This is truly a Golden Age for creator owned comics, is it not? And every book concept is more creative than the next, and my chat today with screenwriter and comic creator Brian Lynch is no exception. Brian’s written movies you and your kids have seen (2011’s Easter bunny themed film Hop and next year’s Despicable Me spin-off Minions), but he’s also been actively creating comics (both creator owned and licensed) for years.
When I finally got to read the press release IDW Publishing sent last week on Brian’s monster/automobile mash-up Monster Motors, I hopped at the chance to ask him about that and his career in general.
Matt: Thanks for chatting with me today Brian! I always like to give our readers a bit of background on how creators get into comics, because no two journeys are alike. Your path began through the world of indie films, correct?
Brian: Yes, I helped Vincent Pereira make his micro-budget movie A Better Place. In addition to associate producing, which on a low budget movie means doing whatever needs to be done at any given time, I also had a supporting role. I was comic relief in a pretty disturbing drama. It’s like if you plopped Tom Arnold into a Hal Hartley movie. All these people are yelling and crying and threatening each other and shooting each other and I run in and do a funny dance, honk someone’s nose, wipe sweat from my brow and jump out of frame. But the movie’s so good I didn’t bring it down.
Matt: How did your film Big Helium Dog come to get made? I saw it at one of Kevin Smith’s first Vulgarthon festivals, and I thought it was hilarious!
Brian: Thank you! Kevin Smith produced A Better Place and he thought I was funny, so he read a few of my scripts. One was Big Helium Dog, a sketch comedy movie, and the other was Everybody’s Dead, a zombie comedy. He wanted to make Big Helium Dog. Everybody’s Dead was eventually optioned by Artisan Entertainment. When I got the rights back, I turned it into a comic book with IDW, with Dave Crosland on art. That was a blast.
Matt: Big Helium Dog certainly is for a more mature audience, and so is your long running web comic (and later online animated series) Angry Naked Pat. Please give us Pat’s secret origin!
Brian: Keep in mind, this was 20 years ago, times were different. I was so young and naive. Just as insanely handsome though.
Anyway, I was doing a comic strip for the college paper. I have no idea what it was, can’t remember, but there was a cat and a mouse and it was lame. I wanted to do something different. One night, everyone in our dorm got drunk and my roommate walked around semi-nude just to be funny. But everyone was drunk so no one really noticed. He had long, serious conversations with people who didn’t blink at his goods being on display.
The next morning, we all woke up, took aspirin, and my roommate was like “that was weird, let’s not talk about that again” or something to that effect. I nodded, and then remembered I had to do a comic strip for the paper that week, so I did a comic about him being naked at a party. And people really liked it. So the next week, I did another, and another. It got quite popular in college. At first they blacked out the cartoon penis but eventually they were like “eh, screw it” and showed it in all it’s glory. I’m such a bad cartoonist it didn’t look offensive anyway, it was literally three lines. Three sexy lines.
Matt: You had some other webcomics as well – notably Patchouli and Monkey Man. What were the genesis of those two titles?
Brian: Monkey Man came about because we relaunched Angry Naked Pat as a web strip and I needed some supporting characters. My friend Keith told me about his New Delhi legend about a monkey with weird powers and I just plopped him in. He immediately became the most popular character in the strip. So when Kevin Smith wanted to do a fake movie news site to tie into his movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he asked me to write some movie reviews, and I did them as Monkey Man. That led to his own strip (with DJ Coffman, and then Jon Sukarangsan and finally James Stayte), and his own comic book (with DJ). Monkey Man even popped up in one of the Angel books I did. I’m always thinking of ways to bring him back, I love writing him.
As for Patchouli, we did a spin-off comic called Mugsy X wherein Mugsy (one of the other characters in Angry Naked Pat) finds out he has mutant powers, which turns out to just be an STD. There was a supporting character in that strip called Patchouli which proved popular so the artist of Mugsy X, Jessica Milazzo, and I gave her her own strip. It was the adventures of a smart-ass, hot record store clerk who was secretly in love with the dorky guy she works with. What was weird about that was the last Patchouli story we told, Patchouli One Shot, was an actual comic book you had to buy in stores.
Comic stores didn’t, because they had NO IDEA what it was, but it had such a fan-base from the daily strip on the site that re-orders were through the roof. If Jessica had time to do more Patchouli comics, I think that could have spiraled into something bigger. Again, really fun character to write, and Jess’ art was insane
Matt: Was it from there that you started writing Angel and Spike?
Brian: Yes, the editor in chief of Kevin Smith’s site was Chris Ryall, who then went to IDW and remembered all the Angel and Buffy and Spike jokes I’d make in Monkey Man and asked me to do a mini-series. It was Spike: Asylum, and that’s the one Joss read and liked enough to bring me aboard to do Angel: After the Fall.
Matt: What was it like creating a character Alopex, for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe? You worked with Kevin Eastman on her, right?
Brian: It was amazing! I’m a huge fan of TMNT, all incarnations, so the chance to do some stories with those characters was exciting enough, but then to write a character that the co-creator OF the Turtles does the character design for? So, so lucky.
Alopex came about because we needed someone who would appear to be a damsel in distress but turn out to be an adversary for Raphael. Instead of dipping back into already existing characters I wrote a new one because she came without baggage of any existing incarnations. If she was a villain, say, in in the old animated show you’d know she was bad immediately, or if she was good you’d know she’d eventually team up with the Turtles. Plus, as a fan I wanted to create an original character. I suggested asking Kevin Eastman to do the character designs, totally doubted he would. But he’s the nicest, hardest working dude in the world and designed the most kick ass character.
