Recently I had the opportunity to ask writer Chris Eliopoulos and editor Nate Cosby a few questions about the new kid-friendly Marvel comic, Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers— which landed in good comic stores everywhere yesterday.
Using a few secret and extremely scientific resources at my disposal, I’ve read the comic already and I have to say it’s terrific for kids and just about anyone else who loves a good time. I mean, come on: Frog Thor is in it. How can anything with Frog Thor be bad, I asketh of thee? HOW? Plus, Ig Guara’s art is stunning.
Overall, Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers #1 is a mega-fun and incredibly entertaining book full of action, adventure and superhero animals Lockjaw (Black Bolt’s dog), Lockheed (everyone’s fave alien dragon), Redwing (Falcon’s falcon pal), Hairball (Speedball’s cat) and, of course, Frog Thor! There’s even a surprise canine companion who ends up tagging along. They’ve all been assembled by Lockjaw to stop a threat that their, er, larger super-powered friends aren’t aware of… since, you know, everyone is really busy right now in the Marvel U.
From this point on, I’ll let the stellar creative team behind this book speak for it with both what they have to say and these great pages Marvel was kind enough to provide.
GeekDad: I know the cover says that the comic is suited for all ages, but what would you guys say the approximate age Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers is directed toward?
Chris Eliopoulos: It really is all-ages. I think there will be stuff for kids, teenagers, adults and even something for parents to read WITH their kids. Talking animals makes EVERYONE happy—just look at nearly every animated movie out there.
Nate Cosby: In the same way you can watch certain movies with your kids, like Peter Pan or The Incredibles or Saw III, this book has a lil’ something for everyone. We gild cuteness with asides that adults could enjoy.
GeekDad: Every comic book title has a story behind its development. What’s the story behind this one?
CE: Nate wanted a book about Lockjaw and some other animals and called me up and said to pitch him a story. I went back, picked out the animals I thought would really work and sent it to Nate. The powers-that-be gave it the green light, which is the great thing about Marvel. Most big companies try to play it safe, but Marvel is willing to throw things against the wall and see if they stick. The idea about a bunch of animals saving the universe was something they wanted to see us pull off.
NC: Marketing wanted cute and fluffy, and they figured Lockjaw was the most famous non-speaking animal we’ve got here at Marvel, so Chris and I made the list from there. My ONLY demand was Frog Thor. He’s my favorite Marvel character, right after NFL SuperPro.
GeekDad: Okay, just how much fun was it putting this book together? It had to be a blast, yeah?
CE: Duh. I think when I’m older and thinking back onto the work I’ve done, I will always remember the conversations I am having with Nate as we discuss the direction of the book, what could happen and the laughter of us cracking each other up. In every sense, this book is a team effort.
NC: It has been SO much fun. I’ll call Chris, who’s busy running his lettering company, and demand he turn in some pages. He’ll say what he’s thinking, then I’ll throw in some stuff, and we beat out the story, five pages at a time, and send that off to Ig Guara (the penciler) to draw. It’s been so fun and organic, making a four-issue story that takes place in about 25 real-time minutes
GeekDad: Who’s your favorite Pet Avenger, and why?
CE: Frog Thor. There’s just something cool about a frog with god-like powers and speaking in classic English. It’s goofy, but just on the edge of really cool.
NC: Yeah, THROG is the bee’s knees. If there is any kind of higher power, we’re bringing him back in SOME capacity. He’s the only way to make Thor cool.
GeekDad: Nate, what do you usually look for creatively when you are editing a title directed specifically to kids?
NC: I close my eyes and remember the comics I would sneak into bed when I was little and read by nightlight, before my mom would catch me and take the comics away. It’s really not hard. Kids are just smaller versions of adults. They’re smart, they just don’t know all of their words yet. So if you throw a sophisticated story at them, they’ll get it, they just won’t know why. And always always ALWAYS I try to throw in words that little kids have probably never seen before. Comics are such a great way to teach kids, even if they don’t know it’s happening. I used to love reading a comic, not understand a word, and have to go look it up. Comics can make kids inquisitive and engender them with words and concepts for the first time. That, and…y’know, they’re fun. (or they SHOULD be)
GeekDad: Chris, what’s your creative process when crafting a story aimed at a younger set of comics readers?
