Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

Chris Gethard is a multi-talented comedian and actor (Don’t Think Twice, “Broad City”) who’s worked extensively in NYC’s improv scene at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater as well as having his own successful public access show, aptly titled “The Chris Gethard Show”. This weekend Gethard premiered a much more personal type of special on HBO with Chris Gethard: Career Suicide. In this touching, and darkly hilarious special, Chris uses comedy to detail his lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety including his brushes with suicide. The show held a special screening and talk-back at New York’s Tribeca Film Fest, featuring Chris, fellow comedian Pete Holmes (HBO’s “Crashing”), and moderator Ira Glass (NPR’s “This American Life”). I spoke with them on the red carpet about the development of the show and using comedy to cope with more difficult issues.

Besides hosting NPR’s “This American Life” podcast (which Gethard has appeared on), Ira Glass produced Don’t Think Twice.

Lauren Damon: Working with Chris on Don’t Think Twice, did you see the development of his show at all?

Ira Glass

Ira Glass: I mean, it’s funny, Don’t Think Twice…Chris is such an amazing actor. He’s so for-real in Don’t Think Twice, and that character does have a lot of overlap with who he is in real life. And who he is in this special. My main thing with the special is I’ve seen him develop it. I saw like a super early version in the basement in Union Hall, and then saw when it was up on stage. So I’m really curious how it translates to video.

LD: With the heavier themes, I feel like we have a need for that in comedy because things seem sort of dire in general…

Glass: It’s true…But I feel like the whole trend in comedy has been comedians getting super real about stuff that’s going on, you know. And I feel like when you look at the people…who are doing the most work right now, it’s like Louis CK and Tig Notaro and Mike Birbiglia, Aziz [Ansari]…You know that’s people talking about stuff that’s pretty real. Which I like because I like a real story. I think when somebody can tell a story that’s super funny but also is really a real thing, and emotional, it’s just like what could be more entertaining? That’s everything a person could want.

LD: That’s basically the best episodes of “This American Life”…

Glass: On a good day, yeah. On a good day. The formula on “This American Life” is we want it to be really funny, with a lot of plot at the beginning, then it will get kind of sad and sort of wistful at the end, then like throw a little music under it, you’re done!

In Don’t Think Twice, Gethard played Bill, a comedian coping with a hospitalized father on top of dealing with general anxieties of where he fits into his shifting improv group.

LD: In Don’t Think Twice, your character did a lot of the heavy emotional lifting, was your show already developing kind of around that time?

Chris Gethard: It’s funny because [Don’t Think Twice director] Mike Birbiglia was the one who kind of threw down the gauntlet and said ‘You should do a show about this side of yourself.’ I would talk about it to a degree in my work, but he was the one who was like ‘You got something here, go for it.’ So the experience of Don’t Think Twice and this show kind of went hand in hand. I was opening for Mike on the road, he developed the film on the road [and] during that process is when he really said ‘You should really go for it, I promise you, give it a shot.’ Really the first time I attempted the show was in an effort to sort of prove Birbiglia wrong and say like I don’t know if people are going to laugh at this. But I have learned never to doubt Mike. And those things really did dovetail nicely and springboard off of each other.

Chris Gethard

LD: How did Mike respond to it?

Gethard: Oh he’s been so supportive and I think he was–he also, as far as these off Broadway shows that are kind of comedy but that go serious, I think he really has helped pioneer that in the past few years. So I think he was very proud and flattered. I always give him a lot of credit as far as walking in his footsteps. So I think he was very psyched that I went for it. i think he also had a little bit of glee that his instincts were correct and mine were not. So thank god for that.

Pete Holmes had his own hilarious HBO comedy special (Faces and Sounds) as well as starring in their series, “Crashing”

LD: How do you know Chris?

Pete Holmes: It’s funny, I thought more people would ask, but here we are at the end of the line and you’re only the second person to ask, so it’s still fresh! It’s still a fresh answer. I was a fan of Chris, I would see him at UCB –actually not far from here, right around the corner. And then I took improv classes at UCB and Chris was actually my level 3 teacher because I had heard that he was so wonderful. And he was. I actually think Chris likes to downplay what a wonderful improv teacher he is because obviously he loves to perform more. But it’s almost a shame that we can’t clone him, because he’s such a great improv teacher.

LD: Your stand-up is a lot more silly and irreverent in contrast to the work Chris is doing in this special and I love that there’s space for both

Holmes: That’s nice, there is space for both! And I really love this show. It’s not the sort of stand-up I do but I also on my podcast [“You Made it Weird”] love to get very deep and weird and uncomfortable so I love seeing it in the live version with the laughs.

Pete Holmes

LD: On “You Made it Weird”, have you had any especially surprising guests?

Holmes: That happens all the time actually. For example The Lucas Brothers, the twin guys from 21 Jump Street movie…I [didn’t] know them that well either and they’re kind of low energy [in the film] and then they came on and were like the most high-energy, introspective, eloquent amazing guests. And you know, I didn’t really know them that well. So one of the things that I love about the podcast is that happens over and over. Your expectations just get completely blown out of the water.

The better answer would be Aaron Rogers, the quarterback for the Greenbay Packers…I didn’t know him either, but here comes a quarterback. And J.J. Redick who’s a basketball player just did it. And whenever these athletes come on and just kill it just as hard as the comedians, it makes me happy.

LD: With Chris being your teacher and then you had an HBO special and series first, is that kind of funny to you?

Pete Holmes: [laughs] I beat my teacher! It’s so funny, Chris and I had another thing where I did a talk show for Conan–he talked to me about this on his episode of my podcast. [Chris] was like when they gave you the talk show after Conan–which lasted about a year–he was like they were talking to me about [doing it] Like we’ve been competing in ways we didn’t even know! So I’m happy that now we’ve both landed at HBO, it’s not one or the other, but we can both be here. [laughs]

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is now available on HBO, HBO Now & HBOGo

TFF 2017: Executive Producers of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”, Hulu’s stunning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel held its premiere screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The series follows Elisabeth Moss’s “Offred,” one of many handmaids forced to serve a man in a dystopic American society where a wave of infertility has caused women to be stripped of their rights and utilized strictly for reproduction. The series debuted its first three episodes on Hulu on April 26th, with new episodes available every Wednesday. I spoke with the executive producer and showrunner of this brutal and hopefully not too prescient series.

What kind of freedom did you find adapting this novel into a streaming series rather than a regular tv or film?

Executive Producer Warren Littlefield

Executive Producer, Warren Littlefield: Well look, it’s not network television. Margaret Atwood’s vision, that she created in her book 32 years ago, was a dark dystopian world. And Bruce Miller adapted that and it’s a powerful, dark and very disturbing world and our partners at Hulu did not limit us in what we were able to do. In language, in action and physicality, in sexuality, in brutality. We were able to deliver the message that we wanted to deliver. I think it’s a thriller, I think it’s entertaining but it’s pretty damn powerful, so fasten your seatbelt.

Showrunner and writer, Bruce Miller: I haven’t worked in film very much at all. Almost all my work has been in tv which is much more fun because you could have stories that go on forever. But working in a streaming service, you get the great benefit of not having to have a show that’s forty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds long, but it can be longer or shorter. Which, more than you know, throws the audience off. They don’t know what’s gonna happen when you don’t know how much is left! It could end five minutes from now or fifteen minutes from now and that makes all the difference.

Were you very familiar with the novel before you worked on it?

Miller: There’s a novel?! [Laughs] Yeah I read the book when I was in college, in a ‘New Fiction’ class–which shows you how long ago I was in college. I loved it and I read it a whole bunch of times, completely on my own just as–I was interested in it. So I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of turning it into a television show. And then when I started to get more into writing tv and my career took off, I probably looked at it more in that way. But when I heard they were making a tv show, I was excited because I would get to watch it! Not because I was going to be making it. And then over the years, the show didn’t come out and there were reasons and this and that and you know, I ended up, despite my gender, getting the job. And it was wonderful after having been so familiar with the book but also having been familiar with it in a lot of different time periods. Because it kind of was perennially relevant. Every time I read it seemed like ‘wow this is just the time!’ to read it.

Especially this election year, where it seemed like assailing women’s rights was just a common trend…

Miller: It’s a hobby!

At which point when you were filming, did you realize what a hot topic you were handling?

Showrunner Bruce Miller

Miller: I wrote the first few episodes before the election season started and then we were writing all the way through the debates and the election. And then we were shooting you know, in the middle…when Trump was elected president, we were shooting then. It was interesting, we were in Canada, so we had a little bit of a different perspective…But that was all very interesting. I don’t know–I’m sure subconsciously or unconsciously it changes the way you shoot things. But we were just trying to be gutsy. You know when you’re working from a book that showed so much bravery to write in the first place, you don’t want to be the wimp that turns it into a safe tv show. You want to be as bold as Margaret Atwood was. And so it just reinforced that idea that we should continue to be bold because its an important story we’re telling. But really, in a lot of ways like I said, I’m a writer, I’m in the question business, not the answer business. I’m just trying to put interesting questions out there, that doesn’t really change. I mean I certainly saw the relevance and certainly we went from saying ‘oh my gosh’ to ‘we better not screw this up!’ But I don’t know that anybody changed their story tact. I think we just became a lot more comfortable with what we had decided to do.

Littlefield: I think like the character of Offred, who is a fighter, that was our intention. We always felt a lot of pressure to live up to Margaret’s vision because it’s such a strong vision. And I think when we woke up in November in the middle of production, we were like ‘we better not screw this up!’ like…oh my god. But I think we were kind of fueled by [saying] ‘Alright, this is what we need to do.’ And I think the audience will be as well.

