sells it:
"Sarah is an 18-year-old girl who also happens to be the Greek Goddess, Athena. She must embrace her destiny and take on her own family, the gods, in order to stop them from destroying mankind."

It's a terrific read - if you like Joss Whedon this'll very much be your bag - and now I want more. More! You can buy it over here, or via the link above. But my friend wasn't done there - he got to chat with Headache's writer Lisa Joy recently and was kind enough to share said chat with us exclusively.

Like I said up top Joy was a writer on Pushing Daisies, and now she writes and produces Burn Notice. She's married to Jonathan "brother of Christopher" Nolan, who famously wrote the short story Memento was based on (not to mention something called The Dark Knight). Headache is Joy's first foray into comics but we doubt it'll be our last. At least I hope not - I want more Headaches!
What’s the one thing you’d tell someone who think comics aren’t cool?
Lisa Joy: BAM! POW! SHAZAM! How ya like 'em now f@ck$rs!
Growing up, Marvel or DC?
Joy: Neither. I'm a late bloomer. Didn't have my comic book awakening until my mid-20s.
Which superhero is the biggest douchebag?
Joy: The Comedian. No means no, douchebag.
In an all-companies crossover, can you assemble your ultimate five-hero team?
Joy: Catwoman, Buffy, Jean Grey, She-Hulk, and my gal Sarah Pallas (aka Athena). They'd kick ass and get along like a house on fire. And once a month there'd be peace on earth - bad guys would know better than to mess with super women with synced up cycles.
Who’s got the stupidest costume of any hero or villain?
Joy: For women, Wonder Woman. Anyone who's ever rocked a bustier knows they're asphyxiating torture devices. And nip slips would be a real problem when fighting crime.
For men, Ant-Man - He has a helmet that controls ants. 'Nuf said.
Have you ever had a story or character rejected by an editor? What/who was it?
Joy: Right now, I'm batting 1,000. But "Headache" was my virgin attempt. So there's plenty of time to fail.
Which are the best and worst comicbook movie adaptations?
Joy: For best - "Dark Knight" and not just because I'm hitched to the writer. For worst - whaddya take me for - someone who never wants to work in this town again?
What's the project you're most excited about right now?
Joy: My USA pilot "Mind Fields" and some very cool stuff in the works for "Headache".
What would be your dream project to work on?
Joy: Ant-Man. The musical.
What’s been your strangest Comic Con/convention experience?
Joy: Looking out over a sea of cylons, caped crusaders, and storm troopers and realizing - I'm home!

If you were going to do Cosplay, who would you dress up as?
Joy: Wonder Woman with an Ant-Man helmet.
What do you read for fun?
Joy: Lots of explosives and ballistics research for "Burn Notice" which probably has me on a government watch list.
Who is your favorite writer?
Joy: The one I married.
What do you do for fun?
Joy: Chew Nicorette and kick ass. But I'm almost out of Nicorette.

Kickstart Comics Kicks it into High Gear!

Posted on July 27th, 2011 - 09:45 AM by Kevin Pearl 

Pulled from:

As a publisher KICKSTART COMICS has quickly become a breakout success over the past year with great comics from superstar creators like Jimmy Palmiotti, Joshua Williamson, Justin Grey and many more.  Taking time from a busy schedule to talk about some of the awesome comics; Kickstart productions very own Samantha Olsson Shear has been nice enough to answer a few questions about the company as well as give advice about how to kickstart your own projects. Check out the interview below:

So Kickstart comics has been really making waves lately with some great digital comics. What are your thoughts on digital distribution so far?

Samantha Olsson Shear: We really like what we’ve seen from digital distribution. As an independent publisher, it allows us to find more readership for our titles in places where readers may not have access to the physical book. The more ways that we can reach new readers and expose them to both the comic medium and our books, the better.

What do you hope readers of digital comics will get out of downloading a book from the Kickstart comics collection?

Samantha Olsson Shear: We hope it will encourage them to pick up the others.  And really to just pick up comics in general.  While there is still something great about going and browsing through a comic shop, not everyone has the time or easy access to one.  Comics are a great medium and we are pleased its making strides in the digital space.

It looks like there are a bunch of great books in the works from Kickstart, Can fans expect more digital offerings from you soon?

Samantha Olsson Shear: Absolutely, we will continue to release all of our books digitally as well as in comic stores.

Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about a few of the recent OGN’s kickstart put out. What can you tell us about them without giving anything away?

Samantha Olsson Shear: Book Smart is a fun, adventure.  It’s a fun twist reminiscent of some great, classic action flicks.  Juan Santacruz’s art gives us some great action with our heroine.  We think readers will really enjoy this. We’ve also been talking to a sexy starlet about the leading role which is still under wraps but has us really excited.

Any chance you could tease us with a bit of what’s to come both in print and digital?

Samantha Olsson Shear: We have DEAD WALKER coming out later in September in time for Hallloween.  It’s perhaps the closest title in our line to something in the horror landscape.  Shannon Denton and Matt Jacobs served up some sinister art.  Also up on the dock are KNOWBODYS from Aqua Teen Hunger Force creator Matt Maiellero and a really stunning period Samurai tale DIVINE WIND from Jeff Amano and Julian Totino Tedesco. It’s sort of a Japanese 300. The artwork (and storytelling) will blow you away.

Now another cool thing about Kickstart comics has been the success of the Blacksmith mini-adventure game available through itunes. How did that project come about?

Samantha Olsson Shear: We were approached by a game developer to make a game out of one of our titles.  Blacksmith was a no brainer there given that the main character belongs to a secret society of weapons makers.  He has to go on the run when he is framed for a murder he didn’t commit.  The game has been getting a lot of positive feedback and launched in the new and notable section a few months back.  It’s really fun.  Type in THE BLACKSMITH on itunes to get the app.

Are there any plans for more games based off of the stellar array of Kickstart comics?

Samantha Olsson Shear: We are definitely discussing which one to adapt next.  We have also done two motion comics on two of our first titles HERO COMPLEX and coming soon BAD GUYS. Hero Complex was viewed by over 1.8 million viewers in its first week.  So when you are talking digital, motion comics are a great medium as well.

So in conclusion, what advice do you have for folks looking to kickstart their own careers, whether in comics or otherwise?

Samantha Olsson Shear: In our short time as publishers, we have striven to make good stories for a wide audience.  Much of that is simply following the type of material we like. Our advice would be to create what you love and not what you think everyone else wants.

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