The god Zeus might have always been known as a ladies' man, but what happens when you combine the Lord of Thunder, a little bit of magic lust, and just about any object in sight?
You get the Hybrid Bastards!, a graphic novel by writer Tom Pinchuk and artist Kate Glasheen out this week from Archaia.
A story about some rebellious spawn of Zeus (and objects like cars, clothes, even brick walls) who aren't going to take their daddy's neglect any longer. It's colorful mayhem on a mythological scale, and we sat down with Pinchuk to talk about what caused this story, who the Bastards are, and just what objects didn't make the cut.Newsarama: Tom, for those who haven’t heard of this book, can you tell our readers a little bit about the premise of Hybrid Bastards?
Tom Pinchuk: Hybrid Bastards! is about creatures born in a practical joke of mythic proportions. If you’re familiar with Greek mythology at all, you’ll know that Zeus, the king of the gods, is famous for all these dalliances he has with mortal women and the bastard heroes like Hercules and Perseus that said dalliances have produced. Well, his wife, Hera, finally has enough of that and she casts a spell on him that, for one night, makes him ferociously attracted to every kind of inanimate object. Of course, he doesn’t find out about this until 18 years after the fact. When he does, he’s horrified to discover that he’s actually conceived hundreds of creatures with those inanimate objects. Cars, walls, piles of laundry... they all got pregnant and they all gave birth to “hybrids.” Now, these creatures want their daddy’s love and acceptance, but he’s utterly disgusted by them. He wants them out of the picture, but they are definitely not about to go quietly.Nrama: I have to ask, where did this idea come from? I mean, the idea of Zeus getting it on with a station wagon is a little unorthodox. Did you build up to this, or, to mix my metaphors a bit, did this idea sprout from your forehead fully-formed?
Pinchuk: To reference another bizarre birth myth, I’d say it rose out of the foam. Basically, I was familiar with the Greco-Roman myths since I was a kid through shows like “Jim Henson’s Storyteller,” “Jason and the Argonauts” and the original “Clash of the Titans.” But they were “all-ages” takes and, thus, a lot of the more salacious details of the myths were omitted. So I got something of a rude awakening when I took Latin in high school and got to read the original, uncensored versions, which absolutely abounded with truly twisted sexuality. Incest, bestiality... you name it, it was there. What I found especially amusing was how Zeus kept hiding these affairs with mortal maidens by changing shape. He came to one as a swan, another as a “golden shower” and so on.
If that’s all making you snicker, then you’re having the exact same reaction I had when I was 14. I figured there was something to that and ran with it. What’s funny, though, is that as outrageous as Hybrid Bastards! gets, I really don’t think we took too many creative liberties with the myths. It’s really not that far out as a continuation.Nrama: Now, can you tell us a little bit about who these half-demigod, half-everyday object children of Zeus are? It seems like they’ve got an axe to grind, but what else should we know about them?
Pinchuk: Five of the bastards manage to escape Zeus’ goons. You’ve got Carmine, a timid automobile; Walter, a jock made of bricks; Cotton, a conceited mess of laundry; Corey, a self-loathing apple; and Panos, who’s their leader out of necessity, really (and the revelation of just what his hybridization is will be guaranteed to turn a few heads.) The joke is that it’s harder for them to get a clue between them than it is for them to get revenge. Panos thinks of himself as an avenging hero like Orestes, but he’s leading these rejects who’re too stupid or too disinterested to know what to do. They’re just as likely to defeat themselves as to get beaten by Zeus.Nrama: How about the Greek gods themselves? Between powerhouses like Zeus and Athena, what can you tell us about the villains of the piece? What sorts of power do they have in their corner?
Pinchuk: The Olympians have continued their dynasty into the modern world, but their influence has significantly declined. They’re basically a mob family at this point whose main racket is shipping powdered lotus flowers (which are narcotics from the Odyssey). Zeus is the don, the main bad guy, and he’s got a network of goons at his command, but he’s a laughable parody of what he once was. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is still his loyal daughter and she’s really the brains of the operation. She keeps things running and serves Zeus’ agenda, even against her own better judgment sometimes. And as for Hera? She’s just sitting back and cackling at this colossal mess she’s made for her two-timing husband.Nrama: You seem to really have a lot of fun with this book, going off on a real tear through the trials and tribulations of Carmine, Cotton, Walter and the gang. Can you talk about influences a bit, how you’ve managed to get yourself in such an unpredictable headspace?
Pinchuk: Oh, yeah, a lot of fun. Kate and I really tried to give this a spirit of fun and cartoons from the ’30s like “Felix the Cat,” “Betty Boop” and “Bosco the Clown,” and the early “Merry Melodies” and “Silly Symphonies” were a significant source of inspiration for me as well. In an odd way, they’re similar to the Greek myths in the respect of how they’re perceived by the popular consciousness today. Most people think of them as being kids’ stuff, but they were actually made for adult audiences with a lot of sly and suggestive humor that’s really not too far off from what you’d see on Adult Swim (which was also a big influence, of course). I found it especially inspiring that those early cartoons were less works of comedy than surrealism and I was just tickled with the notion of framing that kind of madcap chaos in the forms of classic Greek dramas like the Oresteia and Oedipus Rex. Also, Scud the Disposable Assassin and the Grant Morrison/Richard Case run on Doom Patrol were comics whose example I tried to follow. They have this visceral, feverish quality that’s really like experiencing a lucid dream and I wanted Hybrid Bastards! to have that same sense of creative freedom.Nrama: In terms of the hybrids, I’m sure you had a few that had to get cut from the mix. Were there any character ideas you had that you wish you could have been able to leave in?
Pinchuk: We’ve actually got a back-up feature showing the Bastards’ family tree and a few of its branches show some monsters whom we just didn’t have room for. There’s a batch of evil bastards I’m particularly fond of that includes John, a toilet; Toby, a cigarette; and the vilest of them all, CC, a bag of crack cocaine. I’m sure we’ll be seeing them somewhere eventually.Nrama: Let’s talk a bit about working with Kate Glasheen. She’s pretty wild with her panel composition! How did you two get together, and what strengths do you feel she brings to the table?
Pinchuk: Kate and I have something of an unusual “secret origin.” She’s actually my Godparents’ daughter but, oddly enough, because I’ve moved around a lot, we didn’t meet until a few years ago, right after she graduated from Brooklyn’s famous Pratt Institute. She comes from more of a fine arts background and I’m consistently astounded by where she brings the material. I wrote this script in “Marvel style,” so I left her a lot of room to take things in her own direction and try new things with the layouts. A lot of times, I figured I’d have written something too crazy to be topped, but then she’d go ahead and make twice as crazier with the art and that, in turn, would give me ideas to go back and revise the dialogue with. I think we’ve got a real creative synergy and working with her has almost been akin to being in the audience, because I’m always surprised by what she does next.Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren’t sure about Hybrid Bastards, what would you tell them to get them on board? Any fun moments you can tease?
Pinchuk: If you’re tired of the expected, if you’re looking for something genuinely unpredictable, that can’t be fit into a box, that freely smashes the high brow and the low brow together... that’s basically like nothing else you’ll find on the shelf, then Hybrid Bastards! has got your name on it. Nowhere else will you witness a station wagon giving a messy birth out of its tailpipe, an apple pleading to be smote into sauce with a thunderbolt or tense courtroom drama with a cloth patchwork leading the trial of the century’s defense. You won’t find all of that anywhere else aside from Hybrid Bastards!.Zeus should've kept it in his pants!