Talking 'Popbot' with Ashley Wood

Sat, November 3rd, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Keith Giles, Staff Writer

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Ashley Wood's dark, angular paintings have long graced covers on titles like "Spawn" and "Sam and Twitch". Now, he's left the spotlight of Todd McFarlane's (TMP) "Hellspawn" book to strike out on his own, working recently on issues of Marvel's "Uncanny X-Men" and creating his own property with something called "Popbot."

In a CBR News exclusive Wood spoke about his new book and gave us the scoop on his upcoming collaborations with Joe Casey, Steve Niles, Sam Kieth and others. Beginning with his much-anticipated creator-owned project called "Popbot", Ashley Wood set the record as straight as possible.

"'Popbot' is a heady mix of 'Jacobs Ladder' and 'Fritz the Cat,' with a side serving of David Lynch weird ass salad," said Wood. "It's basically a tale of a cat that was once a universally famous rock star, his career is now in the toilet and he has incurred mythical sized debts with many and varying parties. The tone of 'Popbot' will sway from whimsical satire and stupidity to haunted houses and introspection."

Wood also provided a more detailed examination of the characters who will populate the world of "Popbot."

"Kitty is a pop star cat with a penchant for cheap prostitutes and groupies and spending money that isn't his," said Wood.

"Bot: He's kitty's robot buddy who looks very similar to a genocidal maniac who laid waste to half a galaxy before disappearing into myth. This particular bot is part roadie, part bodyguard, and maybe the genocidal maniac.

"The Manager: A blonde with a short skirt and a gun - don't need to know more than that.

"Meryle: Mother of Kitty's bastard son, the infamous cat faced baby and she wants alimony and Kitty's hide big time.

"Mr. Bridger: The textile kingpin of new Manchester. He wants Kitty's balls in a jar for a large loan that was never paid back.

"Warhol's clone: The host of a galaxy wide talk show called 'Gee Bob', and last but not least, the 'Sock Puppet Gangster.' He's a sock puppet but he's also a gangster."

Going from the dark themes explored in "Hellspawn" to something more fun and off the wall may seem a little unusual to some of Wood's fans, but the genesis of "Popbot" is a simple one.

"The idea for this book came basically from everything I've ever wanted to do shoved in one large goulash pot," said Wood "Women, Robots, and Cats, (sounds like a) good enough idea for me. So you know I'm going to enjoy this."

Earlier this year, Wood announced the book here at CBR by saying that David Mack would play a creative role in the book. Writer and artist Sam Kieth will be writing the first issue of "Popbot" when it hits the shelves. But other well-known creators will also be joining the "Popbot" team.

"Well, David Mack's role will be that of a writer collaborator when his schedule allows, hopefully in the second issue," Wood said. "McKean? I would love him to do something for it but I haven't asked and he's not slated in. But I do have Joe Casey, Mike Mignola, Sam Kieth, Lee Bermejo, John Foster, and many others waiting in the wings. Some of these guys will do pin ups others will do story contributions it really depends on everyone's schedules.

"I will be writing and illustrating the majority parts of each issue, unless a guest collaborator seriously puts his toe in the water," said Wood.

Wood is hopeful "Popbot" will attract an audience early on. "We're going to start off quarterly and we'll hopefully become bi-monthly when I get up to speed on it," he said. "It's in solicitation now, look in the latest Previews under Idea and Design Works in the comic section. It will be on shelves late December/early January."

Wood's sudden departure from TMP left many fans wondering if Wood's desire to work on his own book is the reason why he left so suddenly.

[Savage Membrane]"Not directly but I wouldn't have been able to create something like this while working for TMP," Wood said. "Once again the reason I left TMP was totally for artistic reasons, I wanted to do different stuff. On that note if people miss the Ash Wood/Steve Niles combination I will be illustrating one of his novels for IDW in the new year. It's called 'Savage Membrane', (and) I'm doing 24 illustrations for it, out in March 2002."

Wood will work on "Popbot" in between the other projects, which are currently on his drawing table.

[Automatic Kafka]"I'm hard at work on 'Automatic Kafka' for Wildstorm," said Wood. "I'm finishing off some 'X-Men' work now with the offer to do more, more on that when I know more. I'm also working on a major game release for Konami Japan and I'm putting the final touches on my children's book 'Imposibus Rhinoceros and Giraffe' written by T.P. Louise, a well known music journalist and singer. It will be published by IDW (the worlds best publisher), and be out in May 2002. Can't say much about Konami, due to NDA [non-disclosure agreements], but its gonna re-launch a classic franchise. Cool stuff indeed. That's more than enough for any sane man!"

When he's not doing sequential art and covers for other books, Wood is also working hard on a follow-up to this year's "Uno Fanta," an art book that showcases even more of his unpublished works.

[Imposibus Rhino]"It will be called 'Dos Fanta' [and] it'll be out in July next year to coincide with a soft cover version of 'Uno Fanta' with new art," said Wood. "There also could quite possibly be a collection of my covers for TMP coming out in a book."

With so much on his plate, Wood is still excited about the possibility of working on even more books in the future.

"Yeah, I'd love to do a Batman graphic novel, I've had a couple of chances in the past, the Spawn/Batman crossover was 99% in the bag before a scheduling problem," Wood said. "All it would take would be a really good script and I'm there."

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