With BOOM!'s Adventure Time comic line showing no signs of slowing down, it's no wonder they're starting 2014 with another mini-series already lined up: Adventure Time: Flip Side. BOOM! is bringing together the Eisner-winning Bandette team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, with up and comer Wook-Jin Clark, who will be handling the artistic duties.
Keeping in the tune of what is arguably Cartoon Network's most popular show, Tobin, Coover, and Clark take Finn and Jake on a "Freaky Friday" adventure with body-swapping hijinks and hilarity. Newsarama talked to all of the creative team of Flip Side about the collaborative dynamic, the love and appreciation of the show, and of course what it's like working within the Land of Ooo.
Newsarama: Paul, Colleen, you've worked together in the past already with Bandette from MonkeyBrain, and many other comics in the past few years; what was it like bringing in Woo-Jin to the fold?
Paul Tobin: It was just a natural process, really. After Colleen and I had the job we were trying to decide which artist we should work with, and Colleen suggested Wook-Jin. I was already familiar with his work, of course, having watched him illustrate much of his upcoming Megagogo project for Oni Press. So, after Colleen's suggestion, I sat down with a computer, looking over his art, listing the pros and cons of working with him, devising a flow chart of how I thought he would do, play-acting scenarios for how we would work together, and generally sacrificing albino squirrels to Thalia, eighth born of the nine Muses, daughter of Zeus and the goddess of comedy. So, basically, I was just doing the things that all writers do when contemplating an artist. It took about four seconds, overall, including a handshake to seal the deal.
Colleen Coover: Yeah, I knew Wook-Jin would be a perfect fit for Adventure Time. There's a lot of subtle storytelling in our script--people are swapping minds all over the place, so we needed an artist who would be able to keep everything clear in the ensuing chaos. Wook-Jin is well up to the task!
Nrama: Wook-Jin, likewise, you're mainly known for your solo work, so what was the dynamic like of being part of this team?
Wook-Jin Clark: It's been awesome to work with Paul and Colleen. I like working on my own, but when it's with people whose work I admire it makes the process more enjoyable! Also it's been super nice to be able to just focus on the art duties with the series. Paul and Colleen play to my strengths and let me get engrossed in the Adventure Time world, and I feel super lucky because they make it not feel like work, but FUN all the time!
Nrama: So Flip Side actually has an interesting concept behind it, Paul and Colleen can you tell us a little bit more that?
Tobin: The basic story is that poor Finn is terribly sick, with an acute attack of adventure deficiency. So, he and Jake go out looking for adventures, but unfortunately end up in a reverse adventure, where they have to do the exact opposite of what they signed on for. Things spiral out of control, and all of Ooo begins to reverse itself, with characters switching bodies, etc. In order to solve this crisis, Finn and Jake are forced to bring in an eclectic group of their friends (and enemies) to save Ooo. And, each issue has a particular theme, because if you give me a toy, I'm going to play with it. So, putting the Adventure Time reins in my hands means there's a western issues, a war issue, a heist issue, etc. Basically, I just wanted to have as much fun as possible, and translate that to the reader.
Coover: The great thing about writing this story is that basically anything could happen. You'd think it was easy to come up with absurd situations, but our brains rare so hardwired to reality, it can be a real challenge to let go and indulge in the realm of the fantastic. We had to lob ideas back and forth a few times to loosen things up!
Nrama: Is everyone here a big Adventure Time fan or did anybody have to do some research along the way?
Tobin: Definitely a fan of Adventure Time, but when I'm writing a project I always do research. Without that, it's too easy to fall into routines. There's a big difference to sitting around thinking, "If I was writing Adventure Time, what I would do is..." and actually sitting down to write. What you're going to do is easy... but the how of it, that's where the work comes in, and you start to have to deal with obstacles, pacing, etc. How best to get that done within the setting, and what characters to use at what time, that's where research and planning becomes necessary.
