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"Comedy Bang! Bang!" Host Opens Up Marvel's "Secret Wars Journal"

Scott Aukerman is gradually expanding his presence as a comic book writer. The host of the "Comedy Bang! Bang!" TV show made his debut in the medium earlier this year with a five-page story in Marvel's "Deadpool" #250, and this week, he wrote a 10-page story in "Secret Wars Journal" #3, illustrated by R.B. Silva. What's next?

"I'm just going to keep doubling it up," Aukerman told CBR News. "At a certain point, I'm going to do a 20-page story, and then a 40, and then an 80-page giant. 160, 320, 640, 1280."

Anyone who's listened to Aukerman's podcasts on his Earwolf network for an extended period of time can tell he's a comic book fan, whether its an incredulous exclamation of "DC's the Swamp Thing?" during a particularly graphic annual Halloween song, or opining about the absurdity of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" during "U Talkin' U2 To Me?" -- the "comprehensive and encyclopedic" U2 podcast he hosts with Adam Scott. He's clearly enjoying his forays into writing comic books -- a leapsimilar to ones previously made by comedy contemporaries Brian Posehn, Paul Scheer and Patton Oswalt -- even if his schedule doesn't currently allow more than the occasional short story.

CBR News spoke with Aukerman about his "Secret Wars Journal" tale, which stars super-strong psychiatrist Doc Samson and takes place in the "Greenland" section of Battleworld -- a section populated by gamma-irradiated, Hulked-up versions of familiar Marvel characters. Aukerman also shared insight on upcoming new episodes of the "Comedy Bang! Bang!" TV show on IFC, which will see hip-hop star Kid Cudi taking on the bandleader role from Reggie Watts.

CBR News: Scott, this is your second Marvel credit, as you were also one of many comedy names involved in "Deadpool" #250. You're a longtime comics fan and a veteran writer, but how did you get into writing comics specifically?

Scott Aukerman: I've known Brian Posehn, obviously, for a long time. We shared an office at "Mr. Show," and we would make regular trips to the comic store during lunch. I got in trouble once with Bob Odenkirk for leaving in the middle of the day to go to the comic store. Gerry Duggan, I've known him for slightly less time, he's a good friend of mine. When they were coming up with "Deadpool" #250, they went out to a lot of comedian friends that they knew read comics, and asked them if they would do short five-page stories set in the Deadpool universe. That's how I got started -- I wrote that one pretty quickly, and the editor really liked it, and didn't have a ton of notes on it. I guess I did pretty well, because shortly after that, Jake Thomas at Marvel got a hold of me, and wondered if I could do a 10-page story for "Secret Wars [Journal]."

You went from a five-page story to a 10-page story -- you doubled your output!

I'm just going to keep doubling it up. At a certain point, I'm going to do a 20-page story, and then a 40, and then an 80-page giant. 160, 320, 640, 1,280. It goes on and on. I will never go back to a 10-page or a five-page again. [Laughs]

You'll soon have a "Cerebus"-length body of work. For this story, how did you land on Doc Samson to focus on, a character who hasn't really been in circulation in recent years?

When I was talking to Jake about doing something for "Secret Wars," he showed me the map of Battleworld, and said, "Which of these areas do you have any kind of connection to?" I laid out the ones that were my favorites, and the characters that I really liked. He came back to me with a few different choices: The X-Men "Inferno" was one of the choices, and he pitched me one story that could be set in there. Not having read "Inferno" in a while, I didn't have that big of a connection to [it]. Then he talked about Greenland for a while, where the Hulk was, and it seemed pretty open. It seemed like as long as I stayed away from Captain America and Doc Green, that I could kind of play with anyone in the Hulk universe.

I liked that idea, and I started thinking about the Hulk, and his supporting cast. At a certain point, I thought of Doc Samson, and the fact that he was a psychiatrist, which was really interesting to me. I just started thinking about the situation of, if everyone in this universe suddenly became the Hulk, how interesting it would be to be a psychiatrist trying to manage all of this anger in this new world. Once I thought of that, it was something that Jake and I really responded to.

Were you a fan of the Peter David run on "Incredible Hulk"? That was a very visible time for Doc Samson.

Yeah, definitely. I started thinking about the "X-Factor" issues, too, where he treated the members of X-Factor. I definitely was a fan of those, and started thinking about something in that same vein, of a psychiatrist trying to teach hundreds of Hulks.

In 10 pages, you not only wrote Doc Samson, but Peter Parker, too, who you've noted as your favorite superhero.

It's funny, because when I did the "Deadpool" story, they assigned me Agent Adsit, and I did an Agent Adsit team-up with Spider-Man, because Spider-Man's my favorite. In this, I got assigned to Greenland, and I fit Peter Parker in there. But it kind of came about organically, in a way, because I started thinking about, "If there are Greenland analogues to a bunch of different Marvel characters, who are the people with anger issues in the Marvel Universe?" Naturally, Hank Pym came to mind as one of the angriest Marvel characters. [Laughs] I included him and Janet in the first page. But then I just thought, it's fun for a little while to explore that world, but what actually happens in the story? You can't just explore a world and then put "the end" after you do that for 10 pages.

