Nick Gonzo and the Funk Soul Samurai Kickstarter
Earlier this year, Nick Gonzo and Bash came together to start a radical partnership in Gonzo Industrial. Gonzo Industrial is an experimental aerospace company and future cosmonaut training school founded by ex-astronaut Nick Gonzo, with grand designs for an intergalactic space station; a technocratic paradise funded by original prints, zines and comics. Which is a groovy way of saying Gonzo Industrial is an independent alternative comic book (and other stuff) publisher. And they are currently crowdfunding Funk Soul Samurai on Kickstarter.
Nick Gonzo is the artist and word guy behind comics such as 50Signal, Pictures of Spiderman, and Funk Soul Samurai. He is tall man with an epic beard, and believes everyone should be allowed to have nice things, and wants you to have physical objects you can hold, own, love, keep, and eventually be buried with.
Bash, formally known as Sasha-Jade Hornby (author of and interviewer extraordinaire in this feature) is the manager at, and arguably sane one of, Gonzo Industrial. She also likes to write and draw.
In this exclusive and completely meta interview, I, Bash, talk to Nick Gonzo about Gonzo Industrial, making comics, and using Kickstarter to crowdfund Funk Soul Samurai.
B: The Nick Gonzo! Talk to me about Gonzo Industrial.
NG: Between you and me, Gonzo Industrial is one of two things. Sure, it’s an aerospace company using comics books as a printed medium to fund a Utopian space vessel, but also, it’s a place where I can create whatever I want. It’s an actual studio in Leeds, that makes animations, comics, prints, whatever I feel like at the time. I get distracted very easily, so it’s nice to have a studio as a framework to spend time on a variety of projects. That’s the back-end.
The front-end is Sasha, my lovely girlfriend, you actually, who makes it all happen. She supports my dumb ideas, gets them into people's hands, finds me an audience, and keeps me sane.
B: Aww, you are sweet. Back to business though, when did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics?
NG: I imagine my answer is very similar to about 90% of British comic creators, in that I grew up surrounded by comics, in so much as your Spider-Mans and Batmans. It may be the "Golden Age" of superhero cinema, but when I was a kid Joel Schumacher was making his Batman Forever, so you grew up with comics everywhere. But also, my dad was an avid reader of 2000 AD comics, and classic annuals, so comics were just another way of telling a story for me.
When I got into art and drawing my own stuff, and also writing my own stories, comics just seemed like the natural thing to do.
There’s this one 2000 AD cover, which basically sums up my relationship with comics. It’s for this series, that I don’t think was ever re-printed, called Metalzoic. There was this double-page wrap-around cover of these giant metal deer, with huge asteroids in the background, being pursued by all these weird robotic creatures. It's all spines and gears and joints. Utterly mental. I looked at that and thought I want to do that too.
B: *looks at an image of the cover* That is utterly mental. I see the what, but I'm curious who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
NG: I grew up copying a lot of people. So I copied Geof Darrow’s stuff when I was younger. Kev O’Neill, who did the aforementioned Metalzoic cover. Mike Mignola was a big influence for teaching me that other styles exist beyond polished stuff. But I think the biggest influence recently was Brandon Graham, who I had the privilege of meeting at Thought Bubble. A dude like that just does whatever he wants. He makes art and keeps making art and firing it out because that’s the nozzle that he uses to channel his life experience. He drew a Saga picture in my sketchbook and he literally just picked up a pen, no pencils, just drew it. It was effortless because that was his natural language.
So since then, I have made it my goal to just care less about the whys and wherefores of what I’m doing, and try and make it more a language of me.
B: I know one thing, the when-fores are always. What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
NG: I have no idea. When I run out, I’ll let you know. I’m not very good at relaxing. There are a lot of people who are naturally very good at unwinding. That person is not me
B: I'm going to teach you how to nap and enjoy it. Describe your typical artistic routine, from idea to realisation.
NG: That’s a tough one, because I think it depends on the project itself. My own ideas, like 50Signal, Pictures of Spiderman, and Funk Soul Samurai (currently on Kickstarter) have a tendency to thrive on neglect. So, for example, with the latest Funk Soul Samurai, I came up with the idea of doing a sequel of this type about a week after I finished doing the first one, which was 4 years ago. That’s kind of embarrassing to admit!
So what I do is, I just have an idea, often inspired by a dumb conversation with a friend, (Pictures of Spiderman was spawned in a Glasgow hotel room after a discussion with a mate), then I sit on that idea for a really long time until all the bits of it have come to me and I can find no more excuses as to why I should not do it. Then I draw the crap out of it.
B: When you're drawing the crap out of it, what tools do you use and what makes them the “right tools” for you?
NG: I’m kind of a multi-disciplined guy. I believe you gotta find the right way to tell a story. So, for example, Funk Soul Samurai (currently on Kickstarter) is drawn with a bunch of fine-liners, whereas Pictures of Spiderman involved far more ink washes to get that moody look to it. But I’m finding more and more I’m using digital tools. Procreate on the iPad is a gift! I can animate now!
B: I do love that sword-slinging samurai. What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
NG: Seeing people read it. When you’ve finished a comic, you get that sensation of "well that’s over, I’ve successfully finished that story". But until you see someone chewing through it, it’s hard to properly put it to rest, y’know? For me, people reading ‘em and enjoying ‘em is the true success.
B: So what is the next Nick Gonzo project that people can read and enjoy?
That would be Funk Soul Samurai: Emergence of the Continuing Punch! Obviously, the Kickstarter for that is in full swing, so if any of you reading this fancy getting involved, that would be greatly appreciated. It’s a culmination of a lot of work for me and Sasha, and effectively tells the heartwarming tale of a nameless samurai in a non-specific wasteland liberating a town from a fascist military occupation, with extreme violence.
Though it’s not as blood thirsty of Funk Soul Samurai: Rampage of the Unchained Appetite, I have to say! I made the decision that because the samurai is fighting humans that are fully compus mentis, and I would like them to maintain the good guy status, they would not be bumping off people as flippantly as they sliced through mutants and monsters in the first one.
B: And what can readers expect from the Funk Soul Samurai in this latest tale?
There’s a chainsaw fight. And a nuclear airstrike. And a couple of giant robots, as per usual. Spoiler alert! There's a sloth with a trucker hat driving a van full of pizza. I shouldn’t even be telling you about the sloth, and I might be over-egging my sloth pudding. Oh, and nunchucks! Very excited to include nunchaku in this one. When I decided to make a second one, I knew I had to include nunchaku in it, else why bother?
B: One of my finer moments, getting a pizza-delivering sloth in one of your comics! I know why, but for the readers here, why should they back Funk Soul Samurai on Kickstarter?
NG: Do you want a real answer or an inspiring answer?
B: Let’s go for inspiring.
NG: Funk Soul Samurai is the sort of comic that could only exist in the indie market. It looks like itself. No studio on earth would go “hey, lets make a silent comic book that’s one giant fight scene about a nameless character John-Wick-ing out over a lack of junk food". Kickstarter makes the mad dreams come true. And it let’s you, the readers, get something crazy and unique. Also stickers.
B: And to finish on a dose of reality?
NG: *audible groan* Print costs. Books are expensive, man. You don’t back it, I won’t be able to afford to make it. All said, everyone loses out.
Did I mention the stickers?