“Kaptara” writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Kagan McLeod‘s loving and loony homage to ’80s fantasy cartoons, has just wrapped up its first arc. From the first issue, the story of stranded astronaut-turned-reluctant hero Keith Kanga exploring an alien world has been wowing audiences through its insanely creative character designs, outrageous humor and a heaping helping of nostalgia.
With #5 on the stands now and the first trade due out on December 23, CBR caught up with Zdarsky to reflect on the Image Comics series’ story so far. The never shy writer opened up about the origins of the Glomps, his cosplay aspirations, his evolving career as a now-super-famous writer, and the romantic future of his hunky lead.
CBR News: Chip, the first arc of “Kaptara” has just wrapped up–from when you and Kagan began planning this series to the completed issue #5, how much has changed in the story? Did it end where you thought it would?Â
Chip Zdarsky: Pretty close! I think we sped things up a bit more after Issue #1 so we could assemble Keith’s team quicker and see more of Kaptara. I really needed to get our senior citizen wizard Mel-Von in front of readers as fast as I could so we could get people cosplaying him immediately.
What can you tell us about your plans for the next arc?Â
Keith and the gang quickly accumulate enemies as they search for Keith’s missing Earth crew. I want to up the stakes and get Kagan drawing big battles and crazier scenarios. We introduce, uh, over 80 new characters in issue five? So — we should probably explore them a bit?
Amidst all of the weirdness in “Kaptara” is Keith, who is very relatable and multidimensional. He isn’t afraid to express his fear, and he’s learning how to stand up for what he wants. What makes him interesting for you to write? And how do you balance all of the wild/fun elements of the series with his very authentic experiences?Â
It’s obviously important with a story and setting like this to have someone represent the reader a bit. Keith isn’t a guy who won’t scream when he sees a crazy monster, because those guys are pretty rare in real life. He’s scared and kind of tripping out at the craziness of the situation at first, but it’s a hero’s journey and it’s immensely satisfying to have Keith step up to the plate more as the story progresses. To me, he’s Peter Parker if Uncle Ben never got killed. He’ll eventually get to where he’s going, but it takes longer without that catalyst.
Thinking back to when the series was first announced, one of the aspects you spoke of was Keith’s developing romance, but not much ended up happening for him. Is there going to be room for love in the next arc? And what is Keith looking for in a partner?Â
Ha! I know! I should have specified that it would happen more in the second arc! We hint a bit at a developing closeness in Issue #5, and explore it more as we move into the next year. Romance takes a little longer when you’re constantly terrified and running for your life.
Keith had a bad breakup before he left Earth, so the prospect of a relationship isn’t foremost in his mind. But this planet does seem pretty rife with hunks, soooo…
As you’ve taken on the writer role for more comics, has that changed your creative process? What have you learned about yourself as a writer over the course of creating “Kaptara”?Â
It’s been nice to have something to switch to when I hit the wall illustrating, that’s for sure. Writing just works different musclesÂ (I only have writing muscles and illustrating muscles, no body muscles).
The biggest thing I’ve learned is also something I picked up working on “Howard” and “Jughead,” which is that great artists will saaaaaave my ass. Not 100%, but if I’m struggling a bit with a scene, a guy like Kagan can really take the pressure off. He’s amazing.
You and Kagan did such an incredible job layering weirdness on top of weirdness with each issue, and Kagan really gave his all to drawing characters who only appeared briefly, like CYKLOWL, who is perfect in every single way. Were there characters you made more room for after seeing his designs? And which ones were your favorites?Â
Cat-tanks, all the way. I could look at his drawings of cat-tanks forever. Also, he perfected Dartor and his Judith Light hair so quickly that I want him in every scene.
And I’m glad you love CYKLOWL! It’s my favorite one-off joke from volume one, and I’m stunned at how perfect Kagan made him considering how little page-time he gets. He pops his head up in Issue #5 as well
Is there any interest in doing a character guide, so we can appreciate the wonderful design and maybe a backstory?Â
As a matter of fact, the trade collecting the first five issues has a handy guide to all the new characters introduced in Issue #5, plus I’ve written an excerpt from Dartor’s autobiography, “Where The Winds Blew,” that sheds more light on where he’s come from and his inherent eroticism.
Why are the cat-tanks so gross? Cats aren’t gross, Chip. Cats are beautiful.Â
Cat-tanks are beautiful! Just get to know them!
But you know who are not beautiful? The Glomps. They are horrible. As their creator, how does it feel to have fixed fairness on the Internet forever? Can we all take a break now?Â
Oh, Glomps. It felt so good to write forest creeps, you have no idea.
In creating the world of “Kaptara,” I wanted the ideas of racism and sexism and homophobia to be distant memories for the residents. Or, at the very least, banished and concentrated in the form of these horrible little creatures. It’s nice to give concrete form to the worst the world has to offer and then chuck them deep into the forest.
If you were going to cosplay a character from “Kaptara” (which would be really vain, but whatever, you can do what you want), who would you pick?Â
I think the only character which works with my rapidly deteriorating and oddly lumpy body is Motivational Orb. But the saying on my body would just be, “Buy Kaptara Vol. 1, in storesÂ Dec. 23”
Will there ever be a “Kaptara” cross over with any other comics you work on?Â
Uh, Matt and I have an idea for “Sex Criminals” that we’re working on which will answer that question. We’ll hopefully announce it in the New Year? It’s pretty dumb!
I should end every interview with, “It’s pretty dumb!”
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