Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our ongoing look at the best of the web! For this time out, we have a super-crazed comic that takes you into a future where the truth about cats and dogs is…they want to kill you.
You might have already seen Brad McGinty’s work on his crazed T-shirts that show the cutaway anatomy of the likes of the Gremlins, Predator and Alien’s Xenomorph (they’re on sale at http://bradmcginty.bigcartel.com/).It is the future. Humans have lost control of the planet after engineering a superintelligent race of animal soldiers who figured they could do a better job. In the aftermath of the Dog and Cat Wars, bad dude and bad-pun-maker Manigan McMakelstien finds himself in a situation where the only way out will be doing things that would make PETA turn ghost-white. He’s gonna have to fight his way through…the Battle Zoo.
Updated weekly at www.battlezoocomic.com, Battle Zoo features a retro look (complete with fake ads), tons of humor, and more R-rated violence and language than you can shake an evil talking cat at. We got up with McGinty to talk his strip, old-school comics and more.
Newsarama: Sooooo, Brad....where the hell did the idea for Battle Zoo come from?
Brad McGinty: I had this idea way back in 2002. It was originally just a short story about a guy in a post-apocalyptic world run by cats drawn in a completely different style. The main character had just broken up with his girlfriend and this super badass dude rolls into town and steals his ex.
It was kinda like Planet of the Apes , but told form Nova’s ex-boyfriend’s point of view. The text was all embarrassing autobiographical stuff that was clearly written by a sad and recently single 22-year old.
At the time I literally lived in a barn with a bunch of dudes. It had been roughly fashioned into a house by my friend’s dad, but it was an absolute dump. The barn was overrun by feral cats that kept getting inside and giving birth to litters of kittens between the walls.
Every so often we’d hear a yowl, and have to cut a hole in the sheetrock to help one escape. These were not domesticated animals, mind you. You couldn’t pet them or catch them or anything. So, at the time, a world controlled by cats didn’t seem like an entirely strange concept.
I never finished the original comic, but the name “Project Battle Zoo” has stuck around in my head. I always thought it was the absolute dumbest name for a comic ever. It probably is.Nrama: You've gone mad with retro design styles and logo hommages and junk. What, pray tell, led you to this aesthetic decision, and what are some of the unique challenges associated with makin' stuff look old?
McGinty: Well, I went out of my way to model Battle Zoo after a certain type of comic that was popular when I was younger, but has become pretty scarce these days.
I wanted it to be entertaining and funny, in a sort of trashy R-rated way. Battle Zoo was inspired by a lot of old Ninja Turtle comics (the Archie Series, not the Mirage stuff) and Jack Kirby’s Kamandi and Devil Dinosaur. Those comics were colorful, outrageous, and sometimes really dumb.
I want to make Battle Zoo as true to those inspirations as I can, but coloring with the limited pallet can be tricky. It takes a lot longer than most people would think. It would definitely be a lot quicker with a larger color pallet, but I really and truly believe comics should look like comics. I love the bright colors and the ben-day dots.
It’s part of our heritage or something, I really can’t see myself doing a comic that isn’t colored this way!Nrama: So give us the lowdown on your boy Manigan, and why he is such a bad dude. We're only on "The Road to Battle Zoo” so far, and there has already been more spine-rippin' action from him than the entire Predator series combined.
McGinty: Ha! I guess there has been a lot of spine ripping, huh? Well, at this point in the comic we’re still in the ‘opening scene,’ if you will. We’ll find out a lot more about him in the coming pages. I don’t want to give anything away, but like many macho-men, myself included, he has hidden depths.
Nrama: How far in advance have you planned this story? Do you see this as a finite tale or more of an epic battle...zoo?
McGinty: I definitely know what the ending is, but I’m not sure when I’m going to get there. The way that the story is structured, once they actually reach the Battle Zoo I can keep them there as long as I am interested.
Or, more importantly, as long as other people are interested. If people keep reading Battle Zoo, I’ll keep making them. Each story line I plot out branches into other ideas, so it’s pretty exciting.
Nrama: What's been the most interesting reaction you've gotten to Battle Zoo so far, other than "What the F are you thinking?"
McGinty: People do seem concerned about the violence toward the cats. I guess the Internet leans strongly in favor of cats, so I should have seen that coming. It’s all so silly I can’t imagine anyone taking it too seriously, but like I said, it’s the Internet.
Nrama: We have seen cats and dogs in this cruel new world. But dare I ask how such pets as hamsters and goldfish fare?
McGinty: There are definitely guinea pigs and hamsters, as well as tons of mismatched mutants running around in upcoming installations. There are lots of weird hybrids caused by the nuclear war, but the super intelligent domesticated animals end up ruling the world.Nrama: How well do you feel you would fare in the world of Battle Zoo?
McGinty: Oh, I doubt I would last long at all. I’m allergic to cats for one thing, and I’m not the best with a shovel. I do look good in bright pink jumpers though, so I have that going for me.
Nrama: Those crazy damn anatomy posters and shirts have gotten you quite a following. Where did the idea for 'em come from, and what are some of the challenges in thinking them up? Whose anatomy do you want to examine next? That was phrased badly.
McGinty: The idea came from this book form the Japanese book from the 60’s called The Anatomical Guide to Monsters. Last year I drew a homage to the book for Halloweirdos, a Halloween illustration blog that I and some of my buddies from Wide Awake Press created.
