Ken Marcus and Justin Bleep are the creative duo behind the wickedly funny Super Human Resources that Jeff Marsick reviewed a few weeks back in a Best Shots feature. I recently talked with them to find out more about the world of Super Human Resources.
Newsarama: By way of introduction, give us a nickel tour of who you are and what you’ve accomplished--or at least attempted—before Super Human Resources.
Ken Marcus: Like most everyone, I really just read a butt-load of comics. Experience by osmosis. I always daydreamed of writing one, but never really got the fire in my britches. Until the idea for Super Human Resources stumbled along. In my other life, I’m an advertising writer. It’s a similar business—a mix of creativity and commerce and self-loathing.
Justin Bleep: About five years ago, I came back to comic books, bringing with me rave and DJ influences. Comic fans that are familiar with my name will probably recall my book Brick City Bunch. BCB attempted to merge the two cultures, comics and dj music, resulting in a strong style. Less concerned with anatomy, and more so with movement, feeling, and tone. Justin “Bleep” is a stage name from my DJing days, taken from the bleep-y sounds of techno.
NRAMA: Okay, it all makes sense now. Some topics in the book hit a little close to home for the cubicle crowd, so I figured you’d either be an Office Space or The Office junkie, or that you’d actually done time in a facility.
KM: It’s a little of both. I love both shows, especially the BBC version [of The Office]. But I’d say Super Human Resources is closer to Dilbert. Scott Adams doesn’t get a lot of credit in comic book circles, but he’s brilliant. Killer pacing. Punch-lines on top of punch-lines. And yes, I’m very familiar with the soul crushing realities of corporate life that is my day job.
SHR #1, page 1NRAMA: Tales of the back-office operations behind superheroing have been done before with tepid success, so what made you think you could do it better?
KM: Hah, ignorance, apparently. I really didn’t know this had been tried before or I probably wouldn’t have done it. I knew Marvel had a group called Damage Control but I think they just cleaned up after super hero battles or something. I just felt that while being a hero can be amazing and mythic, it’s still a job just like any other. And the same stupid, banal crap we have to deal with everyday at our offices would also happen in the Hall of Justice or Avengers Tower.
NRAMA: Ape Entertainment is a company probably bets known for their Athena Voltaire series. Was Ape the only stop for Super Human Resources or had you shopped it around to other companies first?
JB: In the early stages of the project, we approached Erik Larsen and did get some good feedback—not to mention a little bit of criticism of my ”inbred” looking characters. Jim Valentino independently stopped by my table in Chicago. Though, I have to say “Ape Entertainment” is a growing buzzword in indie comics. I was very excited to approach them specifically with the project. I’m glad I did. Ape has been great.
KM: Yeah, David, Kevin and Brent at Ape were excited about SHR, so that’s all we needed in my mind. Passion for our project was our primary reason for going with them. They’ve been extremely creator friendly and patient with us. Turns out, comedy is pretty time consuming.
SHR #1, page 5NRAMA: Well, seem to have gotten the formula down. I’ve said it once that this is the funniest comic book I’ve ever read, in an explosive-guffaws-make-strangers-on-the-train-look-at-me-odd kind of way. The one-liners and dry wit never feel forced like most “funny” comics, and when the last page is turned, I almost feel like I’ve watched an episode of a sitcom. So what’s your secret, Ken?
KM: I like picturing you on a train giggling to yourself in a trench coat or something.
NRAMA: That goes a long way towards explaining why no one sits within five feet of me. Mental note to self: buy a new coat.
KM: Thanks for the kind words, though. The secret? The aforementioned time, really. There’s a reason comedy shows have a staff of ten writers or so. What’s the saying? “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” And we can’t depend on performances of actors, so the jokes have to be killer. I rewrite a lot. I also love weird, awkward throwaway lines. Those actually translate pretty well in comics.
NRAMA: Yeah, like Zombor the Frankenstein-esque desk secretary with a macabre version of Tourette’s: “Zombor will suck your mammal-brain through a straw…hold please.” So, was Justin’s cartoony style the first choice for this project?