Streaming shows often come with binge-viewing, how do you feel about that approach?

Littlefield: Well, I kind of love what we’re doing. Hulu is presenting on the 26th of April, the first three hours, so you engage in a big way. And then each week, they’ll roll out an additional one. And so, I think that that also is really good because you want time. You may want to watch it again and it’s best I think in smaller doses, because it’s complex. I mean the world of television allows you to do complex characters and a complex narrative and we embrace it.

Can you discuss casting Elisabeth Moss in the main role?

Miller: Elisabeth Moss is astonishing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers forever. She has just such a range of skills and I can’t imagine anybody else in this role. She was who I wanted to be in this role from the beginning. She has main circuit cable connecting her heart to her face that doesn’t have an off switch. So whatever she feels bubbles up. But it’s a really interesting role to play because she’s got all this stuff showing on her face that she doesn’t want anybody else in the room to see, but she wants you to see. The best thing about Liz is she likes to be challenged so I got to write stuff that I never would have written for anybody else because everything I wrote that was harder and harder and harder, she loved it! So we got to really push the boundaries of the skills of an actor.

Series star Elisabeth Moss was understandably pressed for time on the carpet, but offered this comment on acting out the defiance displayed by her character Offred:

Elisabeth Moss

“It was important to me, I mean that’s her whole story you know? That she’s so beaten down and torn apart, and has everything taken from her and just will not give up. And she’s so stubborn. And I think it goes up and down throughout the season, to me that defiance that I think we would all find in ourselves if we had to.”

The Handmaid’s Tale continues to add new episodes to Hulu every Wednesday and was already renewed for a second season in 2018.

Talking “The Phantom of the Opera” with Trista Moldovan

Most actors dream about the day they will finally appear on Broadway. Even if you don’t have any lines, just to be able to stand in the background for a brief moment gives you bragging rights with your friends that you appeared ON BROADWAY. Apparently nobody told Trista Moldovan that you were supposed to take it slow. The first time she hit the boards of the Great White Way she did it as Christine, the love interest of the title character in the longest running musical in Broadway history, “The Phantom of the Opera,” which just concluded it’s 12,080th consecutive performance.

Born in Cleveland, Ms. Moldovan has tackled many of the most popular roles in musical history, including Betty Haynes in “White Christmas,” Sarah Brown in “Guys and Dolls,” Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and Carla in “Nine.” She has also flexed her dramatic and comedic charms by starring as Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and Billie Dawn in “Born Yesterday.” In November 2012 she concluded a year-long run as Christine at the Winter Garden Theater in “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s now returned to the touring company of the show as Carlotta, the prima donna of the Opera company. Recently Ms. Moldovan took some time out to talk about this next phase in her career.

Mike Smith: You literally JUST finished understudying the role of Francesca in the touring production of “The Bridges of Madison County.” Two weeks later you’re in “Phantom.” How hard is it to have to basically be able to perform two different shows at any given time?

Trista Moldovan: To go from being an understudy, where you have to be able to perform at a moments notice to this (“Phantom”), where you’re doing eight shows a week, requires using two different sets of muscles. As an understudy you have to have a peripheral process as you’re learning the role because you’re also doing an ensemble track. For “Phantom” I’m very grateful to call the role my own and to be able to really make it my own as well.

MS: You played Christine on Broadway for a year and now you’re playing Carlotta. To me that seems like it would require an almost different type of singing, to go from what people would call “Broadway” singing – really belting it out – to a more operatic style. Was that transition difficult?

TM: Oh, yes. It’s definitely a different “sing” than Christine. Christine has more of a musical theater flavor whereas Carlotta is 100% operatic. She has a much more heavier sound…a much more legit sound, of course. And I had not sung like that for years, so that was very fun and very challenging to work up my chops and to work on the material. It was an amazing challenge and it’s so much fun to be able to sing like this every night because I don’t do opera. I can’t think of another role where I’d be able to sing like this. And I love it. It’s great. It’s so much fun.

MS: You have played so many iconic roles in musical theater. Is there a role you haven’t played yet that you would love to take on?

TM: (laughs) As I’m moving into a different part of my career it’s opened up a world of character roles. More comedic roles. So now my sights are set on roles like Madame Morrible in “Wicked” and, maybe in a few years, Madame Thenardier in “Les Miz.” More of the supporting, secondary roles. A couple of years ago I never thought they would be in the realm of possibility but now I’m sort of at the beginning of that part of my career.

MS: How long will you be with “Phantom?”

TM: As of right now I’m staying until the fall then after that…I don’t know, it seems like it’s an eternity away. After that we’ll re-evaluate when the time comes. But as of right now I’ll be here until October 2017.

We talked for a few more minutes and I learned that she had met her husband, actor Stephen Tewksbury, while both were doing “Phantom.” (She was Christine, he was the Phantom’s understudy). She laughed when I told her how cool that was, because finally the Phantom got the girl! “The Phantom of the Opera” plays through February 19th at the Music Hall in Kansas City. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can go here.

Save Ferris front-woman Monique Powell talks about the bands reformation and upcoming EP “New Sound”

    (photo by Piper Ferguson)

Monique Powell is the lead singer of the Orange County ska-punk band Save Ferris. After a 15 year break the band is set to release a new EP in February titled “New Sound” and embark on a US tour also starting in February. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Monique recently about the bands return, their pledge music campaign and about working with producer John Avila.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background info on the reformation of the group in 2013 and leading up to where the group is now in 2016?

Monique Powell: In 2012, I was diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition that had caused irreparable spinal cord damage in my neck. I was told by doctors that, without emergency surgery I could eventually lose my ability to walk. The catch was that, the surgery I needed was typically performed from the front of the neck, an issue that would have prevented me from ever singing again. I had one doctor say to me “Do you want to sing or do you want to walk?”. At that point, I became determined to find a doctor that could perform the surgery I needed through the back of my neck, a procedure considered far more dangerous, painful, and with far more required rehabilitation. The minute before I went under anesthesia for the difficult surgery, I decided I was going to bring Save Ferris back if I woke up from the procedure with my ability to walk and my voice intact. This is what led to the reincarnation of Save Ferris in 2013. I had to relearn how to hold my head up, how to do simple tasks with my arms, and through it all, I had Save Ferris and the fans to aim for. The response to the shows in 2013 was so positive, I decided to bring us back for good!

AL: What was it like heading back into the studio after being away from that process for so long?

MP: At first, scary. I didn’t eat for days prior due to nerves but then something happened and the magic of John Avila filled the studio, and, I settled in beautifully. It was as if a day hadn’t gone by.

AL: How did the relationship with producer John Avila come together?

MP: John produced the first Reel Big Fish album which was the first album I ever sang on when I was about 19 years old. We had a great time recording “She Has a Girlfriend Now” for Reel Big Fish and I never forget John’s kindness and calm demeanor. When I was shopping for producers for my new stuff, John’s name came up, and I thought, “how crazy would it be if this all came around full circle”. So I scheduled a meeting and here we are.

AL: Can you tell us about the pledge music campaign that is happening around the new EP?

MP: Well, being a band that was virtually inactive for so long, I had no idea how I would finance a new album. Thanks to Pledge and our fans, this new album has been made possible. It has been really fun, we had a studio party with our fans that donated to be on the record it was an epic night for all of us.

AL: Can you tell us about the upcoming tour and what other plans you and the band have for 2017?

MP: The band and I are all so excited to be finally touring together. It really is a dream come true for us, and I cannot believe it is actually happening. I’ve worked so hard for 3 years to make this possible. As for 2017, after we release the EP early in the year, and the 6 week Fall tour of North America, we will continue working on a full length album. If all goes as planned, we will release the full length prior to our 2017 summer tour so fingers crossed!

For more info on Save Ferris and a complete list of tour dates visit http://www.saveferrisofficial.com/

NYCC 2016: Adult Swim’s DREAM CORP LLC

Have you made your appointment with Dream Corp LLC yet? The mind-bending new series from creator Daniel Stessen is currently admitting new patients every Sunday night at 11:45pm on Adult Swim. Starring Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”, “Hello Ladies”), Nick Rutherford (Balls Out, “Drunk History”) and a host of guest stars, the series follows a strip mall clinic that uses advanced technology to invade its patients dreams in order to solve their real life problems. At New York Comic Con this year, the Adult Swim panel was treated to the first two episodes of Dream Corp which blend live action sci-fi and trippy rotoscope animation.

Accompanying the new series to NYCC was creator Stessen with stars Gries, Rutherford and Merchant (who also serves as an executive producer on the show). I sat down with them to talk about this new addition to the Adult Swim lineup.

How did you develop Dream Corp?

Daniel Stessen: I had the concept, been developing it for a while, and created this world and kind of came over to Steve for a little guidance as to how to make it more palatable to a larger audience. Being that he has some–

Stephen Merchant and Daniel Stessen

Stephen Merchant: I think he’s being immodest–or he’s being too modest, I should say, that’s not right. Too modest. I was there as just a friend of Danny’s…to do a voice for this robot [T.E.R.R.Y] that’s in the show and inevitably whenever there’s anything creative going on, I like to start meddling, and just offering thoughts. And we started talking more and more. And it was just for me, it was something I would have done as a friend anyway…but I just thought, you know, let’s try to screw these guys for some money. (Both laugh)

Stessen: And the robot, we love the robot, he was built by Jim Henson Studios…That was one of the more validating moments of my last ten years on Earth, just getting that call that they were on board to build Terry the robot.

