Ian McGinty

Ian McGinty

The comic book industry has something for every type of reader and every type of interest, but sometimes it’s difficult for a naif first exploring the four-colored world of comics to know where to start. Judging from Z2 Comics’ newest publishing moves, the comic producer—which, to this point had mainly focused on graphic novels—seems to realize this as they make the company makes its big push to releasing monthly periodicals. These new comics will feature a whole array of comic titles, from folks who prefer smart, fun comics, to hard-boiled and gritty action fare.

One of the books I’m most excited to see comes from creator Ian McGinty, most known for his work with Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors. He brought an all-ages sensibility to those titles that made his work appealing to a wide range of readers. McGinty will bring that type of mindset to Welcome to Showside, his upcoming title for Z2.

Welcome to Showside focuses on a fictional southern town of the same name, following the adventures of Kit, a fun-loving, high-spirited kid who’d rather spend time with his friends than following in the footsteps of his father the Great Shadow King. That will put Kit and his buddies in direct conflict with demons, monsters, and other ghouls as they try to keep evil from overtaking Showside. Juggling that gargantuan task and navigating his issues with his pop and it looks like Kit will have to fit in the fun whenever and wherever he can.

Mr. McGinty spoke with us recently about the creation of Welcome to Showside, the animated series that will hit screens next year, and the influences that compelled him to bring the story of Kit and company to life.

FreakSugar: What was the genesis behind the Welcome to Showside comic set to come out in October?

Ian McGinty: Welcome to Showside was barely a hint of a concept I had while winding down to the last issue of Bravest Warriors with Kate Leth. I’ve worked on a lot of licensed properties, other people’s creations that typically start as animated shorts or series and then spin off into the comics world, and I knew it was time for me to give it a shot on getting something entirely my own out there at any capacity. I’ve been working on an all-ages original graphic novel for Top Shelf, but I wanted to have something else ready to go once I had time to breathe that could exist in an extremely elastic world, where fans and other artists/writers could put their own stamp on it and sort of “sandbox playground” the thing.

One day I doodled this little fish with a bunch of bigger monsters, standing in line at a portal. I forgot about the drawing, it was very rough, for about 5 months. On the 6th month, I was contacted by Z2 to see if I had an original pitches after a different project we were working on tanked. I panicked. Someone like me, who works a lot in licensed gigs, doesn’t get a lot of people shouting “PITCH SOMETHING!”, so I flipped through my art as I chatted and came upon that little doodle of what would eventually become Kit, the main character of Welcome to Showside. I won’t lie, I began spouting off all kinds of stuff and ideas and themes I wanted to explore just off the top of my head, hoping I could someone tie them all together later. Someone must have been smiling down on me, ‘cause Z2 loved the idea and wanted to develop it into a graphic novel.

From there, Welcome to Showside went through a lot of changes (Kit transformed from a weird Shaggy from Scooby Doo looking thing into the cute, fun kid you see now, I developed Moon and Belle, the two kickass BFF’s of Kit), and Z2 decided to do something really cool, and unique: opting to turn Welcome to Showside into a monthly series instead of a graphic novel. I thought this was great, as I designed the book to be able to go in any crazy direction. Basically, almost no rules apply to Welcome to Showside.

As we worked towards getting Welcome to Showside out, Z2’s partner, Modern Prometheus, proposed the idea of making an animated pilot for a potential series. I was hesitant, but once I met the animation team and was able to select our voice actors (of which I would become one), I really got into the idea and we went ahead full force. Z2/MP gave me basically complete control, and I was able to design the look and feel of the world with the animation team and other artists. It’s been a really fantastic experience and I’m really proud of what everyone has done so far, we’re wrapping up the basic animation next month and I couldn’t be happier.

FS: For readers just now hearing about Welcome to Showside, what would be your elevator pitch for the series?

IM: My pitch has always been “Hellboy meets Steven Universe/Adventure Time”. I wanted to take my love of horror and horror comics and combine it with my love of all-ages stuff, which was not an easy thing to do at first, I can tell you. But the all-ages crowd, of any crowd, can handle new characters and new ideas, and I think that having scary monsters AND cute battling teams is something everyone can get behind.

FS: You’re writing the comic but also serving as the showrunner for the upcoming animated series featuring the same world and characters of Welcome to Showside. First of all, where do you get the energy? But also, what kind of sensibilities do you apply to each of those positions and what kind of crossover do you find helps in approaching both storytelling vehicles?

IM: Haha, yeah, I dunno, I’ve always thrived more when I’m busy than not. I’m the guy who can’t enjoy time off and gets antsy when I don’t have a project to work on. This why I have about 800 unfinished video games lying around my studio right now. Honestly, there isn’t much difference between directing the pilot and heading the comic. Z2 placed a lot of confidence in me, one, to direct the cast and animation team and design most everything, and two, to make the comic read well and look cool, which I like to think we’ve done. I was also able to both handpick the voice actors, and the artists doing variant covers and backups. That’s a lot of trust to give a creator with a brand new series, as Hank Hill would say, I’ll tell you what.

