This January, IDW Publishing launches the second ongoing title based on hit Hasbro Studios' animated series "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" with the debut of "My Little Pony: Friends Forever" #1. "Friends Forever," written by "Grindhouse" and "Smoke/Ashes" author Alex de Campi with art by Carla Speed McNeil, is a classic team-up series featuring two ponies taking on a challenge together every issue.
De Campi recently spoke with CBR News about "Friends Forever," revealing why she chose Applejack and Pinkie Pie as the book's first pairing, why she usually dislikes team-up books, what she thinks about the series' passionate adult fanbase and more.
CBR News: Alex, what is "My Little Pony: Friends Forever" all about?
Alex de Campi: It's two-pony team-ups. See, first there's a misunderstanding between a mutant pony and a super powered pony, and they fight! Then there's a huge alien invasion and they have to stop fighting and team up to save the planet. Oh, hang on a sec, that's not right. Fans of the animated series will understand how many episodes were essentially two-pony stories ("Hurricane Fluttershy," for example, or "Family Appreciation Day," just to pick on Season 2), so I think this is a super-smart move on the part of IDW. Plus, rotating creative teams, which is always a blast!
Which pony team-ups will we get to see in the first few issues?
Carla and I are just doing the #1, and our story features the ever-practical and down to earth Applejack in a baking contest with the excitable and silly Pinkie Pie.
How did you decide which ponies to team up?
Pinkie Pie is my daughter's favorite pony, and both she and Applejack are cooks, so Carla and I thought they'd make a good contrast in how they approach a baking competition. Of course Applejack is mega-competitive in all things, while Pinkie is normally happy to just go with the flow. But baking? That's Pinkie's thing. Oh, it's on!
What tone are you aiming for in "Friends Forever?"
In our story, which is only the #1 issue, we're sticking as close as we can to the tone of the animated series -- so a lot of very funny moments, a few things in there for the grown-ups, and a conflict that kids can relate to: wanting to help a friend, but choosing the wrong way to do it so it doesn't end up being very helpful at all. (Pro tip: everything ends up OK in the end). We even have a little singing! (I... might be able to sing most of the musical numbers from seasons 1 & 2 by heart, if very, very off key.) Carla draws SUPER ponies -- her style really suits the book and will be easy for "My Little Pony" fans to enjoy. Even my almost-3 year-old daughter could look at her rough pencils on my phone, and tell that it was Pinkie Pie and Applejack and what they are doing, which is pretty awesome. We are taking the lead from some of the more visually exciting moments in the series, including Pinkie's invisible friends, the eyes staring at Fluttershy in "Hurricane Fluttershy," the anime-style colored-background hero shots when the Mane 6 head out to fight the dragon in "Dragonshy," and trying to bring moments like those into the book. We also sneak in a "Milk and Cheese" reference. And, a brief cameo of a fan favorite character and a couple shots of the rest of the six main characters because seriously you think we're going to do an issue and not try to play with ALL the toys?!
What does your daughter think about her mom writing "My Little Pony?" Has it helped increased your standing at the dinner table at all?
My daughter turns 3 in a couple weeks, so I'm still trying to make her understand what "Mom writing the story" means. She is a bit young to understand concepts like authorship, but she will love the issue when it comes out because of PINKIE PIE! While I was writing it, though, she was mostly throwing books at me, telling me to "get off the taptap." and "read this to me."
Were you a fan of "My Little Pony" yourself growing up?
I am... kinda old. So "My Little Pony" was getting big just as I was transitioning out of toys. I liked them but maybe only had one pony.
Are you a fan of the current animated series?
Absolutely! I wouldn't be doing this project if I weren't so in love with the animated series. There are so many episodes I love, it's really hard to pick just one. "Best Night Ever," is one of my favorites of course, because I have been to that party. "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" is another favorite because I can't get Flim and Flam's song out of my head. Then there is "Winter Wrap Up" because again, song, and I'm a bit like Twilight Sparkle in that episode in some respects. And, any episode where Rarity designs dresses.
From "Marvel Comics Presents" to "The Brave and The Bold," team-up series have been a comic book staple for decades. Why do you think the team-up concept has survived for so many years?
I think most team-ups are terrible, actually. I'll drop a book like a hot rock as soon as there's a crossover or a team-up. With mainstream books, it's just so patently a cheap sales gimmick most of the time. But with "My Little Pony," it's a natural format developed over four seasons of the series. When you have a bunch of friends, you don't always hang out with them all at once. Sometimes you have adventures (or conflicts, or misunderstandings or differing goals) with only one of your friends, and the rest are mostly off doing something else. "Team-up" in the mainstream sense seems to suggest two characters who don't normally like each other or spend time together finding a somewhat deus ex machina reason to become a "team." But here, these are characters that spend lots of time together, and are (of course) super great friends.
You're also writing "Grindhouse" for Dark Horse. What's it like to jump back and forth between a kid's title and a horror book when you're writing? Is there any spillover creatively?
Well, all the "Grindhouse" scripts were finished by this past February, so there's no direct cross-over. Carla and I didn't pitch our "My Little Pony" story until September and I wrote it in the first half of October. I've done a ton of kids' writing, from my three-volume chapter book series "Agent Boo," and the four volumes of my modern Nancy Drew for Tweens series "Kat & Mouse" (both Tokyopop) to about six episodes of "Dive Olly Dive," an animated TV series aimed at 4-6 year olds. So, you could also say, "What is this kids writer doing writing horror?!" The only spillover is the art of telling stories -- comedy and action/horror do have a lot of crossover in terms of creating those unexpected moments. Just, one is "haha!" and the other is "eek!"
How are you utilizing Carla Speed McNeil's talents for this project?
With great delight! Carla and I pitched this together. She is such a great writer in her own right, and had so many ideas. We have about five more ideas we want to do, but the series is booked up for a while and we've both been so busy finishing this story we haven't gotten around to pitching them! She's just the best. There really isn't anything she can't do. Comedy is in some ways the hardest thing to draw. Menace and action are kind of easy. But the funny stuff? That's tough. Carla makes it look easy, though.
Would the two of you like to collaborate on another "Friends Forever" story in the near future?
Absolutely! I need to get the next month or so out of the way (o hai, deadlines!) and then I'm hoping Carla and I can get some new pitches/concepts to our editor. Carla has a super Rainbow Dash idea that could be really fun, and we've been working on a Rarity and the CMC concept for a bit too. And we both love Fluttershy, but there's been so much done with her in the series!
Finally, have you had any experiences with any of "My Little Pony's" passionate adult fans yet?
No, they're a bit like unicorns for me. I really want to meet one, but so far haven't. I can totally see why there is an adult fan culture -- anyone who doesn't clearly has never bothered to watch the animated series. It really is for everyone! Frankly I'm delighted the series has a huge adult following because hopefully it will make narrow-minded kids' entertainment producers think twice the next time they roll out that old canary about "boys won't watch a series with a female lead."
"My Little Pony: Friends Forever" #1 is on sale in January from IDW Publishing.