I got a sneak peek at Toe Tag Riot #1 last week and loved it. This weekend I was lucky enough to talk to TTR‘s creators, Matt Miner (Liberator) and Sean Von Gorman (Pawn Shop), about collaboration, Westboro Baptist Church, and who’s next on Toe Tag Riot’s hit list.
Julie: How did you two meet and get started collaborating on comics?
Matt: We met on Twitter, actually, and didn’t exactly hit it off at first. But after fighting it out we came out the other end as friends. When I was asked by Black Mask Studios to do a piece in the Occupy Comics anthology about my experience with Occupy Sandy’s help after Hurricane Sandy wrecked our neighborhood, I asked Sean if he’d like to team up on the story and do the art, which he absolutely rocked.
Sean: Matt and I used to get into huge arguments on Twitter. So if you want to make it in comics kids, my advice is to pick fights on Social Media.
Julie: What is your collaboration process like? Does the story come first, or the images?
Matt: Story first, then images – mostly. Sean and I have a more relaxed process with Toe Tag Riot than I have on other books. I trust Sean and his art so I give him a less structured script than I’d do with artists I don’t know as well. Sean changes what he wants when he feels the story could be told a different/better way than what I’ve called for in the script and Sean also helps out with a lot of the jokes and one-liners in the dialogue.
Sean: It’s a true Collaboration in every sense of the word. The two of us are throwing everything we have at this book to make it be best that it can possibly be!
Julie: What was the inspiration for Toe Tag Riot? Most of the zombies out there are depicted as brainless shamblers, how did you come up with a zombie punk rock band with some pretty strong opinions on right and wrong?
Matt: I’m a big fan of the metal band GWAR, who are famous for their tongue-in-cheek stage theatrics and heavy use of blood and gore while they play. I’m also a guy who came up in the punk rock scene while reading comics, so Toe Tag Riot is kind of a marriage of all those things I love so much. As far as the “zombie aspect” or whatever, I mean, we call them zombies because that’s what they kind of look like but they’re not truly zombies. They’re not dead, they’re not brainless, they’re just cursed to become zombies whenever they play their music (which actually works to help their music careers).
Sean: We didn’t want our book to be another Zombie Apocalypse story. While it’s a valid art approach it there is a great deal of focus on that angle at the moment. We wanted to make Zombies FUN again!
Julie: For a four piece punk band, the members of TTR are pretty diverse. Have the characters been pretty set since the beginning, or did they evolve with the writing?
Matt: I wanted the members of Toe Tag Riot to reflect the world around us and be the antithesis of the people they’d eventually end up killing/dismembering/eating. The band has ethics and so they decide to use their “zombie superpowers” to kill off crappy people: racists, sexists, homophobes, etc – culminating in this showdown with the Westboro Baptist Church in the issue 4 finale.
So the band includes a mixed-race lesbian couple and a bisexual guy and a somewhat clueless but ultimately harmless and charming straight guy, because honestly these are the kinds of people I know from the punk rock scene and it’s not all overprivileged white nihilists like punks are portrayed all too often in pop culture.
Sean: I adore the crew we’ve put together. The process of building their characters has been so much fun. One of my favorite moments was when doing a rough sketch for Evie, I had let one of her arms unfinished. And looking on it I thought how great would it be if Evie just had one arm. I showed it to Matt and he loved it. How can you top an African American Lesbian Zombie, who is also Handicapped? Someone is going to win an Oscar for playing that role one day.
Julie: How did Fall Out Boy’s Andy Hurley get involved with TTR?
Matt: Andy’s been a supporter of my work from the start and he’s just been awesome. He and I started talking after he read my very first comic series called Liberator and found we had a lot in common in terms of political views and how we treat animals. When Toe Tag Riot was on Kickstarter it occured to Sean and me to ask Andy if he’d like to be a character in the book.
Sean: Andy is super fun to draw. His torso is covered with Tattoo’s. When he’s in the book It’s like a Art within Art.
Julie: Have you gotten any flak from members of Million Moms or Westboro Baptist Church who have taken offense to TTR?
Matt: Only Westboro Baptist – I don’t think Million Moms realizes they’re on this fictional zombie-hit list yet. Westboro first promoted the book, not realizing it was LGBT-positive and starring queer characters – they were too excited that their signs might show in the book and didn’t think it through any more than that. Big surprise.
Anyways once they realized what Toe Tag Riot was about they called me and Sean “insincere pervs” and said the book would “split Hell wide open” – best pull quotes ever.
Sean: When an organization like the WBC condemn something you do, you must be doing something right.
Julie: TTR was funded via Kickstarter and I know Matt has worked with that platform before. Obviously it was a successful venture, but how was the process for you? Any words of advice for indie artists looking to crowdfund their work?
Matt: Kickstarter is a great tool to reach your audience and fund a project but my advice is to prepare yourself for a LOT of work because they’re not easy to run. Also I’d suggest moving on it sooner than later – as more and more Kickstarter creators blow off their obligations to their backers the well gets poisoned more and more for unproven creators wanting to crowdfund.
Sean: Matt and I had run successful Kickstarters before Toe Tag, Matt with Liberator, and me with Pawn Shop. Crowd funding in general is a super demanding process especially with the “all or nothing approach with Kickstarter. When people ask me what it’s like to run one I tell them it’s like having a baby that will die in 30 days if you don’t take care of it.
Julie: I know TTR is only a four issue story (and I’m bummed about that), what will you be working on next?
Matt: Sean and I would love to do another volume of Toe Tag Riot, actually. Hopefully people show up on November 26 and buy issue 1 (buy extras for holiday gifts, you guys) and then support it going forward so that our publisher wants to see another run – we’d like to take the band on a European tour.
Sean: The only thing we can ask anyone who likes Toe Tag Riot is to tell people about it. Be as vocal as you can about your feelings. Get on Social Media pick up an extra copy and give it to someone you think will enjoy it. And tell Black Mask that you can’t live without more Toe Tag Riot. It’s that simple. Beside wouldn’t you want to see Vladimir Putin get what’s coming to him?
Julie: Last but not least, what’cha reading?
Matt: Lately I’m loving Nailbiter, Godkiller, Five Ghosts, The Woods, Sheltered, Last Born, Batman, The Wake, and Pirouette. Just to name a few hahah. We’re in a golden age of comics and there’s never been more quality work to choose from.
Sean: Ditto on those for me. And I’m also chipping away at my Valiant Humble Bundle.
Toe Tag Riot #1 hits your local comic shop on Wednesday, November 26th. I know you haven’t seen it yet, but believe me, this one needs to be on your pull list. We also need more than four issues, because I really want to see what TTR would do to Vladimir Putin. Go out, buy multiple copies of issue 1, and light up social media so that we can all have some zombie on Putin violence. We need that. The world needs that. Think about the world, people. Think about the world.