By Sean T. Collins
Writer-artist Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle series from Fantagraphics is a great unifier: It's hard to find anyone who's read it who doesn't think it's the funniest comic book around. You can find some famous funnymen in the fanclub too: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog creator Robert Smigel included animated versions of Kupperman's comics in "TV Funhouse," "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien put Thrizzle on his Entertainment Weekly Must List, and the madmen at Adult Swim host an adaptation of Kupperman's "Snake'N'Bacon" on their website. Best of all, Kupperman's trademark brand of surreal pulp parody makes him perfect for Marvel's STRANGE TALES.
Having already made his Marvel debut in the recent ALL SELECT COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1, Kupperman sets his sights on some of the Marvel U's big guns in his pair of STRANGE TALES strips. He took some time out from working on more Thrizzle (and posting to his utterly hilarious Twitter account) to tell us all about them.
Marvel.com: What characters are you taking on?
Michael Kupperman: I am interpreting The Avengers—Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch—and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. The Avengers are the great all-star cast of the Marvel Universe. But Namor has been a favorite for years...He's one of the characters from the very beginnings of Marvel, and his motivations are so simple and easy to understand. He's one of the easiest characters to identify with, at least for me.
A page from Michael Kupperman's contribution to STRANGE TALES
Marvel.com: There's definitely something unique about a character who runs around in bikini briefs shouting "Imperius Rex!" and kicking ass, but "identifiability" wouldn't rank high on my list. What about him do you connect with the most?
Michael Kupperman: Well, I don't like crowds either. Another thing is that he lives at the bottom of the ocean, and I'm under tremendous pressure. He's the '40s idea of a troubled character, all attitude and brooding. His little leather underpants are neither here nor there. They're on his body.
Marvel.com: What do all these characters end up doing in your stories?
Michael Kupperman: Well, the Namor story is a short encapsulation of his predicament. It's also a chance for me to do some more underwater imagery, which is always fun for me. Who wouldn't want to have a private kingdom at the bottom of the ocean? The Avengers story is just nonsense. They fight, they reminisce, the break for fruit pies. Actually, there are two new characters that I've added briefly to the lineup. You'll have to buy it to get the facts.
Marvel.com: Fruit pies, huh? Those old ads have been a surprisingly durable source of inspiration, haven't they?
Michael Kupperman: I haven't seen them pop up in the official canon. They're kind of a distortion of the whole super hero idea, thought up by marketers in a more innocent time. Why criminals would be distracted by fruit pies, I don't know. Surely they could use the money from their robbery to buy a whole lot of fruit pies!
Marvel.com: You recently did a comic about the forgotten robot hero Marvex for ALL SELECT COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1. Did you go for a similar vibe with these more popular characters, or did you take things in a different direction for them because of their higher profile?
A page from Michael Kupperman's contribution to ALL SELECT COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1
Michael Kupperman: No, the stories ended up very different. With the Marvex one, I really tried to match the tone of the original story. Namor's story is more dark and brooding, visually as well as tonally, and with the Avengers one I just went nuts, honestly, really pushed the craziness. That's probably the most mental one.
Marvel.com: I've been asking everyone in STRANGE TALES what they think they bring to the table that will make Marvel fans sit up and take notice.
Michael Kupperman: People are going to be very interested in the changes I've made to the Marvel canon. They're probably going to have to scrap everything they've ever published and start over. The new version of SECRET WARS is going to be called OVERT WARS.
Marvel.com: They tend to get pretty overt when all is said and done. Speaking of old Marvel comics, what's your favorite?
Michael Kupperman: That's much too complex a question to ask, my favorite Marvel comic. You might as well ask my favorite character from the Bible. Marvel has influenced the reality we live in and our conceptions of certain states of being, such as "clobberin' time." Marvel has the loners, the metal monsters, the misunderstood freaks. These ideas inform who we think we are, or would like to be.
Michael Kupperman: All of them. I'd happily spend the next few years tackling them all one by one.
Marvel.com: We already mentioned ALL SELECT, but where else should readers look for more of your stuff?
Michael Kupperman: Tales Designed to Thrizzle, my comic series and now a book. And my earlier book Snake'N'Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret, which can also be seen online in the animated version for Adult Swim. There'll be a new Thrizzle before the end of the year, and beyond that it's hard to tell because there are so many things up in the air right now. We'll see...
Read Kupperman's story in STRANGE TALES #1, on sale September 2.
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