Action Lab: Danger Zone is coming hard in 2017! With newly-released series DOLLFACE, Damon Clark’s THE CIRCLE, COUGAR & CUB, and this past week’s debut of INFINITE SEVEN, PopCultHQ wanted to look at what else is in store for the publisher. The next big release happens on March 1st with the debut of AMERIKARATE from writers Corey Kalman and Brockton McKinney and artist Devin Roth. After reviewing an advance copy, we saw a winning combination and had to reach out to find out more about the creators of this extremely fun series.
When I read through AMERIKARATE the first time, I couldn’t help but become filled with warm memories of growing up throughout the 80s. A time when action stars and ninja flicks were rampant. When colors were shockingly vibrant and neon. Big hair, tight pants, and a strong sense of patriotism were a part of the culture. So having those memories awaken in me made me wonder, “Why aren’t there more comics like this?” I figured I’d check with the creative team to hear straight from them as to the origins of AMERIKARATE.
PopCultHQ: What gave birth to this throwback nod? From where did it originate?
COREY– One of the reasons that Brockton and I are friends is our mutual love of action flicks and their fun, cheesy, violent, explosion-filled, action-packtivity. I had an idea for a movie script called AmeriKarate. It had the seed of what the comic became, but it was more of a loose concept and a title that made me laugh and that’s about it. One day I mentioned it to Brockton and he just had these amazing and hilarious ideas. And he also saw the potential in it as a comic book series. So we sat down and just brainstormed until it all came together, which was actually pretty fast. It really clicked right away. Pretty simple concept that everyone involved seemed excited about all along the way: we were going to make a comedy that paid tribute to the movies we loved. And then I met Devin at a comic book convention in Las Vegas and we were super lucky to get him involved. And then all three of us were stoked to make this comic book a reality. And Brockton spoke to Dave Dwonch at Action Lab and they were as excited as we were. And now here we are!
BROCKTON– Oh man, yeah. As soon as Corey told me the title, I was like “I’m in.” It’s crazy, because this book is so much fun, but we put an insane amount of hours into getting it right. I think this particular arc went through 15 revisions of making sure even the vibe was perfect. Then Devin started designing the characters…and Corey and I lost our minds— because we knew we had something special.
And “something special” is putting it lightly. This premiere issue is filled with big-time action butt-kicking, perfect comedic timing, and artwork that explodes off the page. As outstanding of a story that Kalman and McKinney have on their hands, they were going to need an artist to truly capture the feel for the title. Enter the character designer for Bob’s Burgers and lead designer for Walt Disney Animation, Devin Roth.
PopCultHQ: Devin, how did you become involved with the AmeriKarate project and alongside both McKinney and Kalman?
DEVIN– I had a booth at “The Amazing Comic Con” in Las Vegas and Corey happen to come across my table and was a fan of my work. I believe it was a brief encounter at the time between him and myself but he then contacted me and pitched me Amerikarate. I have been working in Animation for 15 years but have always wanted to make comic books, so i felt like this would be a good opportunity to get my feet wet. I read his script and was super excited to work on something with an action 80’s comedy adventure flavor. Right up my Alley!
PopCultHQ: Your artistic style for this series is simply brilliant, especially with some of the exaggerated features, Sam’s junk hanging over the edge of the panel, and the dimension you add in the action scenes. How did you come up with look to the series? Did you take aspects from characters you worked on previously? How much (or little) of a part did your writers have in defining these characters or were you given a lot of free rein?
DEVIN– Well as far as the junk goes, I’ve just always noticed that in 80’s action flicks, the male leads always wore tight jean pants which i figured was to impress the ladies and show off the goods with some sex appeal, i guess? Haha, they all look super uncomfortable, that’s all I’ll say. So i figured it might be funny to exaggerate that a little bit:) With the overall look I wanted something that was vibrant and fun with a twisted sense of drawing. I did all the pencils/inks/color so it was fun to have control and create a look that was different. I think the first issue is the feeling out stage as far as figuring out how the character acts and what kind of quirkiness makes Amerikarate so unique. I think it wasn’t until issue#02 of the series that i really started hitting a good stride and was getting more comfortable drawing Sam. Keep reading and you’ll notice the progress yourself:)
One question I like to ask when there is more than one creator on a certain aspect of the comic, in this case writing, is how do they come together to create a single, cohesive story? Are there particular instances where it’s individual input to the book rather than a joint effort? So I asked if they could describe that work dynamic.
BROCKTON– It’s actually incredibly efficient and super fuckin’ fun. We work on the overall story together (the first issue we holed up in a hotel for 3 days and staged fights in the hallway, no joke) until we get it mapped out, then each of us takes an issue to write. I’ll do issue 1, draft one, he’ll do issue 1, draft two. And then he’ll do issue 2, draft one, and I’ll do issue 2, draft two. We trade off. Clean and polish the script, punch up jokes, talk on the phone, DONE. On to the next one!
COREY– Brockton and I seem to share one brain when we write AmeriKarate. We both discuss ideas we have for issues and where stories are going, but it never really has to bounce back and forth too often. We’re just on the same page. So we discuss some ideas and we both know when the right one hits. I’ve never had an easier time writing with a partner before. We can come up with a story line together. Then one of us writes a rough draft based on our conversation and hands it off to the other. The other cleans it up a bit. Then we both take shots at punching it up together. It’s a really simple process with us. We just click.
If When you pick up a copy of AMERIKARATE, you’ll see just how well these two talents click. As much fun as these two have coming up with scenes and storylines, Roth gets to have some fun himself exploring this world.
