It’s 2018 and we’re debating whether it’s ok to punch Nazis, the evil scum who were “defeated” in World War II. If Captain America and Indiana Jones have taught us anything, it’s that it’s more than ok to punch them and with a rise in hate and those who are siding with the scum, it might be more important to than ever.
Always Punch Nazis is a 44-page anthology comic book focused on our country’s battle against racism. It’s the next best thing to actually punching Nazis and a Kickstarter campaign is running until August 23 to raise funds to print the comic (it’s well past its goal).
We got a chance to talk to some of the team behind this relevant, and needed, comic project.
Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for Always Punch Nazis come from? What’s the story of how it came together and folks joined the anthology?
Ben Ferrari: I’ve known Silas for a long time. He’s helped out inking my Pilot Studios books and contacted me asking if I wanted to make some sort of comic to push back against all the Nazi crap happening in our country, specifically right after the Chartlottesville incident. I said “Sure, so long as we can call it always punch Nazis. He agreed and the call went out to contributors.
GP: There’s a lot of contributors, how did they join the graphic novel?
CW Cooke: I was one of the contributors who jumped in very quickly as I am extremely outspoken about things that bother me or about the way the Alt-Right and the Nazi movements have started to grow again. I’m a loudmouth, to say the least, and it’s well known how I feel about the world right now and America as it stands. A bunch of us came together, post Charlottesville, to tell stories about fighting back in a world gone mad, a world where Nazis seemed to be blossoming again and where racism and anti-LGBT folks were trying to gain a foothold in America. I didn’t like it then and I still don’t like it now, and I’m going to keep fighting against these people any way I can. This time? It was in a comic book.
GP: From their beginning, comics have been political. What do you think it is about the medium that makes it so popular for political discourse?
BF: Pictures. People like awesome pictures and in this case they like the awesome pictures of Nazis getting teeth knocked out.
CW: I think it’s the visual medium aspect of it but it’s also the wish fulfillment aspect. I’d love to be Captain America punching Hitler out or taking action against Nazis and various other super-villains. I think it’s also because comics are sometimes seen as a childish medium, so creators tend to create stories that tell of the bigger world around us, without talking down to children. We love the idea of the superhero in the bright colors or the X-men wearing their costumes, but politics has been a part of comics since the very beginning. Superman is an immigrant living the American Dream. The X-men is a story about the civil rights movement. It all ties together to create a better world and a much deeper story than just hero punches villain.
GP: The Kickstarter has gotten a lot of support but also some detractors including some high profile articles decrying it. Has that surprised you at all? Were you all prepared for it?
BF: I wasn’t expecting that sort of pushback at all. I realize Breitbart News is an alt right website no question there. But did I expect them to come out with an article defending Nazis from getting punched? I can safely say “No I did not.” I think it’s indicative of the negative influence trump has had on this nation. You can now come right out and defend Nazi opinions as worthwhile of consideration of something to be allowed into the town square of debate. That’s insane and what we’re doing here is, instead of turning the other way as they chant, we’re telling people to realize what is happening and to shut them down ASAP. We’re doing it in a comic book because that’s what we do best.
CW: I was very prepared for it. I’ve been arguing with the alt-right since Trump took office, whether it be online or in person, and I’ve been trying to get people to see that the world has gone mad. I’ve also taken crap from these people for standing up against other alt-right creators bringing their brand of insanity into comics publishers that I was going to work for, going so far as to quit a job or three because of it. I’m not going to stand around and do nothing. Carrying Tiki Torches into townsquares because Civil War monuments are being torn down doesn’t make the world seem like a normal place. Chanting Nazi mottos and burning swastikas do not make these people seem like “good people on both sides.” Charlottesville should have been a wakeup call for everyone, but looking at the Breitbart article and some of the other chatter seen on Twitter and elsewhere, I’m not surprised at all. We aren’t calling anyone a Nazi who doesn’t support the Nazi beliefs, but seeing Breitbart out and out defend Nazis and tell us we were the bad guys for being mean to Nazis just is the most absurd thing I’ve seen this year. They’re essentially self-identifying at that point, and it just has to make you laugh.
GP: Part of that crying was attempting to get Kickstarter to pull the project. Did you hear from the platform at all or get crapped on in other ways?
BF: Breitbart was able to get the SPLC to drop their support. Had SPLC done their support in the correct way, it may not have mattered. But because they had messed up their policy, they pulled support. In the end though, it helped. Breitbart attacking the comic allowed more people to take up arms in the form of buying our book. We’ll do something really cool with this money, we have no hard feelings toward the SPLC.
CW: Beyond the SPLC situation, we’ve heard nothing from Kickstarter and have just kept rolling along. The Breitbart article and the continued focus on our message helped push the Kickstarter into the stratosphere, going well above and beyond what most of us ever expected. There have also been alt-right supporter comic creators and fans who have railed against us on social media and attempted to start fights or arguments with us, but again, it just makes me laugh because then it feels like they’re self-identifying as Nazis and that’s a bigger problem for them.
GP: While the right-wing creators have seemed to have banded together in support and putting out material in hopes of triggering and owning others, this feels like the first we’ve seen that’s about punching Nazis and stopping the rise of right-wing ideology. We’ve seen a lot of anthologies in recent years on other issues, why do you think it’s taken so long for something like this to come about?
