Those that know me well can well attest that I am not a fan of change. I find the things I like and tend to stick there. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. In my more pretentious moments, I claim to live by the old Breton proverb: ‘The old ways are good ways.’ But if I were to be more honest, I suppose my impulse would sound more like, “You carnsarned kids get off of my lawn, dagnabit!” That’s right, my inner-man is a crotchety old prospector.
Now, it’s not that I am against trying new things. It’s just that I tend to have already decided what I expect from whatever it is I take the time to check out. I knew what would have made a good Spider-Man flick. I knew what I wanted out of Star Wars: Rebels. I knew how I wanted The White Stripes’ Icky Thump to sound (though that was a pleasant surprise, surpassing expectation by a good margin).
I came to Supervillainous with no expectations. It was a day about six weeks ago, and I was reading a different comic on spiderforest.com, when I spotted an advert that caught my eye. It was the name, the blatant implied melodrama. I didn’t know if it was a drama or a comedy or an action story. I was intrigued, and so I followed the link to find one of the funniest comics I have read in a long time.
The story centers around the middle-aged super-villain, The Crimson Claw. The Claw is many things from his mobile hover-base—master-mind, thief, arch nemesis, employer—but none of these roles is more important that his role as ‘father’. While it is not unheard of for a comic series to focus on villains (including our own Forces of Good and Evil), I cannot think of an instance where central in the villain’s motives is providing for family. Claw is a villain, no doubt, but he is a father first. Visiting PTA meetings and scheduling vacations times, the Claw finds time to be actually involved in his kids’ life.
The author and artist, Zappit, also does a great job of anchoring the story in between real-world concerns like labor management and the PTA, with the over-the-top comic book antics one expects from a superhero book. And these elements are capped off by some of the sharpest punchlines I have ever read. I cannot recommend this webcomic enough.
I had the good fortune to sit down across computer screens and spend some time talking with webcomic-er Zappit about Supervillainous:
R: Zappit, thanks for taking the time for us today. I suppose I should start by asking: ‘Zappit’ is a screen name. How should I address you?
Z: I try to go by Zappit as much as possible; it’s my “artist” name. It’s not some pretentious thing. I’d just rather go by a pen name.
R: I get that. In a lot of ways, a pen name can be more ‘real’ than a real name! Let’s start off by asking how you got into comics?
Z: I was always a fan of the medium. I was that little kid doodling Spider-Man into my notebooks and even started making my own little stories in the margins.
R: Can you tell me a little about how you came up with ‘Supervillainous’? What was your journey?
Z: It actually came out of another capes comic I never ended up pursuing. That project focused heavily on humor, the theme of family, and was designed to never take itself too seriously. I ended up taking the central villain in that story and turning it into Supervillainous. I wound up powering out the first fifteen strips just in time for Spiderforest’s annual application season, and I actually got in with the bare minimum requirements for an archive. I don’t think they do that very often.
R: I have looked a little at your previous web comics. ‘Supervillainous’ seems like quite a departure. Was there a particular reason for that?
Z: I wanted a fun project, basically. I’ve worked on my other webcomic, Pixel, off and on for over a decade, and while I absolutely love those characters and will inevitably end up working with them again, I just wanted to do something that opened up a few more creative doors.
R: As a cartoonist, who or what would you consider to be your major influences?
Z: Everything. Kirby. Zeck. Jim Mahfood was HUGE. His bold linework is what inspired Pixel’s look, and I’ve kinda kept it going as I developed my own style.
R: You do all the art right on an Ipad, which is pretty impressive. Why did you make that decision, and how does the experience compare to more traditional methods?
Z: Basically, I caved and bought an iPad. I wanted to see what I could do with it, and after I discovered Artstudio and Strip Designer, I figured I’d give it a go. My first attempt was a disaster, and after taking a bit more time to work out the production kinks, I started work on my first (solo) color comic.
R: Crimson Claw, your ‘hero’–he is a pretty complex guy. How did you develop him? What were your inspirations?
Z: We always see the hero’s family, and how they affect the crime fighting career, but almost never the villain’s side of that aspect of life. Why not see it? Wouldn’t they slow down a bit after the kids come along? That’s what we see with the Crimson Claw.
R: What is his end game?
Z: Believe it or not, the current storyline is going to lay out his major criminal goals.
R: We will just have to wait that out then! For being an evil overlord, he seems to be a pretty good dad with pretty good kids. How did his kids get so nice? That is, he doesn’t seem to be raising villains.
Z: Does every parent want their kids to follow in his/her footsteps? He’s trying to make a good life for his kids as a single father. He just doesn’t follow any traditional paths to accomplish that.
R: On page, there is a bit of talk dedicated to superheroes, but aside from Captain Ultimo, they seem to be in short supply. Have you got more waiting in the wings?
Z: They’re out there, but like I said, the Claw isn’t quite so active, so there’s less confrontation with the hero community. His current heist has him and his crew donning the costumes of other villains so they stay under the radar. We’ve also seen he has a dang good lawyer, to boot.
R: Can you talk a little about Meat, who seems like a mash-up of Vinnie Jones and Mr. Wolf from ‘Pulp Fiction’. And what is up with that name?
Z: He’s the hired muscle, the “meat”. It’s short, to the point, and gets the job done, much like the man himself. I wanted the main underling to be scarier than the big guy himself, and even though Meat doesn’t have any powers, there aren’t many who mess with the guy, knowing his reputation for brutality.
R: I, for one, am excited to meet the former Mrs. Claw. Is that on the horizon?
Z: She’s out there, and that story will touch on the theme of family when it happens.
R: The Parent/Teacher Conference story was a hoot, but it was a little surprising that Claw would trust his kids to Public school.
Z: You think anybody’s going to bully a supervillain’s kid?
R: I also wondered about the difficulty in getting a permit for the mobile Hover-base, and how that factors into school districting.
Z: What permit? You’ve got a military grade hover-base, you go where you want.
R: In the comments, you mention that Gul’jagen (the otherworldly warlord) is a call back to a previous work. Can you tell us about that?
Z: It was a webcomic I did with a friend back in college. It lasted a year, and Gul’Jagen was was the central villain there. He really hasn’t changed. He’s always been the arrogant conqueror with a massive case of culture shock.
R: Of all your projects, which do you think is the most important, if not the most fun?
Z: Gotta be this one. Pixel’s the most personal, but with Supervillainous, I can create something that’s just fun for me and my audience.
R: Well, again, on behalf of Ideal Comics, thanks a ton!
Z: Good talkin’ to you, Rhys!
You can check out the Crimson Claw and all of the rest of the characters of Supervillainous now at http://supervillainous.spiderforest.com!