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AICN COMICS: Q&@ is our new semi-weekly interview column where some of your favorite @$$Holes interview comic bookdom’s biggest, brightest, newest, and oldest stars. Enjoy this latest in-depth interview filled with @$$y goodness and be sure to look for more AICN COMICS as we gaze into the future of comics every week with AICN COMICS: SPINNER RACK PREVIEWS every Monday and then join the rest of your favorite @$$Holes for their opinions on the weekly pull every Wednesday with AICN COMICS REVIEWS!
Q’s by Ambush Bug!
@’s by METALOCALYPSE’s Jon Schnepp!Transcribed by Lyzard!
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with our first interview from this year’s New York Comic Con. I had a chance to talk with Jon Schnepp at the Dark Horse booth. Jon is a director and creator of METALOCALYPSE for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Jon also wrote and did a cover to the new METALOCALYPSE: DETHKLOK comic in stores now from Dark Horse Comics. Jon was kind enough to chat with me for quite a while. Here’s what he had to say…
JON SCHNEPP (JS): Eric Powell is the instigator. He was a big fan of METALOCALYPSE and he suggested doing a METALOCALYPSE VS. THE GOON comic. Brendon met him, then I met him, and everything sounded cool. He came up with the storyline. I did an alternate cover. The comic came out great, everybody loved it and then Dark Horse said “do you want to do a regular comic?” We got the okay from Cartoon Network and then we worked on it on and off while we were doing season three. Brendon and I just talked about different story ideas; we plotted the whole thing out and then sent it to Dark Horse. They had gotten Jeremy Barlow, who is an amazing writer, he’s done a bunch of STAR WARS stuff, and he was also a fan of the show, so he really nailed the characters’ dialogue in how they talk. He wrote an unbelievably great script. I was really happy with it. He was able to embellish plot points and wrap everything together. Lucas Marangon is the artist, he’s from several different books, also HELLCYON, which is his own book, and he came on and I think he stuff is great. It took him a little bit to get the characters completely down but by the middle of the first book it was fantastic. I think all of his design and composition is fantastic. I couldn’t be happier.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Tell me a little bit about the comic and how it came to Dark Horse?
BUG: Were there any challenges adapting a cartoon into a comic book that you weren’t planning on or any surprises that happened?JS: You know to be honest, no. I’m kind of stymied by budget constraints, because it’s an animated TV show on Adult Swim, it’s not a super giant budget, so we’re able to pull off quite a lot on a very small budget for Adult Swim. But in comic books there is absolutely no budget restraint, at all, so we can have a comic with a Death Train, where its like 50 miles long, have several bad ass shots of it, have them playing on top of it, a whole bunch of other stuff. We brought a bunch of characters back, some of my favorite characters that we only touched on in one episode like the Blues Devil from Season One, let’s get that guy back. I love that character. We created a bunch of new characters. It allowed us to highlight a lot of characters that don’t get a lot of play in the series or lets us tell a story that would just be really hard to tell in episodic form. The first issue is really closer to something we would have done on any one of the three seasons, and I think the second and third issues are bigger and badder, as far as more grandiose and like that would probably cost 600,00 or maybe a million to make.
BUG: It seems like you guys have such a fun time working on the cartoon, it just seems like an amazing concept. Everything at Adult Swim seems to work together. What is a day like working at the Adult Swim offices?JS: I’ve been working with Adult Swim for over fifteen years now. I started out by editing SPACE GHOST episodes, so I did about twenty of those, they are all random, different episodes and it was an incredible amount of fun and freedom basically working with Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, who went on to do AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE, but that was back when they first started writing, So I started working with them. I did another episode with even earlier SPACE GHOST writers, but I really locked in with those guys for about two years and then moved on to AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE. I did the backgrounds and Carl’s house, then I got into doing some voices like Wisdom Cube, I ended playing a bunch of different voices for them. Did a weird one-off short before they started airing the shorts, this was back in 2001, THUNDARR UNIVERSITY, which I should just post, but I don’t know if its postable. Just back and forth doing stuff with those guys for years, I did the AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE 3-D origin for their DVD movie which is just like most simplistic 3-D program from like 1994, it’s called Infinity, and Dave was like “Hey Schnepp, can you remember that thing you did for SPACE GHOST (which I just did for fun), you know that thing, can you do that for us” and I’m like “yeah, fuck yeah.” So I storyboarded this weird thing with Abraham Lincoln and wooden guns, just crazy shit.
