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AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug talks with the crew behind the inventive werewolf miniseries FEEDING GROUND!!!

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Q’s by Ambush Bug!

Swifty Lang, Chris Mangun, & Michael Lipinski!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another interview. I spoke with the folks behind Archaia’s hit series FEEDING GROUND, an original and extremely well crafted take on werewolves and the Mexican border. FEEDING GROUND has been released in single issue form over the past few months and the miniseries is getting Archaia’s amazing hardcover trade format which is available in this month’s Previews. Here’s what Chris Mangun, Michael Lipinski, & Swift Lang have to say about this miniseries deserving of your attention, FEEDING GROUND…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi guys, so can you each identify yourselves?

CHRIS MANGUN (CM): I’m Chris Mangun. I’m an artist and writer on FEEDING GROUND.

MICHAEL LIPINSKI (ML): I’m Michael Lapinski, artist on FEEDING GROUND.

SWIFTY LANG (SL): I’m Swifty Lang, writer on FEEDING GROUND.

BUG: This is the first time I’ve really taken a look at the book. It looks really cool. The art is really awesome and I really like the concept. Can you guys explain what the story is about?

SL: Basically what happens… Let me give you the pitch, it’s a werewolf story that takes place on the Mexico-Arizona border and it’s about a family that has been driven from their home and they have to cross the desert into the States and other than battling real world horrors that occur as people try to cross the desert, they are contesting werewolves prowling the plains as well.

ML: I would say the world we created also deals with a new mythology. We were looking to the region, because we wanted to go back and find a transformation story that was appropriate to the myth of the werewolf and over the course of the series you get a sense of our take on it, which we don’t want to give away right now, but a lot of it deals with gender politics as well and what it means to be in a pack. Beyond that there’s also the question of how the DNA is mixed with humans and we wound up getting some perverse results in terms of when the mix isn’t quite pure.

BUG: So how did you guys come together as far as the writing team and then with the artist?

CM: So this is a project of love that has taken place over about two years and originally it was Swifty’s idea. One of his friends that he met with was doing documentaries about immigration on the Mexican border and it kind of spawned out of that. We originally had some ideas of how to put it together as a story and Swifty was friends with Michael and Michael is just this force of nature in comics and he’s known him from childhood, and he’s a great artist and so we segued into pushing this together for a graphic novel. I guess it took us maybe about six months to put together the concept and we pitched at Comic Con 2008 and Michael pushed it around and Archaia saw our pitch book, really loved it, and said “Hey, let’s do this.” Not only that, but “Let’s do it as a flip book.” So it’s thirty pages of English and thirty pages of Spanish.

BUG: That’s really cool. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that concept before. Is this kind of a revolutionary breakthrough sort of thing?

ML: I honestly think it is. What happened when they first shook our hands, the first thing out of their mouth… This was from the owner of the company; he said, “What do you think about going bilingual?” That immediately appealed to me, because I like the idea that we can talk to a broader audience. The idea that the story too of dealing with that divide it’s perfectly represented in the fact that the book itself is bilingual. I know that Marvel has a great series of books that are translated like the FANTASTIC FOUR books in Puerto Rico, but this is the first time I think it’s contained in one package and it’s not for an extra charge; it’s the same cover price.

BUG: It is a very timely concept. What kind of research goes into making this type of book? You said that you were involved with documentaries?

SL: A large part of it came about through those conversations that I touched upon earlier. There’s also a wonderful book called THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY which came out about three years ago and it is an account of how absolutely harrowing in the conditions are in making that journey and in terms of primary research, that was really I would say the touchstone of where we were jumping off for a lot of our information. Other than we are reading the papers everyday and trying to consume as much media as we can about what’s happening, there’s really a balance of at the end of the day we are telling a horror story and we are not journalists and more than anything else, we are trying to craft a good tale. I often say we are not putting a mirror on the region, we are putting basically a funhouse reflection of what’s happening.

