Hands On: Brandon Graham Interview

There sits a city just around the corner from the near future: breathing, hustling, and sweating while life flows through it like a melting slab of ice cream over a gutter. But you need a hell of a cultural lens to really see it: Think Akira’s Neo-Tokyo if it were built by The Marx Brothers. Or the minutia of Geoff Darrow rendered with the punk aesthetic of The Dogtown Chronicles. Imagine Salvador Dali playing a brutal game of one-on-one with Do-The-Right-Thing-era Spike Lee, and you’re within city limits. This is King City, baby. The coolest comic book on planet earth. Classy Hands sat down with the Eisner-nominated creator Brandon Graham to pin down the comedic aspects of his sprawling epic published by TOKYOPOP/Image Comics.


CH: The series is rife with humor that is uniquely physical. It’s not uncommon to see a guy using a cat’s butt as a megaphone. How did you come to the decision to make a cat the primary weapon of choice for Joe?

BG: I thought it’d be funny to have a stone-faced James Bond guy in a suit who had a case he took a cat out of the way a sniper would carry their gun. I put him in a short comic called OWL— I liked the idea but wanted to make the guy someone I could relate to more.

CH: Phrases like “Mine is the face that sank a thousand chips” and “Cervix Entrance” are the norm around King City, and keep the book from being too heavy. Were these puns hashed out in advance, or did they just sort of flow out of the illustrations as you made them?

BG: I have this idea that there’s a time limit on ideas– Like I want to remember the mind frame I was in when I thought up something especially if it’s a joke. So the jokes are all done pretty close to when I draw them.

Cervix entrance came about after I was asking one of my old roommates how I should draw the scene. Originally I was going to have him coming into the hallway through a statues nose my room mate who wasn’t taking me seriously said “he should come out of a vagina” so I tried to draw that in deadly seriousness.

After I was done and lettering the thing I thought of the cervix entrance line kind of like something you’d think of when heckling a movie. Like Mystery Science Theatre.

CH: Overall, the plot doesn’t take itself too seriously – The Cat Master is off getting laid and scoring hummus while the city around him is being ravaged by some sort of mammoth Cthulhu creature. Does any of that attitude reflect in your personal or work life?

BG: I feel like it’s important to write stuff I can relate to, and I’ve never been in a situation so dire that getting laid and getting hummus was put on hold.

I always think it’s funny when entertainment gets too dramatic.  I’ll be watching some action movie where everyone is screaming and the world is going to end like “ you guys know this is fake believe right?”

CH: The internet is becoming a bloated venue for mash-up culture, given how easy it is just to digitally manipulate existing media. With King City, your influences are clearly channeled into a fresh environment on the page. Can you tell us who some of your biggest influences that you are channeling with this book?

BG: Mm yeah, lots of stuff. I’m always trying to make something that’s as cool as the stuff that excited me growing up.

My older brother would bring home lots cool small press comics, Stuff like Savage Henry and Zooniverse. Heavy Metal was coming out and the Moebius books were being translated, and Manga like Appleseed and Cyber 7. The 80’s was a nice time to dive into comics.

When I was older I got into doing graffiti and I’ve learned a huge amount from Hip Hop– I think my interest in puns and word play come from that, and from Graffiti the idea that you can do whatever you want and just have fun with it.

Comics is fantastic in that you can do anything that you can think of combining words and pictures.

CH: You are about to launch Multiple Warheads with ONI Press. Can you let us in on what to expect? Will it be more serious, or carry over the levity of things like talking about sandwich swords? 

BG: The writing style is pretty similar to King City. I yam what I yam. It’s more the environment I’m setting the stuff in that’s different. It’s all in a kind of post apocalyptic future fantasy Russia/China– with mythological creatures and spaceships. I’m still just trying to show daily lives and relationships. I always fall into the sci fi themes and then hopefully try to deal with them in a different way.

CH: Are you even the least bit ashamed of inhabiting King City with foxy girls that fart a lot?

BG: I hadn’t thought about it. I think it’s the opposite of shame, I’m all about trying to throw in anything that shows these fictional characters as human.

So lots of eating and knuckle cracking, pissing, spitting and farting. Farting is ideal because it’s also funny.

– Interview by Lee Keeler



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