This March, IDW Publishing enlists writer/artist Derek Charm for a two-issue guest arc on “Powerpuff Girls,” the ongoing series based on Craig McCracken’s cult hit Cartoon Network show. Charm’s story, entitled “Monsters Day,” begins in “Powerpuff Girls” #7 and finds Buttercup, Bubbles and Blossom facing off against a cavalcade of baddies sent to party in Townsville by the King of Monster Isle.
Charm spoke with CBR News recently about his “Powerpuff Girls” stint, revealing which monsters will be showing up for “Monsters Day,” the challenges in adapting an animated show to the page, who his favorite Girl is and more.
CBR News: Derek, what’s your two-issue run on “Powerpuff Girls” about?
Derek Charm: It’s called “Monster Day.” Basically, the new King of Monster Isle (who fans of the show will probably recognize) has decided to throw his subjects the world’s biggest, most destructive party, and of course he’s chosen Townsville to host. Since the regular Townsville villains are all tied up in the comic’s ongoing story, I thought it would be fun to focus on the other group of Powerpuff enemies; the monsters! It’s going to be total mayhem for two issues, lots of familiar monster-faces turning up to party, and it might just prove to be a little more than the Girls can handle.
What inspired “Monster Day?”
Mainly just wanting to do something involving a ton of monsters. Between “Pacific Rim” and “Godzilla,” it might just be in the air right now. Generally in the show we’ve seen the monsters attacking one at a time. I thought it would be fun to see how the Girls handle a city full of monsters just there to trash the place and have a good time, like a monster spring break. It was my editor Sarah Gaydos who suggested linking it in with Steve and Monster Isle, which is when it all sort of clicked into place. The best thing about Monster Isle is that it’s right off the coast of Townsville, no big deal.
Pretty much every monster I came across is going to be turning up to party. The Slime Monster, The Eye Monster, The Fish Balloon. Our main villain is a monster named Steve, this chatty monster from the episode “Super Zeroes” who has since been made king of Monster Isle. He’s this big, scary guy but has a very conversational, rambling speaking style. He also has kind of a hilarious look going on, but that’s all I’ll say about that. There’s going to be a ton of new monsters hanging around as well.
Why did you want to work on “Powerpuff Girls?”
Well, I went to school for animation and I was really into [“Powerpuff Girls” creator] Craig McCracken, [“Samurai Jack” and “Dexter’s Laboratory” creator] Genndy Tartakovsky, and Lynne Naylor. They were my favorite artists, and “Powerpuff Girls” was such a well-done cartoon. I used to fill sketchbook after sketchbook drawing in that Cartoon Network/UPA style. So, when I was asked if I had a pitch for a “Powerpuff Girls” story, it just kind of came to me immediately. I hadn’t drawn in that style since college, but it was all still stored away in there.
Have you spoken with series creator Craig McCracken yet?
No, I wish! Comics move at such break-neck speed, and since this is a fill-in arc, there wasn’t too much prep time. I did speak with Troy Little, the main artist/writer on the book, who is doing such an amazing job. I’m looking at his pages for inspiration constantly.
What are your favorite aspects of the animated show?
I’ve actually been watching it on Netflix a ton lately, just to absorb as much as possible, and I’m realizing that one of my favorite things about it is the pacing. They go on these weird, silent tangents from time to time. There’s one episode I watched recently where the Girls are brushing Blossom’s hair, and there’s all these glamorous shots of the brush going through the hair, the sun hitting it, and her shaking it back and forth, and it goes on like this — silently! — for about 5 minutes! It’s hilarious and amazing. It’s such an artist’s show. I’m definitely trying to work some of that into the comic. Also, I love the Talking Dog more than anything, so he’ll be popping up for sure.
So which of the three Girls is your favorite?
Probably Buttercup. She’s my favorite to draw and write for. Bubbles always has to be kind of cute, and Blossom has to stay level-headed and leader-like, but you can kind of go more extreme in either direction with Buttercup, which is fun.
What are some of the challenges in adapting an animated show to the comic page?
Mainly making sure everyone has the right “voice,” the right look. And then condensing a full story down to 20 pages, while still keeping the jokes and little moments that make it Powerpuff Girls. It’s actually been a really fun challenge.
Did you have to change your personal drawing style to fit with the show’s style?
Yeah, we’re keeping it pretty close to the show’s style on this one. However, one of my biggest revelations while doing research was the first issue of the original Powerpuff Girls comic, drawn by Craig McCracken and Genndy Tartakovsky (which is included in the new IDW collection) where they are able to inject a ton of that Kirby/Ayers-early-Marvel style, and still stay true to the established look of the show. It looks really cool, so I’m trying to work in some more traditional “comic book” flourishes as well.
Do you consider yourself a writer or artist first? Would you rather write for someone else or draw someone else’s script?
Well, they kind of go hand-in-hand as far as I’m concerned. With the exception of “Trip Fantastic,” I’ve always written and drawn my work. I have nothing against collaboration, and it can be rewarding in a lot of ways, but it just feels so linked to me, it would be hard to consider myself just one or the other.
What is going on with “Trip Fantastic” at the moment?
For those that don’t know, “Trip Fantastic” is a comic written by Jason Baxter and Mac Hamilton, and drawn by myself, about a terrible celebrity daredevil that we’ve been doing for about three years now. We just debuted the print edition of the third issue at NYCC a few months back, a limited run of the first three issues are still available to buy online, and should be turning up on comiXology any day now. We’ve decided to put the fourth and final issue out all at once, rather than staggering episodically as we have with previous issues, so it’s going to be quiet for a minute, but things are still happening. We’re trying to stick to our 50-page issue-a-year standard.
Any other projects coming up?
Well, I’m still knee deep in “Powerpuff Girls” for the next few months, after that there’s “Trip,” a few more covers here and there, and then who knows. It’s been super fun playing in the “Powerpuff Girls” world, and so great working with my amazing editor Sarah Gaydos.
Now I just have to pitch that “Talking Dog” 12-issue maxi-series.
“Powerpuff Girls” #7 by Derek Charm ships this March from IDW Publishing.