BUG: It seems like with Adult Swim you can get away with using that crude technology, it’s almost the style of Adult Swim.JS: It is, but I’ll be straight up honest, with Dethklok, because I’ve worked on all these others shows for Adult Swim, and Tommy and Brendon who came up with the idea, they asked me to design the characters. So I busted out William Murderface instantly. They showed me a bunch of photos of death metal guys and metal guys in general. My idea was just to have them be as ugly as possible. So I instantly drew William Murderface with that pyramid hair and I drew Toki. So those characters’ look didn’t change. Skwisgaar had his hair parted to the side and we changed it to the middle. Pickles went through the most transition and he was the only one I tried to draw good looking, like if he didn’t have that messed up haircut he’d look like Brad Pitt. But everyone else is ugly. They were originally a lot uglier. Our character designer on the show made them look a lot nicer.
BUG: They obviously took a lot of reference from the metal bands of the late 80s, early 90s like the hair metal bands…JS: We’re able to have fun with all of the mythos of metal and also pay honor to it. I think all of us are metal fans. I wasn’t a super black metal fan before the show, but I was quickly changed by Behemoth and Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy. Just a bunch of different bands that are amazing. My concept was not to do a show that looks like an Adult Swim show and I’m glad that Brendon and Tommy agree because I wanted it to look like those old FLASH GORDON, TARZAN shows from the late 80s, can’t remember what company it was, but kinda slightly realistic proportion characters, not goofy, with beautiful painted backgrounds. I was trying with “Thunderhorse,” the music video, was an homage to Frank Frazetta, like I storyboarded the whole thing and that is still one of my favorite sequences I directed.
BUG: It surprises me to hear that you weren’t into the death metal before the show, because you do seem to hit all the notes, all the places that kind of make that what it is. The iconography and all.JS: It is metal, it’s just a slight push and shove and you’re into death metal. But Tommy and Brendon are the writers and they were really into black metal. Tommy has always been into black metal. It was easy for me to jump on and I’m a big fan of science fiction, horror, and I’ve been a comic book nerd for forty years, so since I was four, sorry thirty seven years, so for me I’ve gotten to do a comic by working by way backwards. I did a TV show, but I’ve always wanted to do comics. I’ve been a comic book fan forever.
BUG: What’s that like coming from a fan’s point of view, to having your own comic that you can hold in your hand?JS: Dude, you don’t even understand. I came here to this convention and the comic came out on Wednesday and I had just taken the red eye and I could barely stand, but I was like “man I can’t check into my hotel yet, I’m just going to go to Mid-Town, wait an hour, and buy my own comic.” I wrote it, I drew the cover, and there it is. I really felt like, I can’t explain how happy I was. And it’ll never happen again, so now I can die. What’s left?
BUG: We haven’t’ really talked a lot about the comic. What’s the story about?JS: The basic plot for this three-issue run, I look at it as episodes that happened between the seasons’ episodes. Not like the end of a season or the beginning of a season, it’s sprinkled in between. There is actually a clue in the comic, each issue, there is a clue for fans of the show to know what season it is in. To show where it fits in, it’s a definitive clue. Anybody who doesn’t get it doesn’t watch the show. It’s not like it is Panel Three page twenty-two, this strange thing in the background. If you miss this thing that is screaming at you for two pages, and you’re like what?
BUG: Are there any plans for a collaboration between the TV show, like a more direct collaboration, like packaging or selling of the season along with the comics?JS: You know, I don’t know. That’s a good idea. We haven’t talked about that. We’ve tried to keep everything separate. We tried to make a video game and it just didn’t happen for a lot of factors. It just wasn’t hitting the certain marks for us. We’re happy that Adult Swim is cool and they realized and agreed that it wasn’t working and they pulled it. Instead of putting out a game that a lot of people aren’t happy with, let’s wait until we can get it together enough to get a game that everyone will think is bad-ass. So things like that happen and it sucks but it happens. And everyone is better for it. So the comic we are all happy with. We did try a run of action figures, we’re still trying to get certain things we’re happy with. But the comic is definitely something we are really into.
