The following is an interview with Brockton McKinney and Larkin Ford, the creative team behind Action Lab: Danger Zone’s new comic book series, Ehmm Theory. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with McKinney and Ford about the craziness that ensues in Ehmm Theory, the scientific inspirations for the series, and their experiences in working with a creator-owned publisher.
This interview was conducted on March 28, 2013.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Your new series, Ehmm Theory, recently released its first issue through Action Lab: Danger Zone, the mature reader line of comics from Action Lab Entertainment. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the series, how would you describe its premise?
Brockton McKinney: Ehmm is the story of Gabriel Ehmm and his new best friend, a talking kitten named Mr. Whispers, on a universe-jumping adventure to find Gabriel’s biological father. That already sounds pretty nuts, right? It just gets weirder. We’ve crammed this book with a s–t-storm of the bizarre, from a Bionic Octopus Bear to some tiny-a–, undead circus midgets. There is a myriad of brain-melting individuals Gabe and Whispers encounter on the trip, with each one perhaps offering a new piece of the duo’s mysterious past.
Larkin Ford: Although Ehmm Theory isn’t hard science fiction by any means, the title is a play on M Theory, which deals with the possibility of different realities–alternate universes–existing on adjacent membranes, which could allow people to travel across, if they knew how to open a portal between worlds.
BD: What were your inspirations for the story?
BM: Personally, I draw off all the things I loved reading and watching as a kid. We ’80s kids had an awesome pop culture childhood. And, honestly, actual science plays a huge role in this book. As Larkin was saying, M Theory is a real scientific theorem. When Ed Witten gave the speech at USC and revealed M Theory united the 5 different versions of String Theory, it blew people’s faces off. I mean, Stephen Hawking said it was probably the ultimate theory of the universe. And, there are scientists that are, right now, attempting to prove that there are multiple universes out there separated by membranes. That’s incredible. How exciting is that? Very inspirational for me. On the flipside, I’m always trying to make Larkin and I laugh, and idea of fighting tiny circus zombies killed us. No science there, that s–t’s just funny.
LF: It seems like, for all the character depth and plot intricacy that make up Ehmm Theory, it’s essentially coming from a fun-loving, lighthearted place. Brockton and I share an absurd, goofy sense of humor, and that leads to a pastiched world influenced by everything from Star Wars to R. Crumb.
BD: How did the creative team form on this series, and how would you describe the creative process?
BM: We’ve been friends forever and both worked on different books. We just really wanted to do a project together and were determined to make it happen. We try to get together every few months and just talk about the things we want to do with the book. Lot of laughing, my face generally hurts when we’re done. I write the script based on that, and on the chunk of history I wrote containing Gabe’s parents’ past. We continue to bounce ideas off each other for the entire process. I’ll make a dialogue change based on something Larkin said a few days before print. No s–t.
LF: The creative freedom is pretty amazing. There’s a great deal of flexibility early on, with both of us spitballing ideas for what would make for the funniest dialogue, or the most raucous fight scene we can imagine. But, to balance this free-for-all of ideas, Brockton’s constantly refining story elements, so they’ll foreshadow or allow for a new twist or revelation much later on.
As far as panel-by-panel dialogue and action, Brockton writes each issue as a very tight, panel-by-panel screenplay, and I develop that into the final, inked pages. Then, it’s up to Jason Strutz to color it–masterfully, I might add.
BD: In Ehmm Theory, zombies are rampant, “Saint Peter” walks the earth, and cats (or at least one of them) can talk. With the series encompassing several different genres from action/adventure to horror, which audiences do you feel will be most enticed to read Ehmm Theory?
BM: I hope that anybody who likes a well-layered fantasy story will enjoy the book! Ehmm has a ton of elements, but it all boils down to Gabe and Whispers, their dynamic, and the incredible hand that life has dealt them. Also, if you like s–t jokes. Or jokes about stupid people. Or jokes about animals making jokes about animals.
LF: Yes, the gradual unpacking of back stories along with the plot, revealing the world to be wilder and stranger, is a huge part of the excitement. I think that most readers who like action/adventure stories with a comedic streak are really going to sink their teeth into Ehmm, as well.
BD: With the first issue now available, what can readers expect from future issues of Ehmm Theory, and when should they anticipate the arrival of Issue #2?
BM: This initial arc will reveal an enormous amount of Gabe’s past and his father’s part in the story. With the first issue out in May, I believe the second one is set to hit the stands in July.
LF: As more of the story is revealed, I think the genre-exploding nature of Ehmm Theory becomes more and more apparent. I’m looking forward to the shock and confusion of everyone who’s expecting a straightforward zombie book.
BD: As independent creators, can you describe the process of working with Action Lab Entertainment as a publisher, given their support of creator-owned works?
BM: Working with the Lab, and the Danger Zone imprint in particular, has been a dream come true. They have been incredibly supportive and taken us under their wing to make sure the book gets into the hands of the fans. Our publisher and editor Jason Martin has really gone above and beyond to make the entire line a success. They treated us like family from the good-to-go and as creators who have had disappointing experiences elsewhere, we couldn’t be happier with the company and all the folks involved.
LF: I couldn’t agree more. The guys at Action Lab have been hugely helpful at every stage of the process. Jason Martin and Dave Dwonch, having published as many successful books as they have, brought a lot of experience to the table, helping us to ensure that Ehmm looks as sharp as possible in its printed form. They’ve also done a ton to expose Ehmm to an ever-increasing audience.
BD: Besides Ehmm Theory, are there any other projects on which you are currently working?
BM: DeathCurse is a horror anthology book Larkin and I are both working on with some tremendously talented people. Bo Fader, Chris Moreno, Bridgit Scheide, Jonas Britt, Christopher Hanchey, Andrew Herman and our colorist from Ehmm Theory Jason Strutz all contribute. It’s an amazing group of artists, each drawing a freakishly twisted tale, and I think people are going to flip when they read it.
LF: Yes, DeathCurse is gonna be great! Other than that, I’m just drawing Ehmm full time these days!
BD: This being Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your own favorite comic books?
BM: Huge Princeless fan, which is also an Action Lab book. I have a nine-year-old daughter, and it’s one of those books we can both read, enjoy, and equally want to discuss with each other. I love Bridgit’s beautiful Brother Nash book, and I laugh my a– off at Moreno’s Zombie Dickheads comic. That one is laugh-out-loud funny to me.
LF: Comic Envy, here in Asheville, NC, always has an awesome array of great books. I just read 20th Century Eightball, and really cracked up over Daniel Clowes’ sardonic, bitter sense of humor. Paul Pope is another favorite of mine. I just picked up his One Trick Rip-off and was amazed by how awesome he was right out of the gate, as a young cartoonist.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell Fanboy Comics’ readers who would like to learn more about Ehmm Theory?
BM: Wanna see more? Do yourselves a stiff one and check out the new Action Lab: Danger Zone ‘sampler,’ which has not only an eight-page preview of Ehmm Theory but also a bunch of the other killer books in the new DZ line-up!