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He Promises, No Dogs Will Be Made To Fight Dragons

Okay, disclaimers out of the way: the comics-making duo known popularly as Becky [Dreistadt] & Frank [Gibson] are practically family; despite the fact that they went to art school with a niece who is totally my dogg since small times, I believe that I would have found my way to their work in any event. Dreistadt’s paintings are whimsical and achingly beautiful at the same time, and Gibson’s command of language is playful and erudite in equal measure.

Their latest project, a comic book adaptation of a 151-painting series in tribute to Pokemon, releases in a few weeks, and Gibson was kind enough to take some time out to talk to me about it. As an added bonus, Gibson sent along a four page preview of the first issue, which you can see below.

Fleen: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
Gibson: Thanks for having me!

Fleen: So tell me how the Capture Creatures comic book came about. Natural outgrowth of the art project? Shannon Watters¹ come to you with a request for a pitch and an offer of 6 issues minimum?
Gibson: We were thinking about a Capture Creatures comic before we even did our 151 project. It was originally the name of a comic series that we felt like we would never have the time to do. The 151 series was our way of making a creature project “manageable” aka 2 years of constant painting, a Kickstarter etc, etc. We’d been working with Boom on a bunch of projects, doing short stories for Adventure Time. Then they asked if we had ideas for a Capture Creatures book. Which of course we did. They pitched us ways to make the project manageable, since we’re a little busy these days, and it’s worked!

Fleen: So what did you see about Capture Creatures that lent itself to a story? You’ve got these 151 little (and some not so little) guys with a brief paragraph about each one … how do you turn that into a story?
Gibson: Ok, so I’m a little older than some of the up and comers, who grew up with Pokemon as their Saturday Morning Cartoon. When I was a teen I thought it was little kid stuff. I got into the games enough, but I didn’t have nostalgia for the cartoon. I was down and out sick one day, with my usual Sick-Dude kit, which is a can of Pringles, a bottle of Sprite and NyQuil. I sat down and I watched the first three Pokemon movies back to back.

The designs for them are awesome, Ken Sugimori is an amazing designer and the promises of the world are immense. Then they didn’t deliver anything. They save and change the world every day. The creatures don’t really effect how people live their everyday lives. There’s so much possibility, but they reign it in so hard that nothing happens.

At that point I realised I wanted to write about apparently magical creatures and the kinds of people who would hang around them. But I also wanted to write about how a world would change with the creatures being introduced. I also wanted to write about the creatures themselves, give them strong characters and an arc and their own stories.

Fleen: So is this going to be a case of discovering the Creatures and their unique biologies (or in some cases, ecologies) for the first time? Or will it be more of a rediscovery — the legends were true after all!
Gibson: There’s a bit of both. There were a lot of animals “went away” a long time ago and now they’re back, but they’re different. Our characters are working out how they came back and why and what that means.

Fleen: Judging from the preview pages you sent along, those characters are kids. Is that because adults would be more interested in maintaining a distance instead of interacting with the Creatures?
Gibson: The main characters are totally younger, the kind of adventure they dive into is the kind of adventure I think most adults would avoid. Making a whole bunch of bad choices for the right reasons. Some adults already know about them though and that is a huge problem.

Fleen: So tell me about the two humans we see in those preview pages. Who are they?
Gibson: Tamzen is a thirteen year old girl who has been living in the frontiers with her father. She’s pretty adventurous, but this is her last day before she heads back to the city to be with her mother. She’s had trouble connecting with the small town she lives in. Jory is an intern who works with Tamzen’s father, he’s also totally a drawing of me as a child if I dressed the way I do now back then.

Fleen: See, you just interrupted the question I was setting up: That’s totally Lil’ Frank, isn’t it Becky? But now there’s no need.
Gibson: Totally Becky’s doing, she says I just draw what I know! I had no role in this self-insert character. But he’s nervous, smart, has trouble connecting with people too but in an entirely different way.

Fleen: So the other burning question deals with the other half of the title: Capture. We have the Creatures, but where does the “capture” part come in?
Gibson: It certainly isn’t a Gotta catch em all scenario. Tamzen isn’t trying to catch wild animals and use them for fights. Some other people are trying to capture them and use them though!

Fleen: That’s good to hear! The fact that Pokemon is essentially about a society that encourages kids to engage in the equivalent of dog fighting was disturbing as hell.
Gibson: I always found that to be super weird. I mean, I’d be super sad if my dog was getting beat up by some dragon.

