April 23, 2011

My 4th Week with Fraggle Comics Day 6: Paul Morrissey & Nichol Ashworth

Filed under: Feature — Tags: , , , — Joe Hennes @ 11:17 am

After our chat with Katie Strickland and Lindsay Cibos last week, I’ll bet you’re just hankerin’ for more Fraggle Rock comic book Q&As!

Below, you’ll find some questions and (hopefully) some answers from writer Paul Morrissey and artist Nichol Ashworth, the creative team behind the “Red’s Chomp-a-Thon” story in the latest issue of Fraggle Rock. So let’s get to it, shall we?? Yes, let’s. Quite. Bully.

chomp8ToughPigs: The last time we spoke you were editing the Disney comics for Boom Studios. How did you make the jump from Muppets to Fraggles?

Paul Morrissey: It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s very nice to speak to you again! I had a blast editing all of the Disney comics at BOOM!?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùespecially the Muppet comics. As for the jump, it was definitely more of a serendipitous skip. After a fantastic run editing comics for BOOM!, I was fortunate enough to find myself editing for Archaia, who just so happens to publish the Fraggle Rock series. I assure you, I am not a Muppet stalker! (Hmmm?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ Now which publisher has the license to publish Sesame Street comics?¢‚Ǩ¬¶?)

TP: Likewise, how did you make the jump from editor to writer? Was there some sort of obstacle course involved?

PM: There was indeed an obstacle course?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùand his name is Tim Beedle! Not only is Tim an old friend, but he?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s also a brilliant writer and editor (and obstacle course designer). Tim and I first worked together at TOKYOPOP, where he oversaw the Dark Crystal manga. While I was at BOOM!, Tim wrote Muppet Robin Hood. The guy knows his Muppets.

So, when Archaia started putting together their Fraggle Rock series, they wisely hired Tim to oversee it. And before I started editing for Archaia, I asked Tim if I could write a few pitches for Fraggle Rock. I had wanted to do a bit more writing, and this seemed like a great opportunity?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùespecially since I had a friend on the inside! Tim graciously allowed me to submit several pitches, one of which was approved by Henson. I hope fans enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

chomp3TP: What do your responsibilities as an editor involve?

PM: Comic book editors have a myriad of duties, but ultimately everything is done in service of the story. Once you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve hired the right writers and artists for a project, you have to make sure that everyone is spinning the particular tale in the best way possible. In doing so, I give story notes to writers, commenting on such things as pacing, dialogue, narrative structure and character motivation. Comic book editors also have to be art directors, giving artists notes on their rendering and visual storytelling. Of course, I also have to be a taskmaster, making sure everyone is turning their pages in on time!

With Fraggle Rock, we really wanted to hire the right mix of writers and artists. So, first and foremost, Tim and I reached out to a lot of talented people that we?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve worked with in the past?¢‚Ǩ‚ÄùJake Myler, Heidi Arnhold, Jake Forbes, Joanna Estep, Grace Randolph, Bryce Coleman, Nichol Ashworth, Chris Lie, Ross Campbell, etc. Getting such folks approved by Henson is step one. Writers provide short story pitches and artists submit character designs for approval.

Next, we make sure approved writers are telling a compelling story, giving them feedback when needed on their scripts. When art starts coming in, we have to makes sure the Fraggles are ?¢‚Ǩ?ìon model,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and drawn and colored properly. Luckily, with Fraggle Rock, the fine folks at Henson, along with Joe LeFavi (a former Henson employee), give us their feedback, as well.

TP: How did you first become a Muppet and Fraggle Rock fan? And what form does your fandom take today?

PM: I suppose you could trace everything back to Sesame Street. As a young tot, I watched Sesame Street religiously, and that was my first exposure to Jim Henson and his Muppets. I was hooked. In fact, I still have my old Big Bird and Bert & Ernie vinyl records. So, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that I would eventually follow Kermit to The Muppet Show. But here?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s what surprised me?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùunlike Sesame Street, my parents also watched The Muppet Show and laughed along with me.

chomp10To be honest, it took a little longer for me to get into Fraggle Rock. At the time it aired, I was a bit older than the intended demographic. However, after watching the entire series as an adult, I am incredibly impressed with the rich, complex world that Jim Henson created. Fraggle Rock has a deep mythology that has left quite an impression on its fans.

I have been extremely lucky in that my fandom has become a professional pursuit. I will admit, though, that I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m getting pretty giddy about the new Muppet movie!

TP: Moving on to your work as a writer, what sort of research did you do in preparation to write for the Fraggle Rock universe?

