“Blastosaurus gives us a lot of freedom to explore different genres and story types” Richard Fairgray on how to write a time travelling dinosaur cop comic
Only in the world of digital comics can a mutant time travelling dinosaur comic seem like the most normal thing in the world – but not if Blastosaurus writer Richard Frairgray has his way. He’s tired of cartoon characters getting away with unbelievable levels of normality and is set to break the conventions with his new series, out now on ComiXology. To find out why he gets annoyed when ninja turtles can disguise themselves by just wearing a hat, we got a touch and found out how this New Zealand native and his writing partner Terry Jones are set to make their mutant time-travelling dinosaur really stand out from the crowd!
Tell us a bit about the back story and inspiration for Blastosaurus?
RG: Blastosaurus started out as a joke in another comic. Well, actually it all began when my friend Emma made fun of me for cuddling a stuffed dinosaur while I slept (mainly because my wife had put a toy gun in the bed as well which was also being cuddled), but that became Gunasaurus, which became a joke in another comic. The idea was to create a parody of old Saturday Morning Cartoons, specifically the myriad of TMNT clones about mutant crimefighters. Then, after a couple of days of singing the theme song and inventing mad storylines we suddenly realized it could actually be something of its own, not just a parody. The influence of TMNT is still very apparent, but I think by the time he became Blastosaurus (complicated story) it was more drawing from things like Gargoyles. I really don’t know if there’s any specific source of inspiration in comic books, I can tell you that at the time I was re-reading Top 10 which may have played into the procedural nature of some of the later storylines.
Has Blastosaurus been published anywhere else before? I know you publish it digitally on your website as well as this ComiXology version, but it feels like a very well rounded and thought out character and back story?
RF: Blastosaurus existed as a concept for a long time (since 2008) but the option on it was held by another company and all we were able to release were convention specials for about 3 years. Once we took full control of the book again we very quickly moved towards publishing it both digitally and in print. The first two volumes have been release in NZ and Australia (and at a few conventions in London) and we have a third coming out this June.
In terms of ‘back story’, I think Terry and I are both very focused on developing a dense and layered world, not just a character and I think that comes through in the comic a lot. For instance, we have created every TV show, every comic book, every song, every band, every movie that exists in this universe because (while we know it may never end up being relevant to the story) it seems like a way to give the book some weight and texture.
The back story is quite dense involving several different timelines, was it tricky to keep track of all of these? Will the time travel element settle down eventually or is that going to be an ongoing theme for the book?
RF: Without giving away too much from future storylines, the back and forth structure calms down in issue 2 once we get beyond the ‘origin’ story part of the book. We knew we had a big story to tell and if we did it in a linear way then it could have been very plodding. Personally I never like origin stories, I want to see the character in their established world doing their thing but I know that that doesn’t really work in practice (though on a sidenote, can we all agree that super hero movies should just stop retelling origins, we all know them now and are bored).
Time travel, or at least the changing of reality and cause and effect do play a part throughout Blastosaurus but then again so does every other kind of storytelling. We see Blastosaurus as sort of an umbrella concept that gives us a lot of freedom to explore different genres and story types. The second story arc is a horror story, a proper haunted house tale, later there’s one about a comic convention and a noir detective… there are a lot of detective stories…short answer, yes, it does calm down and yes there will be more.
The book has a real Saturday morning cartoon feel to it – a bit like Denver the last Dinosaur meets Hellboy – how important was it for you to get that sort of tone (although it’s not very all ages with all the blood and guts!)
RF: Saturday morning cartoons play heavily into the kinds of stories we tell but we try and make them a bit more complex. The best cartoons (the current TMNT, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, Avatar) all work by appealing to a dual audience, by taking accessible concepts and approaching them with subtlety and nuanced characters, that’s what we’re hoping comes across in Blastosaurus.
We actually try to be very sparing with the blood and guts. We know that the bulk of our audience (and the ones we’re most interested in reaching) will be teenagers or adults, but we also know that a dinosaur cop (sort of a spoiler but it’s written everywhere on my site) is always going to be a big seller to kids. I think the key is to never have it be gratuitous, in that first issue the Raptors do some very nasty things, most of them are off camera but we need to see that these guys really are monsters, I think if we’d showed all the eating of flesh it would have hurt the tone.
You tug at the emotional heartstrings in this first issue with a scene involving a young Blastosaurus and his mother getting attacked by raptors, how important was that for giving the book an emotional core?
RF: I think it’s very important, it gives Blastosaurus a very clear, very emotional motivation for the beginning of the story but it also doesn’t stop him from developing beyond that once that stuff has been dealt with. Again, we didn’t want to make it gratuitous and if it tugs at the heart strings then I’m pretty happy, a baby watching his mother get killed should be a really sad thing.
Blastosaurus is debuting on ComiXology this week, how important is it as an indie publisher to get onto a global storefront like that?
RF: In terms of exposure it’s immeasurable. Well, I suppose nothing is immeasurable once sales reports come in but it is a very important step. At the end of the day it will come down to whether people like the book or not (and we hope they do) but having it on a recognised platform really helps.
There seems to be a lot of strong comics talent coming out of Australia and New Zealand at the moment how vibrant is the Aussie/NZ comic scene and is digital helping get you guys more attention?
RF: I don’t really know the Australian scene very well, I know from my occasional interactions with some of the creators that there are some very hard working people over there producing some very interesting work. As for the NZ scene, there are a lot of people who either want to make comics or who do make comics and the ones who have taken advantage of the digital format are leaving the others in the dust. What Tim [Gibson]’s done with Moth City is incredible, what Li Chen has done with exocomics is amazing, I hope to see more interesting digital work.
Finally, will we be seeing more dinosaurs being genetically altered and taking on Blastosaurus, if so which ones would you like to bring forward in time?
RF: No. Just from a logical standpoint, what kind of organization would look at the results of that ‘experiment’ and think “let’s do that again”?
A big part of the appeal of this kind of comic for me is in seeing how much harder life really is when you’re a mutant reptile (I’ve spoken in many places about how as a child it bothered me when the Turtles could put on a hat and be totally disguised). I think, given that caveat, that if any other dinosaur did get brought to the present it would just be something really large but harmless, like a brontosaurus or something, I could just do a single issue of it arriving in the Factory Corp offices and struggling to fit through doors.