Clark: I'm a pretty big Adventure Time fan! I catch up on episodes with my roommates every week it seems! I remember a friend showing me the pilot episode way back, and was so pumped to see it turned into a series. I heard about some of the talent that works on the show and am huge fans of their work before, so I was excited to see their influence on the show itself. Dan James/Ghostshrimp's backgrounds in particular, make me love that show. I loved his comic, The Octopi and the Ocean!
Coover: I do adore Adventure Time. I've said it elsewhere, but it's still true: I love anything that, on the surface, is made to entertain kids, but on a deeper level lets adults look into a mirror revealing the fears and anxieties of their own youth.
Nrama: All of you have worked in the creator-owned field for a while now, so how do you approach working on something within the Adventure Time universe since it's different from what you're usually used to?
Tobin: It's honestly not all that different than what I usually write, since I'm not one of those authors who only wants to work in one genre. For instance, I'm making up my "You should buy Paul Tobin's recent works" list for the holidays, and it includes:
COLDER trade collection. This is a horror series.
PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES: LAWNMAGGEDON HC: A fun PvZ romp
PREPARE TO DIESC: The trade edition of my first novel.
BIONIC WOMAN vol. 1: A sort-of-superhero-or-spy romp.
BANDETTE VOL. 1: PRESTO: The first collection of my Eisner award-winning comics about a teen thief.
So... pretty much, I don't have one single standard type of writing. If it has character to it, and it interests me, then I'm in. And Adventure Time definitely had those qualities!
Clark: Licensed material is kinda tough for me because I'm so used to just working on my own stories, but it's been a fun challenge to do the Adventure Time style. I just hope I can keep it in the universe and not disappoint!
Nrama: Paul you mentioned each issue had a different theme, was there a theme you wanted to really do and just not find the right way to make it work?
Tobin: I wish we would have had room for true space opera... that would have been fun. And a more Robert E. Howard universe would have been fun, and also a Lovecraftian issue... but... we only had so much room. The "war" issue was one that took me a bit to conceptualize on exactly how I wanted to approach it. It was Wook Jin that really helped, in a way, by saying that he wanted Lumpy Space Princess to star in one issue. That got me to thinking about how she would fit into a war and... well, you'll have to read the results!
Nrama: Wook-Jin, you have a very distinguished style that is Miyazaki-influenced and very cartoonish, but were there any difficulties adapting to the Adventure Time art style?
Clark: The style has been fun to play with. CN/BOOM! have let me kinda run a little wild with the style, as long as the characters aren't too far off! I like being able to infuse what I do without going too overboard. I can't ask to be working on a better property! I grew up loving cartoons so it's like I'm living a dream already.
Nrama: Colleen, you're usually handling the artistic duties, so how did the collaborative process changed for you with being in the writer's chair here?
Coover: It's difficult to let go of the reins when it comes to layouts and character design, but that's also part of the fun for us! Wook-Jin is a brilliant visual storyteller, and his choices are often completely different from those I would make, so everything is a fresh and awesome surprise when we see it rendered for the first time! But writing from the perspective of an artist, I did try to keep certain artistic challenges in mind while Paul and I were fleshing out the script. When it became clear that we were going to have a lot of body-swapping of characters throughout the series, I was worried that it would be difficult for readers to keep track of whose mind was occupying what body. So I put a lot of thought into how that would be best portrayed visually, and I think we wound up with a fun solution!
Nrama: You guys mentioned you're all pretty big fans, so I have to ask what is it about Adventure Time do you think that speaks to such a wide demographic and what makes it so special to you?
Tobin: It's all right there in the title. Adventure Time. I love adventures, and I love the feeling that anything can happen. Finn and Jake are just... happy. Having come from the field of comics, where it seems like writers think characters have to be constantly on the verge of suicide, it's always refreshing to write characters who joyfully jump from bed in the morning, eager to experience whatever craziness the day will throw at them.
Clark: For me, Adventure Time is something that is funnier the more and more you watch it. I'll catch subtle things I missed before, and enjoy that part of anything, so the fact it's in a cartoon makes it so much more enjoyable! I miss an episode here and there and never feel like I've missed too much, and love that every episode I find myself chuckling!