Tuesday, December 7, 2010



(This interview is with Jason Copland and Michael May, two very good friends of mine who have a creative work they've brought to the public, called KILL ALL MONSTERS! I am biased, in that I know both well, and don't intend to chew any new assholes with this, but, the work speaks for itself, they are doing incredibly good work. Please click the images for a bigger, more clear and stunning look...)

Alex Ness: What is the concept?

Jason Copland: Giant Robots fighting Giant Monsters set in the near future.

Michael May: That pretty much sums it up. I always like to add though that it’s a future where the monsters have already won the war. They’ve obliterated most of humanity and left only a few people scattered across the world to fight back. Which they’re about to start doing, in spades.

Who came up with it?

MM: The idea to do a book about giant robots fighting giant monsters was all Jason’s. But some yahoo named Alex Ness came up with the basic world that the story would be told in, for which I’m eternally grateful. I came up with the story we’re telling and created the characters, but you created the starting point and it’s been a lot of fun building from that.

Why a webcomic?

We’ve been working on it long enough that comics formats have changed as we’ve developed it. We originally conceived it as a traditional mini-series broken up into periodical issues, but as graphic novels started to become more prevalent, we started thinking of it in those terms. Even then though, a lot of the publishers we pitched to still wanted to publish single issues and it was tricky. Not knowing how it would eventually be released, we had to keep our minds open to either format.

Eventually though, we realized that weren’t getting any firm commitments from publishers. We had a couple who were interested, but no one was saying, “Let’s print this thing!” So Jason and I decided to take matters into our own hands. We know we have a cool story; we just want people to be able to read it and the Internet’s the easiest way to do that right now. We’ll figure out how to make money on it later.

What popular culture works have influenced this work?

For me, mostly Shogun Warrior comics and Godzilla movies.

MM: I didn’t grow up with a lot of giant monster/robot stuff. Other than King Kong, I don’t know that I saw any of the classic stuff until after we started working on Kill All Monsters. I was aware that stuff like Godzilla and Voltron existed, but I never watched it.

Probably the thing that more directly influences my storytelling style on this than anything else is the first Star Wars movie. Not plot-wise, but in lots of other ways: from how the story starts in the middle of a battle to the way the characters interact with each other to its PG-rating. Our main characters Spencer, Akemi, and Dressen aren’t direct analogues to Luke, Leia, and Han, but I wanted them to have a similar camaraderie in the way they work together. I want Kill All Monsters to have the same sense of fun that I experienced when I first saw Star Wars in 1977.

I should mention though that I had some help in applying that influence. I originally conceived a much darker story and Jason and I actually created an entire first issue from it. It focused on how bleak the KAM world is and was mostly a character study about what it would be like to live in that world. At the time, our friend Jason Rodriguez was helping us develop the book and he wisely questioned my approach; especially about how low-key the ending was. He told me we needed a big climax. “You have to blow up the Death Star,” he said. That was a defining moment for me. It not only completely changed my ending for that first version of the story, it contributed to our eventually deciding to scrap that version altogether and come up with a bigger, more adventurous story to tell.

Why does Jason talk weird?

Jason: I don’t know what you are talking aboot, eh.

Is the intent with Monsters needing to be killed to make it Kaiju big monsters or more Cloverfield big monster scary?

MM: Hm. If I understand the distinction, then it’s probably more Cloverfield than Godzilla. Or at least, it’s more Cloverfield than what Godzilla eventually became. We owe a lot to the original Gojira though, which had much more in common with Cloverfield than it did with – say – Son of Godzilla.

Our giant monsters aren’t at all heroic and they rarely fight each other. They’re more forces of nature. Again, more like the original Gojira, our monsters were created by human technology that perverted nature and came back to bite us on the butt. There’s a huge theme about technology vs. nature that runs through the story. It’s just as important for us to think about today as it was in the ‘50s when Gojira came out. We need to be scared about the influence our technology is having on the planet.

Michael what movie monsters do you dig?

MM: In any other context, I’d go straight to the Universal monsters from the ’30s and ‘40s. Especially Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. I love how human those guys are in spite of their monstrous appearances (and sometimes, actions).

But if we’re talking about giant ones, I’ll start with Godzilla as portrayed in the first couple of movies. Not that I hate the sillier Godzilla or anything. Another favorite is Mothra, who’s very much from that goofier world. And I love her because she’s so kind and unmonstrous with her island of peaceful worshipers and little fairy priestesses. I don’t so much dig the influence she had on Godzilla, but I like her.

On the flip side of that, I like King Ghidorah because he has the guts to stay evil. At least up to the point where I am in the series. I’m only just now digging into those movies.

Oh! Can’t forget King Kong. Especially as portrayed in the Peter Jackson version. I know that’s an unpopular thing to say among hardcore fans, but I never really felt Kong’s plight until I saw Jackson’s film. I intellectually acknowledged that Denham did a crappy thing, but I never felt anything about it. Jackson’s movie makes me cry.

My son and I are currently watching the Firebreather movie on TiVo and also really like Belloc. I can’t wait to dig into the comics and learn more about him.

After a while would you publish this yourselves if it does not get picked up for print?

We will definitely print this ourselves if no publisher steps up.

Imagine this work in film, how could it be brought to life, would it have to be cartoon?

No, I think it would work as a traditional film.

MM: It would be cool to see as a cartoon, especially if someone like Genndy Tartakovsky was to do it (if, you know, he wasn’t already doing giant robots vs. giant monsters on Symbionic Titan). But I agree with Jason. There’s no reason it couldn’t be done as a live-action movie and it makes me extremely giddy to imagine it that way.

Where can everyone find the work?

Jason: Here or Here.

MM: We’re the only comic at the Kamikaze website for now, but as Kamikaze adds to its pool, we’ll share that spot with other comics. The Review2AKill address Jason mentioned is exclusively us.

Giant monster/robot fans can also get updates on the comic as well as other giant news at our blog.

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