During this season of AMC’s “Comic Book Men,” Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson launched “Cryptozoic Man” with Dynamite Entertainment. Although the actual first issue dropped in October, the series made its debut on “Comic Book Men” in early December, showing the launch of the comic at Baltimore Comic Con. “Cryptozoic Man” details the adventures of a quarter Loch Ness Monster, quarter Jersey Devil, quarter Bigfoot and quarter man Alan Osterman, who encounters everything from gray aliens and cryptids to a man in a pig bondage mask.
Flanagan and Johnson are no strangers to comic creation — Flanagan worked with Kevin Smith on “Batman: Cacophony” and both Flanagan and Johnson have produced two series for IDW — but the response to “Cryptozoic Man” since the “Comic Book Men” episode has hit a fever pitch, with some first issues selling online for nearly ten times the cover price.
CBR News spoke with Flanagan and Johnson about “Cryptozoic Man,” where the miniseries is headed in its second half, creating the character and the audience response to the series.
CBR News: Walter and Bryan, “Cryptozoic Man” has had a huge jump in popularity since its prominent showing on “Comic Book Men” this week. How does it feel to see such a huge surge in exposure for the title?
Walt Flanagan: It’s pretty cool. Really hammers home the power of television and the impact TV exposure can bring.
Bryan Johnson: It’s a great leg-up to have. Obviously we want as many people to check it out as possible and so few small titles will ever get the type of coverage we’ve had. Walt and I do a podcast with our friend Brian Quinn called “Tell ‘Em Steve Dave”, we have a halfway decent Twitter following, but nothing touches the level of exposure like showcasing it on “Comic Book Men.” We’re really thankful for the opportunity. Also, I’d be lying if I were to tell you I didn’t get a kick out of seeing a “Cryptozoic Man’ CGC 9.9 go for $1100.00 on eBay. I just wish I was the seller.
“Cryptozoic Man” is currently halfway through its four-issue run. As 2014 approaches, what’s in store for the title’s back half?
Flanagan: Lots of monsters. Lots.
Johnson: My favorite parts of the series definitely come from issue three and four. Anytime you get to write dialogue for a deboned pig-carcass or visit a planet inhabited by Hostile beings that are fueled by nothing but high-octane hate, I’m all in.
Both of you have had experience crafting comics in the past. How did that experience help in the development of “Cryptozoic Man?”
Flanagan: That really does help. Both Bryan and I kinda have a good idea what each other want to see.
Johnson: The first book that Walt and I did with IDW Publishing was a movie script I had written called “Karney” and it was in the format of a movie script. I basically handed it to Walt and said “We should make this into a comic.” After he informed me that the approach to writing a comic book was more like scripting a series of storyboards, I looked at a few comic book scripts that Kevin [Smith] had and copied the structure so I could format my script correctly. I got a little better with our second series, “War of the Undead,” also published by IDW, and I guess I’ve gotten a little better with “Crypto Man.” I hope so, anyway.
How did you approach the design of Cryptozoic Man?
Johnson: Walt is 100% responsible for his look. The guy is a bottomless well of ideas for designing bizarre looking creatures. Before I write anything we sit around for a fair amount of time kicking around story ideas. Walt has daughters and I have a seven-year-old niece I’m really close with. The basic theme of “Cryptozoic Man” is loss and how I imagine my life would become unhinged if anything were to happen to her. I’m not religious, but there are several different references to religion throughout the book and how it’s used as a last resort to explain random events and the unfairness of life.
Flanagan: I think the biggest influence on the design came from the most unlikeliest place. I had picked up in a dollar store the complete ’80s “Plastic Man” cartoons on DVD and while watching this villain in one of the episodes was a half man/half bigfoot — I thought it was a pretty wild concept and thought to myself there’s something pretty cool and retro here and if half a Bigfoot is cool than a quarter Loch Ness Monster, quarter Jersey Devil/man/Bigfoot would make for even wilder and crazy looking creature. And keeping with the retro vibe I wanted that animal-vegetable-mineral-man kinda look — a look and character design that you could only see coming out of a ’60s or ’70s comic.
What was the process of bringing this character to life on the printed page?
Flanagan: Well, I drew some concept sketches and showed them to Bryan — initially, we were going to do the comic and market it heavily through our podcast, “Tell ‘Em Steve Dave,” that we do with our good friend Brian Quinn of TV’s “Impractical Jokers,” but while filming season 2 of “Comic Book Men,” the producers told us that AMC really wanted to show a real pitch of a comic to a comic book publisher. I had all the concept art ready to go so we decided to use “Comic Book Men” rather than the podcast to help launch it.
There are so many elements in “Cryptozoic Man” that contribute to the off-the-wall plot — cryptids, a pig-bondage-mask-wearing psychopath, grey aliens — and that was just in the first issue. Was there any concept that was so crazy you felt it couldn’t get included in the story?
Johnson: It’s interesting you should ask this. There was one element, a rather large one, that we both really wanted to work into the story but no matter how hard we tried it just came off as forced. I wish I could tell you but it’d definitely be considered a spoiler.
Flanagan: I think there’s a danger of putting too much stuff in — but in this book I wanted more and more weird creatures, aliens and bondage masks!
The recent episode of “Comic Book Men” that focused on the launch saw the two of you head to Baltimore Comic-Con. What did you find most surprising about your experience there launching the book?
Flanagan: I think the genuine smiles of the people at the con when they walked up to the table and saw us sitting there. A lot of people were really happy to meet us. Also how great that Baltimore con is as well — such a nice atmosphere. It’s a wonderful con.
Johnson: That Ming [Chen] got in for free. The organizers should have at least made him work the concession stand for awhile to earn his keep.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far in developing and publishing “Cryptozoic Man?”
I guess finding the time to do it — working on the show and at the store really takes up a lot of the week so committing and devoting all free time to do the comic can be a bit challenging. But it’s so rewarding that it’s not fair to really say it’s a challenge.
Johnson: Keeping the quality of writing in step with the quality of art. Also, we sold a crazy number copies through the Secret Stash and promised to sign them all. No small task.
By the same token, what’s been the most rewarding aspect of the experience?
Flanagan: For me it’s the collaboration. From getting Bryan’s wonderfully weird script to seeing Chris Ivy’s (our inker) killer inks and the brilliant colors from our colorist Wayne Jansen. I love that part of creating comics the most.
Johnson: Working with a friend. It never gets old. I’m not a nine-to-fiver by any stretch of the imagination so when my job is to hit the pizza place for lunch with my friend to discuss monsters and sado-masochistic pig mask-wearing lunatics — it’s hard to find something to complain about.
“Cryptozoic Man” #3 is on sale January 8, 2014. “Comic Book Men” returns February 9 on AMC.