MOMB Interview: Brockton McKinney and Larkin Ford

imagesEhmm Theory, the first ongoing title from Action Labs mature readers  imprint Danger Zone, is a book that as a little bit of everything. The first issue features a talking kitten attacking a zombie midget and then it really dials the disturbed up to 11. With the second issue due out soon I sat down with the series creators, long time friends Brockton Mckinney & Larkin Ford to discuss  comics, crabs, mix tapes and convention stories.

So, what is Ehmm Theory about?

LF

Ehmm Theory follows Gabe, an average young man, and Whispers, a kitten who quickly becomes his wisecracking best friend, as they search for Gabe’s biological father. Gabe and Whispers stumble into a wildly unpredictable, supernatural world of zombie circus midgets, huge bionic crabs, psychic superheroes, and interdimensional portals, . So, in a nutshell, Ehmm Theory is about two friends making their way in a world beyond belief.

BM

Larkin summed that up perfectly! I’d just like to add that while Ehmm Theory is most certainly first-and-foremost about our stars Gabe and Whispers, it also has a myriad of other insane and freakish subjects. The two of us really wanted to put everything we love into Ehmm Theory. When given the opportunity to create our own sandbox, we decided to bring every toy we had. I think if you like cyborg animals, conspiracy theory’s, robotic ghosts, or universe-jumping assassin-monkeys, this book is gonna be for you.

Ehmm Theory has a lot of big ideas in it, & thats just the ones I’ve seen in the first 2 issues (though I’m now totally hyped to see a Universe Jumping Assassin Monkey)! So what inspired the creation of the book and how did you guys end up working together on it?

BM

Larkin and I had been working on books for other folks, and while it was great, I think we both kinda craved the ability to let loose, do our own thing. We are friends from way back and had been determined for a while to do a project together. We started talking about this one-off idea and it just got bigger and bigger. Pretty soon we had more than a single universe full of ideas. 

So how do the ideas develop into the full story? Brockton do you handle all the writing & then pass the script over, or Larkin are you simply presented with “A monster bursts forth from the ground” at which point you crack your knuckles, remember the Lobster that gave you food poisoning the other night & then break out the pencils?

Or is it something else entirely?

LF

Generally, Brockton has a very well fleshed-out story arc, which we sit down together and talk about. As he comes to parts of the story that aren’t yet fully formed, we’ll often brainstorm together and come up with the specifics of, for instance, the giant crab. In that case, it was originally going to be a robot, and Brockton said, “Wait, wouldn’t it be even more diabolical if they genetically engineered a giant crab, then outfitted it with crazy cybernetic implants?” So after we work out some of the specifics together, Brockton writes the whole thing out like a screenplay, with scene descriptions, camera angles and such, and I draw thumbnail sketches from that. So by the time I’m drawing the final page, the whole thing’s been hammered out very specifically. Now that you’ve said that, though, If anyone asks for the origin of the Crab-Borg, I’m definitely gonna say I had some rotten crab cakes!!

ehmm theory car

So what have been the biggest influences on both of your work and, given that you’ve been long time friends, is there any particular item of influence that you wouldn’t have discovered without the other person?

BM

Oh man, yeah, I feel like we’re pretty big about turning each other on to stuff we might have missed otherwise. Larkin gave me so many fantastic books to check out that I’d heard of, but never given a chance. Dan Clowes, Crumb, the Hernandez Bros, just to name few. I’ve been more of the “check out Morrison’s Authority trade, or this killer X-men run.” We’re both huge comic-book freaks obviously, so it’s incredibly cool to be able to share the stuff you love the most with the guy you’re creating a comic with.

LF

I think it’s great that Brockton and I are often reading different stuff, and I always consult him when I am looking for something fresh and bizarre! In addition to the ones he mentioned, I borrowed and loved the first trade of Locke and Key–and whenever I’m reading some vintage Marvel comics that are new to me, it’s a safe bet that Brockton is familiar with them, so it’s great to get his take on the old Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko comics, too. I think that as a team, we both learn a lot of storytelling lessons by devouring a wide variety of comics.

I’m massively hooked on Locke and Key. I can’t wait to see how it ends and simultaneously don’t want it to ever finish. I’m also a huge fan of Morrison’s work and love the way he explores the medium. Now your tastes both cover a broad range of genres and go very far back. Are you both lifetime comic book fans or did you come to the medium later on, and what is it that appeals to you about working with this medium in particular?

