Neil Greenaway (of Nerd Team 30) writes for Bleeding Cool
Last year, at Phoenix Comicon 2015, I was lucky enough to meet and interview Nick Marino from Action Lab about his story, Holy F*ck. Now, a year later, the sequel to his book (Holy F*cked) has just been released as a collected edition. I caught up with Nick again at Phoenix Comicon 2016 this past weekend, and we discussed comics, television pitch ideas, music, and kickboxing in the sun.
Bleeding Cool: Hello again, sir. It's been a while. Let's hear about the very latest official Nick News.
NM: (laughs) Is there such a thing?
BC: I don't know if you can see it. But from where I am sitting, you look super busy.
NM: I have been taking an increasing amount of shower photos.
BC: I have seen those on FaceBook. Bringing sexy back, as it were.
(Dave Dwonch is watching from the other side of the booth)
NM: Dave is my manager, just so you know. We call him my handler, because he cleans out my kennel and such.
Dave Dwonch: (laughs) And also because I'm very touchy. Very hands-on, if you get what I mean.
NM: Yeah. See, he's often holding the camera when I take these shower "selfies", which are really just a part of the internet brand that I am trying to grow.
BC: That makes me wonder where the hand reaching off screen is going, if you have a camera man.
NM: Don't reveal the movie magic. So every time I say something, I will be studying his facial expressions to see if it's ok.
DD: I'm nodding yes. Everything is good.
BC: When we left you last, your series Holy F*ck had just finished up, and the sequel series, Holy F*cked, was being planned. But Holy F*cked is out now, and both series have been collected into trades, correct?
NM: Yes, all through Action Lab's Danger Zone imprint.
BC: You also recently released Stick Cats, which we had talked about a little bit last year. When did you start working on that?
NM: Stick Cats started in2011 when I was working on a bunch of web comics that were kinda stressing me out. And I thought, man, I need to do something where I can just turn my brain off and just have fun doodling. And Stick Cats evolved out of that desire to do something stress free, improvisational, spontaneous. And I did it for a couple of years, just off and on. If you have seen it, you know that it is very raw. Just stick figure cats goofing around. At the time I was doing mostly self-published mini comics and zines. And I found that people really responded to Stick Cats when it was at my table at that time. It was not quite what we have with Holy F*cked. But it was the best response I had gotten up to that point. But I did it for a few years, and sort of forgot about it. And then I finished Holy F*ck. And I was thinking, you know what? I really need to wrap up Stick Cats. So, I sat down (this is just after I signed the contract for Holy F*cked) and I drew maybe 70 pages of Stick Cats. In about a month. And it's just stick figures, so I was doing 2, maybe 3 pages a day. Then I just sat on it for a few years, because what do you do with this thing? Do I kickstart it, or what? But finally I just said "F*ck it, we'll give it away for free."
BC: Which leads into my next question. Stick Cats was released with a soundtrack. What brought that about?
NM: Music is the medium I am most closely connected to. And when I'm telling a story, I'm either thinking of songs, using songs to inspire me, or I'm inspired to go and create songs after I write or draw something. And with Stick Cats, it's so personal. It's really just me, in the moment, exploring themes that I want to explore. Taking characters in a direction that individually, I want to see what happens to them in these situations. And that really inspires a lot of rhythms and melodies from me. That is the simplest answer. (laughs) It may sound crazy.
BC: It's quite all right. I am well acquainted with crazy.
NM: You worked in a porn shop for a while, I forgot. You definitely know crazy.
BC: You have not lived until you've broken up a coke-fueled gay orgy in a 4'x4' foot closet in the back of an adult video store.
NM: That is a small closet.
BC: There were a lot of dudes in that closet.
NM: You have to promise me that this exchange stays in the interview.
BC: Word for word.
NM: Shout out to Rich, Bleeding Cool is the greatest!
BC: I think that this is a fine time to segue into your pitch to Nickelodeon for a new show. What can you tell me about that?
NM: So, Daniel Arruda Massa and I (from Holy F*cked) had the opportunity to go to Nickelodeon and pitch for their shorts program. I can't say the name of it. Because if they pick it up, I can't talk about it. But if they don't pick it up, we want to be able to shop it around to other places. The process for pitching animated shorts is totally open. Anyone can do it. So we put our pitch together and sent it in. And since I was in LA, I figured we might as well go ahead and check the in person meeting option. It seems like it might be fun, you know? Why not do it? I figured that they would not take us up on it unless they were really into it. But I think that anybody who checks that box gets an in person meeting because I was in there waiting with a bunch of other people who were waiting to go after me. So it wasn't some exclusive thing. Maybe they were a little selective, but they let me in. They can't be that selective.
(At this point in our talk a dozen donuts were delivered to the table, leading to a lengthy donut interlude.)
NM: At any rate, we went in to pitch to Nickelodeon, which sounds fancier than it is. But it's a really cool experience if you've never done it. And I hadn't. So Daniel Arruda Massa and I got our story together. I made some weird little cactus toys out of felt and tiny flower pots. I sewed googly eyes on them. We wrote some songs to go along with the pitch, so I got to bring my guitar. I think they liked it. It was really strange, kind of like being on a reality tv show. You've got three guys across from you at this table, and then Daniel's face is massive on a screen (he's skyping in from the Netherlands). So I hand them each a toy cactus and a mini comic and take out my guitar and they just look at me. The weirdest part was, they never told me what to do. They just stared at me. I was never sent any instructions from the network, so I just made up my presentation. We acted out an episode with the voices, and sang some of the songs. It was a lot of fun. And if we are lucky, we hear back from Nickelodeon. If not, well, it was a cool first experience.
