With last year's Pacific Rim giving kaiju battle movies a breath of fresh air and the Power Rangers franchise turning 20, writer/artist Wook Jin Clark is taking influences from old school anime , kaiju monsters, and the Super Sentai series and giving it a Southern-fried flavor with Oni Press's Megagogo.
With giant robots and space aliens running amok in modern day Atlanta, Clark explores the world where battles between the two forces are now part of everyday life, and the history of their decades-long fued. Newsarama sat down with Clark and talked about Megagogo, his inspirations behind the project, and what lies ahead in his career.
Newsarama: Wook Jin, for those unfamiliar with your work, tell us where we might have seen you before?
Wook Jin Clark: I did a book for Oni back in Late 2009 called the Return of King Doug. Since then I’ve just been working on Megagogo and other future projects. I interned at Periscope studio in the winter of 2011 and then was asked back to join as a member last October in 2012. I still feel weird, but grateful, being in a room with that much talent, since I’m still honing my abilities.
Nrama: Before we talking about the comic itself, can you tell us some of the influences for Megagogo? It definitely has a Osamu Tezuka vibe to me.
Clark: Oh yeah, totally! I love Astro Boy and the main character in Megagogo is somewhat of an homage to him. Other than that I’ve always really been influenced by manga and cartoons especially ones with giant robots, monsters. Power Rangers/Kamen Rider are probably the biggest things that influence my work, steming from childhood obsessions with them. I kinda just wanted to make something that not only me now, but me as a kid would lose his s--- over!
I was forbidden to read comics in house growing up except for what was at the grocery store, which meant only Archie or Ninja Turtle comics. So with that being said, I turned to cartoons. Shows like Ronin Warriors, Tenchi Muyo, and <>Dragonball shaped a lot of the stories I want to create. I enjoy the funny/action shows with a bit of slapstick and a bit of romance on the side.
Nrama: Now this is mostly or all digital correct? What was the transition like for going from traditional media to digital?
Clark: Yep! I made the jump back in 2011. I was doing some pages in Megagogo still with pen and ink, but I wanted to be able to move faster. My buddy, [Vertigo's FPB artist] Robbi Rodriguez was the one who pushed me to go full digital and I haven’t looked back. I was weary when he mentioned a program called Manga Studio to me, since I thought it was one of those MANGA101-type programs, but now it’s all I use, and love it. I can create pages faster and cleaner than I would by hand. I dunno, I still like drawing with pen and ink, but for now, working digitial makes sense for me.
Nrama:Tell us a little bit about the gallery of characters in Megagogo.
Clark: The main group consists of three members: Adam, the main character, is the leader of a rag tag bunch that must defend the city of Atlanta from monsters. He’s kind of a washed up loser with some baggage. Evan is the new kid that accidentally joins the team. He’s a naïve awkward high school freshmen who’s just trying to get through that weird age. Lastly, Jay is the third member who has a mysterious past, but the one thing we do now about him is that he’s immortal.
The villain in this first volume of the series is Jimbo. He’s an old southern gentleman who runs the KKK and is ready to reign down on the team.
Nrama: Why did you choose America, much less Atlanta for the setting?
Clark: I chose America and more specifically the South because that's who I am and what I know. I'm not trying to create something in a setting unfamiliar. And the South already lends itself to a pool of "villains" I can pick from! I chose Atlanta also because it is one of the fewer metropolitan areas in the South, and wanted to set the story in a biggish city.
Nrama: You mention "the first volume", so does that imply future volumes in the work?
Clark: Yes, the first volume will be coming out towards the end of February this year, and subsequent volumes will hopefully come out annually. I've planned at least seven but have enough ideas to make it more if I want! I knew after King Doug I wanted to do a series and make something that was all me, writing and drawing.
Nrama: You cite manga and anime as big influences here, but are there any American creators that inspire you or have any influence in Megagogo?
Clark: I would definitely say my roots are in manga/anime, but I am definitely influenced by a bunch of different creators from all over the world. I really like Guy Davis, Eleanor Davis, Daniel Torres, Lisa Hanawalt, Brandon Graham, Hellen Jo, Bastien Vives, Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin, Chris Samnee... I could go on and on, there are so many great cartoonists, but the ones that are most inspiring to me are the ones that not only bring their "style" in, but have a "voice" to their work that you can see through their layouts or storytelling choices.
Nrama: You're originally from Atlanta but moved to Portland a few years ago, have you felt any different in how you work or any evolution in your style since then, especially since joining Periscope?
Clark: Life out of the south is definitely different, but I feel like Portland is like home now. Out here there is a bigger comics community that has a lot to offer! And since joining Periscope I feel like I'm constantly trying to better myself. I'm surrounded by dozens of creators all pushing forward with their work and have goals similar to my own. We all want to create comics and love them. It's not really so much of a studio space but more like a family. The studio has also brought more work my way that was harder to get in the South. I'm illustrating a spinoff series of Adventure Time for BOOM! called Flipside which came out last month, which I got through fellow studio mates Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, so I'd definitely say there have been advantages to making the trek out west. I know I'm trying to pull my own weight in the studio and feel like in 2014 I'll hopefully be able to say I'm worthy enough to share the space with these amazing folks.
Nrama: Any last bit of information you want to share about Megagogo and why fans might want to check it out?
Clark: I'd say if you like Power Rangers or giant robots or just action in general it's worth checking out! I know it's not exactly like power rangers, but I want to tell my own version/rendition of what I like. It's almost like my fan fiction of a Power Rangers story!
Megagogo Vol. 1 is in stores now.