"Regular Show Annual" Creators Sound Off On Inspiration & Influences

The "Regular Show" comic received an influx of talent thanks to the recently released "Regular Show Annual 2014." KaBOOM! assistant editor Whitney Leopard helped organize a team of creators for the special issue, each of whom took their turn playing in the hit Cartoon Network series' four-color sandbox. Andy Kluthe and Yumi Sakugawa each wrote and drew their own stories, while writer Kevin Burkhalter teamed with artist Tessa Stone, and Jimmy Giegerich wrote a chapter for Mad Rupert to draw.

When creator J.G. Quintel's "Regular Show" made its debut on Cartoon Network in 2010, viewers were instantly mesmerized by the adventures and misadventures of a pair of pals -- Rigby (a raccoon) and Mordecai (a blue jay) -- who work for Mr. Gumball (a walking gumball machine) at a local park. Actually, "work" might be a bit misleading, as most of the series' episodes consist of the pair's attempts to avoid that very subject, leading to adventures of all shapes and sizes. Often surreal, these episodes inspired BOOM! to add the series to their all-ages imprint in 2013.

RELATED: "Regular Show" Creator JG Quintel Revels in Series' Offbeat Expanding Universe

CBR News spoke with Burkhalter, Kluthe, Sakugawa, Giegerich and Stone about adjusting their personal style to fit in with the animated world, the basics of their individual stories, the types of art that influenced them and how they got the gig in the first place.

CBR News: How did each of you get involved with the Regular Show Annual 2014?

Kevin Burkhalter: I did a back-up story for "Regular Show" that seemed to go over well enough, so Whitney asked me to submit a few more scripts because she had some "crazy" artists who needed stuff to draw. One of these scripts, "Sky Kicks," was selected to be in the annual. I'm even luckier that I'm a fan of Tessa's work and that I knew she'd kill it!

Andy Kluthe: I pulled this magic blade out of a stone and they crowned me with the job -- which is weird because comic-making doesn't usually involve a lot of swordplay. The real story is a lot less interesting: I submitted my portfolio hoping I could get a little something on one of their Cartoon Network licenses because I draw cartoon-y stuff, I like cartoons and I may-or-may-not watch a lot of Cartoon Network. A couple months later, I was asked by Whitney if I could submit a pitch for a story based on one of the side characters from "Regular Show!" I spent a weekend working over a lot of ideas and submitted, like, six instead of one. I didn't know if it was actually going to go anywhere -- or if the license people at Cartoon Network would even like any of it -- but then, out of the blue, she wrote me back to say Cartoon Network liked one of the concepts and they wanted it in the annual!

Yumi Sakugawa: An art editor at BOOM! Studios came across one of my comics at LA Zine Fest in 2013, which was how I got involved with illustrating a cover for a comic issue for "Regular Show" and subsequently, contributing to the "Regular Show Annual."

Jimmy Giegerich: I got involved by doing other work for BOOM! Studios first. I was contacted by them after they had seen some comics of mine at the Small Press Expo last year about doing a cover for "Regular Show." After that I did a cover for "Adventure Time," and then after that, I wrote the short for the "Regular Show Annual."

Tessa Stone: Whitney at BOOM! was so kind as to ask me if I was interested in doing art for short six-pager, and I thought it'd be a blast! The script was crazy awesome, and it proved to be just as much fun as it looked.

Is there a particular theme or featured character for the book or your story?

Burkhalter: I wanted to focus on the two main stars for this story. I enjoy the friendship that Mordecai and Rigby share. It reminds me of some of my own. Athletic ware is also a theme.

Kluthe: Muscle Man!

Sakugawa: My story just focuses on Mordecai and Rigby. It deals with internet and smart phone addiction, which is something I was -- and still am -- struggling with when I came up with the story.

What can you tell us about your individual story?

Burkhalter: Well, this story mainly comes from my childhood when Reebok Pumps were the hottest athletic shoe that a non-athletic kid could have. As a child, I believed that this shoe could make me run faster, jump higher and love harder. My dreams were sort-of dashed when I didn't float effortlessly up toward the hoop after getting "pumped up."

Kluthe: It's about Muscle Man being put in charge of boy scout/girl scout type group.  He's supposed to be teaching them about the outdoors and stuff.

Sakugawa: The moral of the story is: Pizza.

