SDCC 09: Brendon Small talks METALOCALYPSE Comics, more

San Diego Comic Con 2009

Art from Goon vs Dethklok

At Comic-Con International: San Diego this weekend, Dark Horse announced they'd be bringing Adult Swim's hit show, Metalocalypse, to comics in a new series. This is just the latest in a series of wins for the Death Metal-inspired property, as a new video game was announced, a new album is out in September, another tour is on the way, and the show got bumped up to half-hour episodes. We caught the busy co-creator of the show, Brendon Small, for his thoughts on all things Dethklok.

Newsarama: It seems your rock empire is growing by the second...

Brendon Small: Oh, it's building up. It's becoming more powerful than ever!

NRAMA: It's pretty clear in watching Metalocalypse, with the style of the show, that you're a comic book fan. How did this in particular happen with Dark Horse?

SMALL: You know, to go back a little bit further, when me and Tommy, the co-creator, came up with Dethklok, there's a couple of things that we wanted to do aesthetically that ended up lending itself to a lot of different avenues. One of the first decisions we made was to try to make the show look good. That sounds kinda weird, but on Adult Swim and animation wise, I noticed a lot of shows, even I had a show like that, Home Movie, these were kind of minimalistic animation wise.

So I just wanted to do the most that we could with the budget that we had, and make the show look as good as it could. Using the heavy metal aesthetic and album cover art, and the proportions for people, I thought that would all work well to be able to make a video game out of it and make a comic book out of it, and it looks cooler!

NRAMA: So you had the idea from the very beginning that this would be a big multimedia project and not just the TV show?

SMALL: Well that's what I was hoping, cause I've had TV shows cancelled on me before. My other show, Home Movies, was cancelled on me twice. My whole thought going into this was "how can I make this exist outside TV?" Cause TV costs a lot of money and it can come and go based on a ratings slump. The show could still be good, but people just don't tune in, or you get your timeslot moved around a lot; screwy things can happen.

So I thought how can I make this exist only in audio form, make a CD out of it. And you know, that made a lot of sense.

Then, can this work as a comic book? It seems like it would. It seems like it's dynamic and art-driven enough. There's a lot of fun story that you can tell in comic book form that you don't have the time to tell in TV. There's a lot of subplots and backstory and cool stuff that we just don't get the time to do on TV. Ultimately, the TV show has to just be about comedy, it can't always be the deeper, dynamic, fun, exciting, interesting story, you know?

NRAMA: The comedy you mentioned can be dry and dark humor on your show. That's hard enough to pull off on TV, but it seems it'd be harder to come across correctly in a comic book, where people are just reading it and have to do...

SMALL: The voices themselves? Yeah, it's definitely something that once it gets up and running I'm not going to be too worried about that. I do believe that this is something that can exist on its own, without having any knowledge of [the show]. Like, I want people to be able to buy the CD without knowing the show, or play the video game. But there will be a little bit, the show is still the entry point to everything else.

Art from Goon vs Dethklok

Even in Dethklok vs. The Goon, that Eric Powell did, he had a great story, and I said run with it. He knew the show really well. He wrote a lot of dialog and sent over these mockups, and I read it and I said, "this actually feels like the show! It's very funny!" And you can do some stuff in a comic book that doesn't read in a TV show. You can cut to humor and make it work well and jump in on closeups, and what we call in Dethklok "extreme slapstick" (laughs) where there's murder involved. It all seemed to play really well, and I was happy to see how it was working in Dethklok vs. The Goon.

NRAMA: Some fans' favorite thing about the show is the references and parodies to the life and times of Metal. Is that something you think you'll be able to bring to the comic?

SMALL: Yeah! Basically, when I think of a show or story, there are three different things that I kinda go to. One is rock history, metal history, you know, recording underwater; just doing absurd, ridiculous things. People have huge inflated budgets for albums, you know; Chinese Democracy cost 13 million dollars, and we thought ok, what else? What if we record in a Nuclear Sub? And people do their own real versions of this, so we're just taking what's out there and exaggerating it a bit for Music satire.