KM: I really didn’t know what I wanted. I actually had seen Joey Mason’s art in Gun Fu and The Mighty Offenders. I thought that was a good place to start, stylistically. As luck would have it, Joey lent his talents as our kick-ass colorist and cover artist. But I posted an ad on Digital Webbing and got a flood of samples. The words ‘page rate” will do that. And Justin’s awesome style really jumped out from the pack. Figured it would do the same on comic book shelves.
NRAMA: It certainly adds to the comedic tone of the book. I’m normally not a fan—at all—of such a loose style, but I have to admit it’s perfect. Speaking of cartoons, it seems that SHR would be a shoo in for one. Any chance this is being pitched as an addition to the Adult Swim line-up?
SHR #1, page 8KM: I do love me some Adult Swim. I actually think fans of Venture Bros and Frisky Dingo will dig our book. But I’m a comics fan first and foremost. I’ll just be thrilled to see our book on shelves. That’s it for me. If something “Hollywoody” happens, great. But it’s not really my goal.
NRAMA: Justin, what’s your favorite part of working on Super Human Resources?
JB: When Ken came to me, he had a handful of foreground hero-archetypes that he wanted to explore, but no visuals. I think developing the visuals of the series was very rewarding—everything from character and environment to logos and project identity. It was like creating an entire Marvel or DC-sized universe—then cramming them into four issues and one little office building.
NRAMA: Any particular character that either of you’d want to spin-off into a series of their own? Maybe Tales of the Wombat?
KM: Ken: I like, I like. I actually have an affinity for Zombor, our undead receptionist who is trying to rehabilitate his sordid flesh-eating ways. And I would love to do a romance book with Manboto 3.4. Our awkward, sexual-harassing android finding true love at last. Eww, right?
NRAMA: Couldn’t be any worse than the third season of Flavor of Love. Justin?
JB: O-Bort (the alien in the domed space suit) is one of my personal faves—he’s a cute cuddly version of the guys from Mars Attacks. From the beginning, Ken encouraged me to fill the office with colorful background personalities. Little did I know that he would ultimately flesh out those single-frame personalities and write them in as actual characters.
NRAMA: So let’s say that Super Human Resources wins an Eisner and the offers come flooding in. What would be each of your dream projects?
SHR #1, page 9KM: Eisner? That’s drunk talk. But thank you, nevertheless. Honestly, I don’t know if I could even do a straight super hero book, though I love reading them. I really respect the craft true comic writers bring to their work: Bendis, Morrison, Fraction, Ellis, Kirkman, Millar, Kelly, Ennis…all those guys. Just because you can write, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can write comics. But like everybody, I have a few pitch ideas floating around my Dayquil-addled brain.
JB: Justin: Hmmm, I guess the answer I should give is Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. Though, I’ve really enjoyed SHR and I’m really invested in the work. Going forward, I’d love to continue with creator-owned work. I’ve got a lot of good ideas in me that I’d like to explore outside of the market mainstays. Little secret, I’d jump at the chance to do a romance comic.
NRAMA: Hey, what a coincidence. Ken wants to do a romance, too! The two of you could bring back the genius that was A Mooon, A Girl…Romance. Digression aside, Super Human Resources is a four-issue series. Are there plans for a sequel?
KM: If our pre-order numbers look good, it’ll warrant another mini. That’s the hope. So we really need people to ask their favorite comic book store to order Super Human Resources #1 this December (here are the codes: DEC083752 DEC083753). The economy is forcing some retailers to cut back, and understandably so. The reality is, indies are the first ones to go. So if you want to read something other than from the Big Two, you really have to ask for it when it’s solicited in Previews. Stupid economy.
NRAMA: Nice. We should turn that into a public service announcement. Okay, last question: what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to aspiring artists and writers?
KM: I’m not going to pretend I know all that much. But I do know this. If you want to make comics…do it because you love it. Not because you want an option or want a gig on Night Nurse or because you think you can make gobs of money. Because…um, you won’t. Make comics because you love making comics. It’s that simple and that complicated.
JB: Don’t conform to institutional standards—instead, become your own institution.
Super Human Resources #1 ships in December and is available for order from the current issue of Previews.