Ian McGinty Discusses Welcome to Showside

Welcome to Showside CoverFollowing his stint as artist on the Bravest Warriors comic book, Ian McGinty will publish his creator owned debut as a writer/artist with Z2 Comics. Welcome to Showside is an all-ages series featuring the adventures of Kit, a lovable kid with a monstrous secret: his dad is the Great Shadow King and he wants Kit to take over the family business of destroying the world. Out October 28, orders close on August 20 and you can us diamond order code AUG151857 for issue one and SEP151765 for issue two.

We got a chance to talk to Ian about the series, it’s influences, and a certain pilot.

Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for Welcome to Showside come from?

Ian McGinty: For two years or so, I had been “playing with the big kids,” so to speak, working on popular licensed properties in various mediums. Comics and books for Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Hello Kitty, you get the idea… and in my spare time just trying to survive the constant onslaught of life. I wanted to have my own series and my own characters, and to give people some fun stories and comics they could really enjoy and maybe grow to love, but it’s way easier to say that than to do it and I continued to plug away, happy, but constantly hungry to get something out there.

I finally got a three-day break, and I spent that time, ha, drawing. I don’t get much time to doodle original stuff, most of my time had been working on set characters so I could avoid using style guides and spin, say, Catbug from Bravest Warriors, into something that at least vaguely has my stamp on it. But I had a choice: I could play video games all three days which was super tempting (I had finally gotten my hands on The Last of Us), or I could draw. After some serious deliberation, I sat down and drew some monsters, as usual, and this little fish looking dude stood out to me. He was standing in line with all these other huge scary monsters, waiting to get “checked in” to this portal that would take them to the real world. Basically this was proto-Kit, the main protagonist of Welcome to Showside.

I forgot about him for 5 months.

6 months later, Josh Frankel (founder of Zip Comics, which would become Z2, whom I had met at San Diego Comic Con 2013 thanks to Allison Strejlau, then series artist for the Regular Show comic), hit me up and asked if I had anything to pitch. I, and he is gonna kill me when he reads this, literally made something up on the spot. I happened to be scrolling through images and hit on that drawing of Kit and that’s when I started spinning things off the top of my head about this monster kid, his friends, the world, the themes, etc. It all came eerily fast and natural to me, which I took as a good sign.

From there things just happened super fast and, after a year, here we are! I can’t wait for people to read Welcome to Showside!

Ian McGintyGP: For your first creator owned series, why did you do an all-ages comic?

IM: All-ages comics, to me, take the most risks and have the most loyal, amazing fans. It isn’t every person who would pick up a brand new series not starring a well known superhero or team, but time and time again I’m floored by the supportive community of fans who pick up all-ages stuff. These are the kids, the teenagers, the adults, who get their entire family into a series and grow up with you and genuinely love your work. And, ironically, all-ages comics have the most diversity and take the most chances with introducing new concepts and characters, believing that the audience will be open to anything. All-ages means for everybody. I couldn’t have my very first creator owned series be exclusive to anyone, especially when the characters have grown so very close to my heart. I want everyone to enjoy Welcome to Showside, and that’s why all-ages comics mean so much to me, and why I chose to go that route with the comic.

GP: How long have you been working on the series?

IM: The concept took a year to mold and shape into what it was, and Welcome to Showside went through a lot of evolutions. Kit, originally, was this skinny, older sort of Shaggy from Scooby Doo looking guy, but over time got younger and cuter and more fun and finally become the Kit he is today. Moon and Belle came easier, as I love kick-ass women (I was raised by many) and I wanted to create my own pair of rockin’, fightin’ girls who can hold their own against crazy demons and monsters, no problem.

Welcome to Showside was going to be a graphic novel, but Z2 felt the property was strong enough to become a series, and I thought that was just so rad. Daunting, but rad. As I’ve continued to work on it, I’ve realized that, wow, these characters just have so much potential and I’m excited to explore every aspect of the world they live in.

GP: You’ve worked on a lot of licensed comics, what’s the difference between working on those and doing your own thing?

IM: Aesthetically, nothing. I try to adhere to the same standards of deadlines, style guides and fairly strict “rules” that have applied to varying degrees on the licensed comics, book, video games, animated shows, etc. I’ve worked on. I enjoy doing licensed stuff, thankfully, it’s sort of a challenge to me and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to test myself a lot.

