Main illustration by Rich Woodall. Strange Kid by Rondal Scott
For those of you unfamiliar with these fellas, Rich Woodall is the creator of Johnny Raygun and Craig Rousseau is one of the co-creators of The Perhapanauts—and they’re the dynamic duo of the comic convention scene. No, they don’t wear tights and fight crime… although a “Rich & Craig vs. Fanboy X” story would be fun. Their team-up—both on the con floor and in panels—gives us an amazing glimpse into the secret world of comic creators. I have personally seen them go from one panel discussing the reality of indie comics (fascinating… yet scary!) to another where they ate tasty treats and forced us to watch (keep your fingers away from the artists… they bite!). Their honesty about the comic industry, coupled with great senses of humor, make them ideal spokesmen for the medium. Because, whether they realize it or not, their utter enthusiasm about the creations they have brought to life is infectious.
Their true team-up is on the pages of Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl (Rich writes, Craig draws). Originally self-published digitally through their Artist Alley Comics imprint (#0-6 were released there), Kyrra has found a new home at Dark Horse Comics Presents! As of issue #11 (June 17th), Kyrra will grace the pages of the anthology book. From there… well, let’s talk to the fellas about all the news. In part one of this chat, we’ll have some specific questions for Rich – but be sure to stay tuned for Craig’s shenanigans in part two. For now, let’s jump in:
RICH WOODALL: Craig had done an illustration for the Emerald City Comic Con’s Yearbook “Monsters and Dames”, of a purple girl with red hair and a weird purple ape looking creature in the jungle. I asked him if he had any plans for it, if it was going to be a creator owned project or whatever, and he said he didn’t have any plans at that time. After gaining a little courage, I sheepishly asked if I could pitch him an idea for the characters, and he said “sure!” So, I pitched him something!
Real sci-fi jungle adventure fun, he liked it and said “write it up!” So I wrote out a slightly more thought out concept, scripted out the first issue and threw it over at Craig. And it sat there for a while because he was in the middle of some Marvel gigs (gotta pay the bills!)… then once he found an opening we started talking more about it, and that ended up, not only being the birth of Kyrra, but also the birth of Artist Alley Comics (which is a whole other story!).
Is there a set beginning and end to Kyrra’s story, or could it go on indefinitely?
RW: I’ve got an end game in mind, but it’s a pretty long story. In between the main story, there are endless possibilities of other adventures, so really, I could write this forever!
CRAIG ROUSSEAU: Substitute “draw” for “write” and what Rich said.
How did Kyrra end up in Dark Horse Presents? And how many issues are you scheduled to be in?
RW: After we had 4 or 5 chapters under our belt at Artist Alley Comics, we thought it might be time to start pitching it around. We sent out a couple emails, had a little interest from a couple publishers, then I received an email from Mike Richardson at Dark Horse.
Let me back up a minute. About a year and a half before this, Mike Richardson had come to Jetpack Comics (my local comic store!) and was doing portfolio reviews. He reviewed my work, liked it, and gave me his card with a “send me more of your work!” For whatever reason, I didn’t follow up, and forgot about the card. When I was about to start pitching Kyrra, I happened to find the card and thought “what the heck, I’ve got nothing to lose.” Mike was on vacation and took the time to look at the pitch. A day or two later I get a “would you like Dark Horse to publish Kyrra?” So, we were pretty excited about it. Because of the format we’d been working in, it seemed like a natural fit in DHP. Starting with issue 11, we’ll be running off and on (4 chapters, then a break, then 4 chapters, break, last 4 chapters) for at least 12 chapters.
Is it true that a prerequisite for being a member of Artist Alley Comics is working from home in your jammies while eating pie? ‘Cause if so, I might have a story to pitch…
RW: HA! Sometimes you don’t even need pajamas, but eating pie is totally a prerequisite.
CR: MMMMMM, Pie.
On a more serious side of the previous question – how hard is it to stay focused at home? I recently saw someone post a “Pro Tip” to keep your shoes on while working at home, ’cause it never allows you to get comfortable.