Merchant: There’s a really strong visual sense to the whole thing, again largely down to Danny. He’s just got an incredible visual imagination. And so you see that both in the real world–where you see this kind of twisted, eccentric sort of laboratory– and then also when you enter that dream world. And that’s done with the rotoscope animation. When you go on the set, it’s you know, it’s bits of cardboard and people with fake cardboard wings and cardboard jaws and things. All of which is going to eventually going to be animated but which only [Danny] can really see. So a lot of people I think are just stood there and like ‘you want me to what? I’m drowning in spaghetti now?’ And he’s like ‘Trust me.’ So it’s sort of extraordinary, an extraordinary kind of vibe there. Wouldn’t you say people were confused [on set]?

Stessen: It’s just, when people would walk on when we were shooting the dream world stuff, people would walk into an empty room and I would just be like ‘this is going to feel super weird, just trust me, it going to look real cool.’

Can you speak about your characters?

Nick Rutherford and Jon Gries

Nick Rutherford: I play patient 88–
Jon Gries: Nick!
Rutherford: Yeah, Nick as well, who comes to the office to work on erectile dysfunction and pretty quickly realizes that the office itself is kind of dysfunctional.
Gries: What happens is that he has to work for us because he can’t pay for his procedure
Rutherford: Yeah I can’t pay for the procedure and you think that it’s a confidence issue and I don’t have a job so you say–
Gries: A job?
Rutherford: Why don’t you work here? And I’m like this is a terrible place, but I kind of go along with the flow.
Gries: So he’s really the eyes of the audience. Because obviously he’s come into this place that is so–well from some perspectives, would be ridiculous and crazy. It’s not from my perspective.
Rutherford: It’s your life’s work.
Gries: It’s my life’s work. Dr. Roberts has this vision that this is the most transforming and necessary procedure but he’s lost his funding. So now he’s working out of a strip mall because he believes and he knows that it’s working. He knows that he’s changing people’s lives. There’s a little problem here and there but–
(Both laugh)
Rutherford: There’s a lot of problems.
Gries: There’s a couple of bugs that get worked out of the system. But it could be because the system’s really old and we haven’t had the money to update it.
Rutherford: And I think Nick, Patient 88, comes into it and kind of sees a family forming. Because everybody trusts and loves each other. Like there’s, Stephanie Allen plays Joey, his protégé–
Gries: My intern for nine years. No pay!
Rutherford: (laughs) Yeah, Nine year intern. Who loves him and obviously thinks he’s the most brilliant guy ever and he just does not give her the time of day. And Mark Proksch plays kind of the navigator of sorts, I don’t know if you know his work–
Gries: He’s amazing. And he doesn’t ever leave the building. For fifteen years he doesn’t leave the building.
Rutherford: So he’s incredible. And then [Ahmed Bharoocha] plays kind of the nurse and he’s just this big stoner who doesn’t even really care. So Everybody relies on each other in a nice way. So the meat of the story is us working together and growing together and me being thrown into this world. And it being very dangerous, but also fun. And then bringing in these amazing guest stars and throwing them into that.
Gries: He gets attacked by June Squibb at one point. She stabs him.
Rutherford: Yeah she stabs me in the neck with a a screw driver. I’m kind of like the Kenny, I get hurt a lot. (both laugh)

Have you ever had a weird celebrity dream like with [episode one guest star] Dave Coulier?

Rutherford: Yeah that was really surreal.
Gries: I did, I had a weird celebrity dream. I was very nervous, I was about to do a movie years ago and I dreamt that I was in a barbershop. And I was sitting and the man sitting in the next chair was Fred Astaire.
Rutherford: Really?
Gries: True story. And he looks at me and he goes, “Are you worried about something?” And I said “I’m just a little uncomfortable” And he said “Have fun. Just have fun.” I swear to god! And that was like two days before I started shooting Fright Night Part 2.
Rutherford: Have fun out there.

What was it like working with the rotoscope animation?

Dream Corp LLC/Adult Swim

Rutherford: It’s really fun because everything is so grand. You know it’s like now you’re falling off of a hot air balloon, or now you’re running away from your bullies in high school. So you’re playing these large characters, so you just kind of jump into it. Like, I remember thinking when I was very young and being an actor, how it must be really hard to shoot like Jurassic Park when you’re in front of a green screen and then they’re like “and THAT’S a velociraptor” and you’re like “ahhh!” I didn’t feel that at all during the production that that those scenes were difficult thing to do. Because they’re just so silly and fun and you’re wearing kind of a half costume so they can animate it later. Like I’m dressed up like Legolas–
Gries: And literally it was sometimes it was pieces of cardboard, you have cardboard on you almost like a really bad–
Rutherford: Like a play
Gries: Like a kid’s play. But you know it’s all for reference and they’re gonna draw on top of it. And the thing is, knowing how beautiful the animation is also gives you the impetus that when you’re in it, you understand what it’s going to look like, so it helps, it augments. Whatever decision or choice you’re going to make, you can go further with it because you just have that confidence behind that animation. It’s almost like ‘pay no attention to me, it wont be the real me, it will be a better me.’

Stessen: The inspiration came from working with his name’s Michael Garza [of Artbelly Productions] out of Austin, Texas. He worked on A Scanner Darkly, and then a couple other guys on the crew are Scanner Darkly. And one of the woman who was an animator on Waking Life. Which I’m a huge fan of. I saw Waking Life a while back and watched it over and over and over again. Huge inspiration. And we made a short film together that did well in festivals and kind of, we started developing that style in trying to evolve it and I think we’re pushing it forward a little bit and figuring out that we can build things out of cardboard. And make a dragon face. Because all he has to do is draw what’s there. Not that’s all he has to do–his job is to draw what’s there. So we could draw you [all] here and now you’re on a volcano, you know what I mean? So it gives us a lot of flexibility and the fact that with where we are, with little funds, we could do a ton.

What can viewers expect for the rest of the series?

Gries: Surprise after surprise after surprise. I’m not kidding you, it’s different every time!
Rutherford: Yeah it really is. I mean there’s this kind of thread of these different guest stars coming in and getting their therapy as our relationship progresses and as the interrelationships between Joey and Ahmed and…Randy–Randy’s arm gets cut off (laughs)–
Gries: There are things that happen, there’s a continuity within the core group and yet at the same time it’s absolutely ridiculous what happens–but it still stays, it still answers that continuity. And yet the people that come, the patients that come, their stories individually are so different from week to week that it just gives us a whole other area to run through.
Rutherford: yeah There’s like a couples therapy–a gay couple comes in to get like couples therapy. June squibb comes in to quit smoking but then finds out that really just she just wants to have sex.
Gries: And have a baby–and she’s never had sex in her life.
Rutherford: So Roberts appeases that in the dream world–
Gries: You know he says, it’s been a while!

Dream Corp LLC is on tonight and every Sunday on Adult Swim at 11:45pm, with the premiere episode currently streaming at AdultSwim.com

For photos from Adult Swim and many more NYCC panels, make sure to check out our Facebook page!

 

Charred Walls of the Damned’s Richard Christy talks about the bands latest album “Creatures Watching Over the Dead”

Richard Christy may be best known for his work on the Howard Stern radio show however long before his antics made him a regular fixture on the long running show Richard was a heavy metal drummer for bands like Death and Iced Earth. In 2009 Richard formed his latest group Charred Walls of the Damned. The group’s current lineup which along with Christy features Jason Suecof, Steve DiGiorgio and former Judas Priest front man Tim “Ripper” Owens are set to release their fourth studio album titled “Creatures Watching Over the Dead” on September 23rd. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Richard recently about the new album and its creation, possible tour plans and this year’s hot Halloween trends.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album?

Richard Christy: The new album is called “Creatures Watching Over the Dead”. It has nine songs on it and it’s been five years since the bands second album. I took quite a bit more time with the writing on this one than the previous two. A lot of that has to do with Brian Slagel from Metal Blade Records who is real cool about letting us take our time when getting an album out. He really understands our schedules and knows how busy we are all. Aside from the schedules I wanted to take the extra time because with song writing there is always a learning process. Just like with anything else the more time you spend doing it the better you start to get at it. I went through each song to make it the best I possibly could. I initially ended up writing 24 songs between the last album and this one. I had always heard about bands writing a bunch of material and then picking the best from that and with this album we were able to do that as well. I always do pre-production for the albums so during that time Jason Suecof and I picked what we thought were the best 9 tracks and those are what took in to record. It took about a year to get everything recorded from there.

AL: What type of process did you have for selecting the 9 songs that make the album?

RC: That’s what the great thing is about having Jason as our guitarist and producer. When he hears these songs fresh for the first time he is able to pick the ones pretty quickly that catch his ear. For me it’s hard to choose as I wrote them and am a little too close to the song to be objective. Jason has a great ear for songs and melody. He is also a really great song writer. I told him the ones that catch his ear right away are the ones we should go with and that is kind of how we did it. When we finally got together for pre-production we started tweaking the nine songs a little further so we had them exactly the way we wanted them on the album. By the time we get in the studio we are pretty much set to go which allows things to flow pretty smoothly.

AL: With you doing a majority of the songwriting where do the other members fit in during the creative process for a new album?

RC: The other guys in the band have total creative freedom. I basically give them the blue print and then have them add to it or make changes if they need/want to. I am not a good bass player or singer. I can do enough to get what I am hearing in my head out but with Steve Digiorgio and Tim “Ripper” Owens those guys are great and can just go crazy. When we go in to record the guitars and drums are already done so I tell those guys just go as nuts as you want to go. I love when Steve matches stuff up to my drum fills. When we do the vocals we are generally all there and we work together with Tim. Jason is great with vocal patterns and melodies so usually what happens is if we can’t come up with something better than what I put down on the demo or everyone really likes what I did on the demo we will go with that but, I like to get Tim and Jason’s ideas for the vocals first and then we just pick the best of those ideas.