When people ask me who Dethklok are, I say they're five celebrities, five narcissistic babies who can't do anything for themselves. So we also draw a lot from "celebrity-ism" and peoples' fascination with that.

The other thing is that Death Metal is about brutality, but there are a lot of things that are more brutal than dying. So I like to use that as a story point or a character entry point. There's stuff that's really bad that everyone has to deal with everyday that's brutal, like flying coach, humidity, going to the dentist, and these kinds of things are normal brutalities that there's a death metal song in every one of these topics.

We just kind of keep juggling, and ultimately we try to make everything work with the amount of time and budget and resources that we have and sometimes it works better than others; ultimately it all has to go out the door at some point.

NRAMA: Do you think you'll try some even more off-the-wall things in the comics since you won't be as restrained by budget?

SMALL: Yeah, but we really want it to match up. I would like continuity in the comic to maintain itself with the show, I don't want it to do stuff that the show would not do. Within that, we can do a lot of really crazy, fucked-up, stupid stuff, so I'm not worried about that.

My favorite as a viewer of the show is when it can be funny, dynamic/exciting, and brutal. All three of those things. And I'd like the comic to do that stuff, but I also want to use the comic to do something the TV show can't do; to flesh out the world. I want to tell a little bit of backstory about these characters, the things that make the world more dynamic and interesting, but also play it for comedy.

NRAMA: Are you going to be very hands-on on the comic?

SMALL: Yeah, everything's going to go through me. I'll either be pitching story, writing story, or getting my own guys to write it. I'm gonna come up with a lot of what the topics are going to be and let people see what they come up with. It's the same thing I do when I let people write for the tv show: "you can do this, you can't do that, we won't see this guy ever cause we have a bigger idea lined up for him later on," you know. So we'll do stuff like that.

NRAMA: You mentioned the video game, which was announced this weekend as well. It'll be a Downloadable title, right? Can you give a little bullet-point description of that?

Art from Goon vs Dethklok

SMALL: Yeah, the video game is going to be really exciting. It's a downloadable title, and it's been in the works for about a year. It's getting really good, it looks really cool. It's totally of the Dethklok world. You're going to be able to move around inside of Morthouse and all these locations you've gotten used to, in a 2D world. The cool thing too, is it'll be continuous with the show.

The game isn't going to be about the band murdering people, in this game you play a "Klok-eteer" which is one of their roadies. The way I describe them is, "imagine if a green beret fucked a Roadie," that's what these guys would be. They can kill you with Gaffer's tape and a guitar string, stuff like that. These are the ultimate badasses of the show.

NRAMA: They're kind of the McGuyvers of murder?

SMALL: Exactly! Yeah! But with the music side. They'll kill rabid fans, and rescue you, or hollow out a Rhinoceros and turn it into an amplifier, shit like that. But you'll be one of these guys, graduating through the ranks to ultimately become one of the Deth Army.

Plus it's loaded with Dethklok music, the new record's going to be in there too, which is coming out September 8th. Which I'm really excited about too. And a new tour. And half-hour episodes. So there's a lot of things happening at the same time.

We really just start shooting our mouths off and people are saying yes to everything. And everyone we've talked to as far as collaborating, be it Konami (on the game) or Dark Horse, they all get the idea. No one's bringing shit to the table that we're saying "no" to and trying to force it down our throats. We're saying, "here's what we want to do" and they say, "well, that's what we want to do!" And it works out pretty well.

NRAMA: Any particular teases you want to give readers?

SMALL: Yeah, the thing I'm really excited about and got to finish, it's completed now, is the record. I'm really happy with the way it sounds, and it's more epic, it's darker, it's more fucked up than the first one, and the music is really cool. I'm really happy with my guitar playing. Ultimately, I'm just happy that I have a job where I get to play guitar. I'm really happy with the way I recorded the guitar on this record.

We'll probably do the tour and the new season of the show, and the comic at the same time, we'll be announcing dates. Everything is happening in fall, that's all I know right now. But I do have a release date for the record, and that's September 8th!

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