What do you get when you take an Eisner-nominated cartoonist, pair him with his six-year-old brother and give them free reign?
You get Axe Cop, which debuted as a webcomic series, and quickly blossomed into an eye-catching epic that got the Internet talking. The unlikely story of an axe-wielding policeman taking on others even more strange came from the mind of Malachai Nicolle, the six year-old brother of 29 year-old Chumble Spuzz creator Ethan Nicolle. Ethan takes the ideas of his brother and fleshes them out to comic book form.
Garnering the attention of readers and publisher’s alike, Dark Horse ultimately signed up the Nicolle brothers the publisher debuted a special ashcan at Comic-Con International last month to precede both a collection of the webseries in December as well as a new print-only miniseries in the spring.
With the webcomic series is midway through a crossover with another popular webcomic, Dr. McNinja, we talked with Ethan about his comic and working with his young brother...
Newsarama: Ethan, the webcomic Axe Cop was quick to get attention on the Internet. What was your initial reaction after the groundswell of popularity?
Ethan Nicolle: I was really in shock for a while. It was sort of like an insane steed ran through the wall and on instinct I just sort of jumped on its back, though at first I think I was in the saddle backwards.... I slowly got turned around and embraced the insane speed of the thing. It's really been an adventure... romantic in the sense that it involves lots of love along with fear and danger.
Nrama: What does your brother Malachai think of this whole experience? Did he make it out to San Diego?
Nicolle: No, but I am really hoping to have him there next year when the book is out. Though Axe Cop has been pretty successful, it is still, so far, a free online comic, which doesn't really rake in that much money. If Malachai is to be able to come to San Diego, the Cop must provide the funds—it's an expensive trip!
Nrama: Does Malachai read many comics?Nicolle: Almost none. Dark Horse gave me a Little Lulu collection that I brought with me last time I visited and we read all 650 pages of it. He loved it. Since the deal, Dark Horse gave Malachai a box of comics to read, so he may get converted. Right now the only thing on his pull list is Axe Cop.
Nrama: What was it like getting the call from Dark Horse that they wanted to publish this, and to do a new miniseries?
Nicolle: That's not really how it happened. When Axe Cop blew up I got emails from almost every publisher in the business. Luckily I already had a relationship with the Gotham Group and they were able to juggle all the offers and narrow them down. What was great about Dark Horse is that they were my top choice of the bunch, and they seemed to want Axe Cop just as bad as I wanted to be published by Dark Horse. Relative to most comic readers, I don't read many series, but I am huge fan of the Goon and Hellboy and other Dark Horse work. It's an exciting thing to be a part of.
Nrama: Dark Horse is starting this off with a December collection of the webcomic before jumping into an all-new 3-issue miniseries in the spring. What will the new series be about?
Nicolle: Well, right now the basic premise is this: Uni-Man builds a good guy machine, which Axe Cop can stick bad guys into and make them good... but it gets stolen by the evil Psychic brother who turns it into a bad guy machine. Axe Cop and his ever-morphing partner must chase the Psychic brothers through Time and Space using a special portal gun before they achieve their goal of making every good guy in all of history and space a bad guy in their army. We're talking animals, vikings, aliens, baseball players... it's a real mess.
Nrama: At Comic-Con, Dark Horse was handing out a special ashcan edition called “Axe Can”. I missed getting one, so can you tell us about it and any second chances at getting one?
Nicolle: It is basically the first 5 episodes of Axe Cop and some favorite episodes of Ask Axe Cop in print. It's meant to be a collectable thing for fans, and an introduction to Axe Cop for people who had never heard of Axe Cop before. I believe it will be a free hand out at the Dark Horse booth at New York Comic-Con.
Nrama: Will these new print editions have any effect on the Axe Cop webcomic?
Nicolle: When I really start working on the art for the exclusive to print miniseries, yeah the web comic will not get its usual 5 updates a week. It will probably go down to 2 or 3 updates a week. I will probably also take the opportunity to do some stories around other Axe Cop characters on the site while the miniseries is coming out in stores (depending on what the boss wants to do). The web comic will not end, but it will update less. Some people may be disappointed by this, but I am not one of them. I have always been more of a print comics guy and I am excited to work in the freedom of a story without the pressure of every page providing a daily dose of entertainment.
Nrama: This isn’t your first spin at comics – you’ve got an Eisner nomination under your belt. So what was it like to team up with your 6-year brother to do this?
Nicolle: I love it! It can be really hard sometime... I have learned there is a warm up period usually where I have to let him just goof off and make noises and sing Jingle Bells or Happy Birthday on repeat for about 15 minutes before he is ready to write. I have to barter with him sometimes... tell him he can play with my iPod Touch if he will play Axe Cop with me for a while. Once he gets into writing, usually he will go until I am exhausted, but my job is getting him into it. If he had his way he would play video games night and day.
Nrama: It seems Axe Cop has really vaulted your career to a new level – but I have your two earlier volumes of Chumble Spuzz here on my bookshelf. Do you see yourself doing more Chumble Spuzz or other solo work down the road?
Nicolle: So you're one of the 12 people who bought that? I don't see myself doing more Chumble Spuzz, unless by some freak occurrence it got a good following and their became a demand for it. It was really just an outlet for me to get an out-of-the-box insane cartoon humor series out of my system. I would really like to do something like that for TV. As for comics, I have a lot of ideas in different stages, including the book I was working on before Axe Cop took over my life. I will get to it eventually, even if it means giving Malachai a break. I don't really see myself just drawing one character and sticking with one series my whole life, and besides, I don't know that Axe Cop can last much longer than Malachai pre-pubescence. We'll see. But I know I have a lot I want to do and Axe Cop has been an amazing springboard. I want to get at least a few solid Axe Cop books done before I move on, but I am open to just about anything. You can't pick your successes, but if you are lucky enough to have them you have to treat them right.