AL: The album has sort of a dark title however a majority of the vocals are rather positive. Was this something that happened consciously or did those themes develop more naturally over the course of writing?

RC: I guess it’s sort of a conscious thing. I am a pretty positive person. I have tried to write lyrics about more brutal subjects or what’s going on in the news. When I was in Burning Inside I would write about horror movies and things like that but with getting older these days I like to think about things that make me happy. It’s not that these lyrics are about it being a nice sunny day but I try and make the lyrics about stuff I have experienced and also about things that inspire me. I write about a lot of stuff I see just living in New York City and walking the streets there. I find it’s easier for me to write and things flow better when I am writing about something that means a lot to mean. I do try and write things in a way that doesn’t make them sound too happy or cheerful. I want things to sound cool but at the same mean something to me and to other people.

AL: Can you tell us a little about the album art?

RC: Being a huge fan of Halloween I came across this really great photographer by the name of Pumpkin Rot. He has a website called www.pumpkinrot.com where he showcases his photos of these scenes he sets up where he lives in Pennsylvania. One day I saw a cool picture of his and I decided to just email him and ask if we could use that picture for the album art. He was totally cool about it and with the name of the band and that photo I thought it fit very well together. The title of the album actually comes from me staring at that picture trying to come up with a title for it. I also wanted to come up with something that started with the letters CWOTD to fit in with the theme of our previous album titles. I have been asked if there was some sort of deep meaning to the cover but really it’s just a picture that I liked which I came up with a cool sounding title for. (Laughs)

AL: A lot can happen when a band takes an extended amount of time between albums. Were you ever worry about the effects that it could have not only on the band but also your fans?

RC: I don’t think there was anything that difficult for us as we are all a little bit older as are our fans. I also don’t think the extended time between albums is as much of an issue with metal fans in general. For me once you’re a metal head you are always going to be a metal head. If a band that was around in the early eighties comes out with a new album today I would still be in to checking it out. I am very open minded as a metal head. The culture as well as social media has changed a lot since our last record but we are not really a trendy band. We are a band that has aspects of having a modern metal sound but we also have a very classic metal sound to us as well. We try to blend all that together. Because of all that I don’t think we as affected by changes and trends going on. In fact I think it may have helped us. A lot of people weren’t sure if we were still going to be together but I think people are pleasantly surprised that there is a new album coming out. I think also because all the guys in the band myself included have other projects that keep us busy people may have thought we would do just one album and be done but, we are now on our third album with the same line up and people are seeing this is a legitimate thing. I think those five years as helped us. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

AL: What does touring look like for this release?

RC: It is something that really depends on our schedule. I am excited because have been asking me a lot about if and when we are going to be playing. It shows me people do want to see us and it’s something that I really want to do. Hopefully it is something we will get to do. Festivals would seem to be the best option for us because of all our different schedules. We played Orion Fest with Metallica for our last album and that was amazing! We did a two week tour run for the first album which was awesome as well. We can’t promise anything just yet as we don’t have anything booked but it’s something we definitely want to do. I am really hoping we get to do some stuff. With all of us living in different places we have to make sure all of the logistics will work for everyone so something can happen.

AL: Knowing that you’re a big fan of Halloween and with the day just around the corner what do you think will be some of this year’s hot trends?

RC: Definitely anything having to do with the show “Stranger Things”. I have watched that series twice now all the way through and can’t stop listening to the soundtrack as well. I have been listening to it since August when it first came out. I think anything having to do with that show is going to be big. Also with this being an election year I think there is going to be a lot of Donald’s and Hillary’s. I have heard that the sales of masks determines the election. I want to say that the last few elections have in fact been determined by who sold the most masks. Pumpkin Beers are going to be big again this year as well as haunted houses. I think you will start to see more of the “extreme” haunted houses where you have to sign a waiver to go in because the actors can touch you and stuff. People seem to always be looking to take things to the next level. Me personally I will just stick to the ones where people jump out at you and that’s it. I don’t need people’s hands in my mouth or something like that. (Laughs)

For more info on Richard Christy and Charred Walls of the Damned be sure to check out www.richardchristy.com

Death Valley High frontman Reyka Osburn discusses “CVLT [AS FVK]”

Reyka Osburn is the vocalist/guitarist for the California based goth/rock band Death Valley High. The group is set to release their second full length album on November 4th 2016 titled “CVLT [AS FVK]” and Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Reyka about the albums creation, the addition of guitarist Sean Bivins and the group’s plans for 2016/2017.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on the band and how everything came together?

Reyka Osburn: Death Valley High was sort of born out of my previous band Tinfed. Things had sort of begun to get a bit watered down towards the end of it. I wanted to keep doing a project that was going to be darker so eventually Tinfed disbanded and I kept going with the start of Death Valley High. When the band first started I had some people from the previous project on board but when we started playing live was when I started to get new members in the band as I continued to flesh things out. It really just grew from there.

AL: What can you tell us about the band’s new album which has sort of a unique title?

RO: We were looking for something that was us. We were all having sort of a tough time pin pointing where we were at so we thought that by blending the night culture that we love with dance/death rock/goth clubs with the hardcore scene which we also love. “Cvlt [AS Fvk]” was a morphing of several ideas we put together from various ideas.

AL: What has the addition of guitarist Sean Bivins been like for the group?

RO: We had been having Sean come out on tour with us so when it was time to record everything felt very natural. It was great to have Shawn help fill things out while still being able to keep our signature tone but with something a little more. We were able to mix in some more modern tones which were really cool. It was great for us as a band to have all this new stuff put together before going in to record.

AL: How did your partnering with producer Ulrich Wild come about for this record?

RO: Ulrich had approached actually and we just hit it off. He asked what we were looking for which led to us talking about some of his previous work with White Zombie. He told us about how he did those albums and things ended up being a lot of fun. We were able to throw any ideas at him and if it was worthy of keeping he would make it work. Ulrich was willing to give things his best sot to make sure we got what we wanted. I feel you can hear all the work we put into this record and the relationship between the band and Ulrich as well.

AL: How did you go about choosing “Warm Bodies” as the album’s first single?

RO: All the songs are my babies. “Warm Bodies” was one we completed later on in the recording process. We got everything laid out and people started just gravitating towards that song. We started playing the song live to test it out and crowds were definitely in to it so we ran with it. I think there is a bunch of great single worthy tracks on the album which makes me question if this one is the strongest but we have gotten a lot of good feedback thus far with this track.

AL: Have you started to map out any touring plans to support the release?

RO: We have some European things happening along with a few other things which are being scheduled for both this year and next. There are talks of both tours and a few festival dates as well.

For more info on Death Valley High be sure to check out their official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/deathvalleyhigh

Tom Hiddleston and Susanne Bier Premiere AMC’S The Night Manager

Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman in “The Night Manager”

“The Night Manager” recently completed its first series run in the UK to much critical acclaim and strong ratings throughout. Fortunately for American viewers, the series gets its stateside premiere tonight on AMC. Based on John Le Carré’s 1993 novel of the same name, “The Night Manager” follows Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) an ex-soldier-turned-titular-customer-serviceman in a posh Egyptian hotel. He’s presented with the opportunity to help British Intelligence agent Angela Burr (Broadchurch’s Olivia Colman) take down jet-setty guest and illegal arms dealer Richard Roper (a superbly sinister Hugh Laurie) from the inside of his operation out. Outraged by Roper’s behavior, and with some very personal motivations as well, Pine swiftly accepts. What follows is a taut spy thriller that features an amazing cast that also includes Elizabeth Debicki and Tom Hollander.

The series premiere screened this weekend as part of the Tribeca Tune In series celebrating television. I caught up with Hiddleston and director of the series, Susanne Bier, for a quick chat on their red carpet.

Susanne Bier is an Oscar winning director (2011’s Best Foreign Language film, In a Better World) who was eager to take on this project in any capacity. “Well I mean, this project I would have done had it been a puppet show!” Bier enthused, “Because I love John Le Carre and I love the novel. But I was also very tempted to do TV. I mean the format of doing six hours as opposed to two hours was just really tempting and really interesting and compelling.”

With the show having already gone over so well in England, Bier was looking forward to opening it up to a new audience and maybe a new perspective on it:  “I think there’s always different perspectives. I mean American audiences are responding just as [excitedly] about it up til now, so I hope so!”

One of the chief changes made from the novel to the series was the switching of British Intelligence agent Burr from a male to a female character. For Bier “Part of it was updating it. Part of it was the fact that by updating it we could take it out of the sort of public school white heterosexual world and maybe actually have a bit of the diversity which is where the world is actually at.” And of the brilliant Olivia Colman, the director added: “And she was absolutely the right choice for it!”

Tom Hiddleston

With Tom Hiddleston‘s Pine reporting to Olivia Colman’s Burr, I wondered if the actor saw a pattern of his recent projects whereby his characters’ fate was in the hands of his strong female leads (Such as Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak or Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive) . Hiddleston—who, it must be said gave thoughtful answers to the entirety of this NYC press line— took some time to reflect on those roles before answering  “I haven’t thought about it consciously in the work. I mean…it seems very true to life, doesn’t it? For men to be in relationship to women? [laughs]” He paused again, “I don’t know that they are, how was it you phrased it? Their ‘fates were in the hands of women’–it’s an interesting interpretation!…It rings true to me that each character would have specific relationships to women, but I would never—I would have to think about it longer to think of it whether his fate were in their hands…It is a new interpretation and I’m not disagreeing with you. My point is I think everyone is responsible for their own actions and that responsibility in each of those characters is shared out. I think Pine’s responsible for what he does and he would never discredit Burr by saying that [the mission] was her idea. He does things on his own volition that he’s responsible for and Pine’s fate is in Pine’s hands.”

