Take to the Stars on a Suicide Mission with Nick Klie, Co-Creator of THE DROVE [Interview]
So you may be asking yourself… what the hell is a “drove”? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s a group of animals driven or moving in a body. I think it’s time to add “a group of men in bunny suits dying on other planets and generally being bitter as all hell” to that definition after reading Nick Klie and Phil Ryan’s The Drove comic. With panels dripping of unabashed cynicism, I knew at once I needed to talk to the creative force behind the bunny suits.
In no time I managed to track down Nick Klie, writer and co-creator of The Drove, and strap him to a chair for a few minutes to talk about his comic creation.
Nick Klie: My name is Nick Klie and I’m the writer of The Drove. My partner and friend Phil Ryan is the artist for [the comic which] is basically is apathetic Star Trek in space…well, that’s kind of redundant… wearing bunny suits. They’re not quite as evil as storm troopers but they’re not quite as good as the Star Trek guys. You sign up for the Drove in the future, you’re part of this galactic empire and no one’s happy about it.
Why are they dressed like bunnies?
NK: In terms of the story line, we don’t know yet. We haven’t decided yet and we don’t know if we’ll ever decide. Originally what happened was, when Phil and I talked about doing a comic together Phil was drawing a lot of anthropomorphic characters, like a lot of animal combination characters. So, I assumed he wanted to draw more animals [and suggested] we do a comic where it’s like a dystopian future and there’s all these various animal-man because I really like rhino men and stuff like that and I just think it’s a cool fantasy idea.
I said there has to be a small bunny character who says and does horrible things. You never notice him until he says something really terrible and Phil was like, alright let’s go with this. He came back the next day and he’s I like drew guys in bunny suits instead and I said awesome, let’s go with that! It’s way better! We totally dropped the dystopian future thing and it slowly just started evolving into almost a Star Trek parody but we don’t actually parody Star Trek.
It’s pretty cynical and dark, was that what you intended or has it just turned into that?
NK: It’s a reflection of both of us. It’s because I told Phil I’m not that funny. I can’t be “three panel Sunday funny” funny all the time and he’s like I’m not that funny either. Phil loves dirty, debauched stuff and he wanted to go really dirty and terrible and I said well I want to go a little more light-hearted so it’s a struggle between the two of us. It’s about making each other laugh and that’s my sense of humor and that’s his sense of humor.
The number one thing we try to accomplish with the strip is to make the other person laugh and hope everyone else comes along for the ride. We’re not trying to be something we’re not. We really believe that you succeed with honesty.
So sorta like a “I find this funny, if you don’t go fuck yourself.” sorta thing?
NK: Exactly! There’s bound to be other people that find this funny because to me I’m trying to do my best job at ripping off the old Far Side comic and Phil’s trying to do his best job to rip off Ren & Stimpy. We think that we cater to people who like that kind of stuff. Those are wildly successful so there’s gotta be somebody out there that finds our crap funny.
NK: Like I said, the Far Side is a huge influence. I never try to directly rip stuff off. I usually throw around terms like hack pretty liberally. Like say “I’m just trying to hack the Far Side” and when I say that what I really mean is that I’m just influenced by it. I never try to actually rip it off or rip off his style or try to be like “I’m going to try and write this like how a Far Side joke would be.
You know, there’s clearly a style of humor to these things and those are the things that have influenced me throughout my whole life so that’s where I draw my influences from. If I were to compare it to something I’d say “If you like the Far Side you might like it” The same thing for Phil. For him he want’s to do Ren & Stimpy and Kids in the Hall weird stuff and I’m into that stuff too so there’s definitely those influences.
The Fake Cover Fridays that you’ve put out paying homage to a famous Spider-man cover except he’s swinging on intestines, what’s the idea behind them? What made you guys do that? Is it so you can sort of do send ups to stuff you’re into?
NK: It’s a combination of a couple things. One: Phil loves drawing. He draws like a savage and he just gets these ideas and he loves those parody things. For me, it’s just like encouraging him. “I like this. You like this. Let’s go with it.” he wanted to do all these famous covers obviously as The Drove. With the Spider-man one swinging on the intestines, he told me about his idea and I was like ”Draw them swinging from intestines though instead of web shooters” and he’s like “why?” and I said “I don’t know? Sounds funny to me.” and he said “I love it”. It’s just weird ideas.
