Ken Marcus talks Super Human Resources
With the second volume of Action Lab‘s hit indie comic Super Human Resources is just a few short months away from hitting the shelves again, and I had the opportunity to talk to Ken Marcus about his hilarious hit series. Super Human Resources is returning eight years after its debut in 2008 with more wild adventures for financial manager Tim and the rest of his dysfunctional coworkers.
Graphic Policy: It’s been a while since Super Human Resources has been out, so welcome back! What can we expect from Tim and the gang on this go-round?
Ken Marcus: Yeah, so basically on the first volume we kind of explored the idea of the HR department of a superhero team, and in this volume we kind of take it and run with it. Tim gets kidnapped, and he has to do HR/finance duties for an evil villain, and the rest of our team also gets kidnapped. They get taken off-world to a rehearsal dinner for a wedding that they didn’t quite count on. I guess what I’m saying is my first volume is really a workplace comedy within the superhero world and with volume two we kind of take that idea to different places, physically.
GP: Super Human Resources is actually one of the funniest things I’ve read this year. How would you describe it, in three words?
KM: Three words, oh man. Superhero stupid fun, how about that? Stupid superhero fun. That’s better. I sort of like embracing the stupidity of comics, a little bit, in a loving way.
GP: It kind of lets you poke fun at it, a little bit, in a way that you’re also kind of fond of it, I guess?
KM: Yeah, I think that was my goal. I didn’t want to just be like a superhero parody. I love comics, I love superheroes. I just always try to imagine, “what would it really be like to work with these weirdos in the world, dealing with the stuff that we deal with as real people?” The absurdity of it all, like I won’t poke fun at them, I’ll poke fun at more how they would fit into the real world, as much as I can.
GP: So it’s kind of like a blend of real-world people and these ridiculous superhero situations that you’ll only see in comics.
KM: Yep, yeah, you don’t think about like, how do they get paid? How do they get stuff reimbursed? Who pays for that? How do they date? How do they have relationships? Stuff you don’t have time for in real comics.
GP: What would you say makes Super Human Resources special?
KM: I think when we first came out, there weren’t as many humor books in the superhero space. I think there are more now, not solely humor books, but The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a fun, funny book–it’s not purely a humor book–but I think really embracing having fun, and having jokes and almost behaving more like a sitcom than a normal comic–you don’t really see a lot of that out there. And really it is a workplace comedy, done like if you just happened to work with superheroes.I don’t see a lot of that. It’s not completely unique, but I don’t see a lot of that, and I think people just want to have fun and want something different from the superheroes.
GP: Like you said, Squirrel Girl is pretty funny, but it’s not the same take on workplace comedy as you have.
KM: I think people want different voices in superheroes. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, Hellcat’s another example, and Batgirl, since they have different voices, not everything’s all dour and serious and that’s modern. To go the other way, it would be kind of fun. I’m a big Simpsons fan, so it’s kind of like more Bob’s Burgers and Archer and kind of having more fun in that space.
GP: Yeah, I agree, I’m always looking for different stuff, and it’s really hard to read all the dark and gritty all the time.
KM: Yeah, I mean I like it, but you need something else. And like, to not be an indie creator on a small publisher, you’re doing superheroes and you have to separate yourself because there’s so much good stuff out there. You really have to make a point to zig where everyone else is zagging.
GP: And there are tons of possible storylines for this concept. What would you say is the most fun aspect of the series to write?
KM: I guess I love examining the humanity of stuff, like I like thinking about–so we have the main villain named the Devastator and his daughter, and he’s brought her to work for Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, but there’s also some fun and humanity of their relationship. Even though they’re intergalactic conquerors, they still have really classic dad-daughter-teenage daughter dysfunction in their relationship, and I really like exploring and casting our human foibles on these larger-than-life characters–I think that’s the most fun, probably what I spend the most time on.
GP: What are you most excited for readers to see or read about when the second season comes out?
KM: I honestly think we really hit our stride in the second issue, it kind of accelerates, plot-wise. If I’m going to be honest, the first volume was more jokes and less plot, and I think this time around we’re more story and plot, a little more surprising than…things happen, versus just jokes. I’m definitely proud of how the story takes off and goes in weird, surprising places than just “funny.”
GP: You changed artists for the second season as well. And both artists are great, but what did Armando Zanker bring to the series in this season?
KM: My first artist was a guy named Justin Bleep, he’s still a creator, he did our covers, and he has a very angular style. I think Armando is a little more classically animated, very kinetic, classic animation like Adult Swim, a little more rounded. It definitely comes with more of a superhero vibe…So I think he’s a little bit more of a classic fun comic look, versus Justin, who’s a little bit more unconventional.
