Tom Scioli’s epic masterpiece American Barbarian arrives in stores today! Find out more about the project in this exclusive IDW interview!
American Barbarian was originally a webcomic, when you started out did you have most of the story already plotted out, or was it something that evolved naturally as you took on more and more in the story?
For all it’s free-wheeling, it’s the most traditionally-structured thing I’ve ever done. It was carefully plotted from start to finish well in advance. I spent like 3 years developing it before I drew it, but I wanted the reading experience to “feel” improvisational. I wanted to give the impression that I was making it up on the fly, one page at a time. When the various threads come together and the plot points pay off, it seems almost like a magic trick.
Fans of your ongoing Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series can find a lot to love in the blood and freedom-soaked pages of American Barbarian, but for any who are unfamiliar with your work what can they expect to find here, and only here?
It’s a new mode of comics. You’ll be taken on a colorful roller coaster ride that takes full advantage of the unlimited budget of comics.
There are clearly a lot of different influences here, from Robert E. Howard, to M.A.S.K., was there a particular iteration of these influences that you looked at while developing the story and characters here?
I watched Thundarr cartoons. I read as many of the He-Man mini-comics as I could get my hands on, particularly the ones drawn by Alfredo Alcala, where the mythology was loose and hadn’t been rigidly codified yet by the TV cartoon.
I watched the movies that would’ve inspired Kirby, going directly to the source. Old adventure movies with Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn. The Black Pirate in particular was a key influence.
I read a bunch of Howard’s original Conan stories, and lots of Conan comics and barbarian comics in general. Dagar. Mighty Samson. Turok. John Carter.
I was revisiting the weird moment in time when barbarian stories were a staple of children’s television. Thundarr, He-Man, Blackstar, Galtar, Herculoids.
I think it’s common for an artist to revisit the shows and books they enjoyed as a child and find inspiration in how bad they actually are when viewed through grown-up eyes. “What if I made a comic as good as I REMEMBER these things being?”
You can’t help but read this book with a big goofy grin on your face, was it the same for you while writing and drawing?
Yes! I had more fun working on this than anything I’d done before. Doing it as a webcomic, posting pages as I finished them, definitely fed into that. The immediate feedback was a lot of fun. I had a constant creative euphoria while I worked on it that lasted about a year. It was a great feeling, something I’m still chasing.
For regular comic readers, what can you compare this to… if anything?
Comics to compare it to? The first year of Alex Raymond‘s Flash Gordon. All-Star Superman, for it’s whimsical rigor. That Legend of Zelda comic that was just recently collected. The work of Fletcher Hanks. It’s hard to compare it to what’s going on in comics. It’s closer to what’s going on in games and animation. It’s got similar influences and intent as Adventure Time and Steven Universe.
It’s got more in common with food than it does with other comics. It’s closer to Dippin’ Dots, or a bag of Skittles, or a Ninja Turtles ice cream bar.
What does the future hold for you and American Barbarian?
I want to get as many copies of this book in as many hands as possible. It’s my masterpiece. I don’t plan on making any sequels. I like the story just the way it is. I’ll move on to other comics while American Barbarian fights Two-Tank Omen again and again in a never-ending cycle of myth within the pages of this book.