With the actual comic I said no direct parodies and no pop culture references because I think with a lot of the stuff online for web comics, memes and stuff like that it’s all parody and pop culture references. It’s all really funny in that moment but it has no long term value and it doesn’t actually make you any money. The best example of this right now is Gangnam style. Who is looking up Gangnam style parodies right now? But there was a time when there was a million of them on Youtube and they’re not worth anything anymore and nobody knows who did these Gangnam Style parodies. I don’t know, who were these people? I don’t know who they were. They have no long term, lasting power and they have no long term value.
So, I said no parodies – however we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t capitalize on the appeal of these things. SO you show people like “Hey look, we’re doing a parody of Spider-man and people go “I like Spiderman, I’ll check this out.” There is a marketability to doing these parodies but we keep it out of the comic.
So more like an ad for it.
NK: Exactly, that’s the perfect way to put it. The other thing to is that we take those and use them for other stuff. Our comics don’t work well with t-shirts but we want to sell shirts. Both of us love t-shirts. We’re not trying to prostitute ourselves in these t-shirts, we like these. I buy comic t-shirts, he buys comic t-shirts. For us, these images make great t-shirts.
So I know you love Judge Dredd. Does that mean we’re going to see a Judge Dredd cover any time soon or has Phil kiboshed that?
NK: I’d love to do one but I don’t know if enough people know any famous Judge Dredd covers. There’s one in particular that I think will work though. I’m also afraid of Phil attacking Judge Dredd. *laughs* I’m terrified of him. You know, he’ll draw Judge Dredd with a big dick in his hand or something. I’m screwed.
NK: I have these ideas and I write them. I draw these really primitive thumbnail sketches of the panels. It’s easier for me to write them that way so I don’t need to describe to Phil like medium establishing shot, pointing to the left. I can just draw these little crude drawings, like storyboards. Just to give him an idea while I’m writing the script. He will draw it all up the way he does.
Phil will draw everything else out and obviously color and letter them and all those things. A lot of the times, he will them say “hey, how about this?” or after I see his drawing I’ll say “how about this?” So we go back and forth a couple times and really polish it before we’re done with it. Sometimes he just takes my exact script and what I say to draw and just does it just like that and he doesn’t think theirs anything to change. We find that our best one that we’ve done already are the ones where we really collaborate back and forth on the exact content, not just like this is my idea now you draw it. It’s stronger [that way]. I have a very marginal bit of artistic talent and to his credit he’s a really funny guy and he’s got writing talent so we feel comfortable stepping into each others realms but we do argue about those things.
Like any good couple…
NK: Exactly, like any good couple. The compromises are always stronger. It’s always a better product at the end of it.
One final question to wrap it up. The traditional Strange Kids Club interview closer…
NK: Oh god.
This is a good one. I haven’t told this story in a long time. When I was a kid, we were playing baseball on the street. It wasn’t like a really hard baseball, just like a little plastic one you get with those plastic bats. One of my neighbors hit the ball into another neighbor’s bedroom window and we scattered obviously. It didn’t break it, it just went thunk and this guy stood up. He had a greasy mullet, cause this is the 80’s, and he was kind of the sketchy guy on the street. He ripped his curtains open and was like “What the hells going on out there?!” kind of thing and he’s topless.
It was a pretty low window and we though he was naked and being kids your like “They’re having sex. Ewww, gross!” as we ran away. I don’t remember this but apparently I told this story at school to some kids and my teacher didn’t catch all of it. She wasn’t really sure what it was so she called in my mom for a parent teacher conference and was like “ I think your son is peeping on your neighbors” and my mom was like “What?!” Apparently she told me she went and asked me about this and got the information out of me and was realized “my son isn’t a peeping tom.” She told me this story when I was in high school and I was like: Jesus Christ, what do you do as a parent with that? “Hey, by the way my five year old son, have you been watching the neighbors have sex? Do you know what sex is?” So yeah, that was a pretty weird story.
Join today, explore the galaxy, die on another planet for mediocre pay. You can join The Drove by visiting them online at thedrovecomics.com.