BUG: So is it going to be released in single issues? I know Archaia is sort of starting to move towards just doing graphic novels, but you guys…

ML: In this case, it’s roughly a monthly schedule after that for six issues. There’s going to be two issues in a row and then a break, two issues and so on, so ultimately we will have six issues and then collected after that.

BUG: Great. I’m looking forward to reading it. It looks like a really great concept and a really great novel. Have you had any feedback from people who are advocates or are against the whole border issue?

ML: Not necessarily. There are definitely people who scoff at the initial concept, but the way I understand it too is that the way it was pitched to me by Chris and Swift is that’s just the hook to hang the story. Basically we are trying to create something that tells a more universal tale of survival and hopefully people can look beyond the hot button issues and just understand that it’s a tale about what it takes to make it in the world and what happens when your world is swept out fro under you. What I really appreciated, one of our first reviews complimented us on our ability to cover a whole host of horrors, the idea that just with daily living what it takes to be living in this world right now and also trying to live the American dream. So we will see how it goes. Like I said, we are not the ones to turn to to solve the problem, but hopefully we are speaking to the anxiety that a lot of people are experiencing on both sides of the border.

SL: I just want to add one of the most important things for us and this really isn’t a political thing, but any immigration experience involves an element of transformation and I think for us this is why we really thought the werewolf was absolutely the perfect metaphor, because unless you are native American, your family comes from somewhere and right now… And this isn’t really a political issue as much as just we see a certain vilification happening in the media that is offensive frankly and for us to have a protagonist who is Mexican I think is very important. It’s really important to put a face to the anonymous shot that you see taken from a helicopter and that is really something that we wanted to do.

BUG: And as far as the art is concerned, did you do the coloring as well?

CM: Michael did the coloring, I worked on the lettering.

ML: Yeah, Chris is our designer.

BUG: Can you talk a little bit more about your role in the book?

CM: Sure, we often describe ourselves like Voltron (Laughs), we kind of gel together really nicely and compliment each other where someone is working very hard and needs to take a break, I’m kind of this middle guy that helps with a little bit of the writing, a little bit of the art, and I’m learning at this. This guy Mike is our head illustrator and artist, so he kind of gives me pointers on how to help him in the process and so I help with the lettering. He basically tough me how to do that and I have a background in graphic design, so I know how to work with the programs and everything, but we’ve got basically a machinery set up so that Swifty writes the story, I help with some of the layout, and then Michael art directs basically the whole piece.

BUG: I asked about the color basically because it seems like you’ve chosen a really limited palette as far as the look, what went into the decision to make that?

ML: I would say that coming into this; this is my first comic illustration. I’ve worked in animation before, but this is my first time doing a comic, but I’ve been a lifelong fan and I think that the first challenge and what I’ve learned from job to job working on very many different shows from BLUE’S CLUES to NINJA TURTLES that you have to come up with a style that suits the material and so as a comic fan I wanted to come up with something that didn’t necessarily look like anything else on the stands, but that also was evocative of the heat, the sense of the burnt out nature of the material, that it was almost already lived in where we were maybe creating something that would help communicate the experience more so than just illustrating it. So the end result is something that Swifty has called EC Comics meets like DAY OF THE DEAD silkscreen where ideally I was creating a palette that I think… There’s those old Vertigo comics when there was just yellow and pink and the coloring was a little off, to me that SWAMP THING was so much more evocative when the coloring wasn’t so literal and it made me feel a way that I can’t put into words that if it was literal it wouldn’t have the same effect. So I hope to have achieved the same thing here, whether it’s the heat or just the horror of the particular situation.

BUG: It’s a great comic. Thanks a lot guys for taking the time to talk to me.

ML: It’s an honor man. We really appreciate your work.

BUG: Thanks! Be sure to check out FEEDING GROUND. You might be able seek out the single issues, but definitely look for it when it is collected in Archaia’s slick hardcover edition of FEEDING GROUND and released September 6th! Order it on Amazon here!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!


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