Giegerich: My story is about Rigby buying a huge box of old video games from a yard sale for 5 bucks. Mordecai and Rigby are super stoked about all the cool games, and while they're digging through they find a cartridge with no label on it. When they blow in the cartridge to get it to work, a bunch of crazy and magical stuff happens!

What is it about the world of "Regular Show" that sparks your imagination and made you want to play in this sandbox?

Burkhalter: Hamboning.

Kluthe: It's a really funny series. I like stories that they combine the mundane and the fantastic and I don't think there's a better way to sum up "Regular Show." I mean, it's a show where a raccoon and bird have to work a minimum wage job out of fear a talking gumball machine will fire them. One minute, everyone is raking leaves, the next minute, they're punching a video game monster. Plus, as I said before, I like cartoons.

Sakugawa: I love all the zaniness, word play and bad puns. I'm seriously thinking of making the Mordecai and the Rigby song "Party Tonight" into my morning alarm so I can hear it every day! Visual and verbal cleverness aside, the show has a lot of heart, which I love and respect so much. That, and I think I'm starting to get this weird cartoon crush on Mordecai, which is so weird because the human equivalent of Mordecai probably would not be my type at all. Also, as a comic book artist with a very unfortunate proclivity for getting things done barely in the nick of time, there is something very relatable about two slackers who keep getting themselves into very dire situations from their avoidance of work and saving themselves by the seat of their pants, and yet never quite learning from their self-destructive behavior.

Giegerich: I'm a huge fan of "Regular Show"'s characters and humor! I love that it seems like literally anything can happen in this world, and that there's so much room to work tons of crazy ideas into the stories!

Stone: Anything goes in the world of "Regular Show," and I love that. Everything can be exaggerated and a bit crazy, though it always kind of spawns from some sort of mundane day to day thing. It makes it more exciting, and in a way, easier to relate to!

Many of you mentioned being big fans of the Mordecai-Rigby relationship, but do you have favorite secondary characters you were excited to write or draw in the issue?

Burkhalter: Funny story, I was simultaneously writing "Sky Kicks" and binge watching the show. I was really proud of myself because I created this retro-basketball pro guy that challenges Mordecai and Rigby. And then I watched "The God of Basketball" episode and realized he already existed. With a few quick rewrites, I fixed it. The only real difference was that my character played basketball with his ball-head. Unless that already happened too -- I can never tell.

Kluthe: Oh, Muscle Man for sure, and I ended up getting to do a whole story about him so that's been awesome.

Sakugawa: Rigby has amazing facial expressions. I didn't include him in the story, but I would have loved to have drawn Hi-Five Ghost.

Giegerich: I created a new character for my story that I'm really excited about. He's a video game genie that lives in the unmarked cartridge that I talked about up above. He was a ton of fun to come up with and design.

Stone: Well, Benson's my absolute favorite -- but I didn't get to draw him at all. Pity!

Was it a challenge fitting your own writing and/or drawing styles into the world of "Regular Show?"

Burkhalter: It's great, as far as the writing goes, to pull from my own experiences growing up in the '90s and explode them into this surreal world where they take on a life of their own. I like to target one main aspect of the experience and try to hammer away at it. In the case of "Sky Kicks," it was the basketball shoes and the idea that I thought that they'd make me float. Then I gave that idea over to Mordecai and Rigby and they just ran with it. It's really fun stuff.

Kluthe: I already draw a weekly webcomic called Nerd Rage that's (mostly) about two guys who hang out, talk and complain about things. In college, I wrote about this character who claimed to go on adventures, fight paranormal creatures and stop evil scientists. So between those two, I think I was pretty prepared to take on "Regular Show." As far as the art goes, BOOM! was really great and encouraged me to make it look like my style. So the finished product is like what would happen if my usual art got in an experimental teleporter without realizing "Regular Show" was still standing in the other pod.

Sakugawa: It was challenging, interesting and fun. Mordecai and Rigby are both very expressive characters and the characters I draw in my own comic stories are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of emoting their emotions. Also, I used to write short skits and one-act plays for a campus theater group I was a part of in college, so having a little bit of script-writing experience for a college audience definitely came in handy.

Giegerich: I found it pretty easy to write my story for the annual, honestly. I feel like my brand of humor and "Regular Show"'s go well together, so it was a great experience. The only thing I'd say I had to change about the way I write my personal comics is that I tend to put gross-out and adult humor in mine which was something I obviously couldn't do with Regular Show.

