Who doesn't love talking animals? They're a cornerstone of comics culture (see Garfield), and while superheroes reign supreme in the world of monthly comic books – two unlikely animals have a way in. An unlikely pair of a cow and buffalo are the subject of the comic strip aptly titled Cow & Buffalo, they occasionally don the guises of Captain Cow and Bison Bo. Superheroes + talking animals = win, right?
While the title of the series is Cow & Buffalo, they're but two characters in this ensemble cast comic that is both in print and online. This weekly humor webcomic is published online every Sunday by cartoonist Mike Maihack. The series has also spawned two print collections with the second one, Stuperheroes just released. The duo don't settle into just one thing, having done superheroes, time travel and even sandwich making. Yes, sandwich making.
For more on this, we talked with the cartoonist from his Florida home.
Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us today, Mike. So – the second Cow & Buffalo book is out; that must mean the first did well. How's the strip going?
Mike Maihack: It’s going well! Actually last year, after another long pretty absurd arc—one that didn’t even feature either Cow or Buffalo for half of it—I started to feel that I had done everything I wanted to do with the characters. So I asked my good friend Matty Yokom to take the comic over for a couple months while I left for Europe and began thinking about all of the other projects I wanted to get to (or finish). But then Matt decided to just leave his guest arc on this completely evil cliffhanger ending and I was like, “Well great. I can’t leave things at that” so I was forced back in. And once I was, I realized how much I loved working on the strip. I don’t know if it’s just its simplicity or a portal I use to reflect the ridiculousness that life throws at me, but it really is the most fun I have working on comics.
I’m retooling things a bit this year. I’ve introduced a pretty eclectic new cast of supporting characters over the years, and I have more in my head. I’ve actually somehow become a recurring character myself in the strip through my constant abuse of the now probably overused fourth wall. There’s a good chance we’ll see more of that and there might be weeks that Cow and Buffalo don’t even show up at all to give the new characters a chance to grow. Plus I’m trying my hardest to resist another year-long story arc and keeping each week’s strip self-contained. We’ll see how long that lasts.
NRAMA: So this second book is entitled "Stuperheroes" – how would you describe these stories in comparison to the first volume?
MM: Well, both books are the result of those year-long story-arcs I just mentioned. With Stuperheroes, the arc lasted even longer than that. That’s actually one of the running gags in the story about it being never-ending. But at least in this case I think the title of the book pretty accurately describes its content. The first book was called Adventures in Sandwich Making, which had absolutely nothing to do with sandwich making and found Cow and Buffalo traveling through time instead. I’m sure they wanted to make sandwiches but traveling through the time stream unfortunately kinda prevented them from that. In Stuperheroes, they get to put on tights and underwear and try to save the universe—even though they aren’t the Superheroes you’d want responsible for saving the universe. Originally, it was just supposed to be a take on Jack and the Beanstalk.
It’s a larger cast in this new book too. Cabbie, the hippopotamus from the future who came about in Sandwich Making, plays just as big a part in Stuperheroes as Cow and Buffalo- if not more so. And then there’s Cow’s pet brontosaurus and an evil nameless pig. What’s great about both books is that neither volume is simply a collection of strips, like you expect most webcomic collections to be like. It really is one entire story with a beginning, middle and end. I wouldn’t have published it otherwise. It’s put together with single strips, that are hopefully enjoyable enough on their own, but when combined they create something more powerful than can ever be contained! Well, unless that containment is just heavier stock paper with a matte finish.
Good grief. My answers to these questions are just about as long as my story-arcs. I’ll see if can’t do better for the next one.
NRAMA: No worries, Mike. Let's keep going. In addition to collecting the series from August 2006 to December 2007, you also did a new six-page backup story. What's that about?
MM: At one point in Stuperheroes, Cabbie is finally able to create his own superhero identity. I didn’t really get to explore how he went about that at the time so this is that story. It also contains an actual theory I found online about the end of the world in 2012.
Wow. That was much better!
NRAMA: But are there any other additions to this book?
MM: You bet! The thing is, I’m semi-addicted to special and ultimate and special-ultimate edition DVDs. Even though I never have the time to watch any of them, it gives me peace to know I have every ounce of bonus material and commentary that can possible be attached to a film. I tell people I’m just saving up for retirement (assuming DVDs are still around when I retire).
Where was I? Oh- the point is that I like to put as much extra material in my own offerings. An important part of the storyline, when it was presented on the web, was that Cow transported himself directly out of my comic and into a ton of other comics around the internets. I called the event Journey Cow because Quantum Cow seemed too derivative. Most of those creators were gracious enough to let me reprint their comics which is really, really cool. What people will probably respond to the most though is the recipe for The World’s Greatest Sandwich I remembered to include this time around. The title of that might be a little subjective considering it’s my recipe, but it’s true. There’s also some extra guest strips and pinups. For the most part I guess I just suckered my friends into drawing me new content I could use. Thanks guys!
NRAMA: In addition to Cow & Buffalo, you're also working on a Christian anthology called Parable. The first one is finished and you're already working on a second -- how's that coming?
MM: It’s plugging along. I’m not sure how many people will identify with this, but organizing an anthology is a lot of work! But the level of talent that’s lined up is absolutely amazing and I learned a lot from working on the first volume that between those two things this time around has been a whole lot easier. I can honestly say that the story I’m working on, a retelling of the story of Rahab, is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s a serious story, which is a first for me. For one, there are no talking animals. I’m really proud of it. But it’s not just me. The work the other contributors are churning out is stunning. Everyone that was involved in the first volume has started taking some new form of creative drug I must not know about and the new guys are bringing a whole other level of excitement to the project. I think it’s really going to surprise a lot of people who have a certain perception of what Christian comics can be. Or not be I suppose.
NRAMA: You're working on the second volume, but the first one hasn't even been printed yet. What's going on?
MM: Unfortunately, the current economic situation has caused a delay in the printing. And since it’s looking more and more likely that the delay is going to be a permanent thing, we’ve slowly started to show the book to other publishers again. It’s a real shame since a lot of the stories in Parable are over two years old now and are some of those creators best work. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before the rest of the world has the opportunity to enjoy these stories as much as I have.
NRAMA: I'm sure we've got some publishers reading out there. What else are you working on, Mike?
MM: I really hope I can find the time to get back to another all-ages comic I created last year called Cleopatra in Spaaace!! It’s a fun action, sci-fi romp much in the vain of the old Buck Rodgers serials but if you combined those with something like the smarter CW type shows like Buffy or Veronica Mars and then some ancient Egyptian mythology thrown in for good measure. I originally outlined it as a simple twenty or so page mini, but I was having so much fun with the character that one night I mapped out this huge 150 page arc. Unlike some of my other “just for fun” projects, I hope to finish this one. At least that first twenty or so page mini.
NRAMA: And lastly, what do you do when you're not doing comics, Mike?
MM: I’m on the internet, reading Newsarama!
MM: Okay, that’s a lie. I’m really sitting in front of the TV watching Lost and eating ice cream.
NRAMA: That's it, Mike. It's over!