RW: I suck at focusing on anything, that’s why I’ve got five half done projects going all the time. BUT, when I have to focus and write, I force myself to get off the internet, and turn on some music that has no lyrics and just write. If I need to focus on drawing, I try to stay off the internet (unless I need reference) and turn on music or put on a movie that I’ve seen a hundred times so I don’t have to really pay attention. MOST of the time that works. But really I’ve found that, more important than focus is actually getting into a groove. That is making sure that you can draw/write every day.
CR: Focus is mighty important. I’m all about being comfortable (hence the year round shorts), so shoes all day would be a deal-breaker.. heck, I’m lucky if I get dressed an hour before I need to get the kids at school. Keeping a deadline is key for getting that second gig from an editor, so self-discipline is a must. I DO plenty of non-work-related things during the day (including, but not limited to – internet surfing, social media, laundry, house work, cooking, baking, grocery shopping, etc), but try and keep a goal of a set amount of work to be complete before I go to bed, which may keep me up a bit later than planned at times, but in the long run, it’s gotta happen.
What’s the status of Johnny Raygun and The Supertopian? And when will we see the multi-title crossover event betwixt the two?
RW: Over the last couple years I’ve been working with a couple colorists (Lawrence Basso, and Jeff Fugelsang) to color all the old Johnny Raygun comics. That’s slowly being rolled out. The Supertopian is on permanent hold right now. Ed is busy with life stuff, so until he can jump back in, it’s dead. I’ve got a lot of stories in my head for both of them, but right now, we might get a short Raygun story every once in a while, but no Supertopian stuff for a while.
If you could have any piece of Johnny Raygun’s tech in your daily arsenal, what would it be?
RW: Oh man, the Jetpack would be awesome, so would an actual Raygun, BUT the thing that I’d love the most is a working Raygun Uniform would be the best because it’s like a Swiss Army knife. We’ve seen in a couple issues that it has a built in flashlight, and you can pop up a shield from your wrist band, but some of the things you haven’t seen yet, are that you can detach the R logo and use it as a Boomerang, the wrist band is also a hologram watch, it’s just filled with fun toys!
I love the cover you provided for Joseph Schmalke’s Infernal Pact, and you’ve done some great work for other horror books like the classic Zombie Bomb anthology series – do you ever think about doing a more horror-centric book of your own?
RW: I LOVE doing horror comics, I’d love the chance to work on more of them. I’m actually working on a horror based comic that I’m not quite ready to talk about, but it’s kind of a Dr. Strange-ish type book.
Just daydreaming – are there any existing characters that you’d love to write/draw?
RW: I keep notes on any ideas I have for any characters/stories. Sometimes those ideas are about other people’s books. So, I have Google docs with ideas for the Fantastic Four, a Deadpool story, an Alien (the movie/Dark Horse Alien) story, and a lot more. If I had to pick just one, I would love to write/draw the Fantastic Four. Kirby’s run and Byrne’s run are some of my favorite comics of all time. I’d love to, and I know this never happens any more, to do a 100 issue run on the FF.
Any convention tips for newbies?
RW: Don’t put your cosplay sword / mask, or food / drink on a creator’s table… that drives us crazy!
Any other projects in the pipeline?
RW: Like I said, I have a bunch of half done projects going at once. I have a couple ideas for Johnny Raygun that I’d love to get to. Kyrra, of course… I was [actually] playing with the idea of writing some Kyrra prose. I’ve got a story outlined called “Kyrra and the Jungle God” that I’d like to write, but I’ve never written prose, and not even sure I’m capable. I have another book called Sgt. Werewolf I’d like to work on – I’ve done a couple pin-ups and he showed up in an issue of Johnny Raygun on a poster. I’ve got that Dr. Strange-ish comic I’ve been toying around with, and a couple more things I’ve started writing, just need to find artists for those projects.
That’s it for this section, strange kids! Be sure to check out Part Two, where Craig ends up in the hot seat…