Welcome back to another spotlight interview.
This time we bring you an interview that we did with comic creators Ian McGinty and Eliot Rahal. They are the creative team behind a brand new Original Graphic Novel called Robot’s Tale. It is based on the music of the band Dance Gavin Dance and being published by Z2 Comics.
Ian is an artist who has worked on the Invader Zim movie and done work for Boom! Studios on the Adventure Time comics and Bee and PuppyCat. He also illustrated Poppy‘s Graphic Novel Genesis 1 which was also published by Z2.
Eliot is writer of such comics as Hot Lunch Special and Midnight Vista from AfterShock comics. He has done a bunch of work with Valiant Comics and besides this Dance Gavin Dance book is currently working on Bleed Them Dry from Vault comics.
We had a great conversation about this crazy story that they are creating. The audio recording has a lot more organic conversation, but we transcribed some of the most important parts below.
Pop Culture Squad: We are very excited about this book you are doing with Dance Gavin Dance called Robot’s Tale. Before we get to what goes on in the book, why don’t you tell us how you guys got brought together on it?
Eliot Rahal: That’s all Josh Frankel. I know Ian has been doing work for Josh as Z2 for quite some time. I met Josh about a year and a half ago at New York Comic Con through a mutual friend. I immediately loved this man. He is such a unique person.
Ian McGinty: He is an insane human being. I don’t even know how to describe Josh, but he is a nutso person in the best way possible.
ER: He is great. How Ian and I got placed together is that I had been in conversation with Josh for over a year, trying to find a project, and this one lined up and he asked me to do it, and then he lined up with Ian’s schedule and here we are.
PCS: I have seen Robot’s Tale described as bat-shit crazy. So, what can we expect from this book?
IM: This is all you Eliot. I mean I have to draw it and it is insane in the best way possible.
ER: There is a lot going on. First of all, it looks great. Ian’s doing a great job and he is heightening the visuals a lot, which I think is what is required in a project like this.
We had a pretty long discussion about it before we began about what type of tone we were going for. The turnaround on this book was really tight. I wanted to make a good story, but we are making a story from characters, material and songs that are very loose. There is no set narrative or dogma. We are working with established things but at the same time they did not have much of a shape.
PCS: What was that process like when designing characters? How collaborative was that for you guys?
ER: I mean I worked with Dance Gavin Dance in terms of finding something that they wanted. They gave me something that they wanted and I turned it into a story. When they approved the idea, I went right to scripting and sent that stuff right to Ian. Ian took it and made it bigger and better.
IM: First things first. The whole situation has been completely bizarre for me, because I have been a fan of Dance Gavin Dance for years! Seriously I have been on this band for a long time, and when Z2 came to me and asked if I wanted to do this book, I was like, “Yeah! Of Course!”
I would say that Eliot and I have been given, I would say, an irresponsible amount of creative freedom.
ER: Yes, which is why this book got so insane.
IM: The band and Z2 basically let us do whatever the fuck we wanted to on this. We have all just committed to making this the craziest thing we can.
With my background working on the Invader Zim Movie, Adventure Time, and the like, it is mostly “all ages” stuff. Now, what is so cool is that I am taking the imagery of these “all ages” things but I am applying very dramatic, very violent aspects to this entire thing. This is why this books is so cool.
I am literally drawing (after I get off this interview) koala bears shooting Vietnam War era guns at other animals, and you see their intestines flying out. It’s insane.
Eliot is doing this amazing thing where he is nailing comedy and horror wrapped up in a really appealing way.
PCS: That’s excellent.
ER: Thank you Ian. My primary concern with this book is that I know that Dance Gavin Dance fans are very loyal and have a very strong community fandom. The characters that they have seen on the YouTube videos, like the Robot with Human Hair and the Duck Skeleton,….
PCS: Yeah, So I know that there is some legend around some of the lyrics to the songs of Dance Gavin Dance.
IM: There is like a lore to this whole thing. Eliot if you want to give some sort of run down of how that works.
ER: The lore is very loose, and I have done a lot of research and talked to band. There is no set structure. So, the challenge with making this book was trying to make a story out of that lore that does not mess with any of it, but at the same time pays homage to it.
Basically the story through these four or five music videos is about this Robot with Human Hair with a special blue power core that comes to save a planet of animals, who are being ruled by an evil dictator that is turning them into mechanical animal hybrids. There is a big war that goes through time and space. The whole story is that reality is a simulation. That is what Dance Gavin Dance is talking about.
Our story is about taking that and expanding on it. It has this evil dog emperor trying to end the simulation that is reality so that he can rule it. You know all narcissists are ego-driven people in search of power. They don’t like the idea of determination and free will.
IM: It sounds like what we are dealing with right now.
PCS: It is difficult for something like that to not hit the creative world very hard. It will infiltrate because it needs to. But that story makes a lot of sense. It sounds like your typical “Boy meets Girl” story.
IM: I will say that Eliot has written one of the most fucked up scripts that I have ever read in my entire life in the best way possible. “A Plus”, Buddy.
ER: That goes along with the second objective which is being emotionally thoughtful about the themes of the book. I wanted to give the fans something to know that I am being thoughtful. I don’t want them to think that I am making a joke out of the material. I am treating it very seriously and with great respect because I know that they care so much.
But on the other hand, I also know that they are fucking crazy people, the people who like this band.
PCS: Present company, Ian, included?
ER: Right! I mean that in the best possible way, and they have a certain expectation of, “Give me something fucking weird.” That is where the insanity of this book comes from.
IM: For sure. It really does. This band defies any genre I could put them into.
PCS: Sure. I agree. Absolutely.
IM: People are very passionate about this and I can’t think of a band right now that I cannot define them musically, and they also have this lore going on. They are producing content on a level that is kind of insane. I mean. They are doing a graphic novel, and they are doing these vinyl covers. They are very art based is what I want to call them. I am beyond excited and proud that Eliot and I get to be a part of this whole thing.
ER: I am stoked to be working on this. Working with Ian is great. He is so awesome, and he is bringing so much insanity. It is also worth mentioning that we do have a small dream sequence in the book with Masa Minoura.
IM: He worked on the Poppy book for Z2
PCS: Right I saw that in the initial press release. In your book is the a straight Poppy story or is a dream sequence? How does that work?
ER: It is not actually a dream sequence. It is more like an interdimensional shift. I say dream sequence as code for myself.
PCS: Ok. Even more crazy.
IM: Yeah and like I said. I worked with him on the Poppy: Genesis 1 book and he is incredible. I have only seen a couple of his pages so far but they are amazing. So, everything is looking good.
PCS: So just to wrap up on the book. Ian are you coloring yourself, and who is doing the letters?
IM: No. The colors are by Aladdin Collar. He is an awesome colorist. He colored Poppy, and he also colored the Youngblood book that I did.
ER: We do not know who the letterer will be yet.
PCS: There has been a concept where comic creators are suggesting a playlist for their content. Do you think that works here?
ER: There are five or six tracks that I am going to recommend that they put on the interior of the cover for people to listen to. There are things that I am specifically pulling from.
PCS: This has been awesome. Do you guys have a date for the book?
ER: There have been a lot of moving parts. This was supposed to be a part of a tour that has been cancelled because of the Coronavirus and I don’t know if that is changing.
IM: It’s not. I talked to Josh. It is supposed to be May.
PCS: Well that’s great. We will look forward to it. Thanks so much for doing this.
This is one of the videos from Dance Gavin Dance that helped inspire the lore that led to this book:
Ian McGinty can be found on Twitter at @IanMcGinty
Eliot Rahal can be found on Twitter at @EliotRahal