Pendleton Ward, Part 2: More From the ADVENTURE TIME Creator

Pendleton Ward Interview, Part 2

Our two-part interview with Pendleton Ward, creator of Cartoon Network's hit series Adventure Time, concludes today, with special guest questions from such pros as Scott Kurtz, Katie Cook, Chris Roberson and more. (Part one is here.) Keep reading for Ward's thoughts on how to create an animated show, his favorite comic books, and much, much more…


Plus, check out a bonus illustration of Finn and Jake by Maakies cartoonist Tony Millionaire's daughters, Phoebe and Pearl.

Newsarama: Pen, you were talking about how stoked you got about fan art earlier, and this next question comes from Jennifer Bennett, who does a custom plush toy service online at, and has done a number of Adventure Time custom plushes.

Jennifer wants to ask about your feelings on what people are doing by taking things they see in the show and creating their own art and stuffed toys and such on them, that sort of DIY mentality.

Pendleton Ward: It's cool, man. I can't say it's anything but cool. It's illegal [laughs], but it's totally rad. I get a lot of emails from people asking, "Can you give me permission to make this?" Well, first of all, I don't own Adventure Time, so I couldn't give permission if I wanted to. So that's for everyone who's emailing me, because I can't write you back.

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But I love bootleg stuff, I think it's rad. I remember at San Diego Comic-Con about three years or so ago, I made a bunch of bootleg shirts of the show – well, my friend made them off the drawing that I did – and I threw them out at the audience. They said – what was it? – "Bad Denture Rhyme," and it was Finn and Jake and they had whiskers and were cat people.

Nrama: Here's one from Scott Kurtz, the creator of PvP. Scott writes, "Do you have any plans or desires to produce something independently on the web? And if so, can I be involved? The second part of that question is a little self-serving BUT, the first part I think is pretty valid."

Ward: [Laughs.] Yeah, I do. I love making webcomics, and that's what I was gearing up to do when the show got picked up, independently publishing stuff on my website and selling it.!

That's still something I want to do — making comics on the Internet and having some kind of day job on the side to make money. (Newsarama note: It's since been announced Ward is doing a new web cartoon for Frederator called Bravest Warriors).

Nrama: Here's one from my man Tommy Lee Edwards, who did Turf at Image with Jonathan Ross and helped design the film The Book of Eli, among many other projects.

Tommy writes, "My kids watch and re-watch the Adventure Time episodes over and over, and like them all equally, though they both feel that the art gets better and better throughout time -- the character designs, the color, lighting, etc. Do you like evolving the art style as the show progresses? Do you think it's getting better? How is the artwork changing as the show develops? Is this a conscious thing, or more of a natural evolution?"

Ward: The art style evolving is not a conscious thing, I think. Every storyboard artist draws the characters differently, and I like that, that everyone's a little different-looking and you can tell who drew what in each episode.

The more people who work on the show, the more the style changes, and I think that's cool. It gives the show a handmade feeling, perhaps.

Nrama: It is at a point where you can tell when a character or a background is Michael DeForge, because it's more detailed and intricate, or when a song is by Rebecca Sugar.

Ward: Yeah, exactly.

Nrama: Here's one from Gronk cartoonist Katie Cook, who writes, "I'd love to know how one puts together a pitch for an animated series! Adventure Time is the fo'shizzle."


: Well, when you're putting together a pitch, it's a short sort of synopsis of the show you want to pitch. A pitch can take all kinds of different forms; there's not one right way to do it. I think back in the day when I was trying to pitch ideas – that was part of my job, an idea-maker – I would start to pitch something and have no idea what to do.

I think when you're starting to pitch something, it's best to come from a place where you realize sometimes people aren't going to like your ideas, sometimes for no good reason. That's how you need to approach it – your ideas are expendable, and you have to be willing to throw them away, to move on. I was scheduling pitches without any ideas, and just wracking my brain without any ideas, just to give myself a deadline, to come up with something to pitch.

But a pitch bible could look like anything, and I always just tried to keep it simple. I tried to do a one-page short synopsis of the world, and another page about each of the characters and who they are and how they relate to each other, and four to six pages with short synopses of stories.  That's the gist of it.

