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March 2, 2013

Webcomic of the Month! March: Glam Rock Gorilla

Welcome back to Webcomic of the Month, and this month’s is a doozy! (Really? Doozy?) Glam Rock Gorilla is the story of a band, the Supernauts, and the incredible world they live in and how it will be affected by this band. It’s the creation of Hammer Smith with his ideas and writing brought to life by the artwork of folks like Tom Parkinson-Morgan (who will sadly be leaving the series), Kelsey Bigelow (who will replace Tom as the main artist), Sarah Thomas, and Maya Nord. The series has talking apes, robots, shapeshifters, and shamans, so it’s pretty much everything I want in a comic. Hammer Smith was nice enough to do an interview with me, so here it is with some art from the series.


Hey, remember Hero Machine?

ComicAttack: Where did the idea for Glam Rock Gorilla come from?

Hammer Smith: GRG origins stem from a dicking-around session with HeroMachine – a superhero generator – between me and some other members of an esteemed comics forum. My friend Chris Mathison was the one responsible for the name “Glam Rock Gorilla” as well as the Mark I of what’d become Thaddeus. After staring into the design’s abyss for a while, I started thinking that this just might have potential. So with Chris’ blessing, I started tinkering with ideas and proposing the idea of a GRG comic to several artists.

Kat Hogan was my Tom before Tom, taking up the role of primary artist, but circumstances wouldn’t let her stay on the project. Fortunately, Kelly [Turnbull, of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things] introduced me to her friend Tom. I somehow convinced him – as well as Sarah and Maya – to humor me and my silly story, and here we are.

Amadeus is my favorite, because of course the robot is my favorite.

CA: Who’s your favorite character in the series?

HS: I’m not allowed to say all of the main four, right? It’s against The Rules? I guess it’s a tie between Thaddeus and Alexus. But really, The Rules be damned, it’s more like Tad & Lex as a duo. Their relationship is an integral part of the story, and it’s something that I look forward to developing. GRG is as much Lex’s story is it is Tad’s.

The runner up for my favorite is Pike. He’s only been in a total of three pages so far, but I have plans for him. Big Plans. He’s my Piccolo/Worf/Dinobot – the complex, loyal lone wolf. I’m a sucker for those guys.

Here's Pike, I dig that armor.

CA: The series has a very eclectic style; how do you go about building that?

HS: I basically follow the Kitchen Sink mentality of throwing in anything I either want or think will make things tastier. GRG originally started as a writing experiment/exercise while other projects simmered, so I didn’t let the logistics hinder the writing itself. As I furthered developed the story and decided to actually go somewhere with it, however the challenge then lied in making “sense” out of all these toys I’ve dropped on the floor. I didn’t want it to be as out there as Adventure Time, or even Ugly Americans, but I definitely wanted a Big Fun Universe.

Aesthetically, I pretty much let Tom, Sarah, Maya, and now Kelsey do their own thing. If I have any particular panels or sequencing in mind, I’ll let them know and help with the page layout. Otherwise, I want them to have as much fun as they can designing and drawing someone else’s story. Designating them & their styles to certain time & places is the only real limitation I’ve imposed.

Marcy's a shapeshifter and I think that's just great.

CA: Does GRG have an ending or will it be an ongoing?

HS: Yes. I have an ending in sight for this first Book. If this first book is to be the last book as well, I can wrap things up so it can be. If circumstances grant us a second, or even a third book, I have that vaguely outlined as well.

The integration of Riff Cannon/Summoner’s music is a variable I also have to take into consideration, but the band loves being a part of the GRG experience, and the feeling is mutual. I’ll gladly have them be a part of Glam Rock Gorilla for as long as they’ll have us.

Alexus, that's similar to my middle name! (A thing I say to myself literally every time I meet someone with an Alex-type name.)

CA: Mixing the music with the art is incredible; do you listen to the songs on repeat while writing/drawing those scenes?

HS: For the most part, it’s hard for me to write and concentrate with music or loud background noise going on at the same time. Talking especially. Brian Michael Bendis recently mentioned on his tumblr how not being able to write in any given circumstance is a defeatist attitude for a writer to have. (I’m paraphrasing here, check his tumblr for the exact statement.) While I agree to a point, everyone has their preferred method.

Most of my brainstorming and world-building ideas come from rocking out in the car, though. Long commutes to work aren’t so bad when you have a muse like Powerwolf.

Thaddeus leads the band in a haphazard way.

CA: One of my favorite aspects of the series is that I never know what’s coming next. Do you make an effort to do this?

HS: Quite a bit. And the fact that there are so many different ingredients in the pot and I’m the only one who knows the recipe makes me only more inclined to not give anymore answers than I have to for that week. I know it can be frustrating – we debuted with a lot of confusion and criticism due to the story’s Prologue – but I’d rather have people be confused than complacent.

Pictured: Not Tom Waits?

CA: Tom Waits as a shaman is one of the most “no duh” moments I’ve ever seen in a comic. How mad does it make you that it’s not just an accepted fact that this is just another side of Waits?

HS: I am not in a position to confirm or deny the identity of this person who happens to have a strong visual resemblance to Mr. Waits.

On a related note, I was recently gifted the book Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters. It’s as great a read as you’d imagine, highly recommend it. Glad I got it before I have to start heavily brainstorming for issue three.

Thaddeus looks so cool right here.

CA: Do you plan on bringing any other real world folks into the series, perhaps Andrew WK?

HS: One of the original goals I had for the series was to cram in as many music references as I could. But most of those references would just be puns and one-time gags. Though  I do love a good pun, enough of them can make me gag. So while I still have a ton planned – most of them, admittedly, are Metal in nature – most of the obvious or outright references and parodies have been scrapped or modified. And it’s for the best; I think people are enjoying Julius T. Daiquiri, a homage to GWAR’s Sleazy P. Martini, a lot more than they would have enjoyed Justin Biever

As far as Andrew goes…we’ll see. I’ve already parodied his nightclub!

It's an outfit we all own.

CA: Since the series is so tied with music, do you have specific actors or other people you know that are the voices of these characters?

HS: Everyone is Ray Ramano.

I keep telling people that Thaddeus’ voice is a cross between Seth Rogen and Terry Crews – particularly Old Spice Terry – if you can imagine that the same way I do. But he sings like Chris Johnson of Summoner, or Andrew WK.

There’s this thing I have with Alexus where I keep wanting to hear this voice that’s higher pitched and younger than she should be – something like Gaige from Borderlands 2. Really, she should be voiced by someone like Courtenay Taylor. Either way, she definitely sings like Brody Dalle of The Distillers and Spinnerette.

For Marcy, I think of Retta (Donna from Parks & Rec) with a singing voice that has a range from Donna Summers to Koko Taylor. Or Retta!

Amadeus, in issue one, sounded a lot like the Shadow Broker robot from Mass Effect 2 (or 3). But ever since The Collaboration, his voice and speech has been in flux. I want to say that robot from the “Puppy Whirl” flash animation, but that’s the voice I have for Ultron. And Amadeus is not Ultron. Yet.


CA: Finally, you’re going in to save the day; what dinosaur do you ride in on?

HS: Armadon from Primal Rage! But I always played as Blizzard.


Summoner's album cover for Phoenix.

So there you have it, folks! I want to thank Hammer Smith and the other fine artists of Glam Rock Gorilla for bringing this comic into existence, and I hope you all like it. See you all next month, go read this comic!

Alexander Bustos




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