As for looking back on his recent characters, he did stipulate: “The only instance who I would say that you brought up is [Crimson Peak’s] Thomas Sharpe who is governed by a very toxic relationship with his sister and out of the sense of duty and codependency he feels trapped. But again, his fates not in her hands, I just would question…I suppose I’m being pedantic about phrasing. But I think everyone’s fate is in their own hands.”

Hiddleston not only stars in “The Night Manager” but he took on the more demanding role of executive producing as well which he “loved,” adding “It recomitted my engagement with the material in a very serious way. I loved the extra responsibility. Responsible for the story, for the script, for the thing running on time and it just gives you greater–to me–the extra responsibility made me give even more commitment. So yeah, hoping there will be more of that.”

The Night Manager premieres tonight at 10pm on AMC.

Cory Stolberg discussing saving My Happy Place Comic Book Store

Cory Stolberg and Bill Hoeks are dreamers. As the managers of the My Happy Place Comic Book Store in Crystal Lake, Illinois, they’ve set out to give customers the same great experience they had when they were younger. In store giveaways, special guest appearances and the thrill that comes when you first open a new comic.

They recently started a Go Fund Me Page in hopes of raising enough money to turn My Happy Place into one of the premiere comic book stores in the Midwest. I recently chatted with Cory about his younger years, his passion and the dream he and Bill hope will come true.

Mike Smith: Can you give us some background on the store?
Cory Stolberg: We opened the store in January of this year and it is my first time running a comic book store. The current owner opened the store as a tribute to her youngest son, who was only 19 when he passed away three years ago from an unknown heart condition. He was a huge “Captain America” fan and had always told his mom, who had previously owned a used book store, that one day he was going to take it over and turn it into a comic book store. Bill and I have been helping and assisting since day one of this project. We’re involved in everything from planning and remodeling the location to moving inventory around. We also handle setting up the current floor plan and the ordering of merchandise. We try to host an event a month by having artists, writers and publishers in the store for free meet and greets. We hosted Free Comic Book Day back in May and just had another one on Halloween.

MS: Is it hard work?
CS: We have worked hard every single step of the way We have laid the ground work for where we want to see this store go and the owner has pretty much given us free range to do it and we have made it a success thus far. But the time frame to purchase the store was moved up, which is why we set up the Go Fund Me page. The people that have donated thus far are regulars at the store and they understand and see the big picture of what we want to accomplish. It is their passion and commitment to us that keeps our heads up.

MS: Give a little information about your Go Fund Me efforts.
CS: I started the Go Fund Me Page in late August and it has had a slow start. Since then, we have fielded quite a few questions. Everything from is the store closing to “what about my orders!” Our store is different from every other I have ever been in. Now granted I don’t get to travel the country and visit other stores, but compared to the many I have been to in Illinois, none of them have the energy we have, none of them greet the customers walking in the door by name, few are willing to go above and beyond to locate books for customers if they are not found in the store or on the Diamond Distributors page. We receive so many compliments from customers who quickly become friends. Because of our efforts they often become loyal to our shop with just one visit.

Our goal is $75,000, of which part will be used for updating and remodeling as discussed on the Go Fund Me Page. More inventory, some gaming, some updating, new racks and displays and a nest egg to help us for a bit. Any and all funds raised will go directly into the store. If we do not hit our goal, then ever dollar is returned to the donors. However, we believe that we can and will make this work, it is just a matter of keeping our heads up and staying the course.

MS: Why do you want to run a comic book store?
CS: For us this is dream. I have been reading and collecting comics on and off for almost 40 years. I dropped out in the 90’s, like many others, after the whole “Death of Superman” experience and the introduction of Spawn and Image Comics to the world. Over the years the writing has gotten better, the artwork is incredible and many of the story lines are just amazing. I personally prefer to read the independent books or smaller publishers, as I have outgrown the whole Super Hero thing. Plus, its near on impossible to go back and try to collect the back issues if you aren’t wealthy. For Bill and I this has been the most fun we have had working, ever. The customers are awesome, most of them are now friends and we get new ones weekly. Even though we know we will never get rich at this, this has been the most satisfying experience thus far in our lives. We are continuing to make friends with people in the industry who truly understand our dream and are helping where they can. We had artists at the New York Comic Con this weekend helping to promote our fundraising page and spreading the word about our dream. Everyone has to start somewhere. It took us many years to get our dream going but there is no letting up on it now.

MS: What is the big difference between your store and others?
CS: Bill and I have both been in positions over our work histories where we ended up working for some terrible employers and bosses. And we remember this every day as a way not to treat others. Customer service is a huge part of this business. You get one chance to make a first impression and you better make the most of it, because the customer can make you or break you in an instant. If you are having a bad day, the customer had better never know it. If the customer is having a bad day, you better do everything in your power to make it better for them. My Grandmother helped raise me and she instilled in me at a very young age that every single person you meet and have contact with each and every day, make them smile, no matter what, you have no idea what is going on in their lives at that moment and that one simple gesture, like a simple smile, could change their lives. Does that make us qualified to own a store? Who knows? But the customers love it and if they are happy, we are happy. As we say “Come find your Happy Place at My Happy Place Comics!”

To make a donation or to find out more information about the Go Fund Me campaign, click here https://www.gofundme.com/myhappyplace

Ralph Steadman talks about his work with Hunter S. Thompson and film “For No Good Reason”

Ralph Steadman is a British Gonzo artist that is best known for his work with American author Hunter S. Thompson, author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. After meeting each other in 1970 to cover the Kentucky Derby, Steadman and Thompson formed a long-time relationship. Steadman’s did the artwork for Thompson’s books over his career. He is also an author himself having written numerous books focusing on his drawings…or as Hunter would have called it his “filthy scribblings”, according to Ralph. This April, “For No Good Reason” makes its U.S. debut in NYC, which is a documentary on Ralph’s career. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ralph about the film and his work with Hunter S. Thompson.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got approached for the documentary “From No Good Reason”?
Ralph Steadman: The director Charlie Paul initially came down to see me, then the producer Lucy Paul. This was over a period of twelve years, you know. They would stay for lunch, we would talk and then we would carry on. So over twelve years, we made this film. It just seems so long ago from when we first started it. They got Johnny Depp involved, which was good because he has become a personal friend of mine over the years. He is such a great guy, easy going, warm, genuine and terrific fellow…
MG: I loved Johnny’s narration in the film as well, very nice touch.
RS: Oh yeah, it was lovely. I agree.

MG: How did you feel about having a documentary about your life done?
RS: I first thought “For God’s sake…why?” “For no good reason”…that is what Hunter would have said. I used to always ask “Why are we doing this Hunter?” and he would always say “For no good reason, Ralph” [laughs].

MG: How was it seeing some of your drawings brought to life and illustrated in the film?
RS: That was quite interesting. I couldn’t be an animator in old Disney way when they used to draw one picture and then other but slightly different and then you would put them together like a flip book and they would actually move. The only thing I liked like that was doing something simple like a dot or a splat and putting it in a book form and flipping it and watching it move, that to me was magic. I like doing that kind of thing. But seeing my drawings in the film was really great.

MG: I find it so interesting that you said in the film that your work is unprofessional and “it is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else”; can you talk about this aspect?
RS: Yeah, that is because I don’t do any pencil work. I never plan anything. I just begin and the drawing becomes what it becomes. My reaction every time is “I don’t know how I did that”. I am always amazed. “How the fuck did I do that?”, I usually say. It’s like Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that only thing of value is that thing that you cannot say but you can see it. I like that a lot.

MG: So how did your splatter technique come about then?
RS: Oh that was clumsiness. I was clumsy. I said “Oh shit” when I flicked my wrist with my pen but I realized it made this beautiful sweep of blots. I thought to myself them “Oh I like that, it’s quite nice” So I started to use it more deliberately. I would spill ink all over the place. I liked the idea of putting a sheet of paper on the studio floor taking a bottle of ink high on a ladder and dropping it. Not all of it…but just enough. It would make terrific, radiating splatters of different designs. Then you look and think “Hmm, it could be a spider” and I would go from there.

MG: Looking back at the film now, how do you feel that it has come together?
RS: I was amazed by it actually. After twelve years, it was nice to see it all come together. They did cut out a few things that I would have liked them to keep in like my art teacher, Leslie Richardson. This was a pity since I really wanted him in it. What they were after was the notoriety including the fame of Johnny Depp. So poor Leslie Richardson, who is now 93, was left out. But he still goes around kicking old ladies and children in the streets [laughs].

MG: Tell us how you originally crossed paths with Hunter Thompson?
RS: When I was planning to come to New York in 1970, I had some friends that invited me to stay with them in the Hampton’s. They were soon to be married, so I felt a little uncomfortable saying with them for a long period of time. So after staying a little while, I was going to leave for the city and I was about to leave when there was a cal from a guy named J.C. Suarez. He was an editor from Brooklyn. He wanted me to come to Kentucky and meet an ex-Hells Angels, who just shaved his head. I asked why did he do that and he said “Why? Because he’s a Hells Angels. He is a rebel”. So I asked “What for?” He told me that he was not only looking for a photographer but for an artist and they saw my book of pictures called “Still Life with Raspberry”, which was my first book of collected drawings. Don Goddard was the foreign editor of The New York Times and he had found the book in England and then came back and said that they need to put me with Hunter Thompson. So that is how it happened.