I had so much fun doing the Anatomy of the Xenomorph that I decided to draw some other monsters, and I was just lucky enough to find an audience for them. I loved drawing guts as a kid, and this series has been really fun to draw. I try really hard to outdo myself and have a fresh concept for each monster.
I’m currently working on an anatomy illustration that is larger than any of the prints that I’ve created yet. I’m really excited about it, and I want to keep it a surprise. As soon as I finish that, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to start on a Freddy and Jason set, which should be awesome.Nrama: What have been some of your biggest influences, both as a writer and an artist?
McGinty: I didn’t have any money as a kid, so I bought whatever comics I could get from the quarter bin. I really liked the Mirage TMNT comics, Ultra Klutz, and ‘70s Archie comics, as well as tons of TMNT parody comics. I definitely had a quantity over quality mentality about comics, and would read anything I could get my hands on.
All that black and white indie boom stuff had a big effect on me. Even as a kid it seemed like stuff I could mimic, which got me drawing all the time. As I grew up a little I felt like I couldn’t draw comics because I couldn’t draw like Jim Lee: I drew too “cartoony.”
So when Sam Kieth’s The Maxx came along, that was pretty much it for me. I was in it for good! I had pretty much given up on trying to draw comics until that comic came around and saved the day.
That lead me right into all the ‘90s Fantagraphics stuff. Jim Woodring, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns, and Pete Bagge were all heroes of mine. Their stuff led me right into self-publishing my own comics.
Of course there are plenty more, but those are probably the biggest ones. Except for Dave Cooper, he might be the biggest. His stuff bent my brain.
Nrama: If, lord help us, the opportunity arose to do Battle Zoo action figures, would you take it?
McGinty: Oh my god, are you kidding me? Action figures would be amazing. I recently modified a batch of crappy Bootleg GI Joes for another project – they were freebies for Robert Cop 2 T-shirt customers – and they turned out hilariously terrible. I can only imagine how funny Battle Zoo toys would look.Nrama: What's coming up in Battle Zoo?
McGinty: Well our heroes are just now reaching the Battle Zoo, so we’ll definitely be seeing the violence go up about 400% in the coming weeks. We’ll also find out more about Manigan and Tim, where they came from and who they are.
I thought hard about starting the story inside the Battle Zoo, but I’m glad I decided to show all of the prequel stuff that people usually do as an afterthought.
Nrama: Something that I've been asking everyone in this series -- what new opportunities do you feel have arisen for both larger companies and individual creators as the result of new delivery systems such as iPads and smartphones, and what can they do to better take advantage of these opportunities?
McGinty:I think there has never been a better time to be a comics creator. The ball is entirely in your court. You pretty much only have yourself to blame for not making your dream project. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll make any money at it, but fortunately you don’t need much money to create it either.
It’s almost too easy to publish stuff now, which makes it difficult to stand out. At the same time, if you put your work out there and it’s good, I really believe people will find it.
I’ve been making my own comics since 1999, but I’m a terrible networker and self-promoter, and I really avoid that aspect of the business in general. In the few short months since I’ve started Battle Zoo, I’ve gotten more feedback from readers than I’ve ever had before. That’s the real strength of the web: it’s the great equalizer.
Above all, I want Battle Zoo to be cheap and easy fun, and the digital format opens up so many possibilities since page count and color aren’t issues like they are in print. Finally, 50-page fight scenes can become a reality! And don’t think I’m kidding.
Nrama: What are some of your current favorite comics and their creators, online and off?McGinty: My good pal J Chris Campbell and I came up with a web portal to get together our favorite web comics. It’s a great bunch of comics that might fly under the radar, but every title on that page is one that I enjoy. Check it out here: http://wideawakepress.com.
As far as print stuff goes, I like loads of different stuff. Recently I’ve been really in to older stuff, like old EC and Mad collections. Will Elder and Jack Davis are always mind blowing.
I’ve been pretty into Basil Wolverton’s sci-fi stuff and His comic Powerhouse Pepper, too, but that stuff is mostly eye candy. I was on a Chris Blain kick for a while. That Isaac the Pirate stuff is just about the best comic ever. I finally got around to reading Craig Thompson’s Habibi, which I thought was great.
This week I’ve been going through Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig in the final incarnation, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I went through a bunch of Michael DeForge comics recently too. The problem is when I’m looking for older stuff I fall behind on the newer stuff, and then you’re like only a few months behind on stuff, and that seems really pathetic for some reason.
Nrama: What's next for you, in comics and out?
McGinty: In comics, I’m going to do my best at trying to keep Battle Zoo (www.battlezoocomic.com) on schedule. I’m currently peddling T-shirts, which you can find over at www.store.bradmcginty.com, and I also do biweekly news illustrations for Crowded Comics (www.crowdedcomics.com), which is a fun site that a lot of people haven’t heard of yet. I’m also open for commissions. If anyone needs some guts drawn, I’m your number one dude!
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
McGinty: Nope, but I would like to thank everyone who has checked out Battle Zoo and has bought some stuff from me in the past year. This is has been a big year for me, since I transitioned into doing freelance full time.
While it’s been nothing but 13-hour days, it’s been pretty incredible, and I appreciate everyone who has checked out my website or bought a T-shirt or print. That’s what makes the comics possible!
Enter the Battle Zoo…if you dare…at www.battlezoocomic.com.