What if your favorite fictional comic book character from your childhood came back? I’m not talking a reboot… I’m talking in real life. That’s the premise of the upcoming miniseries Oh, Killstrike. And if you haven’t guessed, he’s extreme.
Written as both a homage and critique of 1990s comics, Oh, Killstrike sees a grown man revisiting his “extreme” comics and is grabbed, literally, by one as they emerge fully formed from the pages. Oh, Killstrike comes from musician Max Bemis of Say Anything, along with artist Logan Faerber. Oh, Killstrike follows a string of comics Bemis has done with BOOM! Studios, but this one sees the rock frontman looking for something more light-hearted than Polarity or Evil Empire.
Newsarama talked with both Bemis and Farber about the four-issue series debuting May 20, looking both into the fictional hero of the 1990s Killstrike as well as their own roots in the nostalgic and nuanced era.
Newsarama: So, tell us about Oh, Killstrike.
Max Bemis: After Evil Empire I wanted to do something more lighthearted. And this idea popped in my head of the crappy comics I had drawn as a child when I was fixated on 1990s comic that I later unearthed and was embarrassed by. I began thinking about how I could expand on that, and it became Oh, Killstrike.
Nrama: Logan, I’ve read the “official” publisher description of this book, but you’re living with it, drawing it a page at a time. What’s this book for you?
Logan Faerber: While it’s a ton of work and many late nights, it’s been a blast to see where these characters are going. As you draw them more and more, reading aloud their dialogue, getting into the character a bit, the better you come to understand them and they start to take on a life of their own. Because of this, if I ever feel like getting lazy about a panel or a little detail I have to catch myself - they don’t deserve me to neglect them. I feel like it’s my part to bring these characters and story to life, and on that level it’s a journey in itself.
Nrama: The main character in this is Jared, a new father. How much of Jared is you, Max? What is he like?
Bemis: Actually, we’re pretty different. I think generally though I am pretty guilty of what you’re describing. Tim from Polarity and a few cast members from Evil Empire are verions of myself.
Jared from Oh, Killstrike however is pretty far away from who I am. He’s super judgmental, and in a real departure he’s a geek while I’m not generally.
Nrama: And what about his fictional character that comes to life, Killstrike?
Bemis: He’s a perfectionist, but also a moron. He’s got a lot of weird, unresolved Oedipus issues, he’s fixated on firearms, and doesn’t understand sex. There’s a lot of things that have nothing to do with me.
Once people meet Killstrike, they’ll learn no one else is quite like him. His lack of shame and loyalty are pretty thin.
Nrama: Did Killstrike come to you pretty fully-formed, or did he develop over time?
Bemis: He’s pretty much the same as he was originally, but I’ve worked out some of the quirks in regards to how he speaks.
Nrama: Logan, did the comic art styles prevalent in the 1990s affect how you drew this series?
Faerber: This was an early discussion as well. Ultimately I thought it would make more sense to have an “indie” sensibility since the true story is about becoming a father and growing as a person rather than intense action. I would love to see an alternate take on the characters though, which is something we can certainly see in pin-ups, fan art, or variant covers.
Nrama: Who’s your Killstrike, in your own fandom?
Bemis: [Laughs] They were all pretty equal in my eyes. My top 5 would be Spawn, Ripclaw from Cyberforce, Cable, and Spartan from Wildcats. Shaft from Youngblood would be up there too… there were countless Killstrikes for me.
Faerber: Killstrike for me is a weird mixture of the team Youngblood and Cable. If you could bottle all of that into a cologne like bottle, that would be Killstrike.
Nrama: How did you two connect to do this project?
Faerber: I first met Max when I had done a Say Anything piece for a gallery show that was happening a few years ago. He had bought my piece after the show had ended and we got to talking online. Months later he contacted me about the potential for doing a story with him and whether or not I would be interested, which I obviously was. He’s been a really fantastic creative partner and friend ever since.
Bemis: I fell in love with that piece he did for the gallery show, so I emailed him and we started a relationship. Just as a fiend at first, and I didn’t even realize he did comics. When he brought that up, I knew doing a comic with him was something I wanted to do eventually.
Nrama: How much direction did you have in the design of Killstrike, and what inspired you in designing him?
Faerber: When Max and I first discussed the concept of Killstrike it was by phone. We basically chatted about our mutual love of the medium and it’s creators, and while talking the various characteristics started to shine through, so we developed a list of traits that we felt really captured that era of comic book characters. The tattoos, the metal limbs, the no pupil eyes, the massive guns and extra muscles, and so on. Once we had an a good idea of what makes the 90s the 90s I did a few sketches and shared them by email. After several rounds of adjustment we landed on this design that really matched each of our imaginary personas.
Nrama: Logan, what about this project made it something you wanted to do?
Faerber: I’ve always been a huge comic book fan and having grown up primarily in the 90s I was completely surrounded by the Rob Liefeld craze and the birth of Image. Because of this I of course have a huge sense of nostalgia for the overly muscular, steroid-like characters of the era, much like the love I share for Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger films - they aren’t necessarily works of art, but gosh darn it they’re a ton of fun. When the concept for Killstrike as a character came my way, I knew I wanted to fully embrace the opportunity to create a caricature of those beings I have such a fondness for. It gave me the chance to contribute even a little bit to the love letter we wanted to share to the world about the 90s era in comics.
Nrama: This is an homage of sort to 1990s comics, but chief among the influences I see, correctly or incorrectly, Rob Liefeld. Am I wrong? Who is this influenced by, and have you thought about asking them to take part in this?
Bemis: There’s actually a character that is an analogue of Rob, but I don’t want to give away too much. I’m not ashamed to say that Liefeld is a quintessential influence for me. I love the guy and his “over the top” characters. There’s a lot to admire in what he’s done, and what he continues to do. He’s not pretentious at all.
Nrama: Ever thought about asking Rob or another artist from the 1990s to contribute a cover or something?
Bemis: [Laughs] I want to leave that up to BOOM!