Some worlds are just so fun, you have to play in them, which would explain why BOOM! Studios' line of "Adventure Time" comics continues to find itself with a seemingly unending supply of talented creators ready, willing and able to take on the world of Finn and Jake.
The whimsical Cartoon Network series that mixes super-bright animation with tales of action and friendship has developed a huge following, one which just so happens to include "Bandette" creators Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin. And now, the Eisner-winning duo are bringing their talents to a new 6-issue miniseries titled "Adventure Time: The Flip Side," along with studiomate and "Return of King Doug" artist Wook-Jin Clark.
The series, which launches in January, finds Jake and Finn getting into some good, old-fashioned body-swap action after taking on an ill-advised adventure while sick. CBR News spoke with Tobin, Coover and Clark about jamming on a story that brings classic body switch elements from movies like "Freaky Friday" into the Land of Ooo, the dynamics of the collaboration and the characters were most looking forward to playing with.
CBR News: Paul and Colleen, what made "Adventure Time: The Flip Side" the right non-"Bandette" project for you to team on?
Paul Tobin: We're both fans of "Adventure Time," and of whimsical storytelling, so "Adventure Time" seemed like a good chance to throw ideas at each other, to make each other laugh the way we normally do around the apartment, but now using "Adventure Time" characters as springboards. After that, it was just a matter of seeing how many of the jokes could be used in a book available to all age groups, rather than only to demented adults. We kept some of the demented jokes, though, too.
Colleen Coover: I always enjoy stuff that's ostensibly entertainment for children, but also for adults to revisit the anxiety and traumas of their own childhoods. Roald Dahl did that and Maurice Sendak and Charles Schulz. "Adventure Time" goes down that same road, with more video game cultural references.
Did you two pitch BOOM! on the idea of doing an "Adventure Time" story, or was it the other way around?
Tobin: Editor Shannon Watters dropped us an email to see if we'd be interested. We said yes, and we exchanged secret handshakes. Then we met up with Bryce Carlson at SDCC, and there were more secret handshakes. Then an initiation that I guess all BOOM! freelancers have to get? Anyway, that was cool, because I'd never fought a gorilla before, but my shoulder still hurts from when we were branded.
Coover: They had me at, "We'd like you to co-write a miniseries." Everything else was just a blur of nodding and saying yes, yes, yes.
Wook-Jin, how did you get involved in the project?
Wook-Jin Clark: I got involved for the most part because I share a space with Paul and Colleen at Periscope Studio in Portland, Oregon. Paul asked me if he could throw my name in the hat for possibly working with him at BOOM!, and I was like, "Hell, yeah!"
From an art perspective, is it difficult combining your own style with the established one associated with "Adventure Time?"
Clark: It's been fun trying to implement my own style into this "Adventure Time" universe. BOOM! has been really great about letting me do what I want with layouts and improvisations with the characters. I have a lot of influences and tendencies stemming from my love of manga, so it's nice to try and get some of those nuances into the work.
From the initial information, it sounds like "Flip Side" features some nice body-switching action. How does that play out in the story?
Tobin: It has to do with when Finn gets sick -- adventure-deficient -- and a quest is doctor-ordered. Unfortunately, they goof up when taking the quest, meaning they have to do the exact opposite of what they'd thought, and the ramifications start to "reverse" quite a few aspects of the entire Land of Ooo.
Coover: Body-switching was the one core concept that we took away from our initial meeting with Shannon and Bryce at San Diego. As usual, Paul took that basic concept and spring-boarded it into a triple back flip slam dunk. I kibitzed.
Clark: Paul and Colleen have written some fun "body switch" scenarios for the issues that are gonna be definitely fun to draw and fun for the reader as well.
Is the body switch a direct result of the task they take from the Adventurer's Posting Board?
Tobin: Yeah. It's a real cautionary tale of "pay attention to what you're doing."
Coover: That is true.
What are some other characters from the series fans can look forward to seeing in "Flip Side?"
Tobin: We made Finn and Jake the leads, but almost everyone shows up at some point. Ice King, of course. And Marceline, because I have a crush on her. And BMO, because he would be my buddy, for sure. And Princess Bubblegum, because I have a crush on her. There's lots of others, including more characters I'm sure would be my friends, and also more crushes. I'm just a sucker for post-apocalyptic women.
Coover: Lumpy Space Princess wound up being a major player in one issue, largely because we asked Wook-Jin which character he'd most like to draw. She has one of my favorite lines of dialog, which you'll have to wait to read!
Did you each have favorites you definitely wanted to write or draw in the story?
Tobin: Well, Ice King. And -- oh, Ice King. Also Ice King. And then, for sure, Ice King. Also, I found some room for Ice King.
Coover: Jake is my favorite. He's such a great bro to Finn.
Paul and Colleen, this collaboration is a little different from something like "Bandette" where Colleen draws the comic. How does that change up the dynamic of your collaborative process?
Tobin: I write in kind of a frenzy, so Colleen's main job was to make sure I didn't veer off the edge of a cliff, or walk into any volcanoes, or get lured into the deep dark woods by the beckoning gaze of the Alluring Forest Witch. I'm speaking in literary terms, of course.
Coover: Yeah, we had some brainstorming sessions over brunch dates, but when Paul starts to write, it's pretty intense. It's best to step out of his way until he comes to a complete stop, the way you would get out of the way of an oncoming train. Then I would go in to the script and nudge here and there, tweaking dialog and sometimes coming up with ways to make gags work even better.
When it comes to writing and drawing these comics, what are some of the benefits and difficulties of working with such well established characters?
Tobin: It's nice to be able to hit the ground running with established characters, meaning that I don't have to use panels / pages explaining the characters, their lives, etc. The usual problem with established characters is that you're caught in a defined box of their lives and who they are. That said, in this project, that box was far less confining than usual, owing to the whimsical nature of "Adventure Time." So, I guess, this time, these were established friends with nothing but benefits.
Coover: Being able to hear the characters' voices in my head makes a huge difference in refining patterns of speech in their dialog, too. Good job, voice actors! You rock!
Clark: I think the benefit of drawing from established characters is that I have reference material to draw from and get an idea of how things ought to flow in that world. I wouldn't say there's a difficulty with drawing them, but I am hoping I don't disappoint anyone with my version of these established characters! I really like picking up various "Adventure Time" issues and seeing how other great cartoonists are infusing their own voices into these characters, so I hope I can bring something fun to the table as well!
"Adventure Time: The Flip Side" #1 written by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover with art by Wook-Jin Clark hits in January from BOOM! Studios.