These are the guidelines I inflict on myself, mind you, I love seeing other artists interpretations of my characters and world (for example, Carey Pietsch’s backup story in issue #1 is SO amazing). And that’s really the big difference between working on other people’s properties compared to my own. I have a degree of control since I’m doing literally everything, concept, design, drawing, writing, all that, which is also extremely intimidating BUT really freakin’ awesome. Not many artists get the opportunity to completely head their own series and handpick artists to do covers and backups, but Z2 has put an incredible amount of trust in me and it’s something that’s allowed me to really try and be unique and stand out, hopefully.

GP: What were some of the influences for Welcome to Showside? It feels so original, but really familiar at the same time.

IM: I’m a huge Hellboy fan, and the pitch for Welcome to Showside has always been “Hellboy meets Steven Universe,” another series I enjoy. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make horror, the comics I really read a lot, accessible to an all-ages crowd. It ain’t easy, but I think the comic has managed to hit this area between horror and all-ages content, something I’m actually very proud of. There aren’t many comics in that realm. It’s also an issue of trusting your audience. I think kids are capable of handling and understanding much more than we give them credit for, and I wanted Welcome to Showside to have scary elements instead of being ALL rainbows and bubblegum. So I think the familiarity is from taking what I know about successful all-ages licensed properties, like Adventure Time or Bravest Warriors, and combining it with elements from horror comics like Hellboy and Alien and all that cool stuff.

GP: There’s lots of diversity in the characters, how important was that to you when creating the series?

IM: Extremely. But it wasn’t something I set out to do. I did not go into the comic saying, “Hm, okay I need a gay character and an African-American character and this and that.” People are not baseball cards. Welcome to Showside’s diversity came naturally; the characters are the people I meet every day and interact with. They are people who EXIST where I live and where I’ve traveled. I took the best and worst elements of my friends and put them on paper and i hope reader love my friends as much as I do.

GP: There’s also a pilot for this that you voice a character along with Henry Rollins. Where does the series stand right now?

IM: Right now we are completing the animation for the pilot episode of Welcome to Showside, which should be out towards the end of September. It’s been amazing seeing the weird stuff from my head put on screen and animated, and I have to say it does look really good and is super fun. Henry Rollins absolutely killed it on his part, he IS Frank the Giant Flaming Skull Demon, and I like to think I did Kit justice.

GP: How’d the pilot come about?

IM: Z2’s confidence in the elasticity of the property is what made it happen. One day, Josh and Sridhar Reddy (also Z2 and Modern Prometheus) asked me how I would feel about making an animated pilot for a series, and I was definitely into it. It was a pretty straight forward thing and I was amazed at the confidence place in me to not only design the world and characters, but to direct the cast, including Henry Rollins, and to voice Kit. We all went to Los Angeles and recorded everyone and I’ve been working with the animators to get this thing looking as great as possible and I am not disappointed in any regard. Thankfully, we’ve had interest in the pilot for a series and I’m just so proud of the team behind Welcome to Showside.

GP: How much of the series do you have planned out?

IM: As it stands, I have the first season planned out. I’m also acting as showrunner right now, and I like to think my ideas and concepts for the show are good, but it’s my confidence in the team of people involved that really highlight the animation. I enjoy working with other artists and writers and all that, I love the input. I love the arguments. I love the laughing and the fighting and just having a lot of people involved in something I created on any level. It’s amazing.

GP: What else do you have on tap this year?

IM: I’m the series lead on Boom Studios’ Munchkin comic book line right now, and I’m designing a brand new set of Munchkin cards for SJ Games with my own art. I also just did an Adventure Time FLUXX card set coming out this month, and I have my own graphic novel with Top Shelf, CHOMP!, releasing soon. I just completed a Steven Universe music activity book from Penguin/Random House that will be out soon, and I’m designing some concept stuff for an independent video game. I’m all over the place right now and I couldn’t be happier, but the thing I’m most excited about is Welcome to Showside, for sure. I think people will like it, maybe love it, and I hope I can do justice to all-ages comics.

GP: Thanks Ian! Check out the cover and a preview of the series below.

There’s also an exclusive cover by Erin Hunting of the first issue for Books a Million, which you can preoder now.

Showside BAM exclusive Erin Hunting 1