MG: Do you feel that your career would have been different if your path’s didn’t cross?
RS: As far as I was concerned, meeting Hunter and going to Kentucky was a bulls eye for me. For all the people that I could meet in America, he would be the one…go figure. Meeting Hunter was the best thing for me in terms of making a career. What we did for journalism was that we became the story and that became know as gonzo journalism. That was really what was so good about it. One day, this guy Bill Cardoso told us that the Kentucky Derby piece we did was “pure gonzo”. Hunter never heard the word before and it really stuck. He used to say “Don’t do those filthy scribblings”. He used to call my drawings filthy scribblings [laughs]. He used to also tell me “Don’t write Ralph, you will bring shame on your family”. But he always loved to sort of go against you but on purpose because he would know that it would provoke me and my work would benefit.

MG: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is one of my favorite books and the movie is great as well…
RS: The thing is people get too sniffy about the movie and things like that. They say that it is not quite this or quite that. No! It is a version of the book. I didn’t mind it, especially since the whole damn thing, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was a crazy idea to begin with.

MG: Do you recall how long it took you to complete the illustrations for the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” book?
RS: I think I did nine pictures in a week and it was done. The rotten thing was that I ended up selling all of the originals since I was told it would be a good career move. I think I got $75 dollars each for them. Can you imagine what they are worth now?

MG: Has your drawings been affected since the death of Hunter S. Thompson?
RS: No, not really. I have been doing bird drawings for the last few years. I don’t like drawing politicians any more, I can’t be bothered. They are so awful. I don’t feel so bitter about it. I do not feel like I am trying to change the world. I have changed the world enough since I started and it is worse now than when I started [laughs]. So good, I have done what I had meant to do [laughing]

MG: Yeah, you start off the film saying you set out to “change the world”; I was going to ask if you felt that you have accomplished that goal?
RS: We’ll you look around, I have done my part but bloody computers have changed everything.The business and also people in general. You can’t walk down a side street without somebody passing you by and they are not looking at you or around them, they are looking down at their phone. I had to go on a train recently to Halifax for a show of my drawings and there was this woman on the train that was a good example. She had red hair which was long down one side and shaved on the other side. I have a drawing of it in my book here. She was so awful, I had to draw her. But she had her makeup out in one hand and her phone in the other from the moment she got on the train. That is the problem about the invasion of the computer, like Twitter. Everyone wants to tweet you now. So that is very weird to me.

MG: Tell us about your latest book “Proud Too Be Weirrd”?
RS: I collected together a bunch of things that I never had no good reason to use [laughs]. I thought I would start with the first page and go through my studio finding this and finding that and just building the book from there and that is how I worked on it. This guy Steve Crist from AMMO Books got in touch with me about doing it. He used to work at TASCHEN. Benedikt Taschen rang me after the book was made and said he was actually very disappointed because he wanted to do the book, but at the time I didn’t know this. He did my book with Hunter, “The Curse of Lono”. Steve Crist used to work with Benedikt and that’s where he began. He sort of adopted the style of big book like TASCHEN did. I really like the title “Proud Too Be Weirrd” and it is a great book

MG: What are some of the artists that inspire you?
RS: I love Picasso. He is such an inspiration for me. There is a film called “The Mystery of Picasso” that is really worth seeing if you can get a copy. It is fascinating for me to watch him at work. The director, who made the film, was allowed to by Picasso to be in the studio with him. This is what Charlie did with me as well for our film. Picasso would set things up for him including painting on glass and having him film from the other side. This is amazing work and it really continues to inspire me.

MG: Are you working on anything else new currently?
RS: I got a new book of creatures that I am working on right now. These are completely made up creatures for example instead of a pelican; you do a pelicant [laughs]. You have to keep doing something otherwise what is the point. I guess I am taking advice from my father, who couldn’t bear to just sit about. I am also learning how to etch steel plates as well. So I suppose I should continue to carry on.

David Lloyd reflects on his work illustrating “V for Vendetta” graphic novel

David Lloyd is known best for his work illustrating “V for Vendetta” graphic novel and working with Alan Moore.  David recently attending the 2012 New York Comic Con to promote this latest project called “Aces Weekly”, which is an exclusively weekly comic art magazine.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with David about his work on “V for Vendetta”, how it is still relevant today and his inspiration.

Mike Gencarelli: Where did you pull the inspiration for your illustrations on the “V for Vendetta”?
David Lloyd: If you mean the look of the character – the idea of making him a kind of resurrection of Guy Fawkes — it’s because it fit into what we needed for the character beyond his basic form as an urban guerrilla fighting a fascist tyranny. We needed a colorful eccentric look because that’s what makes attractive and fascinating characters in most mainstream comics. And he was a character branded a villain by history who was, however, a hero to his cause as many branded as villains by history were. A good man and a bad man at once. If you mean the style of the art – it was a simple choice because of the subject – it was about a stark, bleak future, so I chose a stark, bleak style of art. But it was influenced by seeing Jim Steranko’s Chandler and the work of someone who was a great inspiration to me and a friend who actually helped me on some of V – Tony Weare – a master of light and shade.

MG: You worked with Alan Moore on “Doctor Who” prior to this, how was the collaboration in comparison on “V for Vendetta”?
DL: Well, the difference was that we had full control and we could do what we liked on Vendetta, whereas the Doc Who mag stuff was work for hire. But our working relationship was as good. We were on the same wavelength creatively – influenced by many of the same books, tv, movies. And V was also produced at a very slow pace in the early days – 6-8 pages a month = allowing us time to experiment, think, talk, plan and have creative accidents that made it a very organic object, not planned out from the beginning but made up as we went along – like good jazz : )

MG: V is such an iconic character; if there is ever a comic convention he is always present. Why do you think he resonates so much with the fans?
DL: A colorful and admirable fighter for freedom against the tyranny of cultural and political oppression and repression who also happens to be a mad genius. It’s not rocket science… : ) Alan produced something very profound as well as a great adventure. It’s a classic of great storytelling with an important message for everyone – hang onto your individuality at all costs.

MG: How do you feel that the story was translated into the 2007 film?
DL: I see it as another version. In an ideal world it would have been nice for it to be exactly as the original, but a Hollywood movie has so many needs to fulfill – I’m glad it was as good as it was. There are great performances in it and it’s a powerful movie, and the Washowski bros and James McTiegue did a great job that in other hands could have been disastrous. And most importantly the central message of the book is right in there and has been spread to a much wider audience than might ever have heard it via the graphic novel alone.

MG: How do you feel that the comic genre is changing with now digital being so popular?
DL: Depends what is done with it. It’ll change depending on what the audience for them decide they want out of the techniques being used on them. I don’t like motion comics as we understand the term but I’m sure something creative and aesthetically satisfying can be done with the medium and some kind of movement. The digital comics myself and Bambos Georgiou, my collaborator on the project, are presenting via Aces Weekly are not digital in any sense other than they’re just fantastic art and storytelling on screen instead of the page. And they look beautiful and jewel-like!

MG: Who are some of your mentors and favorite artists?
DL: I was given a little book called The Observers Book of Painting, which had reproductions of the great masters. One of them was Turner’s ‘ Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus ‘ , which I managed to get a print of, and which remained on my bedroom wall for years – even during the ‘ film poster wallpaper ‘ period of my teenage years. It was the atmosphere made from light, that impressed me most with Turner – and Rembrandt was on the same team. Then Millais for his extraordinary photo-realist work allied to amazing lighting effects, Geoff Campion – he drew ‘ Texas Jack’ in one the English weeklies, Steve Dowling, who created the newspaper strip ‘ Garth ‘ – the first British superhero ( not Marvelman ), Giles – an English political cartoonist, whose work was an extraordinary blend of the realistic and the cartoony, George Woodbridge and Jack Davis in Mad magazine – loved their work so much, of daffy dogs and gunfighters, that I did tracings of them and hung them on the wall ; little, b/w reprints of US comic book stories, packaged in the UK under the titles – ‘ Mystic’ and ‘ Spellbound ‘, Wally Wood, Orson Welles, H.G.Wells, Ray Harryhausen – ‘ The 7th Voyage of Sinbad ‘, Ron Embleton, Rod Serling, Ian Fleming, Mickey Spillane, Robert McGinnis, Josh Kirby – who painted covers for a series of sf paperbacks ( some time before he did Pratchett stuff ) including some for… Ray Bradbury ; then there was Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Robert Sheckley, H.P.Lovecraft, Don Medford, Don Siegel, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Sagal, Terence Fisher, Ron Cobb – of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Frank Frazetta, John Burns, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Frank Bellamy, Al Williamson, the EC crowd, Tony Weare, the early Warren crowd, Gray Morrow, Toth, Torres, Jim Steranko. Steve Ditko astounded me with his work on Amazing Adult Fantasy, which was the most consistently powerful, individualistic and atmospheric comic book work I’d seen to that date. I tried to draw like Ditko. I tried to draw folds in clothing like he did, but couldn’t because I knew practically nothing about the way people were put together at that time. At around the same period, I saw the work of the great English strip illustrator, Ron Embleton, on the first series of Wrath of the Gods – as I mentioned earlier – a centre spread in Boy’s World, in which the use of black shadow, expert pen work, and rich colors, collaborated with faultless draughtsmanship, to produce the single most impressive piece of work I have ever seen in this area of craft.  Amazing Spiderman appeared then. Then the Fantastic Four and Kirby/Lee – those fantastic, overblown, revolutionary, soap opera-style epics that had to be tracked down issue by issue through the various stores in my neighborhood  cos we had unreliable distribution of US comic books in England. Dr Strange. The EC guys came after that through the Ballantine books – you know the names – and not just the smooth guys. Al Feldstein’s work looked like he cut it out of pieces of wood – but it was extraordinary. Then I got the early Warrens. Even better. Bigger. More of it. FRAZETTA. UNBELIEVABLE COVERS. Blazing Combat. Gray Morrow on ‘ The Long View ‘. REED CRANDALL. ALEX TOTH. Too much. But not enough. Never enough. Then, when I was at the studio, I saw a newspaper strip called ‘ The Seekers ‘, which was drawn by a guy called John Burns. I thought he was American cos I didn’t think an English artist could draw in such a smooth, cool way – like Alex Raymond but with more realism. He took risks which worked – he drew water solid black, and minimalised it into a design element. He was totally in control. A master. Tony Weare was drawing another newspaper strip – a western called ‘ Matt Marriott ‘ – which was all done with one brush, it seemed, and looked lazy but wasn’t, and largely depended on shadow for delineation of figures and objects. All of all of that, and more I could list, helped me.

