When Dynamite Entertainment announced that Grumpy Cat — the real-life feline with a permanently dour expression that has attracted a massive social media — was going to star in her own three-issue comic book series, it wasn’t necessarily surprising news, given that the increasingly ubiquitous Grumpy Cat has already starred in a live-action Lifetime movie. But it did raise some questions: Mainly, how do you turn what people enjoy about Grumpy Cat — pictures of a cat looking unhappy — into a narrative story for one issue, let alone three?
The creators tasked with that challenge include writers Ben McCool, Ben Fisher, Royal McGraw and Elliott R. Serrano; and artists Steve Uy and Ken Haeser. The series looks to focus on both Grumpy Cat and her notably less grumpy brother, Pokey, on what McCool dubs “laugh-loaded shenanigans.”
CBR News spoke with McCool — known for considerably more intense comic book work like “Choker” and “Pigs” — about writing a “Grumpy Cat” comic, how his own status as a “kooky cat lady who just happens to be a bloke from England” helped inform the writing process, and the tale of the time he attended Grumpy Cat’s birthday party. Plus, check out exclusive interior pages from “Grumpy Cat” #1, written by McCool and illustrated by Uy.
CBR News: Ben, the first question is probably an obvious one, but it feels worth asking. Writing “Grumpy Cat” comics — making narrative stories out of a feline Internet celebrity — how do you approach it to make it, y’know, not terrible or a second-rate Garfield? What kind of creative challenge is this?
Ben McCool: Hah! It must be said, writing “Grumpy Cat” has turned out to be an abundance of fun. More than I could’ve possibly imagined! Re: my approach to writing these stories, I’m applying my typical creative procedure — digging deep in to the property and excavating the most fun, interesting and original elements it has to offer.
Granted, Grumpy Cat is a little different to most characters I’ve worked on — for starters, the miserable moggy was made famous by Internet memes declaring utmost disdain towards, well, everything. That in itself offers opportunity for giggles, but where the real potential for laugh-loaded shenanigans emerge are a) Grumpy’s cantankerous interactions with the co-cast, b) her attitude and reactions to the wide array of madcap misadventures thrust upon her, and c) a devout dedication to fun! Essentially, that’s what the book’s all about. The creative team wants readers young and old to enjoy the tomfoolery Grumpy and co. will face, and we’re giving it our all to ensure that’s exactly what happens!
I don’t want to give away too much about the actual stories (as ever, I’m a dreadful tease), but each installment of Grumpy’s escapades — joined by Pokey, her eternally optimistic brother — offers a unique dose of conflict and calamity.
There are a lot of creators contributing to the “Grumpy Cat” comic — how much are you writing in the series?
I’m writing a 12-page story in each of the three issues, along with some newspaper strip-style shorts. As mentioned earlier, writing “Grumpy Cat” offers absurd amounts of enjoyment from a creative standpoint; with a bit of luck there’ll be opportunity to write more stories in Grumpy’s newly crafted comic universe!
Let’s talk your cat cred — I’ve seen your Instagram, I know you’re a cat lover. How much does that help inform your perspective on this series?
Being a kooky cat lady (who just happens to be a bloke from England) is definitely a bonus when it comes to concocting Grumpy’s stories — I spend a rather unhealthy amount of time “cat watching” (my two kitties are a constant source of amusement), which inspires all manner of kooky cat-related ideas.
“What if the cats figured out what my cell phone actually is and used it to crank call my pals?”
“What’d happen if the cats taught themselves to use the Internet? What would they do on there…?”
Oddball thoughts like these help inspire fun-filled stories that work perfectly for a book featuring Grumpy Cat!
Also: You went to Grumpy Cat’s birthday party last year. What was that like? How did the in-person Grumpy Cat experience affect your writing here?
Yep, that’s right — I attended Grumpy’s birthday party last year. Let’s just say it was way more lavish than mine was! There were loads of cool people around, refreshments galore, and of course, the gloomy little girl herself! Meeting Grumpy was super cool, although I doubt I made any kind of lasting impression… Dare I say, she’s probably forgotten me already. (Epic sad face is go!)
Thinking back to that rather unusual (but hugely enjoyable) night definitely provided me with insight for the comic book stories. After all, I got to meet Grumpy Cat — how could I not walk away filled with inspiration…? (Heh)
Obviously, cats have been popular on the Internet for quite a while, but the following Grumpy Cat has gotten and mainstream media attention is unprecedented. Guessing you’ve thought a lot about the subject lately — what do you think has contributed to Grumpy Cat’s ongoing popularity these last couple years?
I think Grumpy has found the perfect balance between cuteness and cynicism. Sure, she’ll insult you, but you still want to cuddle her afterwards!
Social media roots ensured that her initial rise to fame, intended or not, was in large part down to crowdsourcing. To see Grumpy’s continued (and widespread) popularity is a testament to her adorable/bitter combo resonating with us all!
It’s been a little while since we’ve seen new work from Ben McCool in comic shops, since “Lookouts” a couple years back. What have you been working on? Anything else coming up fans should know about?
I’ve spent the past couple of years pursuing creative endeavors outside of comic books; video games, TV, and plenty more beside. I’m still involved in that stuff, and having a blast doing so.
However, it amounts to this: I missed comics. Missed ’em so bad! I’m a lifelong comic book fan, and there’s no creative medium that offers so much potential and flexibility when it comes to crafting unique, exhilarating new stories. As a result? I’m back and busy writing a ton of new comics. I couldn’t be happier about it!
Recent comic book work of mine includes “Strange Sports Stories” (published by DC/Vertigo, my story illustrated by the wonderful Darick Robertson) and “Prince Valiant” (also published by Dynamite, co-written with my good pal Nate Cosby). I’ve lots of new stuff in the works, too — plenty more news and announcements coming real soon!
“Grumpy Cat” #1 is scheduled for release on Oct. 7 from Dynamite Entertainment.