Aubrey Sitterson returns to Kickstarter, this time with his co-creator of The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling Chris Moreno. Stoned Master is about a burnout martial artist using stoned kung fu to defend his Los Angeles neighborhood of Chavez Heights from a rapacious corporation.
With the project now live, we got a chance to talk to Aubrey and Chris about the comics’ influences and what’s the best way to get stoned and read it.
Graphic Policy: From wrestling to stoned Kung-Fu. How’d Stoned Master come about?
Chris Moreno: I feel like it was a gradual process rather than a bolt of lightning moment, but I recall Aubrey and I had a blast working on The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling, and I mentioned how much fun I had drawing the action scenes, but because we were covering the entirety of the history of the art form I always had to move on to another subject when I would have loved to draw an entire fight scene. That spurred many discussions about doing an all-action/fighty-type book next, and then that led to talking about our favorite kung fu flicks. That’s when I recommended to Aubrey that we watch a little movie from 1977 called Death Promise, the story of two ass-kicking best friends who use martial arts to fight to save their NY apartment building from a syndicate of evil slumlords trying to force them out. It’s a real schlocky hidden gem (with a great titular theme song and a poster by Neal Adams, to boot!) and one of my favorite types of action movies, where it seems like they just got a bunch of stuntpeople and martial artists together and built a movie around them. But it also has this level that we really responded to, which was that it was basically a story about tenants’ rights, but the tenants using martial arts to fight their landlords instead of, say, starting a co-op. Then we started talking about what the better version of that kind of story could be.
Aubrey Sitterson: I remain immensely proud of what Chris and I accomplished with The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling. However, when you’re doing nonfiction – especially something with as broad a purview as CBSOPW – you’ve got a lot of masters to serve. We knew that our next project needed to be something we could cut fully loose on, leaning into all the action and comedy that we excel at, i.e., the stuff that makes a comic truly rip. Stoned Master fits the bill, and, like the best collaborations, exists in the big meaty section of the CHRIS & AUBREY’S INTERESTS Venn diagram.
GP: Be honest, you were stoned while making this, right?
CM: I can only speak for myself, but I was not under the influence of any substances while working on this project. I actually can’t draw while stoned, I just get really chill, sit on my couch, and watch movies like Death Promise all day.
AS: Dude, honestly; look at me. Do I look like a guy who gets stoned? Come on, now.
GP: I’ve seen some of the art. How’d the visual style come about? I notice from the pages I’ve seen it’s very bright in colors.
CM: I was born in CA, but spent my whole life on the East Coast, which has its own beauty, though it’s kind of earthy and neutral compared to living in LA. There’s a vibrance of color everywhere you look– the buildings and local shops, the neighborhoods, the communities with full-wall murals. Even the clothes people wear or the cars they drive. It’s just a place that embraces color. When we talked about setting the story in LA, I knew I wanted to showcase that vibrance in every panel.
GP: The comic has a burnout martial artist using stoned kung fu to take on a corporation. Aubrey, your recent Beef Bros seems like it’d be somewhat anti-corporation. Going through a phase with that?
AS: I believe that all art is political, even self-proclaimed apolitical work, especially in the polarized time in which we currently find ourselves. But something else I’ve learned is that, when it comes to expressing my political beliefs, I need subtlety, nuance, even ambiguity, along with the space to work big issues out in all their complexity. Personally, I haven’t found a way to get any of that on social media, which is why I’ve been making such a concerted effort to explore this stuff in my fiction work, which is a medium perfectly suited to rumination.
GP: I see a comic of taking on an evil corporation in Los Angeles, and I go to Breakin 2. Is there something about Los Angeles being the location for these battles?
CM: Aubrey and I actually put together a “movie mood board” of films for inspiration and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (one is obligated to say the entire title at all times) is definitely high on that board. Fights occur in our book similarly to how the power of breakdancing could make miracles happen in that film. That hospital scene where those surgeons start poppin’ mid-surgery and bring a dead patient back to life? We hope to hit that level.
GP: So, what type of pot would you suggest while reading this? Would you go CBD? Edibles? Leaf?
CM: Definitely edibles. Grab some gummies or brownie bites, something that allows you to have one hand free to turn the page.
AS: Every time Stoned Master readers open their mouths to laugh or gasp at the intense, hilarious, kung fu action, they should take a healthy bong rip. By my estimation, they’ll be fully obliterated about a quarter of the way through. Increases reread value that way.
GP: Are you basing the “stoned kung fu” on anything real?
CM: Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master films are the primary inspiration Frankie’s style. Where Jackie had moves that were based off of drunkard’s actions (hands holding the cup, arms carrying the keg, etc.), Frankie’s moves are all based off the pothead’s actions (pinching the joint, rolling papers, lighting the hash pipe, bong rips). Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung’s “anything goes” improvisational styles from movies like the Lucky Stars films, Project A, or Wheels on Meals are a big reference for Frankie’s moves, too.
AS: After The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling, Chris is used to getting copious amounts of visual reference from me and we kept that proud tradition alive here. Most everything you see Frankie do in Stoned Master is his “Blazed Fist” riff on traditional drunken boxing techniques as seen in Drunken Master and other flicks.
GP: Any kung fu films and stoner films this is inspired by?
CM: Definitely the above films, Pretty much all of Cheech & Chong’s oeuvre, Kung Fu Hustle, Half Baked, Harold and Kumar, Big Lebowski.
AS: Obviously the Drunken Master movies and anything with Sammo Hung, but we also took a lot of structural and thematic influence from classic Lau Kar-leung & Gordon Liu flicks like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Dirty Ho and The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. Those movies manage to balance aesthetically stunning action, pitch-perfect humor, and a shocking amount of thematic depth and were a massive inspiration for Stoned Master. Also, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a significant amount of Pineapple Express in the mix.
GP: Beef Bros was on Kickstarter, what lessons have you learned from that going into this one?
AS: The BEEF BROS Kickstarter was an absolute game changer for me. No hyperbole, it changed now only how I view the comics industry but what I want out of it. While I love working with my pals at Dark Horse and am so very stoked about The Worst Dudes, Savage Hearts, and my as-yet-unannounced third series launching this year, there are certain projects that, while a tough sell in the direct market for any number of reasons, have a ton of potential with folks on Kickstarter. BEEF BROS was one of those projects and so is Stoned Master.
GP: Any advice you’d give others thinking about doing a Kickstarter?
AS: Calling on my background as an Eagle Scout (shout out to Troop 747!), the absolutely best advice I can give is to BE PREPARED. Running a Kickstarter well is an immense amount of work and the only way to keep from getting overwhelmed during the campaign is by having a firm plan in place and getting all your schedules, spreadsheets, newsletters, Graphic Policy interviews, and sacrificial offerings done before you hit the LAUNCH button.
GP: Thanks so much! We’ll make sure to take a nice bong rip and click back on Kickstarter!