MG: Do you feel that your style has changed over the years?
DL: Well, other than from early days of learning, no. But then I don’t think I have a style that is a fixed thing to grow or not. I’ve chosen different ways of drawing using different tools on many subjects that demanded a variety of approaches. Sure there’s a core personality to it and to me as a creator – but a set ‘ style ‘ ? I don’t think so – though of course because I’m known principally for V many folks think of me in that context and no other.

MG: Tell us about your recent work with Aces Weekly?
DL: An EXCLUSIVELY digital weekly comic art magazine – not previewed for print – which I am publishing. You get this and only get this by subscribing and it’s delivered to you at the touch of a button every week to iPad, tablet and any computer anywhere as long as you’re connected to the net. It has up to 30 pages including extras of story and art every week featuring 6 continuing stories that run through 7 issues making a volume of up to 210 pages. And it’s a steal at just $9.99 for 7 weeks of some of the finest talent in comic art from me, Steve Bissette, John McCrea, Phil Hester, David Hitchcock, Mark Wheatley, Yishan Li, Bill Sienkiewicz, Colleen Doran, Herb Trimpe, Dylan Teague… and many more. We go straight from the creator to the buyer. No expenses on printing, distribution, warehousing, retail, and no barriers to sale. We have an international team of creators and we can sell internationally to anyone reading English. But we’re new and we need lots of subscriptions to thrive. So please help us spread the word : )

The Dude Designs’ Thomas Hodge talks creating art for the horror genre

Thomas Hodge is the man behind The Dude Designs (thedudedesigns.blogspot.com). He is a
freelance film poster art director, designer and illustrator for such films as “Hobo With a Shotgun”, “The Innkeepers”, “Fathers Day!”, Arrow Video Covers: “Savage Streets”, “Jaguar Lives” and many others. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Thomas about his work and his love for the horror genre.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your got started with The Dude Designs?
Thomas Hodge: It was creative frustration and a passion for film. I’ve been in the design industry for over twelve years now, going through all types of design from corporate business to in-store promo for toys & DVD’s, general design agencies and have spent quite a few years in and out the games industry, creating key art for packaging etc. Creatively I felt I was always held back from producing something which would standout. so I rediscovered my love of old video cover art and that sent the old cogs grinding and i started experimenting more with styles and design to tap into that classic vain, in a market i felt was running dry creatively.  I suppose the initial inspiration was for an intoxicated night at the midnight movies screening of the grindhouse film. I was over there with a bunch of mates and they had silly draw a grindhouse poster so I entered my drunken scrawl for a poster of DUDE! Which I then later worked up into one of my early video cover experiments:

MG: How did you get involved doing film posters and DVD/Blu-ray covers?
TH: Like I said I started experimenting creating flyers for midnight movies night. It’s easier to start the wheels in motion design wise (I find) if you have a purpose, so doing the flyers on the side gave me that initial push (i was still working full time creatively) but it made me experiment with my passion of film as the medium, if you will. Creating the blog then gave me a platform to get this work out there for people to see. So from there I then was starting an art project creating old video nasty covers really getting wrapped up in all the little design niches that I loved, I was still working more with photographic imagery so to really capture that inspiration essence which excited me about this type of art I needed to push it further, and I worked on a self project titled Cannon (a mock 70 crime action drama based on my love of “Death Wish” and 70s Italian crime cinema) then I tackled a competition for Empire Film Mag in the UK and the response was great, with that style and my other work at Sony I picked up the arrow covers. Still wanting to push it further I saw the release of “Hobo “loved it and contacted the guys about creating a poster, they said sure love to see what you can do, i worked my nuts off on that. they loved it so much they brought it and used it… the rest as they say is history, but I’m still trying to push my style and work further with each project, I’m aiming for world domination of bust!

MG: Your work is a breath of fresh air from all the lame (giant heads) Hollywood posters, tell us about your influence?
TH: EVERYTHING from my childhood to adolescence, video rental shop shelves. Artist wise Graham Humphrey’s work form films like “Evil Dead”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “The Return of The Lliving Dead”, “Spookies”, “The Stuff”… man the list goes on. Enzo Sciotti, who is an amazing Italian poster artist from the 70’s and 80’s. Frant Frazetta for his use of form and figures is just incredible!  Even the more minimal work of Stephen Frankfurt has influenced me. All the greats which seem to have been forgotten about and over looked, good design has been excluded from commercial (I’m not talking about ‘limited edition’ screen prints) film posters for far too long now. The responsibility of that doesn’t come down to the designers either it’s the distributors who feel dumb is best to sell. My work has been swapped out for some appalling designs on DVD releases; did you SEE what they did to the Innkeepers in the UK? I’m always searching out new inspiration trying to push the envelope.

MG: How much freedom do you have when working on a project?
TH: Again it depends on the client, I usually try to get a lot though, why higher me else? If you’re going to pay me I will promise to deliver the best god damn poster design I can to appropriately promote your film to an audience. A lot of the time they will request a montage style poster, so that will be the framework but I like to experiment and try to sell other styles in to. At the end of the day I’m trying to get people trusting in what I do creatively and I sell myself more as a creative director of these projects. Working with directors directly gives the most freedom I find, they trust you and it usually forms the best relationships. I don’t do design by committee been there done that.

MG: What do you enjoy most about working in the horror genre?
TH: The fantasy element, it gives you that fun visual hook to play with. You can let your imagination run wild; I wish people would make more rubber monster films again. I feel I make as many twisted action flick as horror though.

MG: What is your favorite 80’s horror films? Current horror film?
TH: Oh man, how longs a piece of string? Er…. I honestly can’t say. I love them all for their 80’s cheesy. More modern is easier as there’s a lot less on the list (excluding all the ones i worked on as I don’t want to be seen showing favoritism) “Wendigo”, “Last Winter”, “I Can See You”, “Session 9”, “Pontypool”, “28 Days later”, “Altered”, “The Objective”, “Let The Right One In (Swedish)” and “Insidious” (that’s quite a mainstream one for me) stood out for me.

MG: How do you approach a project like the design for “They Live” Blu-ray?
TH: Well I look at what the films message is, visually how its approach and style, setting are. Then work on a visual which reflects those messages to the viewer. it’s an 80s action extravaganza combined with social commentary, staring one of the greatest wrestlers ever. So that’s what I drew! I was so enamored in the film in my head I was trying to produce a piece which had almost religious iconography undertones and Piper with Keith where latter day saints standing against adversity! Crazy shit hey, at first you may see big guns but if you look deeper there are messages. It doesn’t need to be like a minimal to be clever!

MG: What other projects do you have planned upcoming?
TH: We two corking (actually four) posters yet to get released for “Almost Human”, “Wake Before I Die” (bit of a change of gear on that one so see how people react, that’s always fun!). Then I got another poster for “Would You Rather” (which has a classic flavor) and a big fun monster one for “Hypothermia”, if they release it.

Gerald Scarfe talks about working with Pink Floyd on “The Wall” and “Wish You Were Here”

Gerald Scarfe is a satirical political cartoonist and is known best for working with the band Pink Floyd on two of their albums “The Wall” and “Wish You Were Here”. He also created the animation used in the film “Pink Floyd: The Wall” and worked with Roger Water on his new tour of “The Wall”. Media Mikes got the chance to chat with Gerald about his work and reflect on its impact with fans.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your revisiting the wall with your book “The Making of Pink Floyd: The Wall”?
Gerald Scarfe: What I think think the weird thing about going through the diary of one’s life is that first of all you forget things and misplace the dates. It was like unraveling a piece of memory or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But overall it was a fantastic experience looking back working on this project, which was some 30 years ago. I really didn’t feel at the time that it was going to be anything really exceptionable. I knew that Pink Floyd were extremely well known at the time. I worked with them for about five years to produce this thing. People have asked me in the past and asked if working on “The Wall” changed my life but for me then it was just another a job that I did. They have said “Well it has definitely changed my life”. So I think it really did strike a nerve in the public at that time. The young of those days are the older generation today and they are still fans and write to me. There is a guy who recently contacted me to tell me that his entire left arm is being tattooed with my illustrations. So it is still relevant today.