Stone: It was actually pretty difficult at first. I felt like I didn't do the characters much justice as I sat around trying to figure out the tiny details that made them really look right. But I do like drawing noodly and playful, so at least that was something I could go off of!

How important is it to you personally to make comics like this that work for all ages?

Burkhalter: Making comics for all ages isn't as important to me as telling interesting stories. "Regular Show" is a unique world with endless possibilities. I want to be a part of that, whether it's all ages or not.

Kluthe: Well, if you've seen my art you'll know I try to draw "cartoony" characters. Characters who can be really expressive and look animated and make goofy faces. I was interested in doing children's books, but I found myself going all-in on this webcomic that targets a slightly older demographic. And that's led to other job opportunities, so I spend a lot of time working on projects in that same demographic. Which is fine -- I love doing that stuff, it's fun being able to doing jokes that are a little raunchier. But I've started seeing a lot of younger kids at the conventions I go to -- there's nothing cooler than seeing a family at a con -- so that made it a goal for me to really want to work on something for all ages. Of course, I had no idea that I'd end up working on the "Regular Show" comic; that just happened to line up really well.

Sakugawa: I don't think too much about the age-accessibility of my comics when I make my stories. Though, for the most part, they end up being accessible for most ages anyway!

Giegerich: I really appreciate comics that appeal to every age, and treat their younger readers intelligently. I feel like, at times, there is a real push to keep things super-safe in kids comics and stories, and as a result I feel like they can become kind of boring as a result. I feel like stories that work on different levels for different age groups are way more exciting.

Stone: It's really important and great to be able to reach all audiences, and not necessarily tailor a genre to an age group. That way there's no talking down to anyone, or making gross assumptions about what people want to see at different ages. Sure, we were all young once, but sometimes we don't quite remember how smart or eager we were to ingest new things in our media!

What were some of the comics, comic strips and cartoons that inspired you as kids to get into this field?

Burkhalter: In my attempt to not be cliche and say "Calvin and Hobbes," it is now the only comic that I can think of right now. "Calvin and Hobbes." "Calvin and Hobbes." "Calvin and Hobbes." Calvin. And. Hobbes.

Kluthe: I really remember drawing things I was interested in. Bugs. Dinosaurs. Animals.  As I got older, I got interested in video games so I started drawing characters from "Mega Man," "Super Mario," then "Pokemon" came out, so that, of course.  Those all had a big impact on my art even though they're not explicitly comics or cartoons. "Sonic the Hedgehog" was, like, the comic I'd read.  That was the reason me and my brother would go to the comic book store. I had to get the newest issue of that and whatever spinoff or miniseries they were running at the time. And of course we got Cartoon Network during that "golden age" where they were just getting a lot of new, original content -- "Dexter's Lab," "Johnny Bravo," "The Powerpuff Girls: -- instead of just rerunning old Hanna-Barbera content 24/7.  So that greatly increased my cartoon consumption and introduced me to a lot of new shows. So Genndy Tartakovsky's stuff really stood out to me. I really like Stephen Silver's designs. Oh, and classic "Sponge Bob." I'm sure there's more I'm just not thinking of off-hand. I like drawing but I also like being able to tell a story with that or getting people to laugh. Comics get to take advantage of all those things.

Sakugawa: "Sailor Moon" was and will always be my number one obsession. I have read every manga, watched every episode and I'm secretly freaking out every single second about the reboot series that will be premiering later this summer. I also read a lot of Sunday funnies -- do people even still call them that anymore? -- with a particular fondness for comic strips with really long story arcs where you grew up with the characters as you got immersed into their stories, like "Luann," "For Better or For Worse."

Giegerich: Like most people my age, "Calvin and Hobbes" was a huge inspiration on me when I was younger. I was also really into "The Far Side" and "Peanuts," and I was obsessed with Marvel super hero comics and stuff like "Ninja Turtles" and "Power Rangers." As I got older, I really got into French comics like Joann Sfar's "Little Vampire" and the Dungeon series by Sfar and Louis Trondheim, which have had an enormous influence on me as a comic writer and artist.

Stone: Mostly Max Fleischer. His old "Betty Boop" and his "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" were some of my absolute favorites! They were bizarre and always full of life, and I guess that's something I always wanted to carry around with me.

the "Regular Show Annual 2014" #1 is available now from BOOM! Studios.

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