Mainly, I started thinking about the situation that Doc Samson would be in -- he's a guy who has always wanted to help people with their anger, and suddenly he's in a situation where everyone's anger is out of control, and how that would really affect him. I started researching psychiatrists who get depressed, and feel like their job is hopeless. That seemed like a really interesting place for the character to be. Then I wanted him to make some sort of progress by the end of the story. I started wondering about, who could he treat that has anger in the Marvel Universe, but has sort of risen above that? Peter Parker naturally came to mind.

Coming from someone with a background in comedy, readers might expect this to be a purely funny story. And it certainly has funny moments, but it's clear that you wanted to do something that had a lot of thought put into it and heart to it. Was it important to you to do a story that was more than just comedy?

I could have definitely done just a comedic story that was successful on just the level of a sketch. But the more I started thinking about this character and the situation he was in, the more I just thought there could be some sort of emotional arc to the story that had kind of poignancy. Then, in the middle of writing it, my friend passed away. I started thinking about that a lot. The more I was thinking about that, and the way that I was dealing with that, it just sort of came together in my mind, of what could happen in the story, and the emotional journey that Doc Samson could go through.

In terms of Secret Wars, for you as both a writer and a fan of Marvel for years, how much are you enjoying the event? It's definitely got appeal for longtime fans, with many old stories being touched on, like, as mentioned, "Inferno."

It's cool. I'm a big fan of [Jonathan] Hickman's work. I just reread all of his "Fantastic Four" in one sitting a couple weeks ago. I'm really enjoying the main series. It's been fun to see these concepts that are so cool, in a mash-up style. There's a ton of concepts that I requested to play in that far too many writers wanted to be in, like "Marvel Zombies" or "Squadron Sinister." It's been cool to see all of these things pop up. I'm really excited to see what happens to the Marvel Universe after the end of "Secret Wars" -- who will still be left standing.

Might we see more Scott Aukerman-written works in the Marvel Universe at that point? How ambitious are you with comics writing? You're a busy guy with a TV show that sometimes does 40 episodes a year, and a weekly podcast that sometimes happens twice a week -- are you content to take on short stories like this here and there, or are you looking to do a little more in the comics world?

I think someday I would like to do a run, several issues in a row, of something. The issue for me is just time. I really wanted to do these two issues, just because I love comics and I wanted to do something in the arena. The first "Deadpool" story I wrote literally in a hotel room in Mexico on my Christmas vacation, in one afternoon. This one, I wrote in my free time while I was filming the "Comedy Bang Bang" TV show, and also working on the new Bob Odenkirk and David Cross show for Netflix. I was really trying to do it on the weekends, on my one day off when I had a second.

Unfortunately, I don't have the actual time right now to do an extended run -- but down the line, when the show wraps up, and I can take a breather, I'd love to take a crack at something.

To talk about "Comedy Bang! Bang!" just a bit -- the new episodes starting July 9 will feature Kid Cudi as the new bandleader on the TV show, following the departure of Reggie Watts to join "The Late Late Show with James Corden." That was a surprising choice, though Kid Cudi was certainly very funny on the episode where he was a guest. How has he fit in to that environment?

We knew Reggie was leaving. We had actually shot Reggie's final episode, because we shoot all of them out of sequence, by the time Kid Cudi was on the show. I think we shot it the previous week, and we still hadn't found anyone for the position. Cudi was telling me on the couch that he wanted to do more acting, and he was so funny, I kind of thought to myself -- "There's no way he's going to want to do this TV show." But, you know, may as well ask.

Astoundingly, he thought it was a really great opportunity. A lot of guys in pop and hip-hop don't really get a chance to do something like this -- to do a ton of episodes of a sketch show. A lot of people aren't just offering musicians sketch shows. He thought it was a really unique situation.

It's interesting having someone with a different energy than Reggie. Reggie is very relaxed and laid back and laconic and dry and ironic. Cudi is definitely way more energetic and bright and bubbly. What's really funny about it is, the shows are really good, and they still feel like "Comedy Bang! Bang!" shows. We had a wrap party the other night, and a whole group of people -- some involved in the show, some outside of the show -- watched a couple of the episodes. Uniformly, they were all like, "Oh wow, this is something really special." It still feels like "Comedy Bang! Bang!" It still feels like the show we've always been doing. But it just has a new person to my left, doing something a little bit different. I think it's really cool. I think it's going to energize the show, and bring a lot of people that haven't paid attention to it previously.

And you don't always get that chance after 70 episodes.

It's interesting, because you can do so many episodes of a show, and you start looking for ways for people to pay attention again. People can take a show for granted, something that's been on for quite a few years -- "Oh yeah, that thing, it's really good." But they stop thinking about it in a way.

As much as I hated for Reggie to leave, we've been looking at this as a great opportunity to sort of reboot the show and get it fresh in people's minds. IFC is putting some marketing money behind it, and putting up billboards. As much as a bummer as it was to have the show change at all, it's been really cool to see how invigorating it's been.

"Secret Wars Journal" #3, which also features a story by Frank Tieri and Richard Isanove, is on sale now from Marvel. "Comedy Bang! Bang!" returns on IFC on July 9.

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