The Comic Wit of Blue Agave and Worm: Interview with Kirker Butler

Check out the latest interview with creator of the Blue Agave and Worm Kirker Butler (original article link here):

Not too long ago I had the joy or reading and then the pleasure of reviewing  Blue Agave and Worm from Viper Comics.  As an added bonus I got a few words with the creative genius behind the book, Emmy nominated writer Kirker Butler.  He has written and produced for Family Guy and is co-executive producer for The Cleveland Show.

Thanks for doing this interview with The Pullbox.

Eric: From watching your shows, all of your fans know you are a huge movie / pop-culture fan – how about comics?  Do you have a big “geek” background?

Kirker: I’ve read comics since I was a kid.  My step-dad was a pharmacist at a drug store in Kentucky where I grew up.  I would walk there after school and get a Marathon Bar and a Coke and pull a stack of books off the rack.  Then I’d go sit in an corner and get fat and read.  It wasn’t as sad as it sounds.  I also read the novelization of “9 to 5″ during that time, which was way sadder than it sounds.

E: What did you read as a kid? Any monthlies that you read now?

K: I read everything the pharmacy had on the rack.  I also loved MAD Magazine and wrestling mags, although they scared the hell out of me.  I actually remember really liking Archie and Jughead.  I thought they were hilarious because I was a stupid kid.  I also loved Superman and Batman.  The Hulk I read all the time. I discovered Superman, Batman and The Hulk around the same time the movie and TV shows were on.  I loved seeing them in different formats.  That blew me away.  I still read a lot of comics.  ”The Boys” is a favorite.  ”Crossed” is incredibly disgusting and awesome.  Terry Moore’s ECHO. Kody Chamberlain’s “Sweets.” There’s a lot of good stuff out there.

E: With the Blue Agave you have brought a fresh look at the humor / action series.  Where did the idea for the Blue Agave come from?

K: True story.  I was home alone one afternoon and my dog, Laverne, needed to go out.  At the time we had these huge agave plants in the front yard, just massive plants.  My wife and daughter were out of town, so I’d had a few adult beverages and wasn’t paying attention.  Laverne saw a squirrel or something and pulled me into one of those plants.  The barb knocked my glasses off and cut me across the eyelid, barely missing my eye.  There was blood and lots of swearing.  So, I went back inside, got a rag for my eye and turned on the TV.  Swear to god there was a documentary on the History Channel about tequila production.  The farmers were on screen harvesting agave plants and the narrator was talking about what a dangerous job it is and I’m like, “yeah, no shit.”  Then I thought, “man, what would happen if someone fell in one of those things.”  Then I thought, “maybe they become a superhero.”

E: Your main character is a young latino who has aspirations to be someone, but seems like the culture and circumstance of his life are set against him, where did the inspiration for Albert Lopez come from?

K: I think everyone can relate to wanting to be something greater than themselves, be they latino or otherwise.  And that was important to me, making sure the the story was relatable.  But for obvious reasons, this story required that Blue Agave be latino. Plus, I know a lot of struggling stand up comics.  No one wants to be a superhero more than those guys.

E: I find your stories / characters / situations both smart and challenging, they make me laugh and think about the stereotypes and group-think that is prevalent in our society.  What is your response to readers who say that you can’t poke fun at racial stereotypes / cultural ignorance because it’s “morally off limits”?

K: Well, first of all, thank you.  And second of all, nothing is off limits.  I would go so far as to say we have an obligation to point out, and make fun of, cultural ignorance whenever we see it.  Our world is becoming more culturally diverse every day.  Like it or not, we are all different.  And as long as we are truly respectful of those differences, then I think there’s nothing wrong with poking a little fun.  What I was trying to do was make fun of the stereotypes and the racial attitudes, not revel in them or use them for cheap jokes. I hope I succeeded.  Besides, the only people who are truly uncomfortable talking about racial issues are white people, and we’ve had it too good in this country for too long!  We need to feel uncomfortable.

E: In your writings you have taken some great swipes at pop culture, but in Blue Agave, you have a particular harsh blow for Survivor host Jeff Probst – was that in fun? or do you really think he belongs on the dork list?

K: That was originally going to be Victor Garber, but I found myself having to explain who he was, “remember in Titanic, he was the sad guy who designed the ship?”  Or “He was Jennifer Garner’s dad on ‘Alias’”  Then I just thought I’d go with Probst.  Everyone knows who he is and I thought that a guy who spends nine months out of the year living in the jungle was an unlikely person to be uptight about his landscaping.  That made me laugh.  I’ve never met Jeff but he seems like a pretty decent guy.  I hope he has a sense of humor.  I’ll let you know if he sues me.

E: How different was writing for a comic book than for an animated series?

K: In television you have certain limits placed on you by a variety of different people: network and studio executives, standards and practices, production schedules. Granted, Fox lets us do a lot and, but writing this book was an entirely different experience in that I got to do and say whatever I wanted (for better or worse) and no one told me “no.”  Everyone should be able to work like that.  Jessie and everyone at Viper were great to work with.  I hope to do another book with them in the future.

E: Blue Agave and Worm is just one of a slew of great books coming out of Viper Comics, how did you connect with them?

K: It sounds very Hollywood and gross, but my agent hooked me up with them.  I pitched Blue Agave to several publishers, but Viper was the most responsive and I really liked Jessie personally.  If you’re going to be working on something you care about, you’ve really got to work with people you like.  Viper’s been nothing but supportive during the entire process.

E: For me, the art of the books seemed to fit your story.  Did the final product from Beware of the Art studio match your initial vision for your characters?

K: I’ve worked in TV animation now for seven years, and I can’t draw a stick man. I work with artists every day and I’m constantly amazed by their ability.  Over the years I’ve learned to just tell them what I’m thinking and let them do what they do.  More times than not, I’m totally blown away.   This was a very similar experience. I had an idea of how I wanted the characters to look and the artists at Beware of the Art brought so much to the story.  I love the style they came up with, and I think the colors are perfect.  It feels like East Los Angeles, which is exactly what I wanted.  Those guys are the best.

E: Can we expect any new Blue Agave and Worm adventures soon?

K: I’m working on some stories.  We will eventually meet some more superheroes and some villains.  I’m looking forward to expanding the world.  There are a lot of places to go.

E: Given your background, is there any talk of animating Blue Agave?

K: There is some talk, yes.  Right now, I’m trying to figure out the best home for it.  That’s the most important thing at this point, finding a place that will let me do the story the way I think it should be done.  I’m optimistic.

E: A possible Blue Agave / Stewie cross-over?

K: Ha!  Talk to Seth.  Although, I did write a Comic-con episode for “The Cleveland Show” where I’m sitting in a booth next to Cleveland selling Blue Agave books. How’s that for shameless self-promotion?

E: Shameless Plug time – Any new projects coming up that you would like to talk about?

K: I’m finishing up a novel (one without pictures) that I hope to have out by the end of 2011.  And I’ve optioned a historical baseball book called “Fifty-nine in ‘84″ that I hope to make into a movie.  There are a couple other film projects in the works that look like they might happen, but I’m not really ready to talk about them yet.  Other than that, I’m staying busy with “The Cleveland Show.”  That seems like enough, right?

E: Anything I missed?

K: I can’t imagine.  Thanks so much for this.  There’s nothing I like more than talking about myself!