BM

Lifelong, fo’ sho. I started going to Heroes Con in Charlotte NC when I was 7 and haven’t missed one since. They are even kind enough to let us sit behind a table now. 

There is virtually nothing I dislike about the comic-book medium. When I read them, I don’t see word balloons or panels. It’s just a story unfolding before me. I have to force myself to go back and break it down sometimes, to see how they crafted the emotional response. Really, really love comics. Sit me down with a stack and I’m content anywhere. 

From a writers standpoint it’s pretty amazing that the characters, your actors, never grow old. You can revive or revisit them at any time and never worry about the amount of time that has passed. They are always standing there, patiently waiting for you, age-less and ready for new adventure. 

The only thing I’d like to incorporate is perhaps music. It’s such a huge part of the process for me, I’d like others to at least know what Larkin and myself were listening to, while we worked. I think with Ehmm, we’ll tweet or somehow message the songs for each issue. Make a duel mixtape!

LF

It would be awesome to have a mixtape for people to play while reading Ehmm–good call! Jon, I’ve loved comics–and all sorts of visual art–since I was a kid. Brockton got me into X-Men way back in the day, and I also read Calvin and Hobbes religiously while it was in the paper.

I love the synesthesia of the comics medium–you’re looking at black ink lines on paper and reading it as everything from sound effects to smells, depending on the writing and drawing. I also love that comics are relatively cheap to make and to buy, so they’re accessible.  Anyone who’s got four bucks can enter a world that was created with a ton of hard work and imagination.

BM

Well fuckin’ said, Larkin!

Ehmm theory tammi talking cat

You’ve both made some really interesting points about comics in your answers, but there’s something else I need to know now - What tracks would we get on an Ehmm Theory Mixtape?

BM

Damn, called us on it, huh? Okay…lets’ see. How bout I do three and Lark does three? Shuffle for EP mix. For me, issue one:

Under Pressure- Queen/Bowie

Adrenaline Nightshift- Japandroids 

They Can’t Come- P.O.S.

LF

Okay, let’s see…

3,000- Dr. Octagon

Red Temple Prayer (Two–Headed Dog)- Roky Erickson

No More Hot Dogs- Hasil Adkins

BM

Ha! I didn’t know you liked Roky Erickson! Two Headed Dog is such a killer pick. 

The co-creator of another comic we do called DeathCurse, Bo Fader, used to have that tape in his car constantly!

Tape?!? How old was the car? Seriously though, those are some choice picks, I’m going to have Two Headed Dog as an earworm for a while now. It’s interesting that you bring up Death Curse though because one of the artists who worked on it, Jason Strutz, did the colours for Action Lab’s release of Ehmm Theory, which had previously only been in black and white. What do you think of the colouring job and how did you guys come to find a home for the title at Action Lab?

BM

That car was so old that Seth MacFarlane wouldn’t date it.

SoOOoOooo, Jason Strutz works with us in the studio we all share in Chapel Hill, NC. He helps out on a variety of Lost Story Studio projects as well as his own stuff, and is just a great guy in general. We worked together on DeathCurse and when the opportunity arrived to have him color Ehmm, we jumped. He is not only doing an insanely tremendous job on the book, he also pulled our collective asses from the fire on short notice as the book had to be finished very quickly to get it in the initial Action Lab/Danger Zone line-up.

As for the ‘how’d we find a home with the Lab’ part, I’ll let Larkin take that one, as I’ve been telling it wrong apparently. See, he and Bo Fader were set-up at the Asheville A.C.E.Con and I’d had to skip out to be in a good friends wedding… 

LF

You’ve been telling it wrong, Brockton? Hahaaa! Well, here’s hoping I can get it right (wouldn’t be the first time I’ve mistold something I was there for):

Well, Bo and I were at the Asheville Comic Expo and Jeremy Whitley, writer of Action Lab’s smash hit Princeless, mentioned to us that Danger Zone, Action Lab’s adult imprint, was accepting applications, and that they might be interested in our stuff. We sent in DeathCurse and Ehmm Theory, and they picked up Ehmm!! Dave Dwonch and Jason Martin are both awesome to work with, and while I’ve yet to check out Jason’s work, Dave is a hilarious and fast-paced writer on his series, Double Jumpers!