Franco Urru drew that issue, after years of working with him on Spike and Angel it was so fun to play in a different universe together. He made Kevin’s designs his own, and destroyed that issue. Kevin himself sent us an email saying how beautiful it was, he raved about it, which made my year. It was, sadly, the last book with me. He passed away a little while after that. It’s heartbreaking, as I lost a good friend and a longtime creative partner, but I was thrilled he got to see all the TMNT fans embrace him like that. They loved his work. If he were around I have no doubt he’d be kicking ass in that universe.
Brian: Monster Motors take all the classic monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein, Mr. Hyde, Wolfman, etc. and re-introduces them as cars, trucks, all sorts of vehicles. It’s a big summer movie in a comic. The story centers around a small town named Transylvania, Kentucky that gets terrorized by Cadillacula, a classic car that sucks the gas out of other cars to survive. A young genius mechanic named Vic Frankenstein decides to fight a monster with a monster, so he takes pieces from all the cars and trucks in town and creates a big, welded together monster truck that is brought to life via a bolt of lightning.
But Vic finds out that Cadillacula and Frankenride (the monster truck) aren’t the only Monster Motors. They’re all over, and they’re all converging on Transylvania.
Matt: This book is being described as “all ages”. What does that term mean to you? How does it relate to Monster Motors?
Brian: It’s not written “young,” but there is no cursing or blood. Basically because I didn’t think the idea needed it. It’s Ghostbusters in tone. A little scary, tons of action, lots of fun. I’ve been working on Minions (a Despicable Me spin-off) for a few years, and our goal with that movie has been to make it funny for EVERYONE, literally every age. It’s not just a kids movie that parents will like it’s a movie for EVERYONE: kids, parents, grandparents, ancestors, pets…and that’s what I’m aiming for with Monster Motors. Anyone can pick up the issue and like it. There’s absolutely nothing questionable in it in terms of content, but it also doesn’t feel “kiddie”.
I love being scared, I love the characters, I love the rich history of each character, and I love to see how various writers and directors play with the legends and make them their own. Monster Squad is scary, it’s dark and the creatures are pretty vicious…but they’re brought down by a bunch of smart-ass kids. It’s empowering and it’s fun. Same thing with Ghostbusters and Shaun of the Dead, though, obviously, not with kids, it’s basically, “what if you and your buddies found yourselves in a horror movie”.
That’s part of the appeal of Monster Motors, hopefully. The lead character reacts like any of us do. When he first hears Cadilllacula’s name, he asks him to repeat it. When he’s nearly killed by the car, he’s afraid to go near ANY car, but then he rolls up his sleeves and decides to tackle the problem head on.
Matt: What else do you have in the pipeline? You have a Despicable Me spinoff film you wrote coming out next year?
Brian: Yes, the aforementioned Minions. I’m the screenwriter, and the directors are Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me) and Kyle Balda (The Lorax). Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm are the non-Minion leads and they are hysterical. I can’t wait for this movie to come out, it’s coming along so well. That’s due in July of 2015.
I also wrote the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride at Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood. 60 page script. Tells a fun story. All the original voice cast from the movie is back, and the audience gets turned into minions, goes through Minion training, it’s really fun.
Matt: So tell me, how did you get together with artist Nick Roche?
Brian: I had been a fan of Nick’s for a while. I remember seeing a bunch of really striking Doctor Who images he did. I haven’t watched Doctor Who yet but I loved the energy of the art, and the facial expressions. Anyway, when I talked to Chris Ryall about the idea of Monster Motors, he suggested Nick. Nick had done a bunch of Transformers stuff, it was all brilliant and detailed and just incredible. We emailed him and he was excited, but Nick’s a popular artist and had a lot on his plate, so after a few months of figuring out of if he COULD do it, he apologized and said if I wanted it any time soon maybe he should just do a cover or something. Heartbroken, I started looking at other artists. Looked for months, maybe almost a year. I paid one or two to try it out, but nothing clicked like it did with Nick. This idea was important to me, and I didn’t want to settle. So months after he broke up with me I asked him if he had time, told him I’d wait until he did, and he jumped on it. We worked out the schedule, and then the art started flowing and it was magic.
Nick’s frightening talented and so easy to work with, it’s no surprise everyone wants to snap him up. He’s doing more Transformers stuff, some more things for Marvel, but if this first issue of Monster Motors sells well enough, we’re gonna do it all over again. It’s just a thrill working with him, it really is.
Matt: Thanks so much for your time today, Brian!
Brian: Thank you! Buy Monster Motors. That is all.
Matt: And if you are interested in pre-ordering Monster Motors, Brian was kind enough to provide this link, where you can print up an order form and bring it right down to your local comic book store!
In addition to interviewing creators and reviewing comics, Matt likes to write comics of his own, including prose short stories and novels. He is based in New York, where he lives with his beautiful wife and son.
Article/interview is © 2014 Matt Kelly. All rights reserved.
Hop; Despicable Me; and Minions are TM and © 2011 Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. All rights reserved.
A Better Place; Big Helium; and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back are TM and © 1997, 1999, 2001 View Askew Productions. All rights reserved.
Angel; and Spike are TM and © 2014 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.
Angry Naked Pat; Monkey Man; Patchouli; Mugsy X; and Monster Motors are TM and © 2014 Brian Lynch. All rights reserved.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are TM and © 2014 Nickelodeon and Viacom. All rights reserved.
Monster Squad is TM and © 1987 Olive Films. All rights reserved.
Ghostbusters are © 1984 Sony Entertainment. All rights reserved.
The Lorax is TM and © 2012 Illumination Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Shaun of the Dead is © 2004 StudioCanal; Working Title’ and Big Talk Productions. All rights reserved.
Doctor Who his © 2014 British Broadcasting Corporation
Transformers is © 2014 Hasbro Corporation
Monster Motors is TM & © 2014 Brian Lynch & Nick Roche.