Anyone who’s read any of Robert Feldman’s work knows that the comic creator is bursting with the funny. No more is that highlighted than in his own Cyko KO, which recently had a season on the massively popular webcomic site LINE Webtoon.
Now, in keeping with Feldman and Cyko KO’s wonderfully askew aesthetic and sensibility, the creator is partnering with Alterna Comics to bring the world Cyko KO: A Comic Book Adventure You Can Color!, with a Kickstarter campaign well underway to fund the project.
Mr. Feldman spoke with me recently about Cyko KO, his influences behind the character and his world, and the impetus for bringing a coloring book based on Cyko KO to life via Kickstarter.
FreakSugar: Before we talk about the coloring book and the Kickstarter, what can you tell us about the world of Cyko KO?
Robert Feldman: Cyko KO is set on SuperEarth, 28 million light years away, where anything goes! Because it’s in the early stages of colonization, there’s a lot of nutty stuff that happens and a lot of crazy characters. It’s very influenced by Hanna-Barbera and the 1966 Batman where each self-contained episode features another comical mishap! SuperEarth is pretty much one disorganized mess.
FS: What’s your background in comics and webcomics and how did Cyko KO find a home at LINE Webtoon?
RF: In 1997, I started self-publishing a small press comic called “Dr. Shroud”. It ran for about 4 issues up until 1999 when I decided to move it to the web as a Flash animated series. After I discovered Newgrounds.com, I built somewhat of an audience and started creating more stuff for some mobile content deals, as this was the hot thing at the time, pre-smart phone. At the same time, I saw Roger Corman’s “Death Race 2000” and developed an idea called “Super Earth Battle Defender,” an all out brawl for control of Super Earth. Like most ideas, it evolved into a single character, “Cyko KO” who was an Evel Knievel, Speed Racer type that wore a helmet and mask.
I kicked it around a bit and even developed an animated trailer, but it just didn’t seem to work. I finally sat down and wrote an episode and bounced it off my buddy Mike Parker who then white lied to me and said it “was great”, but it still wasn’t right. So I hammered out another one and really liked the vibe of it, incorporating some old school sensibility. I sent it to another friend, Andy Thom (Scooby Doo, Bunnicula), and he fleshed out some of the pages and it really started to come to life.
Since I didn’t have a full comic, I put the strips into this publication that I was putting around town called “KomikZap,” a one page comic strip like the Sunday funnies that had ads in the corner of each strip. Great idea, but not financially feasible—yet! I then sent these each month to yet another buddy of mine, Tom Akel, and he liked them enough to sign Cyko to Line Webtoon as one of their first animated series that used their proprietary FX Toon software. Tom is an awesome guy and he really believes in it—that opportunity was just amazing, especially the panel at NYC Comicon. I’ll never forget it! After that, I conquered the world. And by “conquered” I mean, didn’t get renewed by Line (not Tom’s fault), haha!
FS: There is clearly a love of Hanna-Barbera cartoons that shines through in your Cyko KO installments, as well as an irreverence that feels like it would very much be at home with Adult Swim. What are some of your influences for the webcomic? Did you have a mission statement in mind when embarking on creating the series?
RF: Like a lot of my stuff, it spends a lot of time percolating in my mind. I know that it might be something, but before I even attempt to put anything on paper, it has to be solid enough for me to pursue it. Hence, I spend most of time in a dull gaze, drooling at the mouth. But after it takes shape a bit, I then go full force and let close friends hate on it before I revise it over and over. It’s “the doing” that’s the fun of it. That said, I really didn’t know what Cyko KO would be until I found the vibe, which is mainly stuff I looked at as a kid: 1966 Batman shows, every Hanna Barbera cartoon, Shazam/Isis hour, newsprint Marvel Comics, Shogun Warrior and a bunch more. Which, I think is essentially Adult Swim in many ways. The only mission statement I have is that whatever I do it has to be fun. Some of the stuff I worked on previously wasn’t much fun, but there is such a big world with Cyko KO—and his personality fits in it so well—I can’t see an end to that fun.
FS: Shifting to the Kickstarter, how did you land on doing a coloring book as a vehicle for bringing Cyko KO to the page?
RF: After it didn’t get a second season with Line (yet!), I looked for other avenues for Cyko KO, as I knew that it would do well with a different audience for sure. It had to be an Adult Swim crowd or Hanna-Barbera bunch, some other audience that would appreciate it. That’s not to say it didn’t do well at Line—and there are some reasons it could have done better—but the biggest thing is the right audience for the right creation, right? You can’t put Twin Peaks on the Retired Living Channel for example. So, I thought about print, but not necessarily a comic book. So I looked at some publishers and saw what they were doing and Alterna really stood out. I like that they are creator-owned and that Peter Simeti works his tail off to promote all of the titles.
The idea for an activity book was in my brain for years—a book with activities, cutouts, stickers, all of that stuff. So when I approached Alterna about doing a book, and they suggested a coloring book, I nearly fell over. Actually, I did fall over, but I was pretty drunk at the time. Don’t tell them that.
Anyway, it just sort of came together—I thought about adding activities, mental challenges, physical challenges, something for everybody. And here it is.
FS: Following up on that, what made Alterna Comics a perfect partner to bring it to life?
RF: I like that they have creator-owned titles, new and daring books, they take chances, all of the stuff that indie publishers do, but with a high level of quality and history of success. They just really appealed to me. Peter Simeti really hits it hard on social media and constant promotion of the titles, more so than any other publisher I have seen. Plus, they were the only ones that returned my emails.
FS: The coloring book doesn’t skimp on either the funny or the activities, which is sometimes the case with so many coloring book offerings out there. What was the process like for creating the book?
RF: I had done a number of self-published books and strips, but a 64-page book was a pretty intimidating thing to start. And because of the deadline, I knew that I would have to work on it a lot. Now, I’m not stranger to work at all, but staying up late to draw is getting a bit harder than it used to be in my 20s, but it was surprisingly invigorating. I realized how much I missed staying up late to work on stuff, which was necessary to get this done on time for solicitation and scheduling. I worked on it during the day too, but at night was when I accomplished the most since I had little interruption.
Process-wise, I treated it like animation. There are these awesome local friends who I have known for years, brothers Brian and Brendon Fraim, who did the script breakdowns. They work fast and great! I then did the art as they gave me the boards, same as what they did for me with Line—-it’s a well-oiled machine. If this were color, I would have done the backgrounds as painted textures, but a black and white book went a little faster. And here’s the kicker—-the entire book was made in Adobe Flash! A lot of people are going be surprised at that, but that’s the tool that I’m most familiar with AND I can re-use assets for animation, motion, print, vector art, etc., as backgrounds and characters are separated in layers and saved as symbols in a library. I know people love Photoshop and Illustrator and there are a lot of people who just HATE Flash (don’t even get me started on that one!), but it works well for me. Haters gonna hate, right?
FS: You’re well on your way to hitting your Kickstarter goal. If you pass the goal prior to the Kickstarter’s deadline ending, do you plans for additions to the coloring book?
RF: Oh yeah! I want to add some sticker sheets and maybe put in some custom color pencils! I might even have a tote bag for carrying. But yes, if I exceed the goal, there will be some great additions. The book is going to print anyway before the KS ends, so these will be add-ons for those who bought it.
As of this article, the Kickstarter is less than $200 from it $2,000 goal, with 9 days left to contribute. So close, people! Do us all a favor and contribute if you can! Mr. Feldman and Mr. KO are counting on you!
For more info, head over to the campaign’s official Kickstarter page