Brian Chippendale and C.F. are hitting the road this weekend to do a book signing tour along the west coast for their new works, If ‘n Oof and Powr Mastrs 3. Chippendale and CF will present slide shows about their work, answer questions, and sign books. At their Portland stop here at Floating World Comics, we are also honored to welcome local writer, Matt Fraction, who will interview the artists about their work. I’m anticipating the comics crossover of the century.
I read both of the new books multiple times this past week. Powr Mastrs 3 sees C.F. taking his incredible artwork to the next level. It’s a science fiction adventure comic, but I’d probably compare it to interpretive dance before comparing it to Jack Kirby. Papa don’t take no mess.
If ‘n Oof is an 800 page! chunk of comic, literally a Picturebox. But it reads fast with lots of humor and surprises. The first time through is a visceral experience. The book almost animates itself as you turn the pages. Multiple readings reveal that the surreal story actually ties together with lots of layers and backstory.
Chippendale has had a busy weekend, getting ready for the tour, but he had time to do a quick interview with me about his new book.
Jason Leivian: I want to start with some questions about the characters and world of If ‘n Oof. Does this land have a name?
Brian Chippendale: If ‘n Oof takes place in and above a giant crater. Inside the crater is called “The C.” A mountain range separates The C from the city of Grain (now called Grave), the setting for my Ninja book and also my new comic Puke Force.
JL: There’s a huge cast of characters in the book. Many characters you only meet once and each reveals new information about the world they live in. Doctor Payne has apparently created a lot of the lifeforms in this story through his experiments. Does he have much power and influence in this world, or is he just more of a mad scientist?
BC: Doctor Payne is a major player in this book, but he is also a victim. There are more major players than him, specifically The Nine, who are actually a shattered god divided into nine pieces. Worshipped by nine different cults. This is barely, possibly not at all recognizably, referenced in the book. The Nine are also mentioned in Ninja. Doctor Payne does research for the Nine but was also wronged by them and craves vengeance. He has been populating The C with his failed creations but doesn’t have much power over these creatures after that. He’s really just a semi-successful businessman/scientist with a host of issues. But he does have power for sure.
JL: At the beginning he refers to something called Operation Dreamworld. At the end of the story, we hear about Operation Bloodworld. Are these two outcomes related?
BC: Operation Dreamworld is Doctor Payne’s plan to put all the citizens of The C and surrounding areas to sleep and use them as human batteries. Operation Bloodworld refers to a feud Payne has with a being who lives under The C, in The Ancient City. These Operations are separate, but are rooted in a greater scramble for the natural resources of The C.
JL: Is If some sort of artificial life-form?
BC: Good question. Aren’t we all?
JL: Good answer. After reading the book I started thinking that all human beings are almost clones of each other. Most of our genetic material is so similar with just slight variations here and there.
BC: Interesting train of thought. Are we all clones of Adam and Eve? I like how tech terms like “hardwired” are creeping into descriptions of people. That we are “hardwired” to be act a certain way. Will there be a discovery that we have been super advanced organic machines the whole time? At some point as technology gets smaller and crazier, will there be a difference between sentient and not?
JL: They refer to If as I-6/B and also mention that he may have a twin brother I-6/A, the failed creation from the opening scene. There’s also some other relatives like Uncle Ouch and Cousin Eek. I couldn’t quite keep it all straight. Do you have these backstories and relationships worked out in your notes?
BC: There are several “I” models in development on the SciCitadel. Uncle Ouch has a story but Eek is not really developed. There is also an Auntie Em, short for Auntie Empathy.
JL: Maybe it’s some sort of Wizard of Oz fantasy inspired by the 16 Assassins comic book, where If has a dreamlike adventure in the crater. Oof could be like his Toto?
BC: Hmmm. If Oof is Toto, perhaps If is Journey? Where is Styx? Yes. This is the kind of shit I root my stories in. Funny reference. Now just to set the record straight, there are absolutely no dream sequences in the book. It is all hard, cold reality.
JL: Good, I like that better. The pacing of the book is a lot of fun. Almost every page is a single rectangular panel and the book almost seems to animate itself as you turn the pages. These are punctuated with incredibly detailed, double spread, full bleed splash pages that are as surprising as they are fun to look at. Did you get to experience the timing of these punchlines as you drew the book?
BC: I made physical mock-ups of each chapter as I went. It took a lot of time to make each one and then I would change the chapter and have to make a whole new mock-up. I have a large pile of glue-sticked together chapter books. It had to be done so I could see if it would read correctly and really flow.
JL: Someone told me that you drew Maggots kind of like a steady drum beat. I imagine that would be a bunch of 1/16th or 1/32nd notes. If ‘n Oof definitely has a nice rhythm to it. Can you imagine a soundtrack or what kind of music would go with the chapters?
BC: I had some soundtrack ideas. In chapter 1 when IF is in the bathroom and the room next door talking to the robot guys I was listening to a lot of Raymond Scott. So it would be Soothing Sounds for Babies for that part. When the Benjo-Men show up it would like a more evil Tibetan chant. It’s mentioned that they sing a spooky song. There would be a series of ice cream truck songs for some of the boy scenes. I had some more music ideas but I have forgotten them. I would play certain stuff when drawing certain scenes to get the mood right.
JL: Did you draw the pages basically in the same order they appear in the book, from start to finish? Was it improvised or scripted out?
BC: It began utterly improvised, and some of those improvised pages landed in the second half of the book. The scenes where the Boys start appearing. After that I worked backwards to get the characters to that point and finally did the closing chapter and some additional middle scenes. Maybe halfway through I began scripting/penciling and inking much of it so I could steer the mess I had made to some sort of logical conclusion. I like brainstorming a ton of crap with no rules or plan and then quickly jumping in before I can get a grip on it. Then after a while I try to sculpt what I have started into a more recognizable form but due to the senselessness of it’s beginning it retains some elements based in what might be bad idea.
JL: Is this possibly an all-ages book? I imagined giving it to my younger self and I’m guessing it’s something I would not have understood, but would have wanted to enjoy anyway. It seems to be a cartoon adventure at heart. Oh wait nevermind, I see there’s some language in the book. I guess it would be like coming across a Bakshi cartoon as a kid.
BC: I thought about cleaning it up as I got near its finish really because it was so close to being a kid’s book. There is some violence that’s over the top I could have removed or softened, but I decided to leave it in and then add even more for chapter 8. So it’s not for kids, but it is a bit schizo in terms of it’s audience. Because it also is for kids. Kid’s these days have seen way crazier shit than what’s in If ‘n Oof. Well, teens have. I would like to make a less gruesome kid book someday. Kids will find it. You cannot stop the children.
JL: That would be great if kids found this at their public library. I think kids like finding stuff above their reading level anyway. I started reading Stephen King in 4th grade and my favorite comics were the gory ones, Tales From the Crypt and Fist of the North Star. Did you get into comics as a kid? Even before music?
BC: I got into comics I think around age 10. Before that I was probably looking at AD&D books my older sister had to see weird stuff. The comics where G.I. Joe and Marvel stuff. Nothing too gory. It was probably not until high school or late junior high that my friends and I got into watching horror movies all the time. I can’t remember my first encounter with truly shocking imagery. The Faces of Death movies? And when I was buying G.I. Joe I was listening to Van Halen. I was middle of the road all the way till 9th grade, and then my hair started getting long. I discovered Metal Edge magazine and South Street in Philadelphia.
JL: Are Master of Boys and Doctor Payne related? What about that hippie character at the end? They all seem to look similar and have moustaches or beards.
BC: No relation that I know of. Other than being gross half-poisoned adults. Don’t all adults have mustaches?