Grant Bond has made a name for himself in animation-influenced projects, most recently with the Archibald series of Image Comics one-shots that have featured the eponymous aardvark. Now, with "Archibald Chases the Dragon," Bond joins with Dara Naraghi to continue the series.
Naraghi is the founder of Ferret Press and a co-founder of PANEL, a comics writers and artists collective that has published several anthologies. He is also the writer of the upcoming "Terminator: Salvation" comic from IDW Publishing.
Bond and Naraghi spoke with CBR News about Archibald's past, present and future.
"Archibald Chases the Dragon" is at its core a murder-mystery story with a distinctly noir feel. "The main character just happens to be an aardvark who looks like he could have stepped out of the Fleischer Studios of yesteryear," Dara Naraghi told CBR. "In the previous 'Archibald' one-shots, we learned that his brother Andre was murdered and poor ol' Archibald spent five years in a mental asylum, thinking he had done the evil deed. But all is not as it seems when the devil and his movie studio are in cahoots. So when he gets a lead about the true killer of his brother, he heads down to Little China to find the mysterious 'Compassionate Wind of Death.'"
"Archibald is a forgotten cartoon icon of early animation," said Grant Bond, describing the character he created. "Threaded throughout these one-shots, he's been looking for the truth about the murder of his brother, all the while trying to keep his nose clean."
"He's a fun character to write," Naraghi added. "He's at times zany, tragic, oblivious, curious, weak, feisty, and drunk. But mostly drunk. He used to be a huge movie star in Tinsel Town, especially when his brother was alive and they performed as the Aardvark Brothers, but both the town's and his star have faded lately, and in between boozing and womanizing he tries to make sense of the death and mayhem that seems to follow him everywhere. But what he really wants to is to solve the murder of his brother, or find out once and for all if it was him who did the deed."
Bond originally created the character of Archibald the Aardvark thirty years ago, as he was virtually raised by cartoons as a child. "I watched any and all cartoons I could, but was always drawn to the old-timey stuff," he explained. "The world Archibald now lives in is very much a product of my adult life.
"Dara's writing has really breathed life into it and this current one-shot," he added. "I originally had the basic concept for this story in mind. Dara really ran with it and took it in a direction I hadn't thought of. Seeing what he was able to write and getting to do the art has been the most fun experience I've had on creator-owned project to date."
"Archibald is definitely Grant's baby," Naraghi said of his contribution to the ongoing Archibald saga. "I'm just babysitting while papa is out drinkin' and cavortin'. Unfortunately, I sat Archibald in front of the TV and went out myself, so he hasn't had the best moral upbringing.
"But seriously, the impetus for this issue came from all these ideas Grant had about the tone and direction of the book, Archibald's back story, and the possible answers to the question 'Is he really schizophrenic?' But they were all swimming around in his head like a stew, and I came in to add some spice and serve it in a pretty little bowl. I loved the noir setting, and ran with it, trying to create a morally ambiguous world for Grant's characters to interact in. My other contributions come in the form of a couple of new characters, including Vermont the cat and the Compassionate Wind of Death."
While the character and his one-shots are based on old-time cartoons for children, the dark world Archibald inhabits means the target audience for "Archibald Chases The Dragon" is considerably older. Said Bond, "Basically, anyone with an appreciation of animation, noir and adult humor will enjoy this world we've created. It definitely isn't for the kids. If you're one of those readers that look for something different, Archibald's for you. We also have a slew of extremely talented creators lending their abilities on cool extras in the books. A lot of one-page gags, a pin-up from Chris Grine and even an awesome paper toy cutout from Matt Hawkins in this latest issue. "
"Yeah, this is definitely not a book for the kiddies," Naraghi agreed. "It's for mature audiences, especially those who appreciate great artwork, a unique and skewed storytelling perspective, and a book unlike any on the stands right now. I know that's a bold claim, but I'm serious. Take a look at the Archibald preview pages, then go down to your local comic shop and see if you can spot another book like this one. Also, if you're a fan of opium dens from the olden days, you'll dig this book. I'm just saying."
Bond and Naraghi joined forces for "Archibald Chases The Dragon" after the pair was teamed on IDW's comic book prequel to the animated film "Igor." "During that time, Dara explained to me how much he enjoyed the Archibald comics, and asked me if he could give it a shot," Bond recalled. "I thought about it for about two seconds and said, 'Yes!' Dwight MacPherson, who wrote the first one-shot, decided to pursue other projects so I was left looking for another great writer. Dara fit the bill perfectly."
"Grant's one of those rare artists who like to keep in touch during the entire creative process, sharing his character designs, thumbnails, pencils, and final pages," Naraghi said. "Sometimes as a writer you operate in a complete vacuum when you turn in your script; if you're lucky you'll see a few finished pages before the book hits the stands. But we had great back-and-forth communication, which was not only creatively fulfilling, but also led to a much stronger book. So I definitely wanted to work with him again, and since he was open to collaborate on his own book, it was an easy choice."
"Basically, I'm exploring animation," said Bond of his artist approach to the project. "My original plan was to make it look exactly like the old cartoons it celebrates. The early concept art, however, made it clear that it would be a tough sell. I decided to take the world in a more 'realistic' direction but still keep some of the characteristics that early animation had. The noir feel seemed to work perfectly once I opened up the direction on the art."
The Archibald saga will continue after "Archibald Chases The Dragon" and it will do so in new territory. "We're doing a collected trade for next summer that will have a climatic resolution to the mysterious death of Archibald's brother," Bond said. "Dara has already come up with a great name for the trade, but the next story inside remains to be titled. We've talked about a plethora of other fun ideas for Archibald's possible future. The storytelling opportunities are extremely broad with this nutty world."
Naraghi said the next story "will have the same mood and feel of 'Archibald Chases the Dragon,' will feature Vermont the Cat, and will also add one or more of the following to the mix: the Fourth of July, a voodoo priest, giant robots, gangsters, the devil, cheap liquor, easy women, cheap women, easy liquor, and a cock. A rooster, that is."
"Archibald Chases the Dragon" is one sale now from Image Comics.