POPCULTHQ: Is there anything or anyone in the premiere issue or the series overall that is simply your favorite to create? Or someone of something you’re excited about developing even further or becoming more creative with?
DEVIN– I really love Sam’s character. He’s such a stereotypical looking 80’s action star that it’s so much fun to recreate moments that entertained me in some of my favorite 80’s movie classics. I love John Carpenter films and love the attitude of his characters that I threw a lot of that visual attitude I used to get from Kurt Russell or Stallone and Swayze and put it into Sam’s character. I’m excited to explore Sam’s journey and I hope he we get to expand on his universe a bit. Who know’s where this man can go!
PopCultHQ: What is it that you as writers hope people take away from AmeriKarate? Is it more than just a fun love letter series or is there something else within the narrative (or overall project) that you wish people would notice or appreciate?
COREY– I think that destiny has created the perfect time to release AmeriKarate. It’s about a man that loves his country so much that he has to fight for his right to fight karate for it. I don’t want to get too political, but in this current political climate, I can’t imagine that I have any friends that don’t question whether they truly have the right to fight karate for their country right now. It really is a perfect time for AmeriKarate.
BROCKTON– Woof. Right? What Corey said…
PopCultHQ: I definitely see this series is going to take a lot of people by surprise with its nod to such classic 80s films many of us watch incessantly, as well as the comedy throughout. For those unfamiliar with Chuck Norris, Van Damme, and all the great ninja flicks from the decade, I just wonder if some fans may not fully appreciate the nods and mentions throughout. Do you feel this series has a target audience (i.e. born in the 70s, those who appreciate the cinema of the time, etc.), or does AmeriKarate transcend that?
COREY– It’s a love letter to comedy and martial arts and violence and partial nudity and dance sequences and weird hybrid weaponry as much as it is a love letter to 80’s action flicks. But seriously, I feel as though people will feel that AmeriKarate is just a damn entertaining comic book series. For anybody. If you love 80’s flicks, you’ll see what inspired us. But you don’t have to know them to enjoy the books.
BROCKTON– Right. Not to get to lofty about a book with “Gunchucks” (guns+nunchucks) but I think it transcends the decade. Just about everybody loves a good “beat ‘em up” flick— and we cherry picked our favorite stuff from every era of amazing action and then karate-smashed all of it into this series.
DEVIN– I think Amerikarate’s influences are there and present but I don’t think it distracts from the aspect of good character development. I think Sam’s evolution is fun and interesting enough even if the references weren’t there and that’s where i have the challenge of drawing Sam so that he is visually appealing to help push the story during certain comedic or action heavy moments. These moments are so heavy and fun in Amerikarate that I think it will find its audience.
PopCultHQ’s Rapid Fire Segment:
In our new feature for interviews, we fire off seven (seemingly random) questions
to have the creators reveal a bit more of themselves.
~ Total number of comic book and comic book-related projects
of which you’ve been a part since the beginning of your career?
BROCKTON– Fuuuuuuuuck. I dunno. 20 something? Not all good, not all published!
DEVIN– I’ve done a few personal comic pieces and worked on a Buffy the Vampire slayer motion comic and then designed a bunch of Bob’s Burgers comic covers but had never done anything published before that so Amerikarate was my first comic. I think Animation and Comics work really well together and make it possible to transition from one industry to the next. I have a few friends in animation that have published some comics on the side and have always been jealous of that. I hope to one day write and illustrate my own book:)
Favorite comic book you are reading right now?
COREY– Head Lopper
DEVIN– Head Lopper
BROCKTON– Infinite Seven
Creator you would love to work with in 2017?
COREY– Brockton McKinney
BROCKTON– Aw. But yes, he’s right, me.
If you had to choose: Star Wars of Star Trek?
BROCKTON– Yup. Wars guy all the way.
DEVIN– Star Wars
What motivates or inspires you creatively?
COREY– Imagining kittens in little Masters of the Universe costumes.
DEVIN– Working with young creative talent keeps me fresh haha.
BROCKTON– Corey Kalman
If you had the opportunity to go back and make changes to any issue you worked on, would you? And if so, which and why?
COREY– Nope. I’m really proud of the work we have done on AmeriKarate.
BROCKTON– Not on Amerikarate, for sure, but I’d make my Freddy Mercury story in Killer Queen longer. I just loved it working on the Queen related stuff so much.
Proudest moment for you as either a writer or pertaining to the comic book industry?
BROCKTON– Ehmm Theory was in Fangoria Magazine and my Gingerdead Man series was in Rue Morgue Magazine—and I read both of those magazines religiously as a kid (and still do) so it was super damn cool to get positive reviews.
DEVIN– Any moment where I had set a goal to complete something and achieved it always makes me proud of the long hours i put into making something entertaining.
COREY– We are talking to some of our favorite artists and creators about making variant covers. And so they see our issues in advance. The positive responses from people we respect, including some comic legends, is insane to me. That turns me into a blushing fanboy. Makes me super proud.
Wrap-Up Question: Is there anything you wish to add, to announce or promote, or simply to share with the comic book community?
DEVIN– Nothing other than to check out some of my Animation work on projects such as Bob’s Burgers, Future Worm, Duck Tales and Milo Murphy. See samples at www.Dvoart.com
COREY– I just hope that everyone buys a copy of AmeriKarate and enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.
BROCKTON– For sure, and if you wanna help out, make sure to pre-order the book from your local comic book store or online. We’re so damn excited to unleash this karate beast into the world….
Writers: Brockton McKinney, Corey Kalman
Artist: Devin Roth
Be sure to follow the creative team of AMERIKARATE!