Brandon Graham is a writer/artist with a vision all his own - so it's no real surprise he's got his own way of seeing the return of his graphic novel "King City."
"It's basically like the thing that happened with Gandalf fighting the Balrog, [when] he falls into the depths of Moria," Graham told CBR. "You think he's long dead, and then he shows up in freshly-laundered wizard clothes. 'King City' is back like a freshly-laundered wizard."
With the recent news that Image Comics will be releasing Graham's "pulp spy comic with lots of puns," CBR hit up Graham for details on the new deal with Image, the continuing story of "King City," and the word on his other delayed fanciful sci-fi project, "Multiple Warheads" from Oni Press.
Graham released "King City" Vol. 1 in 2007 through American manga publisher TOKYOPOP, and gained an Eisner nomination for Best Writer/Artist - Humor in 2008. The company planned to follow it up with Vol. 2, only to cancel the release as part of blanket cuts made to their digest-sized American OGN line. To add insult to injury, Graham was already around 130 pages into drawing the book when he found out TOKYOPOP wouldn't be releasing it, and they weren't willing to give him back the rights to the property so he could take it somewhere else.
Enter Image Comics. There's something that sets Image apart from most other contemporary comics companies, according to Graham: they make comics. "They don't do movies or video games, they just want to publish comics," Graham said. Image's "comics first" mentality made them specially-suited to print "King City," while letting TOKYOPOP hold onto the actual rights to the book.
"King City" stars Joe, a "Catmaster" equipped with special training, and a special cat, Earthling J. Catingsworth III. One injection of "Cat-Juice" can turn Earthling into just about any tool or weapon, from a periscope, to a parachute, to a forensic pathologist. The series focuses both on Joe and one the people in his life: His friend Pete, who always wears a Mexican wrestling mask; Joe's ex Anna, who he hasn't seen since they broke up some time ago; and Anna's new boyfriend Max, whose military service during the Korean Xombie War has left him literally transforming into the drug he's addicted to.
But while most creators would put these bizarre high concepts center stage, for Graham they just serve to illustrate a point: Life goes on, even when you live in a city of spies in the future.
Rather than simply publishing "King City 2," Image has opted to release their own monthly version of the entire story in the Golden Age-sized format the company recently debuted with Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein's "Viking." Issues #1-6 will serialize the story from "King City" Vol. 1, while issues #7 and onward will feature all-new material.
As a bonus for the people who already bought the digest-sized "King City" Vol. 1 OGN from TOKYOPOP, Graham plans on including back-up material in the new issues. He's drawn a "King City" game board, and he's collecting reader reactions to the book for a regular letters page (existing fans can contribute by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org). He'll also be introducing Catmasters designed by his girlfriend Marian Churchland ("Elephantmen") and his friend and artistic influence David Linder, a graffiti artist.
"The idea is that Catmasters are like Green Lanterns, with one in every major city," Graham said, perhaps implying a greater purpose to the Catmaster organization beyond the spies-for-hire they've been portrayed as so far.
Although coy with the details of the continuing story, Graham describes the new "King City" chapters as his most ambitious attempt at comics. "The story is forcing me to get better as an artist. Right now I'm about 40 pages from the end, and what I plan to draw is pretty intimidating. I think that's a good thing. It's important to stay scared."
While "King City" has been in development limbo, Graham's been working on his other book, "Multiple Warheads" from Oni Press. The first issue, subtitled "The Fall," came out in 2007, and Graham hopes to pick up the series again soon. "It's set in a science fiction/fantasy Communist Russian, a war-torn Eastern Bloc place," Graham said, "with dragons and werewolves along with giant Sphinx-sized statues of Communist leaders."
"Multiple Warheads" is about a couple, Sexica and Nikoli, with a rather... interesting back-story. "Sexica is an illegal underground organ smuggler," said the artist, "and for her boyfriend's birthday she gets a wolf's penis to sew onto him - turning him into a two-dicked werewolf."
"The whole thing started as a dumb idea for a short porn comic," Graham continued. Bbut I really got into the characters and the world. Part of what I'm really interested in is trying to show a couple in a relationship, five or six years into it when they've got a bond. But you know, in a future fantasy Russia to make it easy to relate to...."
He continued, "Sexica and Nikoli have been traveling since 'The Fall.' Eventually they end up at a city built into the wall of a cliff that uses ghosts to power everything. And there's a war going on between the ghosts."
Future issues of "Multiple Warheads" will also see the introduction of Big Blue Nura, a character mentioned but never shown in the first issue. "She's like my Red Sonja. A big, clumsy woman who is good at fighting," Graham said. "Maybe Red Sonja by way of Groo the Wanderer."
Graham has been enjoying the mythos he's creating in "Multiple Warheads." "It's been interesting trying to take all these fantasy ideas and run them through the filter of nuclear war and the Red Menace."
Graham is waiting until he's got enough issues of "Multiple Warheads" in the can to sustain a regular deadline before the new series is solicited. He expects to release it on either a monthly or a bimonthly deadline. At present, Graham is around 60 pages into the series; he's currently estimating that "Multiple Warheads" will start coming out around the time "King City" #6 hits the stands. And unlike "Multiple Warheads: The Fall," the new series will be in color. "Just the possibilities that open up when color comes in are nuts," Graham said. "It's like someone gave me a jet pack."