“I write what I think is cool and just remind myself that everyone needs to keep their clothes on” Adventure Time writer Ryan North on the secret to writing a good ‘all-ages’ comic book
We’ve been fans of the brilliantly bonkers Adventure Time from Boom! Studios since issue 1. With it’s hyperactive, tripped out stories and it’s technical colour acid-trip visuals it’s a real sensory overload of a comic – but all in the right ways! We wanted to find out more about the people who come up with these crazy adventures of Finn, Jake and Princess Bubblegum, so we contacted writer Ryan North to ask him where he gets his inspiration from, why he thinks Adventure Time has been such a hit and also to talk about his equally nutso web series Dinosaur Comics .
Adventure Time is a truly unique book, is it difficult writing such an oddball style and getting the tone right? Do you have to run stuff past Pendleton Ward and the Adventure Time brain trust or does he trust you to take the characters in the right direction?
RN: Being a fan of the show meant that it was really easy to write: I already knew the characters and what they sounded like, so it was easy to tell if something sounded “off”. Pen and the AT Brain Trust do have final approval on everything I write but so far it’s been super easy! We’ve only made one change and that was when it would’ve revealed something too soon about Marceline and the Ice King’s relationship.
Why do you think Adventure Time has been so popular and how did you go about getting offered the job?
RN: I think AT is popular because it’s a really fun, experimental show that can go in all sorts of different directions. Pen said recently that he thinks of the show now like a short animated film showcase, where you never know precisely what you’re going to get, and I think that’s part of the charm. It’s a constantly surprising, constantly-inventive show.
Getting the job was really easy: they emailed me to ask if I wanted it, and I said yes!
What books, comics and cartoons did you enjoy growing up that have inspired and shape your writing and sense of humour? And what sort of stuff do you enjoy now?
RN: I read a lot of science books: both non-fiction and science fiction. I was SUPER into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was a kid, which makes sense because of how awesome they are. When I started university I started getting big into comics (I’d taken a job and had my own income and the first place I stopped when I got my first paycheque was a comic book store). I really love Eddie Campbell’s comics: he does a lot of autobiographical stuff and the way he captures personalities in the way they speak is brilliant. It’s the same sort of thing I’m now trying to do when writing Finn and Jake. I love just about everything Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) and Jason Shiga (Meanwhile…) do.
Do you aim your writing at kids or specific audience in general, or do you just try and write whats funny and hope it appeals to kids and big kids alike?
RN: The comic is all ages, which is different than being for children. For me the difference is that a childrens’ book talks down to them, while all ages is something everyone can enjoy – including children. So I write what I think is cool and just remind myself that everyone needs to keep their clothes on and it goes pretty well since they weren’t going to take them off in the first place!
Do you ever find yourself wanting to write something ultra serious as an antidote or are you generally just a very happy go lucky guy?
RN: Not really. I’ve actually written a serious hard-science fiction comic that I’m hoping to do something with, but I think I’m going to rewrite that to add in some more jokes after all. They cut the tension and make storytelling more fun!
Before Adventure Time you wrote the weekly web comic Dinosaur Comics tell us a bit about how that evolved? Did you always plan to keep it as fixed art or was that just luck/laziness that that happened? Do you find the frequency of writing Dinosaur Comics helps keep your writing more disciplined or do you just write when inspiration hits?
RN: Oh I still write Dinosaur Comics! And it was entirely planned that it would use the same pictures all the time. It’s a restriction, right? And a lot of fun in writing is playing with and within restrictions. Writing a daily comic every weekday for about ten years MUST teach you discipline and how to meet a deadline, but I’m sure it also teaches you how to write better. I’d hope so, anyway!
What’s your favourite dinosaur and why?
RN: T.rex because just look at his bod. Look at the bod on that animal. How anyone could chose any other bod over that bod is beyond me!
You’ve been very involved behind the scenes with web comics for years but what are your thoughts on the growth of digital comics for the tablet? Is it the future or just a fad and where do you think it could go in the future?
RN: I think if there’s anything the past 20 years have taught us about media, it’s that none of them are a fad, but many gain and fall in popularity. I don’t have a tablet computer myself so I don’t have too many opinions on it, but I’d be sad if there was a future with pervasive computing everywhere and there wasn’t a way to read fun comics on each of those devices.
Finally, what’s next for you and anything we can help you plug?
RN: Well, I just launched a Kickstarter for a choose-your-own-path version of Hamlet I’ve written, illustrated by tons of amazing artists! It’s at hamletbook.com – the more people who buy a copy, the better the book gets! I’m really excited for it.