FS: How did Henry Rollins become involved in the animated series?

IM: In the best way possible: he got a script into his hands, loved the character I wanted him to voice and actually really liked the idea for the series. Henry Rollins was the kindest, most generous guy I’ve met in a long time, while also being whip smart and hilarious. He nailed his parts in, like, 2 takes and stuck around telling us stories about the early days of the Beastie Boys and growing up in DC. It was awesome. He put his own spin on the character of Frank, a giant flaming skull office worker, and was just really a blast to be around.

FS: Looking at your work on Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors and now Welcome to Showside, I appreciate how your work is truly an all-ages affair. I feel like it’s accessible to younger readers and viewers, but doesn’t feel watered-down for older fans. And, at the same time, I feel like exposing younger audiences to adult themes, whether they realize it or not, helps those younger fans to learn in the process, either actively or passively. I don’t know if that makes sense, but is that how you approach projects like these?

IM: It’s almost exactly how I approach creating all-ages content, be that writing, drawing or both. Like I mentioned, the all-ages crowd is EVERYBODY. I am not catering to a specific demographic here, I don’t want to, but with that lies the challenge of making something cool to read and look at for very young kids and very old people and everyone in between, all genders, all races, etc. At the same time, I refuse to candy coat everything, which brings in the elements of horror Welcome to Showside is exploring, and the ideas of family versus friends, legacy versus going your own way and all that. Basically, all-ages doesn’t mean “For Kids”, and I think kids are way, way smarter than the industry often gives them credit for. I won’t pander to a 9 year old or a 99 year old and I hope the readers of Welcome to Showside recognize that it’s okay to have monsters and demons and scary stuff in your all-ages comic, or animated series, or whatever medium you choose to get your stuff out. I was quoted in an interview a while back, saying, “It’s okay to be scared”, and I stand by that still. It’s okay to be a little scared or happy or sad or angry, that’s what it is to be human (or a monster boy in Kit’s case).

FS: Welcome to Showside takes place in the south. Do you have any southern roots you’re drawing from in writing the series?

IM: I currently live in Savannah, Georgia (thought I’m from Annapolis, Maryland), and I’ve taken a lot of inspiration for the town of Showside by combining elements of both. The town isn’t necessarily placed in an exact spot in the universe, but definitely has that “southern vibe” of Savannah from Spanish moss and old cemeteries, great food, interesting people, all that. And I’ve taken parts of Annapolis, the beach and water and cobblestone streets, to make an entirely new town for the kids to play in. Savannah, Georgia is an extremely unique place, almost unreal, and if you’ve ever seen or read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, or visited, you know that book/movie isn’t exaggerating whatsoever. I’m moving soon for career stuff, and I’ll be extremely sad to go, but I’ve lived here 6+ years now and every day I see something new and meet new people, and that’s something I wanted to translate to Welcome to Showside.

FS: From what I’ve read, the series is going to play into some push-pull in terms of father/son dynamics, with Kit rebelling against his father, the Great Shadow King. Not really a question, but I enjoy how this looks to be doing what a lot of your previous work has done; that is, looking at different relationships in new and interesting lights.

IM: Thank you, yeah, the comic has taken some interesting turns I didn’t plan, namely the question of legacy: what do you do when your life is being planned for you and you aren’t on board? What about when your family, your blood, wants to take you away from your life and friends for something else? These are issue that Kit has to deal with, as well as Belle and Moon. Moon is living under the shadow of her grandmother, a famous and powerful sorceress, and Belle is the youngest girl in a line of Southern monster hunters who has to hide her friendship with Kit from her family. These are all things that we will see later down as the line as the series progresses.

FS: Who would you consider to be some of your cartoon influences? How do they inform your approach to storytelling?

IM: I enjoy the subtlety of Calvin and Hobbes, but also the totally weird humor of The Far Side and even early Garfield. I read mostly newspaper cartoons as a kid, and then later on, with animated series, there wasn’t much that really stuck with me. The late 80’s were a time of really bad cartoon series specifically made to get kids to buy toys and stuff, so most everything had little substance. It hasn’t really been until the last 10 years or so that I’ve gotten back into all-ages cartoons, like Adventure Time or The Amazing World of Gumball. I took a lot of influence, weirdly, from Futurama, in setting up the elasticity and crazy characters of Welcome to Showside, and King of the Hill is my absolute favorite animated show. Bobby Hill is probably the most realistic kid ever portrayed on television, real or not. But all in all, the series coming out now are all really exciting and, hey, maybe Welcome to Showside will also be received well.

Welcome to Showside #1, created by Ian McGinty, from Z2 Comics, hits comic book shelves on October 28th. If you love the whimsy, art, and whip-smart style of Bravest Warriors and Adventure Time and the introspective heart of Calvin and Hobbes, you really need to give this book a look.