BC: So what does the future hold in the way of more comics? What have you got coming out?
NM: Daniel Arruda Massa and I have actually finished our next book. Or I should say he has finished it. I'm still lettering it. It is a super hero story, but not in any traditional sense what so ever. It is almost more of a workplace comedy. I don't want to say to much, because we are really close to a deal with a publisher and I would like to let them announce it. I think that Daniel has really stepped up his art on it, and I am very, very excited for it.
I also have another book that I am working on, that I have been putting together for 5 years. That is another book just waiting for me to finish the lettering. It is another super hero story. Well, more of a super villain story. It is about three super villains who become villains based on the circumstances of their lives. And it is the story of them finding each other, finding an apartment, and moving in together. They are losers, but it's fun to watch them come together. It is fun to take someone who is not naturally a sympathetic character and make people care about them.
BC: Going back a bit, you had said that music was the medium that you were most closely tied to. I have noticed that on social media, you will occasionally post a song that you have written that day. Are you currently in a band or musical group? Or is it all just you when you post those things?
NM: I am solo right now. I used to play in bands, and it was fun. But, because it is such a personal thing for me, I enjoy being able to take my time when I record a song. I like to write a song and have it be my full vision when it's done. And because of that, I really just prefer to work solo on music. And I don't really perform anymore, outside of recording.
BC: Is that anything that you would ever pursue monetarily? Have you ever put an album out?
NM: I have tried a few different things like that. Originally, I was going to make beats for hip-hop. That was what I really wanted to do, musically. And I got into a situation where I was about to be able to start selling a few. But I realized that I would not be comfortable if somebody took my backing track and used it in a way that I did not agree with. So I thought that maybe I shouldn't monetize that. But I love making instrumental music, so I tied to do that. I did release an album under Nick Furious. Nick Furious was my music name. It came out through all the digital download services. And it sold like three copies. It was horrible. So I thought, why am I doing this when I could just be giving these songs away? If no one is buying it (so I'm not getting paid), and no one can hear the music (because it is behind a paywall) then what's the point? But for now, it is fun to just record a song for myself or make a song for a friend. I would just get too stressed out if I thought that I was recording for an audience. But if I am the audience, it's like a relief. Because when I'm not making music, I am thinking about it. And when I finally sit down to write it, it feels like…. Ahhhhhh…. I finally got that out of my system.
BC: Well, we have talked about your comics, your television pitch, and your music. Are there any other aspirations? Any waters that you have yet to dip your toes in?
NM: I was writing a novel for a few years. About a kickboxer who had to step up his game for a tournament and learn to fight in the center of the sun.
BC: Did it star Jean Claude Van Damme?
NM: It was HEAVILY Van Damme inspired. I have recently been re-reading this novel to my girlfriend, and we are laughing our asses off. It is just SO bad. So the funny part is that in the middle of all the other stuff, I found a collaborator who is working with me on a few concepts that I had. And one of them is that novel. We found a way to spin it a bit more metaphysical, and a bit more serious. So it is actually turning into a nice little sci-fi/drama. So this idea will eventually get used, and maybe when it comes out, I can release my original novel excerpts. I actually wrote about 17,000 words that first try. There is a decent amount, but it's not even close to fully done.
But you know what? I really LOVE making comics right now. The music I make for myself, but the comics I enjoy sharing with people. And I want to tell more cool stories with collaborators that I love to work with. I am loving the process right now. It's really special.
BC: With that said, I know that your name is a fairly common one, and your email is one of the more easily confused addresses out there. People often send you emails meant for other Nick Marinos in the world, and you have been known to have some fun with that. How many other professions have you masqueraded?
NM: That is a really good question! It's funny that you would ask that because while we were here at Phoenix Comicon, I got an email from this homeowners association (who have emailed me previously), so they emailed me again. They are trying to figure out what to do with this empty lot by their house. I told them that I am burying dead bodies there, so we are waiting to see where that goes. I just thought I should share that, because it is happening right now. But these emails that I get for other Nick Marinos, I would say that I have pretended to be at least 5 other guys who share my name. Let's see, there was the corporate executive, the journalist, the hip-hop producer. Which, I do make hip-hop music. But this guy was DJ Nick of the Marino Gang. Definitely not me. That guy makes some hard core rap. What were some of the other guys? It has happened so many times that you begin to forget.
BC: When you were mistaken for a journalist, didn't you actually go out on location to interview a guy?
NM: Oh, that's right! The parachute thing? I did not go out on site. Ok, so a site had contacted me thinking that I was this other Nick. But I pretended, and went along with it. So they wanted me to interview this parachute/skydiver. I asked them to fly me to the jump site, but they did not take me up on that. All they did was arrange a phone interview. But I still had a good time with that. I can't believe that the guy did not pick up on anything during the interview. I was asking him some really strange stuff, like would you eat your friends? It was cool because normally, I only get to mess with people over email, but this was live. So I had to be a little quicker on my feet than usual.