Ten years ago, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain decided to put four creepy weirdos together in a house and make a comic about it. Those roommates were Dog, Skull, Fist and Abe Lincoln (of presidential notoriety) and that comic was “Punks.” Looking like a cross between a ransom note and an episode of “The Young Ones,” “Punks” combined a deeply indie approach to comics with a certain sort of polished, hilarious writing from Fialkov that couldn’t be ignored. Now, a full decade later, the pair brings their bizarre story to Image Comics with all-new material and yet the same irreverent spirit that made the original “Punks” unique.
After sharing some classic “Punks” stories free with readers earlier this month, Fialkov and Chamberlain spent some time talking with CBR News about their new take on “Punks: The Comic,” walks on the beach, adopting stray cats and what their fiercely loyal readers can expect from their return to the wild, weird world of their beloved series.
CBR News: Kody and Joshua — you guys have been friends for a long time. What brought you back to “Punks?”
Joshua Hale Fialkov: The comics market is changing. It’s a different world than when we launched the book way back when. People are taking risks. Readers are willing to try weirdo stuff, and, well, there’s nothing weirder than “Punks.”
Kody Chamberlain: Also, it’s pretty clear that Abe’s film career is fading, so he needs the work.
What did you miss most about working together?
Fialkov: The long walks on the beach. The sand in his hair. Which is weird, as we’ve never gone to the beach before.
Y’know, the thing about Kody is he makes everything he does better. He commits himself beyond reason to each project, putting a good six or seven ounces of himself into every page. He bleeds for these books, even when it’s Abe Lincoln punching a dog man in the balls. Having a collaborator like Kody who is truly and utterly a partner is a gift.
Chamberlain: I like working with Josh because he knows how to give a compliment.Â
What is your working dynamic like — the series is so visceral and visually challenging, I’m curious to find out how the work is divided.
Fialkov: I write scripts, Kody reads them, then ignores them, he sends over finished pages, and I rewrite accordingly. It’s actually a really fun organic process because Kody and I are such different people with different cultural backgrounds, so, I’ll put references in to things in my world, and Kody won’t necessarily know them, or, feel like they resonate, so he replaces them with his own bits, which, in turn, I don’t understand, so I replace them — it’s a strange back and forth that leads to the insanity.
Chamberlain: “Punks” has a strange juxtaposition about it that you don’t find in other comics because there’s a strict limitation imposed on the art process. There is no drawing in this book, and Photoshop is only used on the finished coloring. It’s all done with actual photo collage using an old photocopier, X-Acto blades, glue sticks and tape. If Josh wants an alien tripod on a page, I have to figure out a way to build it so I can snap a photo to use on the page. For the alien tripod, I rolled up a T-Shirt and shoved three wires into the hole. Other times, I just use scraps of paper to build a shape, other times I can get an actual photo of it. I do try and stay on script as best I can, but this particular process can sometimes generate unusual results. It’s a crazy fun challenge to try and figure out how to visually build the insanity Josh is writing without straying from the Punks aesthetic we’ve established.
What have you both learned in your time away from the series that you’re excited to bring into the new iteration?
Fialkov: Kung Fu?
Chamberlain: I’ve learned that “Punks” fans are fiercely loyal. They show up at every convention I attend and demand more comics. I’ve never experienced such a thing before. It’s wonderful and terrifying.
Image has some great books that are coming out that have a more indie flavor — yours, “The Humans,” “God Hates Astronauts” — do you see a trend in creators moving back to purely fun, cult classic-style stories?Â
Fialkov: I love funny books. And to be alongside “GHA” and “The Humans” which are just so weird and so spectacularly odd is a complete treat.
Chamberlain: Through the years I’ve had countless creators tell me brilliant/outlandish ideas for comics, but at some point these ideas seem to get shelved in favor of more traditional concepts. Image Comics already covers a very wide spectrum but as more of these outlandish and edgy ideas find success, the odds shift and it gets a little easier to roll the dice on the next one. There’s a thing at Image where creators are all rooting for each other and helping each other out. You can see it with creators chipping in for cover variants, offering cross promotion and 5 or 6 page previews in the backs of their books, etc. Maybe it’s a ‘rising tide raises all ships’ kind of thing but I feel like momentum is finally on our side.
What kind of changes can fans expect? Will it be fancier?
Fialkov: Everyone will wear top hats and monocles. Also, Spawn will guest star in issue #3.
Chamberlain: It’s true. I’m upstream shooting salmon photo reference all week.
In previous issues you had great interviews with other creators — will that continue in the new run?
Fialkov: I think eventually we’ll return to it. It’s actually weirdly the most labor-intensive part of the process for us. We have to steal the comic creators essence and turn them into a 2-D paper cut out, for starters. That shit is hard.
Chamberlain: Brian Reed was probably the easiest since he’s mostly a paper cut out anyway, but some of the others were quite difficult.
What is the scope of the new stuff anyway? Where does the story pick up? You have an excellent variant cover from Rob Guillory — do you plan to have any other guest artists?
Fialkov: Oh no. I forgot to put a story in. [Laughs] The great thing about “Punks” is that you can pick up any issue and read it. There’s no back-story, there’s no future story, there’s just now. It’s very Zen. And only vaguely offensive.
Chamberlain: We do have a few more covers lined up. Personally, I’d love to bring in artists that don’t normally do variants and see their take on these characters. “Punks” is the kind of book that lends itself to that kind of experimentation, but it’s really up to readers on how many more variants we’ll do.
What else are you working on?
Chamberlain: I’m hard at work on a script for a new crime comic. It’s a story idea that was once part of my outline for “Sweets” years ago and it almost became the sequel. However, it’s become bigger and different over time and it’s now a totally separate thing. The first story arc is 12 issues and I’m currently pounding out the 7th issue script.
Do you guys like cats? There’s not a comics-related reason for me asking this, I just like cats and I’m curious.
Fialkov: Strange story, we found a stray cat this morning that looked like it got lost, and we took care of it… fed it, watered it, and all that, so… yes?Â
Chamberlain: Without cats, the Internet would have been a passing fad and this interview may have never even happened.
“Punks: The Comic” #1 arrives in stores October 8.