MG: Tell us about revisiting “The Wall” after almost 30 years ago with Roger Water’s new tour? What was your involvement?
GS: It was a fantastic experience. Now it is back up and running again. Roger contacted me about two years ago and said he was going to do the show again and would need new material. I re-designed some new things like the puppets and some bits of film here and there. I also did various lettering and writing for the program, which was projected on the wall. What has changed from when we originally did it is that things were not computerized. Where we were using three projectors on the wall back then now there are seven or eight projecting. They can literally pin point an individual brick on the wall using the computer. Even when we first did it I thought it felt like a Roman circus and was just so spectacular.

MG: How do you compare going from working on “Wish You were Here” to “The Wall”?
GS: When they first approached me, they were touring at the time and I did little pieces of animation here and there. I wasn’t really sure what was needed or wanted of me at the time. I was known in Britain and parts of America for being a satirical artist, making fun of society and poking fun at politicians. I think that is why Roger (Waters) and Nick (Mason) needed from me at the time. I didn’t quite get that and I started to make them these surreal images of men tumbling through the stratosphere and crashing through the sky. They were all rather surreal. I think what they were expecting from me was probably something a little more actual about the world itself in a more precise way. I actually started the flowers (from “The Wall”), way back then in the early days of “Wish You Were Here”. The flowers have some much work in them. I think in some places there are about 24 drawings per second in them, in order to most very slowly. Each one of those drawings probably takes 1-2 days and there are thousands of them. It was very labor intensive and expensive also. So that is how it all began. Later when we came to do “The Wall”, we cannibalized some of these pieces for “Wish You Were Here” and used them like the flowers and so forth.

MG: Your animation in “The Wall” was used to portray Waters’ political expression throughout the songs, did you consider that when creating them?
GS: It was Nick that approached me first in the very beginning.Then Roger got more and more involved. Roger came forward bit by bit and I ended up dealing with him primarily. I felt a little awkward at first working with Waters since I felt like I was denying Nick, he is still a very good friend and I had dinner with him just recently. Roger is very insistent and precise. Roger said to me and this is true “When you hire an artist, you don’t interfere with what that artist does or try and push him your way. You get what you get”. So Roger was very happy for me to interpret his lyrics since we were on the same page. I was able to visualize the whole thing for him. He has not only given “The Wall” an audio personality but I’ve given it also a visual personality. We met many times and drank a lot of a special brew of Carlsberg beer, which is very strong, and luckily we have the same dark wit. That developed into a strong relationship that we have today.

MG: Where did you draw inspiration from for the marching hammers, The Judge and the “Empty Spaces” sequence?
GS: First of all my experiences of judges are that the ministry of the law is a tricky business and they always make mistakes, so to me the law was an asshole, so that was that [laughs]. The hammers were suppose to be the forces of repression. What can you think of that is more cruel and relentlessly mindless than a hammer as it smashes down. That is the kind of way I think. When it came to “Empty Spaces”, I believe that was a stream of consciousness. I made a film prior to this where I just rolled from one image to another, which is actually how I ended up meeting Nick and Roger, it was called “A Long Draw Out Trip”, which I made for the BBC. That was really everything about America that I could think of at the time. I had Mickey Mouse, Playboy, Black Power, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra, which were all morphing one into the other. I took that idea when I came to “Empty Spaces”. Interestingly enough, “Empty Spaces” starts with the flowers, which began like we said from “Wish You Were Here”. Then I just kept adding to it all the time. The flowers end up making love and then I thought well what happens when people fall in love, sometimes they hate one another. So then the female ends up devouring the male and flies away. It grew and grew and was unraveling. It was much of a journey for me, adding a page a day to this unrolling adventure.

MG: I’ve read you saw The Wall back in 1980 at Nassau Coliseum, NY, how do you compare “The Wall” from then to today?
GS: It is difficult really since it was in fact a long time ago and one’s memory has blunted. I remember being very excited. I never worked on theater in this size at all. I remember Roger telling me one night, “You know that you are a rock ‘n roll artist now, right?”. I looked and there were thousands of people applauding my flowers and work. I realized that I was pleasing the audience and that was a terrific feeling for me. Being an artist can be a lonely job. You work alone and don’t see the people who are looking at your pictures generally. So to be in an auditorium like that where they are cheering at your work, it is a really great feeling. Over the years, I have grown used to that feeling having done a lot of opera, theatre and my work with Disney on “Hercules”. It is still a thrill though. I went to Madison Square Garden last year to see the show and I had the same kind of thrill still. The guy who wrote to me and told me about him getting the tattoos on his arm said that he was a Gulf War veteran and told me how much my work has helped him through his difficult periods. It is hard for me to imagine that it actually helps people. I guess the music becomes very personal to some people and it stay with them through their life.

MG: Due to the diminishing role of physical packaging due to digital downloads, what do you see for the role of art playing in the world of music in the future?
GS: Well, I don’t see why animation still cannot be used. In my other job, I am the political cartoonist for the London Sunday Times, where I’ve been for like 45 years, I can see a point where newspapers will be phased out. People will be getting the news online, which is much quicker. I personally am not tremendously computer literate but I have people that help me. All of my work is now electronically sent around the world, once it is scanned in. Going back to music, I don’t see why these images cannot be downloaded with the music. It is exactly the same.

James Hance talks about his art and his book “Wookie The Chew”

James Hance is the genius behind Relentlessly Cheerful Art. He has created many great pieces of art by mashing up his childhood favorites, whether it be cartoons or movies. James has already created the brilliant book titled “Wookie The Chew”, wonderfully mixing “Winnie The Pooh” with “Star Wars”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with James about his work and what existing projects he has planned next.

Also check out our giveaway for James Hance’s Relentlessly Cheerful Art, click here to enter top win some great prizes.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s start with Wookie The Chew, how did you create this wonderful book?
James Hance: I had a dream about it, woke up and all the characters were there. I knew exactly who everyone was. I just recently decided that C3PO is going to be rabbit but I’m not entirely sure what to call him. Maybe Threepit? Christopher Robin was always going to be Han solo. I posted a few pictures on Facebook to see if anyone would dig it and people really got into it. I did a few and someone jokingly asked when the book was coming out, so I wrote the book.
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MG: Why did you choose to do the pictures inside the book in black and white?
JH: I wanted to keep in theme with the early E.H. Shepard Pooh illustrations. Also my printing guy would’ve charged 2x as much for color! [laughs] Once the trilogy is finished I’ll release them as a single full color volume.

MG: So you have plans for another book “Wookie The Chew”?
JH: I am about 2/3 of the way through episode two right now and I’m releasing new prints to coincide with the story. The first one was loosely based on Episode IV, the second book will be ‘When We Were Very Jedi’ and the third, ‘Now We Are Sith’.

MG: Tell us about the animation clip for “Wookie The Chew”, are you planning turning it into a feature also?
JH: Billy Allison and I put that little sequence together as a promo for the book, prints and upcoming audio book. We wanted to let the reaction to the clip determine whether or not to go ahead with something more feature-length. There’s been an amazingly positive response so far in such a short space of time and it was so much fun to put together. Now it’s just a case of working out the logistics of making the movie. Lucasfilm have been amazingly good about this so far.

MG: You have a lot of work inspired by “Star Wars”, my favorite is ‘Force By Northwest’, tell us about your inspiration?
JH: “Star Wars” has been a huge influence, as you can tell. Jim Henson and George Lucas practically walked me through my childhood. As a kid I’d constantly be doodling, on any flat surface I could find. I remember drawing Link Hogthrob (Pigs In Space) piloting an X-Wing and being ridiculously proud of it. I should really do that one again, that’s gold!

MG: Tell us about your latest prints inspired by “Firefly”?
JH: “Firefrog!”. People kept requesting “Firefly” art but I’d never actually seen the show. Eventually I picked up the box set and washooked. Half way through the first episode I was plotting out each character and their Muppet counterpart. I was posting my progress pictures on Facebook and it started this big snowball of suggestions and amazing feedback. I’m very happy with how it went.

MG: What is your first step in starting a process for a project?
JH: I’ll usually sit down with endless coffees and watch the movies or episodes of whatever it is I’m working with. I don’t really mash-up anything that I am not passionate about. I’ll sketch like a mad thing through the movie (I often take a sketch pad into the cinema and doodle in the dark. That sounds a bit weird, actually) and then go online and and source pictures for inspiration and just go from there. It’s really just me in my pajamas watching cartoons and eating
cereal all day. That’s the dream.

MG: What has been your favorite artwork to date you have created?
JH: One my personal favorite pieces has to be “The Creation of Muppet”. Kermit and Jim as Adam and God, with Jim surrounded by various Muppets. That was a 4ft x 2ft painting, It took about a week and I’d add a few characters in each sitting. I’m really happy with how that turned out. It was hard to let the original go when the time came!

MG: When are you going to start selling originals on your website? How about work for hire?
JH: I take commissions as and when I can but I’m pretty busy with
writing and the Chew series right now. I’ve put together a lot of
digital art and t-shirt designs lately but these past couple of weeks
I’ve actually gotten back to painting. I forget how much I enjoy it
until I actually have the brush in my hand!

MG: What are you currently working on now?
JH: I’m currently writing book two of the ‘Wookiee The Chew’ trilogy, I’m also working on ‘The Timelord At The End Of This Book’ which is a Doctor Who / Sesame Street parody. That one’s had an amazing response so far. I’ve finished the writing, onto the illustrations now. Then there’s a ‘Star Wars’ / ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ book in the works, the Wookiee The Chew movie, etc. I’m planning on hitting the conventions all of next year so I’m working hard to have an abundance of relentlessly cheerful art to take with me.