The official press release for the Ande Parks-created and Oni Press-published Uncle Slam Fights Back, due in stores “just in time for the 2008 convention season,” reads: “Forget John. Don't even think about Barrack. And push Hillary out of your brain. Bill too, while you're at it... Because there's a new champion for the American people and his name is Uncle Slam! Part soldier, part machine, and all patriot–Uncle Slam is coming to the rescue in this funny and biting one-shot that isn't going to take anything else sitting down. It's about time that Uncle Slam Fights Back!”
We cornered Parks and interrogated him about “an out-of-touch patriotic superhero”’s election promises, only to find out that his vision includes a fight with “a giant robotic version of the evils facing our nation... terror, immigration, and gay marriage, on the stage of the Republican Convention.” And he’s doing all these and more with his “robo-dalmation”?
Newsarama: Uncle Slam and his canine sidekick, Fire Dog, first appeared in three issue of Mike Manley's Action Planet Comics anthology book and in two issues of his own book, right?
Ande Parks: Exactly. I am impressed… look at Mister Research! I created the characters for Mike’s Action Planet line. It was the first comics stuff I ever wrote. As you mentioned, after the anthology stories, Mike was kind enough to publish Slam’s solo book. We only got two issues out, but I’m really proud of them. I also self-published a trade of all the Slam material a few years back, with a new cover and some extra pinups and such.
NRAMA: And it started off as a spoof of Captain America because you were a huge fan of the Marvel Comics icon. How is Uncle Slam still relevant as a character today? After all, Steve Roger's dead, although Bucky's now the new Cap...
AP: What better time to bring Slam back than now? Steve Roger’s death illustrates how we may need an idealist like Uncle Slam on the scene. Of course, Uncle Slam is a bit out of it, and just as interested in finding the perfect corndog as he is fighting bad guys, but still… the ideals are there somewhere!
NRAMA: The characters were introduced around the time of the early Image Comics days and the start of the industry boom. In your opinion, why didn't Uncle Sam and Fire Dog as a creator-owned concept catch on back in those days?
AP: Crap… who knows. Really, we missed that golden window by a year or two. And, this was never the kind of book that was lighting up the sales charts back then. We had no shiny chicks kicking ass, no machine guns, Slam doesn’t even have any pouches on his suit… I mean, c’mon!
In the end, maybe it wasn’t good enough. I’ve thought that a lot during my career. If only I’d worked a little harder, been a little more talented, or been judged a little more fairly… who knows?
NRAMA: Even though you've hinted over the years that you've more plans for Uncle Slam and his sidekick and the characters have even appeared as a webcomic on Komikwerks.com, why is now the right time to bring back the characters, this time through Oni?
AP: Well, this was a story I really wanted to tell right now. I won’t tiptoe around my own political leanings. I am a big flaming liberal Democrat, and the last eight years have made me really feel out of touch with where my own country, which I love, is headed. After the last presidential election, I felt so out of step and lost. So, as the next election approaches, I really think it’s a great time to step up and say something about what I think our country’s real strengths are. The theme of the book is that there really is a nobility and idealism at the core of the American spirit. We’ve just lost it a little. We’ve become too frightened and confused to stand up for what we really know is right. Slam is going through the same thing in Uncle Slam Fights Back.
NRAMA: Is the Uncle Slam Fights Back one-shot going to include the webcomics, which were drawn by Andy Kuhn, as well?
AP: No… this is all new stuff. The script is brand new, and it’s all drawn by the wonderful T.J. Kirsch.
NRAMA: Phil Hester provided the breakdowns for the early Uncle Slam stories. How did you end up collaborating with T.J. Kirsch on Uncle Slam Fights Back?
AP: The guys at Oni Press found him, God bless ‘em. And, thank God they did. I’m becoming really jaded about finding great artists for my books there. So far, we have managed to hit it out of the park each time. Someday, we’re not gonna have it so good, and I’m gonna be scratching my bald head, saying, “Hey… what gives? Where’s the genius?!”
NRAMA: In a nutshell, what can readers expect from you and Kirsch when Uncle Slam Fights Back hits stores this August?
AP: Like I said, you can expect a lot of me spewing forth my liberal agenda. It’s gonna be like Countdown With Keith Olbermann, but with funny pictures instead of slick graphics. It’s also gonna be fun. I have no desire to sound like the latter-day Lenny Bruce. This is a funny comic book, and it will be funny. The satire may be ham-fisted and slathered on pretty thick, but it’s still satire.
NRAMA: Do you have more plans for the duo?
AP: One thing at a time. I’d love to do more with them. I’d also like to executive produce a cartoon and feature film starring Uncle Slam and Fire Dog. You know someone who could make that happen, by any chance?
NRAMA: Finally Ande, what other projects are you working on?
AP: Whew… I’m behind on a lot of writing projects right now. For Oni Press, I have Slam, Blood Red (and original graphic novel set on Mars), and another OGN about a kidnapping in South America. I’m also developing some stuff elsewhere, and I still ink quite a bit. Jesus… I barely have time left to drink and play golf!