CE: Having twin nine-year-olds, I know what they like and don’t like. I have the demographic sitting in my house, but mostly I try to come up with things that I think are cool. Luckily, the things I think are cool are things that kids enjoy. I don’t know what that says about me, but there you go.
GeekDad: How was it finding an artist for Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers? Were you looking for a specific style or anything?
CE: Most super-hero comic artists come up drawing heroes and people, not animals and sometimes you can see it. When they draw children that look like small adults or animals that don’t quite look real, you can see it. So, Nate had come to me with a few different people, but when he showed me Ig’s pages of a fight with a dinosaur, I was sold. And when we started getting pages, it was heaven. He does realistic-looking animals that show emotion and movement. We lucked out.
NC: I pretty much always wanted Ig. He’s got this pliable style that works with both drama and comedy, and the Marvel Adventures the Avengers issue he did featuring Ka-Zar and a whooooooooole bunch of dinosaurs sealed the deal. Spectacular storytelling, perfect expressions for the animals without going over-the-top cartoony. And I’ve got to mention Chris Sotomayor’s color. Soto’s coloring straight from Ig’s pencils, no inker. He’s drawing environments and building depth that’s not necessarily on the page. It’s just a great collaboration. Definitely one of the prettiest books I’ve every worked on.
GeekDad: What’s next for you guys… what else do you have going on?
CE: Working on new Franklin Richards books, and getting ready to grovel to Nate to let me do more writing. Also, in October, IDW is releasing a trade collection of my old self-published book, Desperate Times.
NC: Waiting for Chris to start groveling, so I can remind him he’s late on his scripting deadlines. I edit (deep breath) Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, Marvel Adventures Super Heroes, Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, Marvel Adventures The Avengers, Uncanny X-Men First Class, Wolverine First Class, Franklin Richards, Super Hero Squad, Wonderful World of Oz, Pride and Prehudice, and all of Marvel’s Custom Books (see the latest issue of XXL Magazine for the long-anticipated Eminem/Punisher team-up we’ve ALL been waiting for). And I’ll help out on Hulk and Agents of Atlas when I have a little free time.
GeekDad: What titles on the market would you recommend to GeekDads and GeekMoms out there?
CE: The Marvel Adventures line is fun and cool for the kids, my kids love Mini Marvels as well as Tiny Titans. One book I’m looking forward to is the second volume of Amulet. Really good stuff.
NC: EVERY child should own The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, by Don Rosa. It is epic and hilarious and works on SO many levels. It’s a flawless example of large-scale storytelling. Also, for Spider-fans, find the trade for Untold Tales of Spider-Man, by Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe. I’m not a huge Spidey fan, but this book’s really great for kids as a first example of a teenager that’s in over his head.
GeekDad: Oh, yeah… Hey Chris, before you go, could you tell us a bit about your webcomic Misery Loves Sherman?
CE: I do a daily webcomic, very similar in style to newspaper strips, every weekday for free online. It’s my warped view of the world staring a nervous little boy and the two aliens and the miniature-sized Grim Reaper that live with him. I’ve gotten great feedback and plan to have a collection out in the near future.
GeekDad: And Nate, editor extraordinaire, what other Marvel titles aimed at younger kids are coming out in the next couple months you would like to recommend to our readers?
NC: Got a couple other All Ages minis coming out later this year: Iron Man & the Armor Wars and Spider-Man & the Secret Wars. Should be SUPER fun. Also, we’ve retooled Marvel Adventures Spider-Man as of #53, by Paul Tobin and Matteo Lolli, with covers by Skottie Young. The idea is to kinda treat Pete Parker a little more realistically, but no less fun. He’s just a kid, trying as hard as he can to do the right thing. He can’t go out EVERY night and fight crime. And when he does, he doesn’t always have a cute thing to say. Paul’s done a great job of making Pete a more relatable kid, dealing with life. My hope is that it gives the same vibe I got from Chuck Dixon’s Robin and Mark Waid’s Impulse runs…the idea of “this kid’s just like me…he just wears a mask.”
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions for GeekDad, Chris and Nate! I’d also like to thank Marvel for being so cool and helping to put this together. Have fun picking up your comics this week!
For more information on Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers #1 please follow this link.