Welcome back to our countdown to the Small Press Expo (SPX) this coming weekend, where we talk to the creators of some of the new projects premiering at the show, along with some of the guests of honor at the show! This time out, we’ve got a new collection from a couple of SPX mainstays that is pretty much the most adorable thing you will see at the whole show.
Regular goers to SPX know Frank Gibson and Becky Dreistadt, aka “Becky & Frank,” for their webcomic Tiny Kitten Teeth, not to mention their occasional covers and backup tales for the Adventure Time comics at KaBOOM!. This SPX, they’re premiering the new souped-up hardcover collection Capture Creatures, compiling the many drawings and bios of crazy critters they’ve been posting online for the past year and a half on this site. The series has proven exceedingly popular, spawning gallery shows and even a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the collection.
And yes, if you know anything about anime, manga or children’s cartoons/collectible video and card games…these creatures might look just a wee bit familiar.
We spoke with Gibson about how this all came about.
Newsarama: Frank, tell us a bit about Capture Creatures. How did this project initially come about?
Frank Gibson: Capture Creatureswas one of those late-night ideas that ended up taking over our lives for a year and a half. We're incredibly inspired by the watercolor work of Ken Sugimori, who painted the original 151 Pokemon by himself and Becky figured we could do the same thing. Then a year and a half later we're done!
Nrama: What was your collaborative process like creating these? Did Becky come up with the creatures first, then you came up with the details, or vice-versa, or a mix of the two processes?
Gibson:There were a few creature ideas I threw in there, but Becky had unlimited ideas from the beginning. So after Becky finished the painting she'd hand it over to me to write about it.
Nrama: What was the biggest challenge in making the creatures unique from, um, those other monsters that kids like to capture?
Gibson:That's always in the back of my head but other than a few of the project constructs almost everything is based in nature. We spent a lot of time researching and found a lot of cool extinct creatures and rare species that we based most of the creatures on.
Nrama: Have you been surprised at how much the creatures have caught on? There's been gallery shows, this collection now...
Gibson: I'm super glad that people like Capture Creatures. The gallery show was so fun, one of the best days we've ever had.
Nrama: Also, tell us a bit about the Kickstarter you did for the deluxe collection -- that will be available at SPX, correct? Tell us all them bells and whistles it got!
Gibson: Man, I love Kickstarter. So we have the regular hardcover edition, which is over 300 pages and full-color in the first place, with a nice synthetic canvas cover. Then the deluxe is the three-piece cloth with the screen-printed ribbon bookmark, embossed spine. All that cool stuff.
I'm so glad we get to make books like this. I was also glad for this to be one of the first non-saddle stitch publications out of our company B9 Kingdom.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite Capture Creature? C'mon, admit it!
Gibson:I love Innuma and Bon Bon Fire. Our favorites cross over a lot, but Becky is really into Alpezgau and Axipoddle.
Nrama: Why do people seem to so enjoy, um, creatures they can capture, who are cartoony and have powers and stuff?
Gibson:I think there's a lot of elements that go into it. I was a little older when Pokemon hit big, so I was more into the games than the cartoon. There's definitely nostalgia.
But I think the base value of fantasy creatures as well as collectibility make it universally appealing. When I was a kid I loved collecting things, the idea of something being "complete" is super powerful, especially to younger people.
Nrama: Something we're asking everyone in this series: What are some other books and creators you're looking forward to encountering at SPX?
Gibson:There are approximately one million books debuting at SPX, and I can safely say I want pretty much all of them. I'm particularly excited about getting Midnite Surprise Vol. 2 from KC Green and the new Exquisite Beast book by Evan Dahm and Yuko Ota, but that's my own biases coming into play there!
Nrama: And what's fun about a show like SPX?
Gibson: I love discovering new work, but I also like seeing all my comic friends. I have a lot of cartoon and comics buddies in LA, but SPX is an opportunity to get to see pretty much everyone I know. For some reason the camaraderie is stronger in that weird hotel in weird old North Bethesda.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Gibson: We've got a lot of projects going, but I want to re-focus on our webcomic Tiny Kitten Teeth. We've been on and off with it the past couple of years and it's physically painful for me to be away from it for so long. Soon! So soon!
Catch all the Capture Creatures at SPX, or online at CaptureCreatures.com!
Next: Find out why Eisner nominee Farel Dalrymple is Delusional with this new compilation of his work – and later on, we’ll have talks with Jeff Smith, Gene Luen Yang, and Lisa Hanawalt and Brian Ralph!