Zahler Trots Out "My Little Pony: Twilight Sparkle"

IDW Publishing had a massive sales hit on its hands last year when it debuted the ongoing series "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." Based on the popular animated children's show of the same name, the comic, just like the TV show, has proven popular among both kids and "bronies," die hard adult male fans of the property.

IDW is striking the "My Little Pony" while the iron is hot this month with the debut of "My Little Pony Micro-Series," a six-issue miniseries that features six different stories by six different creative teams. Each issue spotlights a different member of the Mane Six, starting with "My Little Pony Micro-Series #1: Twilight Sparkle," by writer/artist Thom Zahler.

Zahler, who is best known for his creator-owned comic "Love and Capes," gave Comic Book Resources insight in to his latest project, sharing details about his "Twilight Sparkle" story, his thoughts on the brony craze, how he pitched pitch for the unlikely crossover "Mars Attacks My Little Pony" and more.

CBR News: Thom, what can readers expect to go down in "My Little Pony Micro-Series #1: Twilight Sparkle?"

Thom Zahler: In this story, we find out that Twilight Sparkle is a big fan of the writer Jade Singer. Jade wrote one book, and then she disappeared. While taking on a special task for Princess Celestia at the Royal Archive, Twilight learns what happened to Jade Singer and why.

How did you get involved with "My Little Pony" initially?

When IDW announced the first miniseries at Comic-Con International in San Diego, I went up to Bobby Curnow and demanded, in the nicest of ways, to get the chance to do a cover or pinup. Bobby came back to me a couple of months later and asked me to pitch a few stories for the micro-series. I dove in and sent him a few. One was a Twilight Sparkle pitch, which involved her waiting in line to see a JK Rowling type author. Bobby and I went back and forth on that until it evolved into this book.

Were you a fan of the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" animated series pitching IDW?

I'd seen a handful of episodes. Friends of mine have written for the show, so I'd checked it out. My girlfriend is a big fan, too, and I hit Netflix pretty hard with her to catch up.

I like the show a lot. The main characters are wonderfully represented and so easy to write for. And there's a very classic cartoon element to the show. You can write broad comedy for the younger set and throw in references for the adults, too. A lot of people seem to think that kids' properties mean writing down. It shouldn't mean that, and "My Little Pony" is a great example of it.

Is this micro-series in continuity with the ongoing "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" series?

I believe so. We're playing with other people's toys, so we're limited in what changes we can make. It's not like I have to worry about a multi-part crossover where Discord switches bodies and becomes the Superior Twilight Sparkle.

Though, I did pitch a "Mars Attacks My Little Pony" crossover.

No, seriously.

"Mars Attacks My Little Pony?!" What would that story have looked like if it had happened?

The Martians come to Equestria through a dimensional rift, but between that and a spell Princess Celestia cast, none of their weapons work, so they keep trying to find new ways to attack. Think of them having to downgrade to a pie fight or water balloons.

But, with warfare out of the way, the Martians wind up actually forming a relationship with the ponies: The magic of friendship! The Martians return to the real world and try to bring their new knowledge to their compatriots. Who don't understand them. 

I wrote it while on the panel at Baltimore and sent it to Dirk Wood (the panel host) as it was going on. 

You came up with the entire pitch during a single panel?

I was on the IDW panel at Baltimore. Dirk announced that Mars would attack the IDW universe, but he wouldn't reveal what titles.

"I think it's 'My Little Pony,'" I joked. "And that's a pitch."

He dared me to get it to him by the end of the panel. Which I did.

Which of the characters is your favorite to write?

With the micro-series being a series of spotlights on the individual ponies, I only really got to play with Twilight Sparkle. I pitched virtually all of them, and Twilight Sparkle is the one I think I understood the best.

That said, I'd love a chance to write Rainbow Dash. I love boastful characters, and she's one of those characters who has an accurate assessment of how good she really is. There's just so much to play with there.

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" has experienced crossover appeal success with kids and adults, guys and girls all digging the series. Which group are you targeting?

I'm targeting "My Little Pony" fans, which seems to be all of the above. I'm trying to make sure that there's something for everyone.

When I write something, I don't think in terms of demographics, but in terms of the audience. "Love and Capes," for example, is largely aimed at people who like romantic comedies. Men, women, kids, bizarrely intelligent dogs with bow ties -- it doesn't matter as long as they're fans of the genre.

What do you think is the reason behind the current brony craze that's taking the world by storm? Are bronies sincere in their love of the property, in your opinion?

Second question first, I don't think it's my place to judge the sincerity of someone else's fandom. That goes down that whole horrible "fake geek girls" path that's been popping up in so many places lately. We're supposed to be the community that accepts everyone. If you want to be a fan of something, the only requirement is to be a fan. Everything else is just details.

I've heard theories about the brony culture, but I haven't investigated that too much. The best one I've heard is that there was a group of people who intended to watch the show ironically and rag on it and then got sucked into it because of how good it was. I like that because it shows the power of good stories.

Switching topics, when will fans get to see the return of your creator-owned comic, "Love and Capes?"

I'm not sure. I need a little bit of a break from that world, I think. I'm not done with those characters or anything, but my production schedule on the last two miniseries has been kind of grueling. I do the entire book myself, so doing six issues or so a year while juggling other projects is a tough road, regardless of how much I love it.

Mostly, though, I just want to recharge and make sure the series stays fresh. When you're really wrapped up in a series, it's very easy to find a groove, and that has the danger of becoming a rut. Loyal readers of the series know that my book is very banter-based, and I love great dialogue, but I try to make sure to do a silent joke every now and then to hit a different beat and shake things up.

What other projects do you have coming up?

Unfortunately, I'm in that shadowy place where I'm working on a lot on things where I'm not allowed to mention them yet. There's a couple of writing jobs and more than a few lettering jobs that, if all continues to go well, you'll see my name on in 2013.

I'm also working out what my next project will be and figuring out format and style and all of that. We're in a really interesting world with digital distribution and affordable graphic novel printing and all of that. So it's now not just coming up with a project, but a format and a sales model.

Beyond that, I'll be at an absolutely insane number of conventions this year, but those are fun and I love meeting fans and making friends.

And, hopefully, there will be another trip to Equestria for me, too.

"My Little Pony Micro-Series #1: Twilight Sparkle," written and drawn by Thom Zahler, is out February 20 from IDW Publishing.

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