Fleen: So how many of the Creatures are we going to see? Will you be trying to find someplace to work in all 151?
Gibson: Who said there were only 151?

Fleen: Touché. When’s the gallery show that will highlight the next tranche, then? And does Becky know that she’ll never be allowed to stop painting, ever?
Gibson: Hahah! We’re not going to do another 151 that’s for sure, we have a couple more that fit the stories we’re telling right now. But as for the next gallery show: December 13th! We’re doing a Capture Creatures group show, with Becky’s new cover art, variant cover artists and a signing for the Issue 1 release.

Oh and returning to the last question. Issue 1 you get 1 creature. Issue 2 you get a bunch more. I’m seeing a lot of these guys, working away on Issue 3 right now, it’s nice to see them out in the open and running around, as opposed to cooped up in a single pose in a book.

Fleen: So how much story are we getting? Do you have an end in mind right now, or will you keep coming up with more stories to tell for as long as we’re willing to buy?
Gibson: Our first arc is 6 issues and by that point our world and characters are firmly established, but I could go forever. Hanging out with these characters is a lot of fun. There’s a giant story we’re telling and I’m hopeful that we’ll get through it!

Fleen: You mentioned back at the start how you’re busy — what else are you writing, and what else is Becky painting?
Gibson: Oh boy! Well I’m writing The Amazing World of Gumball every month with Tyson Hesse. I recently wrapped a couple of outlines for TV that will hopefully see the light of day.

Becky continues to design for the Bee & Puppycat animated series² as well as doing other designs for TV. We’re in big project mode. Not a whole lot of little stuff on the side, but Becky’s official Ace the Bathound piece from Mondo has been floating around the Internet the last few days.

Fleen: Assuming all the current projects wrapped up and somebody offered you a dump truck of money to do any one project you wanted and you would retain ownership, what would you each choose?
Gibson: I really miss working on Tiny Kitten Teeth, I’ve been trying to articulate the “abandoned webcomic” problem. Because that’s how it looks to everyone else, but we’re still thinking about it every day and wanting to make it again. On the cheerful flipside though, is Bustletown!

Fleen: This is cute to a degree that is dangerous. Weaponized cute.
Gibson: We have some decidedly small and fun plans for Bustletown that I feel like can exist alongside our other projects, but still be fully realised.

Fleen: Similar question: you get the dumptruck full of money to work on one established property rather than one of your own. What does Becky want to illustrate more than anything, what do you want to write more than anything?
Gibson: Well, I actually got to do that for a little while earlier this year, but I have a really scary looking NDA. It’ll likely never see the light of day.

Fleen: Aw, c’mon. Does it rhyme with Smatman?
Gibson: Hahaha it does not! That’s the biggest clue I will give on that one.

Fleen: You heard it here first, folks — Frank Gibson is not writing Batman. Exclusive!
Gibson: Haha nope, no Batman for me. Becky wants Professor Layton or Chip’n’Dale. I want Jeeves & Wooster.
Working on something for Poirot would be fun too.

OH! Actually I forgot the one that trumps them all: HACKERS.
I’ve been wanting to write a comic series of Hackers for a million years, everyone laughs when I ask if they can get the license.

Fleen: You spend all day messing around on Hackertyper don’t you?
Gibson: Is there a button to trigger MATRIX MODE?

Fleen: Unfortunately, no. But you can wear all the leather and goggles you want.
Gibson: What about rollerblades?

Fleen: You may wear one rollerblade. You’re just that much of a rebel against society’s rules.
Gibson: One moon-shoe and one rollerblade.
Fleen: Exactly.

Fleen: Okay, give us the elevator pitch: why should people pick up Capture Creatures #1 when it comes out on 26 November?
Gibson: Because I think it is the most beautiful monthly comic on the stands. Becky, Kelly [Bastow, the inker], Tracy [Liang, the colorist] and Britt [Wilson, the letterer] are absolutely killing it on the art. Also if you are into weird monsters, cute animals and a bunch of weirdo teens running around on an island, this is the book for you!

Fleen thanks Frank Gibson for taking the time to talk about Capture Creatures. While the book doesn’t come out until the day before [American] Thanksgiving, Monday is the day known as Final Order Cutoff — the last day that comic book stores can adjust their orders on the title. If you want a copy, be sure to ask!

Preview from Capture Creatures issue #1, courtesy of Dreistadt & Gibson: click to embiggen!

¹ Editor at BOOM! Studios and the KaBOOM and BOOMbox imprints.

² Which premieres in a week.

[…] ¹ As part of their Capture Creatures debut […]

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