By Sean T. Collins
Fair warning: Chris Chua is going to put the "strange" back in STRANGE TALES. His underwater story of a motley crew of characters transformed, for reasons known only to him, into aquatic animals is just about the weirdest contribution we've come across so far. But Chua's used to pushing the envelope like that: A caricaturist by trade, his portraits frequently resemble some sort of surreal doppelganger more than that drawing you got at your cousin's bar mitzvah. But at the same time, he's got the raw chops to sit comfortably alongside his heavy-hitting Ten Ton Studios partners, mainstream-Marvel mainstays Khoi Pham and Reilly Brown. Below, he fills us in on what to expect from his STRANGE TALES strip. (Hint: It's the unexpected.)
Marvel.com: Chris, tell us how you came up with your STRANGE TALES strip.
Chris Chua: Well, I thought that I had been given an amazingly unique opportunity to essentially do whatever I wanted with Marvel characters, so I thought it'd be fun to try and come up with something that I'd probably never see in a Marvel comic under normal circumstances. I thought it'd be really silly and out there to draw Marvel characters as their aquatic sea animal counterparts. For instance, Captain America is a starfish, Sue Storm is a jellyfish and so forth. Also, on top of that, I tried to cast, as well as caricature, my friends' faces on all the Marvel characters, and have it make sense in some way, visually or some other way—so it made sense why they are that Marvel character and sea animal. That was probably the most difficult and time-consuming part, to make sure each character made sense in three ways. The main story revolves mostly around six characters: Doctor Octopus, Captain America, Red Skull, Hulk, Sue Storm and Wolverine. I've also included 21 other Marvel characters mostly just for silly fun cameos to see what their sea animal version would be.
Marvel.com: That's pretty far out, man-although I have a hunch I know which sea creature Doctor Octopus will be. So what's your story about?
Chris Chua: Um...I have no idea what it's about. Except that it's insanity. I tried to draw the best interpretation based on the writer's script, but I think the writer just threw words in a blender, then kicked the blender into a hurricane, then punched the hurricane into a tsunami, and then gave it to me. You'll have to ask, or blame, the writer what it's about. Oh wait, I'm the writer. [Laughs] Hmm...well, in that case, the two scoops of ice cream story is called "Suenami Cupcake!" and is four pages jammed-packed with crazy, seemingly random violent events, but is actually carefully planned out and will make sense once you figure it all out. At least I hope so! Also, cupcakes are involved, so that should elevate this story to at least deliciousness level...well, more specifically, deCHRISiousness level. Y'know, cause my name is Chris. It's funnier when you explain it. [Laughs]
A page from Chris Chua's STRANGE TALES #3 story
Marvel.com: What do you think your strip will bring to the table that Marvel readers might not be used to seeing?
Chris Chua: Hmm...I hope I can bring some readers to rip their own eyes out—either from the utter joy from the sheer madness that has assaulted their eyes or from the utter horror from the sheer madness that has assaulted their eyes. [Laughs] Seriously, I really enjoy trying to push the wonderful medium that is sequential storytelling and experimenting with layout and design. I like to try unorthodox things that might not be the norm for usual Marvel readers...or normal human beings, for that matter. I put a lot of thought into everything and try to put as many clues so things are figure-out-able. It might take a bit longer, but I hope that once you understand it, it will be worth it and you will get a fun unique experience. Also, I like twisted humor, violence and puns, so if you like any or all of them, then you're whalecome! Speaking of, the Punisher makes a cameo as a killer whale.
Marvel.com: Fitting. What Marvel books are you reading these days?
