10 Questions with Comics Brewmaster James Kochalka
Origin: Springfield, Vermont
1st Appearance: James Kochalka Superstar mini-comic #1(1993-94)
Catalog: Monkey vs. Robot, Peanutbutter & Jeremy, Quit Your Job, Tiny Bubbles, The Horrible Truth About Comics, Fancy Froglin, SuperF*ckers, Johnny Boo, Glorkian Warrior, etc. etc.
Achievements: Served as Vermont’s very first Cartoonist Laureate, James Kochalka Superstar the band has released multiple albums, with their 2006 hit “Britney’s Silver Can” making it into Rolling Stone’s Top 100 for that year!
So, lets relax, grab a brew or sarsaparilla and enjoy this Q/A!
1. Monkey or Robot?
Monkey and Robot are the two sides of human nature. We are animals, we invent technology. In many ways our technology is an extension of our minds and bodies. We process food outside our bodies for easier digestion, we rely on computers to store memories & knowledge, and we even use technology to do some of our thinking for us. Yet animals we remain. Neither side can, because we are equally both.
2. Do you ever drink and draw or partake in any other vices while making comics??
I have… especially during the 15 years that I drew American Elf, my daily diary comic strip. Plenty of those were drawn inebriated.
3. I’m super excited for the return of SuperF*ckers this August! What should we expect from the new series and could we see more from these characters beyond SuperF*ckers Forever?
Yeah, it’s going to be cool.
Some of the storylines pick up from the graphic novel version of SuperF*ckers, and some of the storylines pick up from the animated series of SuperF*ckers. The two versions get mashed together in this new series.
I was kinda influenced by twitter this time around… I had just joined up when I started writing it, so there are references to progressive race, gender, and class issues that come up a lot on that platform. Just trying to process all this information in a humorous way, I guess. Also there is a bit of adventure, some fight scenes, some melodramatic relationship twists, gratuitous drug use, etc.
We have a bunch of cartoonists doing back-up stories and alternate covers. Some are kinda famous-ish already, and some not. For at least one of them, this will be the first time her work is ever seen on a national scale.
4. What was the last good movie you’ve seen
My favorite movie of the last several years is Kuky se Vrací.
It’s a Czech movie about a little plush bear trying to return to his boy. The art-director of the movie also worked on one of my favorite recent video game series, Samorost.
5. You’ve collaborated with Pixeljam to create the very fun & addicting Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork video game(PC/Mac/iOS/Android). Are you a big “gamer”? What did you play growing up and what(if any) do you play currently?
Sure, I’m a big gamer. I play every day, usually multiple different games every day.
The first video game I ever played was Tic-Tac-Toe on a giant mainframe computer in the early 70’s. And I had a home version of pong, and I was an arcade rat, and then eventually got the Atari.
I play everything, I like to try games of all genres. This week so far I’ve spent time playing team-based first person shooters (Overwatch, BattleBorn) a Nintendo platformer (Kirby: Planet RoboBot) a sprawling RPG (Witcher 3), an indie platformer (2-bit Cowboy Rides Again), and a agoraphobia simulator called Solitude. Oh yeah, and also Minecraft with my sons.
6. Which artists(comics or otherwise) do you admire the most and have you gotten the opportunity to meet any of them?
I’ve had the chance to meet so many hundreds of cartoonists. I have admiration and respect for all them, and the work they do. But I don’t idolize anyone, I guess. I read even my favorite cartoonists with a pretty critical eye, I can’t help it. I see all cartoonists as my peers.
7. Describe your worst dating experience.
I’ve never had a bad date, really. For one thing, I’ve been with my wife for about 30 years now.
Here’s an interesting one… when I was a teenager, a guy I knew in another state paid me to take his secret girlfriend to his High School Prom. His secret girlfriend was his official girlfriend’s best friend… and he couldn’t take them both. So.. my date was the secret girlfriend… but then his real girlfriend was like SO into me. Anyhow, I got paid $200 for that.
8. So, what comics do you like to read? Any mainstream comic book characters you’d like to take a stab at?
I find it hard to find contemporary mainstream comics that I actually like. I think mainstream comics today have way too many words. The best superhero comic is Invincible, by Robert Kirkman. That’s probably my favorite comic of all. I got the artist Ryan Ottley to draw a SuperF*ckers Forever cover for issue 1.
I really enjoyed Teen Dog by Jake Lawrence. We hired him to do a back-up comic for the first issue of SuperF*ckers Forever. I really like Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger. Hired her to draw a SuperF*ckers Forever back-up strip too.
I read a lot of prose novels, too. Right now I’m reading Luna: New Moon. I don’t exactly love it, but I do like the way sexual and gender politics on the moon are totally different than on earth, and also the legal system.
Probably my favorite recent book is The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, I think it comes out in paperback in the US soon… but I ordered the hardcover last year from the UK. It also explores sexual politics in the future, in really clever and interesting ways… interspecies love, AI, etc. But mostly it’s just a really fun Firefly-type team adventure.
As far as mainstream comics I’d like to draw… I’d do anything! I write and draw SpongeBob comics every month, and I’ve done Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers and Garbage Pail Kids and Star Wars. I have a great 6-page Power Rangers comic coming up. Some people say my Hulk vs. The Rain comic is one of the best Hulk comics ever written (and those people I will happily high-five). It influenced scenes in both major Hulk movies.
9. Have you had any funny or embarrassing moments at comics conventions/book signings/etc?
Many! I don’t care too much about my own embarrassment… the worst is when I accidentally embarrass a fan. I feel like when I’m at a comic convention or signing, I’m there basically to give them a good, positive experience meeting me.
So, when I accidentally screw that up, I definitely feel bad.
10. So, Retrofit recently released your book Elf Cat in Love, you have The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny book out(3rd in the series), and Johnny Boo’s Big Boo Box collection. Besides all that and SuperF*ckers Forever, what else do you have going on in 2016 and beyond??
Johnny Boo Goes Like This! also came out this year. And the Brazilian publisher Editora Mino published an edition of Fungus in Portuguese. And this August, Alternative Comics is putting out Fancy Froglin Uncensored which collects everything from Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest plus around 100 pages of new material.
I also have pilot that Nickelodeon is sitting on… I hope they show it soon.
Before the end of the year I hope to complete work on Mechaboys… a graphic novel about teens that build a robot battle suit to get revenge on their enemies at the Prom. I finished the first rough draft of Mechaboys last fall, then took a break to work on SuperF*ckers Forever over the winter and spring, and now I want to go back in and tweak the emotional resonance here or there and re-write some scenes before I start the final art. A few years ago I first wrote Mechaboys as a movie script for the director Geoff Marslett, but it never got made…so I thought I’d re-purpose it as a graphic novel. It changed it tremendously when I sat down to write it as a graphic novel. I kind of also want to try writing it as a prose novel, and also as a Broadway style musical.
Thank you, James!
*Pictures of James Kochalka and his work were provided by the internet. Thx!