“We were definitely going for a sitcom vibe” How Arrested Development and Peep Show inspired Knuckleheads creators Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson to create the ‘Odd Couple’ of superheroes
Any book that features a lead character called ‘Hot Drunk English Chick‘ and uses the futility of Cloverfield as a reference point when confronted with a giant monster attack is going to be a hit in our books. So after last weeks sneak preview into the world of MonkeyBrain‘s brilliant new slacker superhero adventure Knuckleheads we wanted to get to know it’s stars Trevor and Lance a bit better as they seemed like our kind of guys. And who better to give us the lowdown on these two and the superpowers of the Crystal Fist than creators Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson.
BW: I will unashamedly admit there the only thing profound about the creation of Knuckleheads was my admiration for Robert’s art when I first saw it. As soon as we met we started talking about creating something. Humor is my specialty and the comics Robert was doing at the time were a bit more…let’s say melancholy, but he’s a hilarious storyteller so I knew he would really nail the comedy. The concept hit us almost immediately and it grew quickly from there.
I love all the little pop culture references like the Cloverfield jokes and the song lyrics included as dialogue, so are Trevor and Lance based on you guys or just on people you know?
RW: I think Brian and I both have a little of Trevor and Lance in us but they aren’t specifically based on us. More than anything else, I would say Lance and Trevor are informed by experiences we’ve had with roommates during and after college. I spent a little more than my fair share being the Lance to a roommates Trevor, but I’m sure I have a few former roomies that think of me as the Trevor of the relationship. It’s really just playing of off the whole ‘Odd Couple’ dynamic that pretty much anyone who has had more than a couple of roommates can relate to.
Tell us a bit about Knuckleheads’ previous incarnation and how you’ve tweaked it for this new digital version?
BW: Our initial plan was to do an 8-page story, which we essentially created a page at a time. We realised quickly that by page 8 we were just getting to the story. I took those with me to San Diego Comic-Con 2009 and got great feedback, so we finished out the 22-page story and printed a black & white run, which we sold at various cons over the next year or two. For the new Knuckleheads, Robert re-drew those first eight pages, I re-dialogued a lot of it and Jordan Boyd came in to color it. After page 8, the action goes in different directions than the original issue. I wrote a second issue and Robert drew the first two pages before we put the project on hold – we’ll be including those pages as an extra in the back of issue #4. All I’ll say is they guest-star Conan O’Brien and Nigella Lawson.
RW: Knuckleheads was our first collaboration, though we were hired to do a weekly comic strip that advertised this weird salon / non-surgical, cosmetic procedure, uh… spa? It was basically a completely insane soap opera called ‘Housewives of the 405’ which we condensed to HOT405. However, I kind of loved doing it, it’s easily the most bizarre thing that I’ve done in my career. Brian made it tons of fun and we ended up putting Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips in one strip as well as the guys from the TV show ‘Terriers’ in another.
How long can we expect Knuckleheads‘ run to be? Is it all planned out or are you winging it?! Will we be seeing an origin of the crystal fist for example?! And what about new characters like a super villain?
BW: This first arc is called “Fist Contact.”We’ve got twelve issues loosely plotted out but we’re keeping things loose as inspiration strikes. We will definitely be flashing back to not only the day Trev was given the Crystal Fist but also the day Trev and Lance first met so that readers can truly understand why these guys put up with each other. And we definitely have a plan for Trev’s arch-enemy, which will really have a huge impact on the characters and the progression of the story. We know the shape of the story but we don’t have a specific endgame in sight. To be honest, how long we do Knuckleheads depends on how well the book sells, so I have hope we’ll be able to strike a chord and build a solid fanbase who want to keep reading.
We’ve been introduced to Trevor, Lance, Pizza Guy and, at least partially, to Hot Drunk English Chick. Are there more to come or is that the lot? With such a limited cast it feels more like a sitcom was that intentional? Or are you just releasing the characters slowly?
RW: That is the core group of characters. We were definitely going for a sitcom vibe, ‘Arrested Development’ was one of the first things that Brian and I really bonded over.
BW: My favorite sitcoms are a huge influence on the characters – I’ll be writing a bit about that in the back of issue #3. For potential fans in the UK I will admit that I have a profoundly strong love for ‘Peep Show.’ We’ll be introducing other characters, but really focusing on our core four.
MonkeyBrain are carving a great niche for themselves as a digital publisher, how did you get involved with them and what do you make of the growth of digital comics in the last year and a bit – are you tablet users yourself for example? And how do you think it helps smaller publishers like Monkeybrain and yourselves?
RW: Brian and I met Chris Roberson at the Baltimore Comic Con a few years back and just hit it off. We’ve kept in touch at Cons and on twitter since then.
BW: We were hugely honored when Chris and Allison invited us to bring Knuckleheads to MonkeyBrain. I’ve bought most of their books and read ‘em on my iPad. For us, MonkeyBrain is a perfect fit because we retain 100% ownership and we’re guaranteed income from sales rather than seeing a lot of that eaten up by printing and distribution. We do hope for an eventual print collection and hopefully a publisher – and retailers – will like what they see digitally and help find a brick & mortar audience for it as well.
What can we see from you both next? Or are you all about Knuckleheads for the next few months?
BW: Knuckleheads is my current focus in comics. I’ve also created a property called Bastard Road with Dave Curd which appeared in Image Comics’ Popgun anthologies. We’ve been developing it for animation so we hope to get traction with that as well as do some more comics. And I’m working on an action book called Number One Hit with an amazing artist named Michael James Anderson and am hoping to find a home for that soon, too. But right now I’m all about Knuckleheads.
RW: Knuckleheads is my main thing right now. I’m also working on a short story with my friend Ken Lowery that’s already drawn. We’ll be launching a Kickstarter to get it printed in the next month. I’m also always working on posters for some band or another as well as silkscreen art prints for gallery shows.
Knuckleheads is published by MonkeyBrain and issue 1 is available exclusively via ComiXology For more on Brian and Robert visit their websites robothousecreative.com and robertwilsoniv.com or follow them on twitter @brianwinkeler and @robertwilsoniv