PM: Basically, I watched all of the episodes! Luckily, the whole series is streaming online?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùah, the glories of Netflix! I definitely didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t want to write a story that was too similar to an episode of the show. Also, there?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s no better way to learn the voices, character traits and mannerisms of the Fraggles than by watching the series.

I also began a diet that consisted solely of radishes. And I studied various sock-washing techniques.

TP: Who are your favorite characters? Least favorite?

PM: Red is definitely my favorite Fraggle. She?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s spunky and sassy, and it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s really easy to relate to her failings?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùwe?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve all been too competitive from time to time, and everyone hates to admit their mistakes. Also, I absolutely LOVE Karen Prell?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s voice and puppetry. Thanks to her, Red just comes alive.

I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m a huge film noir buff, so the Peter Lorre-inspired Marlon Fraggle has always made me chuckle. Hmmm?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ Someone needs to tell a story about him successfully forming his cult!

I definitely don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t want to bash any characters, but I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve always had a gripe about Doc. Why doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t this guy realize that Sprocket is essentially the smartest dog on the planet?! He could make some major bank!

chomp9TP: Which characters have been the most difficult to write for?

PM: BOOBER! Since he?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s such a fan favorite, I felt a lot of pressure to get his voice and character down perfectly. I know some of the other writers?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùincluding Tim Beedle?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùhave felt the same way. Also, Boober gets a lot of the funniest lines, so you really have to bring your ?¢‚Ǩ?ìA-game?¢‚Ǩ¬ù when writing Boober.

TP: What has the response to your work from The Jim Henson Company been like?

PM: Everyone at Henson has been incredibly supportive! They?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve really trusted us to handle their characters respectfully and faithfully. In turn, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a real honor to contribute to the Fraggle Rock world.

TP: Can you give us a tease of what to expect from your story?

PM: Sure! It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s called Red?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Chomp-A-Thon. Red organizes an eating contest, and she?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s convinced that she?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s going to take first prize.

TP: Red is so small! What makes you think she can hold her own in an eating contest, especially with Large Marvin nearby.

chomp7PM: Never underestimate Red?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s competitive nature! Let the battle of the bellies begin! Although, I wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t put it past her to purposefully exclude Marvin from competing?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ ;)

TP: Where else can readers find your non-Fraggle work?

PM: As you mentioned, I was fortunate enough to edit a number of Disney titles from BOOM!, including the initial arcs of The Muppet Show, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and Toy Story. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve also been editing another amazing anthology for Archaia?¢‚Ǩ‚ÄùMouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, which features a story from Fraggle Rock contributor Katie Cook. I definitely think fans of Archaia?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Fraggle Rock series would love David Petersen?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Mouse Guard!

In addition, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll be doing some more writing this year, most likely for another all-ages property. I just can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t announce it yet!

TP: Lastly, is there a message you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d like to pass along to the Fraggle Rock fans out there?

PM: Frankly, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve been stunned by how fans react to Archaia?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s line of Fraggle Rock comics. They have such a strong connection to the show that goes beyond pure nostalgia. I can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t tell you how many times I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve seen someone discover these comics and say, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìOh, my god! Fraggle Rock! This show was such a MAJOR part of my childhood!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

As you may know, Jim Henson wanted Fraggle Rock to be a force of good?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùa show that could teach kids about harmony and make the world a better place. I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t think it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a coincidence that all of the die-hard Fraggle Rock fans that I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve met are incredibly sweet, pleasant and happy people. Clearly, the Fraggle Rock show impacted them profoundly and positively.

With Archaia?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Fraggle Rock comics, we tried to combine that same hopeful message with tons of irreverent fun! I hope that we succeeded!chomp4


chomp1

ToughPigs: How did you first become a Fraggle Rock fan? And what form does your fandom take today?

Nichol Ashworth: I remember, back in the day, Fraggle Rock was only on HBO. HBO was a paid channel – but every now and then it had a free preview week and anyone could watch it. That is where I met Fraggle Rock and fell in love. In fact, before I was even asked to work on the project, I already owned two seasons on DVD. Being a 29 year old with no kids – perhaps that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a bit odd… but I can still sing along, even in my old age. :)

TP: What sort of research did you do in preparation to illustrate for the Fraggle Rock universe?

NA: To be honest, I watched my entire DVD collection. On repeat. I watched it while I was eating dinner, while I was sketching, painting – you name it. My poor boyfriend was so tired of the opening theme song that he was constantly wearing his oversized headphones to block out my ?¢‚Ǩ?ìdevotion.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

TP: How did you get the job to illustrate for Archaia Comics?