BUG: Well congratulations on your first comic, and congratulations on everything with Metalocalypse.JS: Season three comes out Nov. 9th, so anybody that wants to buy it, there are over two hours of extras and we did another William Shakespeare/Nathan reading sequence, and those are kind of my favorite extras because they are incredibly long and just force Brendon to come up with weird non-sequitur shit, leave him bleeding in the recording room and we’re just staring at him awkward and he’s angry but it makes it funnier. Season three was a lot of fun to work on. And the comic book is a great finale, because we finished the season two months ago, and that’s airing and now the comic book is coming out.
BUG: Do you have anything else coming on that you want to talk about?JS: I can’t promote it yet, but I’m working on two movie screenplays, and I’m reading another screenplay by a writer that we might be turning into an animated film so that’s all I can say except to say weird stuff like “I’m working on things.”
BUG: Maybe we can follow up next year. What about the Dethklok concert that was going on, did the concert just wrap up? Do you want to talk about that?JS: We tried to do the concert before the first album came out and I had done a bunch of music videos in the series and basically expanded them to the full song length. We did our first concert and then a full concert but six months later, I did a few more videos, the full Mastodon tour with Dethklok happened last year. It was really fun, even though I had made most of the music videos, just to go and see that happen with two thousands people and everyone is going nuts. It’s like watching a HEAVY METAL movie, but with all music. Even though I made the music videos, I was just rocking out and having so much fun. Doing the music videos is one of my favorite parts of working on Dethklok because you get to go to a different place every time. “Bloodlines” was one of my favorite ones I recently did. Or “Gears”. A lot of the videos from the concert are going to be on the DVD, in HD, so if you liked any of the concert stuff or you missed it, you can play it at home and pretend your at the concert…by yourself.
BUG: Turns the light off…get out a lighter…JS: Yeah, like in KING OF COMEDY, just cut out a bunch of other people and just have little cutouts. Another plug is Titmouse is a great place to work and now there’s a Titmouse in New York, it’s great whether your in LA or New York.
BUG: You’re based in…JS: I’m based in Hollywood/LA.
BUG: Do you come out here to work?JS: No, I came out here when I worked on VENTURE BROTHERS for six months. I just worked on 4.1 season with Jackson, I co-directed with him. I lived out here for a while, I was born in New York, but I love LA. A lot of people, even here at the convention, are like “LA is really fake.” And I tell them it’s not, that they just don’t know the right people. I have tons of great friends in LA. So I don’t know what people are talking about when they say LA is fake. I mean there are fake people in New York, they’re everywhere, its just who you know. But I like going back and forth for sure.
BUG: What about VENTURE BROTHERS? We haven’t talked at all about them. Is there anything you want say about that series?JS: VENTURE BROTHERS was a great experience for me. It’s done completely different, that’s the one thing I didn’t get to say about METALOCALYPSE as far as we do it with Flash, Photoshop, and after effects. All the animation is in house, in state, it never leaves this giant cube known as Tit Mouse, it’s all done there. Storyboards, editing, all the animation, all the retakes all the audio we record it all there. Everything is just done there. I can just walk over to a desk and say “can we fix this arm” or “this background’s not working”. It’s just so easy to make things happen that it was hard for me to make a switch back to the other way. I had never directed a traditionally animation show. It’s shipped out to another country, so that kind of thing, everything has to be super tight, from the beginning. There isn’t a lot of flexibility. It was a good learning curve for me. It was fun. But I actually prefer the way we do it on METALOCAPYLSE. It just allows us to tweak this scene or rewrite this scene or let’s reanimate this entire sequence.
BUG: Because it’s all done in-house.JS: Yeah, so it makes it a lot easier than a couple months’ wait. But everyone working with VENTURE BROTHERS was awesome. I mean Jackson Public is a great guy. And everyone on the whole crew were amazing. I got a lot of new friends coming out here to New York.
BUG: I consistently check out most of the Adult Swim shows. Even when they do repeats, I don’t care if I’ve seen the show or episode, I just sit there and watch it just because it’s so damn funny.JS: There’s always one moment in Metalocalypse that I want to see that scene again.
By the way AICN is my favorite site. I’ve been checking it out, since I’m like an extremo-nerd, since like 1997.