GWAR: Orgasmaggedon, a comic based on the fictional adventures of heavy metal band GWAR, first came to life on Kickstarter where the comic project raised over $45,000, surpassing the campaign’s goals. Written by Matt Miner and GWAR’s Matt Maguire, illustrated by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, and lettered by Taylor Esposito, the comic was then announced in March 2017 as part of Dynamite’s summer lineup. Since then, the comic has entered a second incarnation with newly colored pages courtesy of Marissa Louise, and the first issue arrives next week, on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017.
This is a comic that blends humor with violence, madcap sci-fi with horror elements, and distinctly undermines any sense of constraint when it comes to what comics should contain or address. The alien members of GWAR rampage through time, where they’ve been cast adrift by one of their foes, inadvertently influence or even case events in human history, and most of all, kill anything they can.
And yet that’s not all there is to this GWAR comic–you might be surprised by some interesting and socially aware sub-text introduced by the creative team, particularly Matt Miner (Liberator, Toe Tag Riot), whose work in comics has consisted of envelope-pushing social commentary in the past.
Matt Miner joins us here today to talk about GWAR: Orgasmaggedon and the madness therein:
Hannah Means-Shannon: Mr. Miner, can you tell us about how you started working on comics and what particular passions drive your work in the medium?
Matt Miner: I had always wanted to write professionally. From when I was an 11 year old with one of those thick “Writer’s Guide” books, submitting short stories that were constantly rejected, until many years later when I was submitting short stories that were constantly rejected. So, like many writers I took up different passions like waiting tables in crappy restaurants and doing a ton of drugs. After I got sober, my passion for writing reignited and, being a lifelong comic reader, I decided to study comics writing and just make it happen.
My other major passion in life is dog rescue, and my wife and I run a 501c3 called Redemption Rescues with a partner. Working on behalf of abused animals has driven me to action for over a decade, so my first series, Liberator, was a love letter to that world and my share of profits from the book went back into the dog rescue work.
HMS: Though you’ve worked a lot with Black Mask, a publisher who has musical connections, GWAR is a big musical jump. Did you think you’d make a jump like that? What made you take the leap to develop the idea, then into reality through Kickstarter?
MM: When I got into comics I had my eye set on wanting to work with GWAR at some point. I didn’t really think it would happen so quickly, so I’m stoked we’re already doing it. I’ve been a fan of GWAR since age 16 and have always had a passion for the music and the stage shows and their ability to tackle the evils of the world with a wink and a smile, never taking themselves too seriously.
HMS: So the basic idea behind GWAR, band and comic, is that a race of alien monsters created the human race, were frozen in ice, then in the 80’s resurrected as a band by a crack dealer, correct? But that’s their past. What is their present and future in terms of storytelling?
MM: Presently they’re bouncing around in time on a phallic “Meat Rocket” time machine that a real jerk named Mr. Perfect forced them into. He’s got this thing about becoming the most perfect being, so he incorporates other beings’ DNA into his own. That’s why he looks like if Dr. Manhattan and The Thing had a weird baby. So anyways, he’s sent GWAR into the past to bumble around, out of his way, and he’s fighting a sometimes-enemy of GWAR, Sawborg Destructo, to try and grab his DNA.
Oh, and he’s also the dick who killed Oderus Urungus, so there’s that. GWAR’s looking for revenge, but they’re too dumb and easily distracted in the past, so they’re kind of trampling through the timeline. But, bonus history lesson: readers will learn the real reasons behind a lot of major events in human history and most of them all have to do with GWAR.
HMS: How do you see the relationship between humor and violence in comics, which is, of course, a very long tradition, and how do you see it in terms of GWAR?
MM: Most of my favorite very-violent movies are horror/comedy, like Return of the Living Dead, Deathgasm, Evil Dead 2, Shaun of the Dead, etc. I created Toe Tag Riot with artist Sean Von Gorman, and that’s a silly story of a punk rock band that’s cursed to become zombies whenever they play their music, so they use their “superpowers” to go after racists, homophobes, and the Westboro Baptist Church.
You can get away with a lot more violence if you inject humor to counterbalance. Ripping a guy’s arms off is gross and may be crossing the line depending on the book, but ripping them off, then beating him to death with them like you’re playing the drums, is fun and probably more socially acceptable. GWAR’s always been about that mix of laughs and violence that just hits that sweet spot for me, and I hope I did it justice in the book.
HMS: Tell us about working with Matt Maguire as a creative partner and how the comic works alongside the band’s legacy.
MM: When I pitched the book to Matt Maguire, right away he and I had a collaborative energy and a mix of ideas flowing, and I knew it was going to be a good partnership. I’m never married to my ideas and I know collaborating with others will 10 out of 10 times make for a stronger book, so that’s the attitude with which I approach projects. Matt and I seem to be on the same wavelength, and the ideas we have morph and combine and become this thing that’s greater than either one of us alone could do–like a story-Voltron. I also bounce ideas off Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, the artist, and Brendan Wright, the editor. I try to get everyone involved and part of the story we’re telling together.
HMS: I notice that you really call out the role of sexuality in the comic, at one point with female characters specifically mentioning The Bechdel Test. What considerations went into presenting gender and sexuality in the GWAR comic for you?
MM: Mostly, I wanted to show how ridiculously easy it is for stories to pass the Bechdel test, which should be a bare minimum for every story, in my opinion. Two female characters with names who talk to each other about something other than a man. It’s so simple and hey, if it can be done in a friggin’ GWAR book, then it can be done anywhere. I don’t know if people reading this are familiar with my other work, but I try–though I’m sure I fail sometimes–to be on the right side of how women in my books are portrayed. I’m always learning, and I’m happy to hear from folks when I come up short, because I want to be better in the future.
It’s true that GWAR women don’t wear much in the way of clothes, but they’re not damsels, they’re not eye candy, and they have their own reasons for what they do, their own motivations and personalities, and they’re never victimized to push a plot forward.
HMS: The ashcan version of the comic was full of lovely inking, but this Dynamite version of GWAR has leapt into full colors by Marissa Louise. What’s it like seeing the comic in this new incarnation for you?
MM: The panels are so dense and heavy with detail just due to the nature of GWAR and the characters and the intricate costumes, and Marissa’s colors really bring the panels to life, break up the scene, and guide the eye through the story and all the mayhem. She made what’s gorgeous inks into a stunning piece of full color art. Marissa’s a master at what she does and I could not love her work more.
HMS: What does the future hold for GWAR? Do you think it will influence other music-related concepts in comics?
MM: Well they’re currently planning TWO tours this year–they’re doing Warped Tour and a Fall tour in support of a new album they just recorded, plus they just finished a little mini tour where I got to catch them in PA and be showered with Donald Trump’s blood. They’ve got new costumes in the works, and so basically they’re incredibly busy making new cool things. Do I think GWAR’s book will inspire other music-related comics? I don’t know, I just hope it inspires another series and some crazy crossovers. Slymenstra Hymen vs. Vampirella? GWAR/Army of Darkness? Evil Ernie joins GWAR? I’m getting excited just thinking about the ridiculous fun we could have.
Big thanks to Matt Miner for taking part in this interview with Comicon.com.
Gwar #1 arrives in shops on Wednesday, June 7th, from Dynamite Entertainment.