BF: I think a bit of complacency can be blamed. The right feels the America they have always known is disappearing, meaning the white dominated America. They feel threatened when they see minorities, women, LGBT, all gaining influence and a place of acceptance in America. So they suddenly feel “underserved” (I quote that from the Trump Space Force kickstarter) and organize in big ways around books that see the world the same way. On the left, we cheer when we see minorities better represented or when gay men and women gain the right to marry the people they love. We are on the right side of history here and we are the majority. So these types of projects are few and far between for us. For example, when Nazis rear their ugly heads, that’s a time when the left puts out an anthology like this and is on the offensive.
CW: There have been other liberal leaning comics anthologies that have come out, focusing on the world we live in now, but like Ben said, we don’t feel underserved as white men. I’m never afraid to see a woman or minority or LGBT person in a comic shop or working in comics, I champion it as much as I can and want comics to have a place and a space for everyone willing to share that space with others. If you’re a good person and you look out for others, people will join you. That’s a personal motto I have, the essential Do Good Things from My Name is Earl motto. Nazis deserve to be punched. Any man who wants to silence women creators and LGBT creators and minority creators because they think that doesn’t belong in comics…it just boggles the mind. They missed how much of an SJW Captain America and Superman have always been. They missed the social commentary of the X-men. They missed the entire point of comics and focused solely on the muscles and the punching. When this whole thing started and they attacked women editors for their tribute to Flo Steinberg, I knew that something had to be done. And I’m never going to shut up and sit back and let others take the heat for this.
GP: Can you tell us a bit about some of the stories and comics that’ll be in the anthology?
CW: I have a story about a Luchador fighting Neo-Nazis at a wrestling match. There are superhero stories, there are how to guides on punching Nazis, there are stories that run the entire gamut of genres. A little bit of everything by some names you might not know yet but you will know soon. And there’s an incredible Hilary Barta pinup/back cover that we just added that makes me incredibly happy.
GP: The comic is completed and ready to go. How long have you all been working on this?
BF: Over a year. I sat on it for a while after it was completed and finally Jay Huwer told me he’d run the Kickstarter if I wanted. I’ve been burnt out for a while after a decade of regular comic book making, so doing a second Kickstarter (our first was last year’s Saturn & Orion Book One) sounded like hell. I’m glad Jay stepped in and made this thing happen.
CW: I wrote my story awhile back and moved on to continue fighting the fight and writing other stories, so probably about a year ago I wrote my story. Once the Kickstarter hit, we all jumped into the deep end to promote and push and get the book out there for people to see, which they have definitely seen in huge numbers.
GP: What made you all decide to go to Kickstarter as opposed to just selling it directly, selling digitally, or some other service?
CW: Kickstarter is a great way to crowdfund and get the book seen initially by a large audience. Which is has and which has helped us see the value in this moving forward.
GP: You’ve kept this Kickstarter pretty simple without add-ons and no real stretch goals (though you’ve including a sticker and print for printed copies). Was this always the plan? Did you ever consider doing add-ons?
BF: Not really. People suggested it, but simplicity was the key here, in my opinion.
CW: I pushed hard for add-ons and stretch goals, but I was wrong, and I’m willing to admit that. It’s more fun to just have the book, the art rewards, and then offer prints and stickers to everyone who supported us and helped us go higher and higher. Stretch goals could have meant added stories and pages, but there’s always the potential for another volume after this.
GP: Another thing that’s stuck out to me is that this is really focused on punching Nazis. You’re not using this to pitch your other projects in pledge levels. It feels like this project is a bit more personal in that way.
BF: It’s true, we rarely mention all the other books we’ve got going on. It doesn’t seem appropriate. I also think we’d open ourselves to accusations of not really being in this for a greater cause, which we are. More on this idea after the Kickstarter.
CW: I agree. I’m a shill most times, but my point while this was running was to stay as focused on this as I can without announcing other projects or saying “Hey go buy this book if you like this.” It’s not the nature of the Always Punch Nazis anthology.
GP: It feels weird asking this concerning the last question, but I always like to end interviews this way, beyond this, what else are you all working on?
BF:Well if you insist and since you asked, I have many Carriers books in progress along with a Pilot Studios Annual, a book called Doc Odyssey with Kurt Belcher and Stuart Berryhill. I’m drawing a new Son Chasers #1, based on a finished Son Chasers: Hitler’s America OGN we did a few years ago. A big story called Zion Wars from Jay Huwer, and a trade paperback of other Pilot Studios books that lead into ZW.
CW: I have so many cool things coming up it’s insane. I think we announced a volume 2 of Always Punch Nazis that we are in the early stages of working on. I have volume 2 of Solitary from Devil’s Due that is going through some finishing touches before we decide what method to take on it, I have a new series coming soon from Action Lab, I have a couple brand new things I just picked up writing wise over the last week or two that are in very early stages and can’t be announced, as well as various other pitches that are ongoing and getting closer to fruition. You will be seeing a lot of me soon.
GP: Thanks so much and can’t wait to get my copy of the comic (of course we’re backers)!