Sometimes, all it takes is a tweet.
The unlikely origins of the graphic novel Code Monkey Save World boil down to a Twitter exchange between Greg Pak (writer, X-Treme X-Men, Planet Hulk, Batman/Superman) and Jonathan Coulton (singer-songwriter, internet superstar) last November. Five months later, the Code Monkey Save World Kickstarter launched and fans chomped at the bit to donate. Successfully funded in under 10 hours, it doubled its the funding goal the next day, and currently sits just under the $120,000 mark. Not a bad result for an offhand joke on the internet!
The premise? A comic book based on some of Coulton’s hugely popular nerdy songs: Code Monkey, Skullcrusher Mountain and Re: Your Brains, to name a few. Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, with colours by Jessica Kholinne, and Simon Bowland lettering, Code Monkey Save World follows the adventures of Code Monkey as he teams up with the lovelorn Skullcrusher. Together they fight robots (of course), office worker zombies and more— all in the pursuit of love. Aw.
We interviewed Pak, Coulton and Miyazawa about fan reactions, bringing Coulton’s songs to life, and the power of the internet.
Dork Shelf: What is it like to see your fans come out and support your work so fervently/wholeheartedly?
Greg Pak: It’s a little mind-bending, frankly. I got on a plane on Tuesday and when I got off, the pledges had jumped another six thousand bucks. I’m just incredibly grateful to all these folks who are so supportive and excited. Jonathan and I basically just had what we thought would be a fun idea. And we suckered Tak into drawing some stuff for us, and got Jessica Kholinne to color and Simon Bowland to letter. And now to have so many people so supportive? Unbelievably exciting and inspiring.
Jonathan Coulton: We had a feeling it would be a well-received idea, but the level of enthusiasm and support is, frankly, a little ridiculous. It feels wonderful obviously, mostly because it let’s us forget about the money and focus on making the best thing we can make. That’s always a great place to start when you’re creating something, so we’re grateful for the opportunity to do it that way.
Dork Shelf: Greg, you’ve worked with Takeshi Miyazawa, Jessica Kholinne and Simon Bowland in the past, but what drew you to them as the right team for this project?
GP: Tak’s some kind of wizard. He basically gets in my brain and pulls out the images that have been living there, but makes them ten times awesomer. I think Tak just gets my sense of pathos and humour for this kind of book. Just the little understated expressions of all his characters are so perfect. Tak’s also fantastic at drawing real world people. And I think that’s a hallmark of the books we’ve collaborated on — they feature regular people in absolutely insane circumstances. And the stories really depend on those regular people feeling real and believable for their impact. Tak delivers so well on that — his characters are so special yet so completely relatable.
Jessica did beautiful work on our X-Treme X-Men book. I really love how fearless she is with color — she’s not scared of very bold choices, which can be great for big sci fi stories. But at the same time, she has a sensitivity to characters and knows how to use subtle colors to make people look and feel real, which is so important in big genre stories. We’re thrilled to have her.
I’ve worked with Simon for years on years on dozens of comic books. Lettering is an unsung art — a great letterer knows how to place balloons and choose fonts and shapes and sizes in a way that complements the story and characters perfectly. Simon’s always been a huge pleasure to work with — and he’s also been responsible for lettering a bunch of those crazy sound effects Fred Van Lente, Nate Cosby and I got a bit infamous for while working on the Incredible Hercules series. Simon’s going to knock this book out of the park.
Dork Shelf: Takeshi, was the process of designing these characters based on songs any different than the usual comic process? Did you use the music, beyond any notes/scripts, to help inspire you?
Takeshi Miyazawa: Not really, no. Designing from songs was a first for me and helped set a mood but the process was the same. Basically, just mashing out ideas on loose leaf until I like something. Once that happens it’s smooth sailing and it materializes into the rest of the character but finding that single element is the most difficult and time consuming part.
Dork Shelf: Which song/character are you most excited for fans to see come to life in Code Monkey Save World?
GP: “Skullcrusher Mountain” has long been one of my favorite JoCo songs. I’m hugely excited to play more with the lovelorn villain at the heart of that song, particularly after seeing Tak’s design for him, with his hipstery skinny jeans and death’s head turtleneck. Jonathan said something really funny about the character the other day — that he looks like he’s trying a little too hard, which is just so sad and funny and perfect. Can’t wait.
TM: I’m with Greg on this one. The concept of a super-villain in love can lead to many things. I can’t wait to visualize them.
JC: I agree, Skullcrusher is really at the heart of it, even though Code Monkey’s got his name on the thing. If this were Rushmore, Code Monkey would be Jason Schwartzman and Skullcrusher would be Bill Murray. I’m most excited about watching their complicated, multi-layered relationship develop into something deep and funny.
Dork Shelf: Will there be a Code Monkey Save World album, with songs inspired by the comic about the songs? (How meta!)
JC: A few of our Kickstarter rewards include the songs that inspired the comic collected into a digital album. I’m also going to write a new song that’s inspired by the comic itself, once we get a little further along in the writing. And we have talked about doing OTHER THINGS with those songs, but I probably shouldn’t say anything more about that, because that gets into some of the stretch goals that we’re still working out behind the scenes.
Dork Shelf: Any other Twitter jokes we can expect to see turned into comics? With that at the root of this comic’s creation, will you be more or less cautious with your tweets in the future?
GP: I’m thinking about tweeting the band Styx to see if they want to make a comic based on “Come Sail Away.” But I’m not sure how far I’ll get. Don’t think I went to college with any of those guys.
JC: I can’t tell you how many awesome interactions or real world events have come from saying dumb things on Twitter. It’s such a fluid place to communicate, and you can sort of talk to anybody about anything. If anything it’s inspired me to be LESS careful. I’ll give you an example: I run this annual fan cruise called JoCo Cruise Crazy, and a couple of years ago Chris Collingwood from Fountains of Wayne tweeted that he was wondering if anyone had a cruise ship or a private tropical island he could use. I wrote back and invited him on the cruise, he said yes, and then suddenly I was meeting and performing with one of my songwriting heroes. The future is weird.