Chris Chua: Ever since I discovered comics I have always been fascinated by the art first and to this day mostly buy comics for the artwork. Lately, the comic I look forward to the most every month is THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST and THE IMMORTAL WEAPONS as drawn by Travel Foreman. I'm a big fan of Travel's work. I think he's brilliant and the writing, inking and coloring on the book are top notch as well. I will pick up anything he draws. Eric Canete is another favorite of mine and the IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN series he did recently was awesome. I loved the IRON MAN run drawn by Roberto De La Torre. The coloring on that was killer as well. Some other artists I've been digging include Roland Boschi on GHOST RIDER, Tan Huat and Goran Parlov on PUNISHER, and Dan Pastoras, who I've only seen a few things from but is fantastic. I also follow MIGHTY AVENGERS, pencilled by Khoi Pham, and INCREDIBLE HERCULES, pencilled by Reilly Brown. Even if those two weren't my Ten Ton studio mates, I'd still be fans of their stellar work. Oh, and I'm loving the KICK-ASS series with Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, Tom Palmer—just great fun and entertainment. I know colorists don't get as much credit but I'm really loving the work done by: Dean White on KICK-ASS, IRON MAN and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Dan Brown on GHOST RIDER and Matt Milla on IRON FIST.
Marvel.com: Any other Marvel heroes or villains you'd like to tackle someday?
A page from Chris Chua's STRANGE TALES #3 story
Chris Chua: I know it's a bit cliché, but I really would like to do a crazy Hulk and Wolverine story. Visually, I just love the contrasts you can play off of them. Deadpool is just such a fun character as well. I also would love to continue the theme of re-visualizing Marvel characters into other animals or wacky objects. I know there's gotta be someone out there besides me that wants to see Venom as a fruit—say, as a lemon. Hey, Venom as a lemon, rhymes too! Then he would get squeezed to death by the Hulk, who will be a green lime, and then I could write that Venom was "e-lemon-aded." Eh? Eh? Sign your petitions to Marvel now, folks! [Laughs]
Marvel.com: What would you recommend to STRANGE TALES readers who want to see more from you?
Chris Chua: If you like the insanity, violence and twisted humor of my story, then there's probably something wrong with you...and I wanna be your friend now. [Laughs] But if you want to see more of that type of stuff then check out my Hyper Demented Turdle Showdown graphic novel that I wrote and illustrated. It's 95 pages of silly ultraviolence multiplied by twistedness with a dash of "oh no you di-ent!" and a hint of strawberry gushy love story. The whole shebang is online at www.tentonstudios.com/webcomics/turdles . Also, if you like something that is a bit more serious in tone and traditionally structured but will still ravage your eyeballs, check out The Legend of Liquid Fury. It's 174 pages of sci-fi/fantasy kung fu abstr-ACTION and philosophical pulp. I co-created it with writer Kurt Christenson, an up-and-coming writer who should be making some serious waves in the very near future. Liquid Fury took me a few years to complete and still contains some of my most intense and best work I've done. All 174 pages are completely drawn. We are currently just re-lettering some pages and putting the whole story online at www.tentonstudios.com/webcomics/liquidfury. Check it out if you're in the neighborhood, of that website, that is, that you just typed in. [Laughs]
Marvel.com: What else are you working on these days?
Chris Chua: My other love besides comics is caricatures, and that is what I do during most of the year. I really enjoying trying to experiment and push the medium of caricatures. You can see a ton of crazy caricatures at my blog chrischuaartturtle.blogspot.com. All the friends I caricatured in this story are caricature artists and some of the most talented artists I've met.
I'm always tinkering with story ideas for comics and various interesting projects that come my way so check my blog or my deviant art at chrischua.deviantart.com for upcoming projects.
Also, I wanted to give out a shout out and big thanks to Aubrey Sitterson, the Marvel editor who was the person who asked me to be in such an amazing project. You rule, Aubrey! Also a big thanks to my editor, Jody LeHeup, who was so great to work with and very supportive!
Marvel.com: Now that's how you end an interview!
Check out your favorite Marvel characters masquerading as creatures of the sea in Chris Chua's contribution to STRANGE TALES #3, on sale November 4!
Not a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited yet? Join now!
Check out the official Marvel Shop for your favorite Marvel Heroes!