Image Comics: Chip, Kagan, what in the world is KAPTARA about?
Chip Zdarsky: It's a classic "stranded on an alien planet" story, but the planet in question is filled with ludicrous He-Man-style characters! Our crash-landed hero is Keith Kanga, a guy who doesn't necessarily want to be a hero, but is thrown into a position where he has to save his crashed crew and (gasp!) p-p-planet Earth??
Kagan McLeod: Yeah, it’s like Lord of the Rings meets Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or The Tick on Eternia.
IC: What's the story of how you two came to be a duo?
CZ: Oh, Kagan and I have known each other since our art school days. After graduation we started a studio with Cameron Stewart and Ben Shannon here in Toronto. It was a ton of fun, most of it stemming from our group sketchbook, where we came up with crazy characters in order to make each other laugh. Kagan was definitely the best at that game.
KM: Chip wanted to write something for Image and me asked if I drew it, what would interest me. Some of the most fun we’ve had together was making those silly drawings in the studio, so it had to be something where we could surprise each other with weird characters. Our alien planet is a clean slate, and we’ve populated it with a motivational sidekick, a naked wizard, a Garfield woman, and an American Gladiators reject, among others.
IC: Chip, what do you like most about working with Kagan?
CZ: It's actually hard to choose what I like most! He's the greatest illustrator I know, really. But I have to say my favourite thing about Kagan is his ability to create drawings that make you laugh. If he was born in a different time he'd be a classic MAD Magazine artist. He makes it all look so effortless.
IC: Kagan, what do you like most about working with Chip?
KM: Drawing comics is so much of a time commitment that I doubt I’d work on one with anyone else. I know him really well, our senses of humour are similar, and we’re both laid back enough that the collaboration part is a breeze (just the labour of drawing is hard). When writing he’s not precious about the minutia, which gives the artist a lot of free range to have fun with. Being an artist himself helps with that. The body language, camera angles, or background stuff aren’t set in stone in the script stage, and he knows what shortcuts artists sometimes need to take to make drawing comics manageable. And of course, he’s really funny.
IC: Between SEX CRIMINALS and KAPTARA, and, er, the rest of your career, you've shown that you "get" funny comics. As a writer, how do you approach humor in comics? Do you do things like suggesting body language for your collaborator, or are you more loose with scripting?
CZ: Well, I've been incredibly lucky with my collaborators. They've all been super adept at humour, so the best thing to do is just stay out of their way. If a joke really needs a specific bit of body language I'll suggest it, but that's as far as I'll go. Once, I sent a photo of me doing an expression to Joe on Howard the Duck, just 'cause it was a complicated set of emotions I was trying to get across in the script and me no write good enough for that.
IC: You're clearly having a lot of fun on KAPTARA, and the book is weird, thanks to the cat tanks, orbs, and other creatures. How did you decide on a visual style for the series, from the palette on down? Was there anything you backed away from as being too weird, or is everything fair game?
KM: Well, I think cool lycra space suits and hi-tech stuff are a challenge for me to draw, so I steered the visual look towards fur and armour as fast as I could. My memory of watching He-Man as a kid seems to be clouded with a lot of magentas and purples, so I used that as the starting point for the palette. I don't think any of it was intentionally meant to be psychedelic, but I'm happy people find it to be so. One of the tricky things with the book being sort of a parody is finding the spot where it's more overboard than what we're referencing (He-Man and its ripoffs had some pretty wacky characters) but not so far over that it doesn't fit the world comfortably. Characters that directly refer to earthly pop culture wouldn't work for KAPTARA, though puns that would only make sense in English still get a pass. Get ready for Bezerkules, Fistopheles, and Grandpire. Chip hasn't seen this yet, so I'm not sure if it's canon, but I drew a background character in homage to everyone's favourite homoerotic spring-action figure Ram Man. He's named Thrust Gust and he knocks people down with the wind from his pelvic pumps.