Nrama: Here's a question — well, more of a theory — from Chris Roberson, writer of iZombie, Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes, Elric: The Balance Lost, Memorial and many more.

Chris writes, "My seven-year-old daughter has a theory. Without ever seeing Star Wars, she is convinced that the Ice King is Finn's dad, since they are the only two humans in the Land of Ooo. And that the Ice King's missing ‘princess,' who left him back when he first put on the crown, is Finn's mother.


"She's pretty disappointed that Fiona and Cake exist only as fiction in Finn's world, though, and has been trying to convince herself that they really exist in some alternate dimension..."

So, Pen, are you willing to comment on this seven-year-old's theories?

Ward: Well, the Ice King is a thousand years old. He's roughly the same age as Marceline, maybe even a little older, because he's a wizard. Finn is not that old – he's 14 now, he ages every year. So the Ice King can't be Finn's dad.

Fionna and Cake… I think the Swiss-cheese theory is that multiple universes exist, so somewhere there is another universe where Fionna and Cake do exist in the Adventure Time universe.

Nrama: The Ooo-niverse? Anyway, here's one from Janet Lee, artist of the award-winning Return of the Dapper Men at Archaia.

Janet writes, "What was the inspiration for Peppermint Butler?"

Ward: [Laughs.] Candy, just a general appreciation for candy. We were just drawing all sorts of crazy candy characters and were like, "Hey, she's (Princess Bubblegum) a princess, she needs a butler to take care of her," and figured, why not peppermint?


: Here's a question from my friend Jenny Klein, who works on the CW series Supernatural. She sent in a number of questions, and here's two: "What is your favorite candy person?" and "If you tore off a limb from Princess Bubblegum, would it regenerate? Does that go for all candy people?"

Ward: [Laughs.] Yeah, Bubblegum's made out of gum, so she could repair herself. As for my favorite character…Lollipop Girl. I think she's hot.

Nrama: Jenny also asks, "Why does Finn's hat have little ears on the top of it?"

Ward: When he was a baby, Finn went out into the woods and skinned a bear.

Nrama: We're almost out of time, so a few quick bits. First, this isn't really a question, but we figured you'd appreciate it — Scott McCloud, author of Zot! and the Understanding Comics series of books, was one of the people we contacted for this, and he wrote in:

"The first time I ever taught (a cartooning) workshop was at Minneapolis College of Art and Design about 10 years ago; and one of the very first students I had was a young cartoonist named... Pen Ward! He's a terrific artist. Say hi for me."


So, Scott McCloud says hi.

Ward: Whoa, cool! I'm a huge fan of Scott McCloud. He's a great inspiration to me and to my comics work.

Nrama: What are some of your other favorite comic works?

Ward: Joann Sfar, definitely. Dungeon and everything else is amazing work. I read a lot of webcomics when I was growing up. Derek Kirk Kim's journal comics and Gene Luen Yang's journal comic were huge influences on me in high school and college. I found a lot of stuff through Scott McCloud. Jason Turner's work, that was amazing. I think Sfar is the bar, though. I'd like to do something on that level some day, if I practice my drawing enough.

Nrama: Do you have any plans to do any comics for the Adventure Time comic?

Ward: No, but I did do a cover. That'll be coming out. But I won't have time to do a comic anytime soon.

Nrama: But it does sound like a comic is something you want to do in the future.

Ward: Oh, definitely! When I was in San Diego, I would stay up all night making minis and then I'd palm a mini in my hand and shake Scott McCloud's hand like I was giving him a bribe, leave a mini in his hand. [Laughs.] I love making comics.


: I'm told we have time for about one more short question. Okay, so here's another one from Janet Lee: "Did you have or want to have a magical dog growing up?"

Ward: Yes, of course. [Laughs.]

Nrama: What would you have named him?

Ward: Starfish.

Nrama: OK, told our time's up. Pen, thanks for talking with us – we hope this proved to be algebraic, mathematical, rhombus…possibly something greater. Dodecahedron?

Ward: Everything and above.

Adventure Time airs Mondays on Cartoon Network at 7:30 p.m. eastern, and the new comic from KaBOOM! is in stores now.

Stay tuned to Newsarama for more interviews with all-ages creators this week! 

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