Delivering Insight - Part 2

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Part 2 - The Mars/Venus connection

Broken Frontier: I was trying to find a connection between the Doctor Cyborg stories and The Cryptozoo Crew, and I noticed at the back of the Cryptozoo trade was a blurb from the Fortean Times, which all completely tied everything together. I guess you guys must all be fans of that magazine.

Mark Wheatley: I’ve been into it since it was almost a little journal. Kind of a little sad that it comes out every week now, it seems like. Can’t keep up with all the weirdness in the world.

BF: They probably have a website to post all that stuff...

MW: [laughter] I’m on the computer about 22 hours a day as it is.

BF: So how did Tara Darwin come about?

Jerry Carr: That’s all Al.

Allan Gross: Basically, when you’re on your second marriage you realize certain things! No, actually, Jerry had a good story about Tork and these cave monkeys, but he had no ending; he had no punchline. I had read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and I had the whole idea that they say “men go to their caves.” I was kind of throwing things around in my head, trying to figure out what the end of the story should be, for the Cave Monkey story.

So I said “how about that’s the story?” Tork takes the monkeys into HIS cave. So when I ended the story [with] him in the basement with the monkeys, I needed a wife figure to say “Tork! Get out of your cave and put out the garbage!” Which happens to be huge bags of monkey poo.

BF: [laughter]

JC: Because everything’s funnier with poo.

AG: So that was my punch-line, just to do this short little 8-page story. Then I realized that this was what the story was all about, that all the stories should be about that: there should be a parallel between the cryptid, which is the name for the unknown animal, and a facet of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. That’s the formula. It’s that simple. You take the hidden animal, you take the male/female relationship, and you marry them together, and you figure out a story. So I created Tara Darwin.

Then I realized as we were doing the stories, I was coming up with a bunch of ideas for each of the creatures, that she was really the hero. At that point, it all really came together, because she was the smart one, and Tork was often the blundering oaf.

BF: He is an eminent cryptozoologist.

AG: Yeah, he is smart, but he’ll still have the usual male problems, you know: can’t read the map...

BF: One question that comes up with these two characters: How do they meet, and how do they get married?

JC: That’s coming!

AG: We haven’t done the marriage story yet. Our second trade paperback, which should be out in December, tells about one of the cryptids called the Thunderbird. That’ll be the Tork Darwin origin story, how he got involved in cryptozoology, and then the next graphic novel will be the how they met and got married story.

We’re doing them slowly. It’s nice to not do the whole origin up front.

JC: You can think of it this way: the first graphic novel is a series of short stories that sort of define the characters, what their relationship is all about, and what kinds of adventures they go on. Whereas the second graphic novel is gonna have just a couple of stories, and they’re going to be longer and more involved. The first one will be about how Tork Darwin got excited about cryptids.

AG: Then we’ll talk about how he got excited about her.

MW: Which is not hard to see!

BF: [laughter]

JC: Which brings us to an interesting digression. I’ve had an interesting balance trying to keep her character design both all-ages enough for the all ages market–

BF: Well, it is an all-ages book.

JC: It is an all-ages book, exactly, with adult relationship humor, but never any adult situations. But there’s always an interesting balance in character design and how you make an attractive couple of characters and appeal to people who like comic books as well as keep them accessible to kids.

AG: We call it all-ages accessible, in that it’s not for kids specifically, but kids read it and like it. They like the art, they like the adventure. It works on that level for them. The adults read it, especially a lot of women read it and like it, because they like the interactions, the Mars/Venus interactions, and a lot of guys read it because it’s fun adventure.

BF: So there’s a lot of something for everybody.

AG: It’s like Indiana Jones meets...

JC & MW: Romancing the Stone.

AG: So you see that kind of husband and wife banter, like Moonlighting or Married with Children to some degree. Except that it’s still a romance.

BF: How did you get your book to NBM?

MW: Insight Studios had done production for them over the years. Bottom line is this, Insight Studios was publishing and doing quite well, and I being the person in the group who was willing to accept the responsibility of publishing and business ended up having to take on more and more responsibility. We became more and more successful, when we had more and more books. I didn’t have any time to any creative work. And I was also running into limits on how much I could do to promote these new books coming out.

If you put out too many books, you can’t pick up an edge in the marketplace. So, we realized we had to seek other publishers. So now we’re with Image, we’re with NBM, we’re with IDW. We’re using the other publishers in a way that will allow me time... So that’s why we signed with NBM. They’re really good. They have excellent market penetration, bookstore and libraries, which I think is the primary market for books that don’t target the comic audience–

BF: You mean the superhero audience?

AG: It’s been picked up by the way, one of the buyers for the school library system.

BF: That’s even better! You can get all these kids interested in these mysterious hominids.

JC: That is one thing that’s really fun. Yesterday a family came by [the Insight booth at Comic-Con]. There was a kid. He wasn’t as tall as our table, and he asked for a sketch. I asked “What would you like? Would you like a monkey? A lizard?”  He’s like [cute kid-voice] “Cryp-toooe-zoologist!” And I elbowed Al, who was in the middle of a conversation. I’m like “Al! You’ve gotta hear this!” and the kid goes “Cryp-tooooe-zoologist!”

His dad had found our website and read the online adventures. We did a series of comic strips online at the SunnyFundays as well as www.cryptozoocrew.com and they had read them together. The little boy had become a huge fan! That made the entire convention for me.

It really shows that the father, who is a big comic book fan, he really liked it. His wife really liked it, because Tara always gets the last word on her husband, and their son really liked it.

AG: I’ve really enjoyed that fact. Comics for some of these guys, it can split relationships apart. They can’t share anything. The demographics for comics are awful, and they’re all aimed at a certain group, so this is a really inclusive comic in a lot of ways.

BF: It sounds like the response has been really great.

AG: Oh yeah, and we can see that the movie people are picking up on it. They understand, whereas superhero comics appeal to just one group, something like this would appeal to a much wider audience. So they’ve been very nice to us.

BF: Do you have future plans for other story-telling venues?

JC: I think we’re gonna keep going with what we’re doing. You always do what feels natural, right? And Hollywood has been quite honestly been coming to us. A couple of networks have come to us. Nothing has really firmed up, but we’ve begun talking to the folks. I just figure that we just continue to do what we do, and if it branches out into other things, both of us would both love to work in other avenues.

AG: We’ll also continue taking on other jobs when we have time. I’m writing for Tokyopop now.

BF: What’s the project for Tokyopop?

AG: It’s called Roadsong. It’s about two kids, who are in a band. They’re runaways being chased by the law, and they’re at each other’s throats when it starts and then they have to learn to become friends. It’s a natural extension for me, since I was in a band. A lot of the songs in there are actually songs that I wrote. It’s coming out in January.

BF: It sounds like things are going well for you.

JC: As long as you do stuff you love doing, no matter what happens it’s still satisfying.

AG: You know your doing something right that gets a different response out of people and yet is still personal to them. You do something honest, it just happens. That’s sort of what’s happened with this. Lightning just strikes sometimes!

BF: Sounds like things are going great for you! Congratulations and thank you so much!

End Part 2

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