GP: Justin’s style was definitely very unique, which was fun, it was something different that–it’s not really a style you see in other comics.
KM: Yeah. They’re both different, but Justin was definitely more different. He’s definitely polarizing, and I kind of liked that–we really want to stand out, but he was definitely polarizing. He kind of throws anatomy out the door and stuff, which I liked. I think Armando is a little bit more–people reacted well to him, and he’s been great too.
GP: What would you say are your biggest comic influences?
KM: I really follow a lot of writers. To go off a list, I’m a big Grant Morrison guy, I always loved him, I love Warren Ellis, I love Jason Aaron, I love Matt Fraction, I love Kelly Sue DeConnick, I love Brian K. Vaughan, who does Saga, Y the Last Man. I really like Rick Remender and all his stuff, Deadly Class and Black Science. I don’t know, I like a little bit of everybody. And also going back to humor writing, like I said, I’m a big Simpsons fan, and someone who doesn’t get a lot of credit in our circles, Bloom County, Berkeley Breathed…I was a big fan of him, just as far as humor writing goes.
GP: What mainstream team do you think would be the biggest PR or HR nightmare?
KM: That’s a good question. They’re all really dysfunctional. I guess the Avengers, in a classic sense, and we see this play out in the movies now, but…they’d be a nightmare. In the real world, they’d cause a lot more problems than they’d solve, and a lot of comics have dealt with this but they really, most of the time, create their own problems or attract problems. I think a real superhero team could never exist in the real world, because it just wouldn’t be worth it, it wouldn’t be worth all the trouble.
GP: And that’s something you kind of explored in the first book, with Tim From the Future.
KM: Yeah, seeing that things, in the future, are much better without superheroes, or a lot more cost-effective. But, you know, I like looking at stuff, little pockets of superheroes that haven’t been done before, but in reality, they’d probably cause more problems than they’re worth.
GP: Does this series let you explore anything that you wouldn’t get to in any other kind of comic?
KM: Absolutely, because these are all ciphers or stand-ins for superhero teams as we know, we can do stuff with them that you’d never be able to with real superheroes. They can drink, or behave inappropriately, so yeah, you definitely cannot do that with real superheroes.
GP: It might tarnish the image of Captain America if you saw him at an office party, a little bit.
KM: Yeah, but you have to think that exists, that they get sloppy and all the dumb stuff that you see from your coworkers, all the dysfunction you see would be applied to the Hall of Justice or Avengers Tower.
GP: Who is your favorite character to write for the series?
KM: I really like the new villains, they’re just dopey fun, kind of likable in their ineptitude. There’s these four guys and they pose as superheroes, but we know from the get-go that they’re not…they’re fun to write and we spent a lot of time with them. Actually in this volume we spent a lot more time with the villains than the heroes, which was fun. I love The Venture Brothers, I love when they do stuff with the henchmen and the Monarch, and I love the humanity of being a villain. That was definitely an influence here.
GP: As I was reading both–since you did send us both volumes–I could definitely see this as an Adult Swim/Venture Brothers kind of show, in my head.
KM: Yeah…if you ever get a chance, watch Frisky Dingo, it’s by the creators of Archer and it has a similar vibe. I love, again, taking these larger-than life genre things and applying these very real, down-to-earth consequences of being a superhero to them.
GP: You did mention in your email, our readers probably don’t know who you are. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
KM: Well, don’t google my name, because Ken Marcus is actually some crazy S&M bondage photographer–I’m not that person at all. Don’t go to that website, it’s not safe for work. I am a writer in advertising and I primarily worked for the last couple of years on Geico, so you see the happier ones–like the Hump Day one, it’s what you do, the salt and pepper spot, or the Final Countdown, those are a bunch running thatI worked on. That’s my primary job, I’m a writer in .
GP: Aside from Super Human Resources, can we expect to see anything else comics-wise from you?
KM: I’d honestly say no right now. I mean, this took me like five or six years to do volume two. It’s life, and having kids and job gets in the way, so I’m just trying to get through this. [Laughs] I’d love to work on other stuff, but realistically I’d love to do more Super Human Resources and kind of focus.
GP: Well, we’re looking forward to the second season coming out, and looking forward to getting the word out! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me!
Super Human Resources volume two is set for release in June 2016. If you missed out on volume one, a new printing of the trade paperback is due in May.
Ken can be found on Twitter @KenSuperHR