NA: I had worked previously on some small (very small) projects with Tokyopop. Through my work there I met both the editor, Tim Beedle, and the writer of the story I illustrated, Paul Morrissey. Our history together is a story of manga, comic-love, big-feet, innuendo and joy – so we work very well together. When Tim got involved in this project, he was kind enough to let me come barreling in. He let my geek-flag fly.

chomp2TP: You previously wrote a story for the Free Comic Book Day issue of Fraggle Rock. How does the experience differ between writing and illustrating the same characters?

NA: I think the difference is really one of just ?¢‚Ǩ?ìbeing a writer?¢‚Ǩ¬ù vs. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìbeing an illustrator.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Being a writer is fantastic, because you are in control of absolutely EVERYTHING. What you say goes. At the same time, as an illustrator, you get to be super creative and work art and side jokes around anything that was NOT mentioned in the writing. For example: I have some fun monsters that live under my Doozer towers and a bushy-creature with big eyes. Those weren?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t written in… but they still made it onto paper!

I also really found the joy of collaborating with other people. Jake Myler (who illustrated my FCBD story) picked up everything I wrote so perfectly. I felt that he and I were in a ballet-dance of Fraggle-wonder. Paul Morrissey (the writer of this story) and I also had a fabulous dance. A Tango… if you will.

I will say this, though, the story that I wrote focused around Boober – and I will admit that I found myself giving him the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìextra love?¢‚Ǩ¬ù when I was drawing him.

chomp6TP: Who are your favorite characters? Least favorite?

NA: I love BOOBER! To the point that I even have a stuffed animal of him hanging in the rear-view mirror of my car. Boober is the perfect blend of neuroticism, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even has a split personality that comes out in his dreams. Who wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t love him?

Least favorite is, (please don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t kill me), Red – actually. She?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s very cocky and show-offish. Devious in some ways… but I actually came to respect Red more after ?¢‚Ǩ?ìworking with her?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (can I say that?) on this last comic. Red had the greatest potential of the group, I think.

TP: Which characters have been the most difficult to illustrate?

NA: While I wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t say difficult to illustrate – I will say, difficult to paint. If you have 10 Fraggles in one panel and they all look like little furry balls of primary colors, you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve got yourself ?¢‚Ǩ?ìNichol?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s 3 a.m. mess.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Many tears were shed over the painting of these colorful folk. I found myself saying things on my Facebook profile like, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìDear ?¢‚ǨÀúMy Little Pony,?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ please stop vomiting rainbows on my paintings. Much love, Nichol.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

TP: What has the response to your work from Archaia and The Jim Henson Company been like?

NA: Fantastic. I really feel blessed to have worked with both of these companies – not only are they fabulous, but I feel they?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve challenged me in a whole new way. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve pushed myself farther than every before – and the response has been wonderful. Hey, I was even mentioned on the MTV website – and not for a reality show, so that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a step in the right direction.

chomp11TP: Can you give us a tease of what to expect from your story?

NA: Despite what I said above, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMy Little Pony?¢‚Ǩ¬ù will not be making an appearance. However, expect six pages of fun, fast-food and fantabulous Fraggles.

TP: What is the secret to capturing the pure essence of Large Marvin on the page?

NA: (Laughs.) It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s all in the eyes – I mean, yeah, Large Marvin is large… but if you can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t get the squinty, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìeven my eyes are fat?¢‚Ǩ¬ù look to him, than I think you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve missed something.

TP: Where else can readers find your non-Fraggle work?

NA: Right now, my other publications have been through Tokyopop, but they can feel free to stay abreast of what?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s coming out next at www.nixcomix.com or ?¢‚Ǩ?ìlike?¢‚Ǩ¬ù my Facebook fan page and get exclusive access to sketches and preliminary work that doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t get shown anywhere else.

TP: Lastly, is there a message you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d like to pass along to the Fraggle Rock fans out there?

NA: We have the great opportunity to teach our children to love and appreciate the things that we love, the characters that we loved, when we were children. That?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s really a precious thing.

In the words of Mokey Fraggle, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìIt?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s time for everyone, time to live as one.?¢‚Ǩ¬ùchomp5

Many thanks to Paul Morrissey and Nichol Ashworth for agreeing to chat with us and for all your hard work on the Fraggle Rock comic book!

Click here to shout BOOBER! on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com



Powered by WordPress