And I second everything Brockton said about Jason Strutz. He’s come through in the clinch, coloring the first two issues with detail and finesse…not to mention absurd speed!

ehmm theory dwarf zombie death

BM

Exactly. See I misunderstood and thought Bo said that you guys met Jason Martin, the writer of 80′s Undead and the publisher of the new Danger Zone imprint along with Jeremy Whitley. Bo said “Jason Martin asked us to pitch” and I assumed that meant he was there. So I’ve been all “I’m the only one who hasn’t gotten to meet Jason Martin in person” and no one has corrected me… until just recently. 

Con stories are the best. I always prefer the night in the bar afterwards though. I think that’s when you really get to meet the creators of your favourite books (or at least i did anyway, before losing my girlfriend in London at 2AM). I’m a big fan of Jason Strutz’ work though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any two books he’s worked on that have ever looked the same. Now we’ve briefly mentioned Death Curse, which is highly recommended for anyone that likes good horror comics, but what else have you guys worked on previous to Ehmm Theory?

LF

Jeezuz H, that sounds rough! You lost your girlfriend to a skeezbag cartoonist? I’m glad that didn’t sour you on us for life.

You’re right, Jason’s got a great sense of lights and darks–really raw, powerful, and textural–and after seeing that, I was all the more impressed to see him adapt his coloring to suit my thinner, smoother lines.

Honestly, Jon, Ehmm Theory is the first comic I’ve had a creative hand in that got published. I went to school for painting and drawing, and mainly did a lot of large charcoal drawings and oil paintings before. I still make big drawings and paintings as often as I can–you can see some at larkinfordart.tumblr.com–but Ehmm certainly has the front seat these days.

BM

Yeah, that was a terrible Con story. I’ve got some spectacular ones but this is probably neither the time nor the place. There’s one about a demon. No shit. But i digress…

I’ve written published short stories for the anthology Pulp Empire and have stuff in couple of magazines. I helped write gags and polish the script for a film called Rodney Cecil: Psycho Hero. It was in the top 5 “Blood on a Budget” list from Rue Morgue magazine and it’s funny as hell. “DeathCurse Too” comes out in October, I think, and it blows the 1st one outta the water! I have some other stuff, but those are my favs.

Like Larkin said, Ehmm is currently front-seat. We just got a review from Fangoria magazine saying the issue 1 had “arguably the best three opening pages of the year so far”  and that pretty much made my month.

I should probably point out here that meeting the artist & losing my girlfriend were two seperate events on the same night. The artist in question was Geoff Senior who drew the Marvel UK Transformers comics and he was a perfect gentleman (especially considering I was on the verge of dropping to my knees & screaming “I’m not worthy” the whole time he was stood in front of me). My girlfriends kidnapper was a train on the Docklands Light Railway in London & I shake my fist in it’s general direction everytime I think about it.

So anyway on to the tried and tested last question of all MOMB interviews (at least for first timers), What advice  would you both give to aspiring comic artists / writers?

BM

Stick with it. Practice all the time. Anything you want to be good at requires practice, so decide what you’re going to do with your day each time you wake up. If you wanna write & draw comics, do it. No excuses. If you wanna sit around and play video games and eat Grizzer Snacklins, that’s cool too, but anytime you’re not making comics, you’re not making comics

Ehmm-Theory-2-cover

LF

Amen, Brockula–too many people think they’ll master comics by spending a few hours a week at the drawing table. It really does take tons of time and effort. I’d say that starting out with a small, manageable story is a smart move. For instance, if you’ve never written or drawn a page of comics in your life, start with a spontaneous one-page story, or a 3-panel gag strip, and work on telling your story simply and clearly. Comics are hard enough without jumping into the deep end. Attempting a long, carefully composed story without having any experience in comics can make for a terribly frustrating experience, and I’ve known several talented people who stopped drawing after tackling overly ambitious projects too early.

And before you take on any project, solo or collaborative, make sure you’re genuinely excited about it. That might not be the most lucrative approach, but it’ll ensure that you keep your love of comic-making alive

Brockton McKinney can be found on lurking on Twitter under the non de plume @brocktron

When not drawing comics Larkin Ford can be found here on Tumblr sharing his artwork with the world.

You can also read my review of the first two issues of Ehmm Theory here as well as my review of Death Curse here. If you’ve read too much already today, they’re both great and I recommend you buy them and convince everyone you know to buy them too.

Issue 2 of Ehmm Theory will be available in May.