One of the most well-received announcements from Image Expo 2015 came from Chip Zdarsky, the hilarious, irreverent artist of "Sex Criminals" and writer of Marvel Comics' new "Howard the Duck" ongoing series. Although he overtook the Expo stage to set up his impromptu one-man Zdarscon (effectively stealing the spotlight from jilted "The Wicked + The Divine" creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie), the audience went wild once they heard about his new series -- "Kaptara." Drawn by "Infinite Kung Fu" author Kagan McLeod, "Kaptara" follows the adventures of space pilot Keith Kanga and his crew after they crash-land on a mysterious planet.
Filled with wondrous art inspired by the team's childhood action figures and any other weird stuff they could think of, "Kaptara" showcases the best parts of each creator: humor, ingenuity and a remarkable sense of character development. From the very fist issue, readers will be pulled in to a familiar yet entirely bizarre world that they won't be able to look away from. Launching on April 22 from Image Comics, the series is definitely vying for must-read status.
Zdarsky spoke with CBR News, sharing more about his partnership with long-time friend McLeod, the idealized normative tropes they are avoiding with their characters and insight into his own erotic proclivities.
CBR News: Chip, you described "Kaptara" as a book where you and Kagan can do whatever you want. What is it exactly the two of you want to do with this series?
Chip Zdarsky: Go for over four issues! I just like the idea of a book where we can change and grow and create ludicrous characters every issue! I want the series to feel like freedom.
U! S! A! U! S! A!
This series is all about you and Kagan making each other laugh -- what do you know he will always find funny? What fits that bill for you?
Humor is all about surprise. Kagan never designs something the same way twice, everything feels like a wholly new creation, so even though I've seen Kagan draw a thousand clowns, clown number 1001 will still be fresh and make me laugh.
And the only thing I do that makes Kagan laugh 100% of the time is when I'm a tickle monster.
You have a great sense of humor, and it was something I always loved about reading your work and talking with you. "Kaptara" seemsÂ tonally different from your other work -- it's really funny, but it also seems more story-driven. How are you exploring your range as a storyteller? What other genres are you interested to work in?
I've been itching to write a longer story for a while now. They're just like little stories but with more planning! It's a little scary, but it's nice to have some room to breathe a bit. Like, we have a longer game plan with shorter ones nestling in it and we can see where they all take us.
I feel like we can kind of straddle a bunch of genres with "Kaptara." It's sci-fi and fantasy for sure, but there's comedy and romance and action built-in. And we can have our heroes encounter vampires, cowboys, cowpires, etc. THE ONLY LIMIT IS OUR IMAGINATION -- and lawyers.
The main character of "Kaptara" is Keith Kanga. What can you tell us about him? What was important to you when you were designing the character?
He's sarcastic and cynical, and, like most people who display those qualities, he's masking pain and a deeper level of empathy. We wanted a character who can grow over the course of the series, so we kind of start with Keith in the Peter-Parker-Before-Uncle-Ben's-Murder-Oops-Spoilers phase; a little selfish after years of being bullied and overlooked.
At Image Expo, the audience went nuts when you announced that your new series prominently featured a gay man of color as the main character. Did you expect that? What has the continued reaction been?
I... didn't know what to expect, really? The lesson learned from my previous projects is to just make something I like, that I want to read. If people respond to that, great! I can only assume that Keith's sexuality and background will turn away readers that I'm not interested in, and reinforce readers who I relate to, which is fine by me.
There's a lot of sci-fi that seems to have very normative male characters that are just out to bang alien chicks and turn space into a man-cave. How does seeing space exploration through the eyes of different kind of protagonist shape your story?
It's almost less "space exploration" as it is "fantasy exploration" once we hit Kaptara. It's hard to really see this is a sci-fi story, y'know? "Star Wars" and "He-Man" are essentially fantasy stories even though they take place in outer space.
I've always loved that "normative male characters" are so far from normal in the kinds of stories you're talking about. I don't know a single James T. Kirk among my circle of friends, right? Â Characters like that are "idealized normative," and that's not what we want here. I have much more in common with Keith than I do a Kirk. He sees Kaptara similarly to the way I would, really. A mix of fear and wonder.
There's some indication in the first issue that Keith didn't have the easiest time growing up and fitting it -- how does that inform the way he'll treat a totally alien world populated with diverse life-forms?
It's the old story of "no matter where you go, there you are." Keith is essentially running away from home. So, with "Kaptara," all of the previous social constructs he's had to live with have fallen away. Does it change how he lives? How he reacts to things? It's pretty fun to parse that out over a nice, long story.
And since you're billing this as 'The Gay Saga,' I thought it might be fun to celebrate the romance of "Kaptara" by asking you a few questions from OkCupid's dating profile.Â
If you inadvertently found a phone number in a partner's pocket, what would you do?
I would think he/she was a time traveller from when people wrote down phone numbers.
How important is it to you that your partner smell good?
Specific! A partner needs to smell specific, and if they're great in bed then the smell will always be good. Whenever I need to think of my first girlfriend I just need to chew cinnamon gum with a sweater over my face, and then eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich.
DON'T YOU JUDGE ME.
Do you think women have an obligation to keep their legs shaved?
Yes, but only to feed the men the clippings, as is customary in our culture.
Are you squeamish about sharing food or beverages with your partner?
That's crazy. If I'm willing to put my ------ in their ------ and their ------- into my --------, -------- and -------, I should feel pretty OK with taking a bite of their cheeseburger.
Do you try to draw attention to your body by wearing seductive clothing?
You tell me...
"Kaptara" #1 launches April 22 from Image Comics