ECCC | Vasquez, Mahfood bring their comics to life with Titmouse

Saturday’s Emerald City Comic Con panel for animation studio Titmouse brought premiere footage of Jim Mahfood’s wild new cartoon series, D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer. It also came with news that Jhonen Vasquez’s Squee! will be turned into a short film, with potential plans for a future Johnny the Homicidal Maniac full-length animated film.

Vasquez and Mahfood were joined by Men of Action's Joe Casey, Titmouse Supervising Producer Ben Kalina and Titmouse founder Chris Prynoski, who took over as moderator -- replacing producer Scott Mosier, who was home sick with the flu.

Things kicked off with some rapid-fire announcements from Prynoski, who said new episodes of Venture Bros., Metalocalypse and Superjail! were on the way. Titmouse is also working with online retailer giant Amazon on a “crazy super violent” animated film called Burma Rising that will feature designs from comic artist Dan Panosian. Comics cover artist Dave Johnson is also working with Titmouse on a series for MTV’s new Liquid Television. Although the Titmouse-created Motorcity wasn’t brought back for another season by Disney, Prynoski said the production team from the show was working on Netflix’s first cartoon series, a spinoff of Dreamworks’ upcoming Turbo.

Mahfood talked about his series D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer, calling it the next evolutionary step of his art.  “It’s a huge deal for me to actually see my stuff moving. My characters breathing and talking. It’s pretty epic for me,” said Mahfood. He also added how happy he was working with Titmouse – a studio that’s first concern is to keep the artist’s vision intact.

The show will air on MTV’s revamped Liquid Television, and Mahfood described the lead character as a beer-drinking ‘70s-rocker, a muscle-car-driving tough guy with an eight-track embedded in his chest. He is caught in a drag-race between Heaven and Hell. Mahfood explained that he initially had the ideas for the series, but asked Casey and Mosier for help in bringing the story to life.

The D.I.S.C.O Destroyer footage that screened fired up the crowd, and the teaser saw Mahfood’s funky art come to life in sweaty, high-octane car races and ‘70s funk. After the footage screened, Mahfood talked about how hands on he was in the process, providing a lot of the layouts. He said he unknowingly did the work of four people because he was concerned with preserving his art style for the cartoon.

Prynoski then turned to Vasquez, and the two began teasing the announcement of Vasquez’s new project.

“I feel horrible that you showed that because we have nothing to show,” said Vasquez.

But Vasquez announced he was working on a Squee! short film, and was currently wrapping up the script. He also added that if the Squee! short is successful, Titmouse and Vasquez will also team up on a Johnny the Homicidal Maniac full-length animated film.

On the Squee! short, Vasquez explained that it’s based on an idea he’s had since 2007.

“I wanted to do a short about Squee being sold by his parents to like a McDonald’s kind of place where the place uses children for meat… Having this little adventure with these other little kids trying to survive this labyrinth of meat,” said Vasquez. “It’s called Squee versus the Labyrinth of Meat.”

On the JTHM front, Vasquez said the film’s story is essentially straight from the comics “but with an actual narrative in it from the beginning,” and he talked about rewriting the comic material for film.

“I would have to say it’s much more from the get-go Lovecraftian in the way the book got. It’s much less Johnny being a badass who kills people because he’s a badass, and it’s more about a tool who doesn’t know he’s a tool.”

Mahfood was asked more about the drag racing in D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer, and he explained that they developed the storytelling of the show like Speed Racer, so that the race -– and the battle between good and evil -- is a continuous background of the show, but that the world is open for lots of weirdness and will use films like The Warriors as an influence.

Vasquez was asked which characters from Squee! and JTHM will be making animated appearances. He said it’d be Squee and Shmee, maybe his parents, but that he had to create a bunch of new kids, and that Squee is like “the Bilbo of the story.” He said almost everyone from the JTHM comics will be in the movie, adding: “Except Johnny’s not in it.”

Vasquez was asked if he had any voice actors in mind for JTHM.

“I think what we’ll end up doing is just allow people to download their own voice packs,” said Vasquez.

“You should just do the voice, dude,” said someone on the panel, which got some agreement in the crowd.

“The only person that comes to mind, even though he’s not right entirely -- but the only person -- like, standup comedians, they’re all such broken people. They’re funny, but they’re broken people. And I love how kind of cute, but how truly destroyed Patton Oswalt sounds ... But I don’t know if the quality of his voice is right. But he’s the only person that actually comes to mind,” said Vasquez.

“And Danny Glover.”

When Mahfood was asked if he had plans to bring Zombie Kid to animation, he admitted that while he does have an arsenal of characters that could be developed, he’s waiting for the reaction to D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer.

“I wanted to create something original with these guys because it’s less heartbreaking if it doesn’t work out,” said Mahfood. He added that he’s been pitching Hollywood for years, and he’d hate to have one of his babies lost at a giant studio. “You don’t want some corporation fucking up something you worked on for 20 years, or whatever.”

The panel ended with Prynoski fielding a question about the origin of his animation studio, which he explained can be traced back to the Tom Green film Freddy Got Fingered. Prynoski was contracted to do work on the film, but needed to be incorporated. So he used the company he had already started to sell T-shirts in the early-2000s, and the rest is animation history.

Below: Additional D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer images

Photos by Andre Tan

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