If you think about it, the idea of costumed superheroes is crazy – and cartoonist Ryan Browne is homing in on that and turning it up to 11 in his creator-owned series God Hates Astronauts. Initially launched as a webcomic series that was collected by Image last year, Browne is now returning with new God Hates Astronauts stories in a new ongoing series beginning this September.
Launched September 3, the new God Hates Astronauts series follows the farcical superheroes of Power Person Five – a N.A.S.A.-supported team whose mission is police outer space, but who have just as much (if not more problems as evidenced by the previous collection) policing themselves. In this new series, the team is set to staunch a group of farmers aiming to use rocket-powered silos to farm in outer space.
That’s right: astro-farmers.
And did I forget to mention the space crabs and the cheeseburger-eating tigers? Let’s talk to Browne for more.
Newsarama: Ryan, there’s been a God Hates Astronauts collection but some people haven’t read that. For those that haven’t, what can you tell us about the new God Hates Astronauts series?
Ryan Browne: I designed the new series to be a perfect jumping on point for the series. There is a slight recap in the first issue so if you've missed the first volume it's not a big deal. It's been two years since we've seen these characters so a lot has changed. We follow the Power Persons Five, a N.A.S.A. sponsored group of "superheroes" that are put in charge of stopping the illegal space travel of farmers. The new series will expand to an intergalactic scope as the actions of our characters cause an impending space war!
Nrama: Originally, God Hates Astronauts was announced to debut in July as an ongoing series but it’s now September. What led to the change?
Browne: Originally it was the beginning of August, but Image wanted to make sure I had a handful of issues done so that I can stay on schedule for a while. I'm super happy they made that decision because I'll have three issues finished by the time issue one hits the stands.
Nrama: Ok, let’s get into the story -- the superhero team at the center of this is named Power Persons Five, led by a unique creature named Star Gass. Tell us about this team.
Browne: When we see the team in issue one there are technically only three main members of the Power Persons Five left: Star Grass (A cosmic immortal with a ghost cow for a head), The Impossible (a lady that can do the impossible), and Gnarled Winslow (a Chicago cop with robot arms). They also have a huge group of star powered bears and unlimited government funding at their disposal. Star Grass is the leader, and he's supremely self-centered and incompetent. Fortunately for him, the other two members of the group can really pick up his slack in stopping would be astronauts farmers.
Nrama: How has the team changed since the graphic novel you did last year?
Browne: They have a lot more money. Star Grass has a fancy "cosmo chair " to ride around in and Gnarled Winslow has high tech robot arms. The old leader Dr. Professor has long since been fired as has the Anti-Mugger. Starrior, Star Grass's wife, is no longer on the team and mainly just takes care of their new baby Starlina.
Nrama: They’re in charge of policing astro-farmers from going out into space – let’s back up here a bit, and tell people what astro-farmers are doing exactly and why it needs policing.
Browne: A lot of that will be revealed in this first volume. Every issue starts with a flashback that will help explain what the farmers are doing and why it needs to be stopped before there is an intergalactic issue.
Nrama: In this first issue we also have a space force of crabs led by a tiger eating a cheeseburger, named aptly enough, King Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger. What’s going on with these people?
Browne: Hell if I know! :)
They will slowly develop as the main conflict for the Power Persons to deal with. They come from the planet Crabulon, and they are not happy with the planet Earth.
Nrama: My questions so far have been serious in nature, but given the comedic nature of the series I have to loosen up a little bit – so let me ask, when you’re formulating this story how do you balance the humor and the plot? Which comes first?
Browne: In the first volume it was all about the jokes and then I'd just figure out how to tie it all together into a loose story. Now I'm really thinking about plot and character motivation more. The humor is certainly still there, but I need to have more of a direction to the story since it will be an ongoing. I was a little worried it would lose the jokes but I've been peppering every page with silly stupid stuff so it remains light and funny.
Nrama: Since the first God Hates Astronauts collection has come out you’ve done some work elsewhere, at Marvel on Original Sins and also at Image doing guest issues of The Manhattan Projects and Bedlam. How does drawing other people’s projects influence your own creator-owned work?
Browne: It helps me a lot to think about schedule and story. Putting together an issue from scratch all by myself has become a lot easier with the guidance of working on books with Hickman and Soule. Getting more and more pages under my belt makes the process less intimidating.
Nrama: I also noticed you discontinued God Hates Astronauts as a webcomic. Can you talk about the decision to do that in favor of print comics?
Browne: The original series is still up on godhatesastronauts.comfor people to read. When I was writing it a page a week it was a lot less developed as an ongoing narrative. I've always been a huge fan of print over web and the book only became a webcomic out of necessity. I couldn't find a publisher for years and I lost a lot of money on self-publishing issues, so doing it as a webcomic was perfect for me at that point in my career.
Nrama: Last question: early on in your webcomic people were noticing the Geof Darrow influence on your art, and now here for God Hates Astronauts #1 he drew a cover for you. How’d that come to be?
Browne: Pretty awesome, huh? I've talked to Darrow for the last 10 years at every show that he's at. Finally becoming friends with him is such an amazing dream come true since he's been my main artistic influence since high school. My studio is like a shrine to Darrow original art, and now there is a God Hates Astronauts Darrow cover original in my collection. So cool!