Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our continuing series where we spotlight some of the coolest comics on the web.
This time out, we’re talking with the creator of a series that’s become a fan-favorite for its sheer insanity since it launched in 2004. The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, written and drawn by Chris Hastings, is comic book madness pumped up to 11, with its raptor-riding healer/killer and his mustachioed 12-year-old sidekick Gordito battling everything from Dracula to Ronald McDonald to the “menace” of King Radical, mafia lord and most radical man in the Radical Land. But Doc keeps his cool, living by a simple code: “What would Batman do?”
Taking the form of a series of “issues” that sometimes sprawl to 90 pages or more, which will be collected by Dark Horse Comics later this year, Dr. McNinja is a straight-up cult hit and favorite among many webcomic fans. We got Chris Hastings on the horn to ask him silly questions about his character. The horrific results are below.
Newsarama: Chris, how do you feel the series has evolved since you've started, beyond color and there being about 500 billion characters now?
Chris Hastings: I still think the earlier McNinja comics have pretty good jokes, so I don't think it's any funnier. But all this practice has certainly made me a better writer and artist, so I think the stories are a lot more satisfying, and less ”Ugh no what is that” to look at.
Nrama: What played the biggest role in deciding the do the series as a straight-up comic, as opposed to strips?
Hastings: I wanted to do a comic with action and plot, and I think having literally more space to draw in makes it easier to play with composition, and have more panels to keep the plot going.
Nrama: What's the biggest thing about storytelling you've learned from working on the series?
Hastings: It's all about balance. Plot, characters, dialogue, action, jokes, pace, mystery, clarity, etc etc, it all has to be balanced! And of course doing a long form comic in a serial form, I have to keep a satisfying arc in mind while also keeping people hooked in the short term.
Nrama: What have you found to be the biggest advantage of going online vs. print, and vice-versa?
Hastings: Well you know I have the comic available online for free, and in books for money. The biggest advantage to the comic being on the net is that waaaaay more people see the comic. And the biggest for it being in print is that I get paid for people reading the comic.
Beyond that, opportunities arise from that large audience. I get freelance work from people who read the comic online. I sell t-shirts, neckties, magnets and other sundry to the folks who read online. And I'm sure I wouldn't be selling the amount of books I do if it weren't for that net audience.
Artistically, I like how the comic turns out in the book better. It's nice to enjoy the entire thing in your lap in one sit down.
Nrama: What's the one thing you haven't had a chance to introduce into the series yet that you'd like to, and why?
Hastings: If there is anything I'd like to introduce to the comic, it just has to get in line and wait for the plot to come around to it. I haven't thought of anything I want to do yet that doesn't fit.
Nrama: Do you see doing the series indefinitely, or do you have an apocalyptic ending in mind? Would it involve Doc's mastering the deadly art of Gymkata?
Hastings: I'm sure there will be a point when my tastes change and I'll want to stop doing Dr. McNinja. Rather than let it crash and burn into mediocrity, I do have a plan for when I want to pull the plug, and every now and again, I plant the seeds of that plot into the comic, so it's ready to go when I am.
And Dr. McNinja already knows Gymkata. He knows a lot.
Nrama: Something I've been asking a lot of people -- how do you feel such evolutions as Comixology and the iPad have changed the potential for webcomics, and what do you feel larger publishers such as Marvel and DC are doing right/doing wrong when it comes to digital comics?
Hastings: No idea! Sorry! All I can say is that I would like to get an iPad to read comics on it, because it looks like a nice experience.
Nrama: For that matter, motion comics have gotten a bit of a mixed review from many. Now, I think you might have the prescription to make them awesome. Describe what your ideal Dr. McNinja motion comic would consist of, complete with voice-casting and soundtrack. You may also cast movie/animated series/etc.
Hastings: Well, production wise, I don't have much to say other than... it would look good. It would be drawn good, and animated good. It would have a good story. (I have no idea how to make a good motion comic. This is why I do not make them.)
DOC: Sam Rockwell or Will Arnett
DAN: Sam Elliot or Hulk Hogan
MITZI: Anjelica Huston
DARK SMOKE PUNCHER: Any decent teen actor.
GORDITO: Any decent pre-teen actor.
MARTIN THE MONSTER: Will Forte
FRANS RAYNER: Jean Claude Van-Damme
DRACULA: Bela Lugosi impersonator
KING RADICAL: Christoph Waltz
Nrama: OK, I know you were mad into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in your misspent youth. Would you ever care to have a similarly massive line of Dr. McNinja figures?
Hastings: Yes. I think at least one Dr. McNinja action figure needs to happen this year. I am getting on top of that business.
Nrama: You crossed over the with Axe Cop boys -- any other comics, web or otherwise, the good Dr. might care to visit?Hastings: Predator.
Nrama: Could you attempt to quantify the radicalness of King Radical for our readers?
Hastings: Every morning when King Radical wakes up, he is in a dressing gown and skateboarding down a mountain at 60 mph at least. That is because radicalness is so ingrained in his body that instead of dreaming, he spends his last sleep cycle sleepwalking to the top of a mountain to skateboard down it.
That's how he wakes up. And like everyone else, he's more active in his waking hours. So you can imagine how the rest of the day goes.
Nrama: What's your experience working with Dark Horse been like?
Hastings: Dark Horse has been really great so far! My editor has been super helpful, and the people who designed the book did a beautiful job.
Nrama: Cage match: Who would win? Battles are: Dr. McNinja vs. Wolverine, Dr. McNinja vs. Batman, Dr. McNinja vs. Deadpool, Dr. McNinja vs. MODOK, Dr. McNinja vs. Krang, the Evil Brain from Dimension X, Dr. McNinja vs. Hulk Hogan and Dr. McNinja vs. Airwolf.
Hastings: The only fights that Dr. McNinja wouldn't win are Hulk Hogan and Batman, because they're the only two nonfictional persons on the list.
Nrama: For those approaching the path of the ninja, do you feel it's better to learn from 8-bit games or 16-bit?
Hastings: If you get mixed up in the ninja scene, eBaying for old video games will be the least of your problems.
Nrama: What are the best meditative techniques for forcing the growth of a moustache?
Hastings: My mustache is pretty weak, honestly. If anyone knows the answer to this question, please let me know, you can call at any hour.
Nrama: OK, non-insane question -- have advancements in technology made the production of the comic easier/less time-consuming since you've first started working on it?
Hastings: Easier, yes. I've been recently inking the comic in Manga Studio, which gives me all the perfect brush lines I'd want without the years of physical training it takes to handle a brush properly. All that stands in my way now with inking are just mental problems.
Ain't no way to make it any faster though. Still gotta draw those panels. Actually, the internet has most assuredly made reference hunting faster. I don't have to go to the library to hunt down photos of a space shuttle and whatnot.
Nrama: I'm not asking most of the people I've interviewed for this series this question, but yours is obviously the work of someone who loves superhero comics. So if you could write any superhero characters, Marvel/DC/otherwise, who would you write? I presume Batman might be somewhere near the top.
Hastings: Yes, I would certainly love to write Batman, or the Justice League. Deadpool's on the list too for sure. Is Robocop a superhero? I'd like to write Robocop.
Nrama: And finally – name as many of your favorite ninja-themed films/TV/anime/etc as you can within a reasonable space. Go!
Hastings: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 3 Ninjas, Surf Ninjas, Choose Your Own Adventure #16: Secret of the Ninja, Real Ultimate Power.
Get your prescription of awesome filled by Dr. McNinja at www.drmcninja.com. And next at Newsarma’s Wide World of Webomics, we get Romantically Apocalyptic with Vitaly Alexius! Be there!