INTERVIEW: NICK ROCHE TALKS MONSTER MOTORS

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This week sees the release of Monster Motors, a new creator-owned book from writer Brian Lynch and artist Nick Roche. I decided to ask Nick about putting the book together and what we can expect this Wednesday.

When Brian Lynch brought the idea to you, what was it about it that appealed to you? What was his pitch?

Well, we’d both been familiar with each other’s work before we had our first date. (Gossip runs wild across the schoolyard sometimes). I’d been guilted into reading Brian’s Angel comics for IDW due to Stephen Mooney drawing them, and was glad of the exposure. I can honestly say I’ve rarely laughed as much at a comic book book than their ‘Last Angel In Hell’ movie parody one-shot, so I knew I dug this guy’s funny chops. IDW Editor-In-Chief, Chris Ryall actually teamed us up. Brian had run his pitch for Monster Motors by him, and Chris kindly recommended me for the gig, thus increasing the Guinness debt he demands for such favours.

The pitch was full of the wit and world-buildery you see on Monster Motors’ finished pages, so that was basically the hook as far as I was concerned. Also Brian’s passion; this is actually his Dream Project (capitalised and everything), so his and Chris’ faith in me was a huge part in luring me into their cabal. In some ways, them stating that I was THE guy for the job almost caused me to choke – I mean, there must be a mistake, right? But soon I realised the fun to be had in designing EVERYTHING in the Monster Motors’ world my own way, in my own style, and that there was no such thing as ‘doing it wrong’.
MONSTER MOTORS Frankenride Model
People know your Transformers work but this your chance to do a lot of vehicles very much in your own style. What influenced your designs?

I’d probably have to say Tim Burton and Skottie Young with a lot of the proportions. The ‘anti-Transformers-ness’ of the world itself was an inspiration; the fact that these vehicles and locations didn’t need to have plausible mechanics or a prescribed look to them was VERY freeing. If or when I ever do more Transformers interiors, Monster Motors will probably have an influence on how I approach them. (Be warned!)

I really like Igor. He’s a fun little guy. Where did his design come from?

Brian actually emailed me a loose doodle with a goggle-eyed hunchback robot that he’d rustled up. iGOR (intelligent Garage Operations Robot – lower-case ‘i’ because he’s not that intelligent) was the only character Brian had a strong, fixed look in his mind about from the start. His sketch had a really strong shape and proportions to it though, so I maintained that through the many versions of iGOR we went through before settling on this chap. I just mainly scoured the net for as much reference of old computer and videogame systems as I could, so you’ll see an Atari 2600 joystick here, an old ‘jelly’ iMac monitor there, a Commodore 64 Datasette recorder as his jaw, and a Sega Megadrive…somewhere. Brian prescribed that he should have a tablet as his chest, so we can do the odd visual gag every now and then with that. Pre-buzz seems to be that he’s most people’s favourite thing in the book, which matches how Brian and I feel about the little fool.
MONSTER MOTORS iGOR Model
Brian Lynch said he first noticed your work on Doctor Who and admired the energy and the facial expressions in your art. You really get to show that with Vic. He’s half mechanic, half mad scientist and maybe even be a little bit of a jerk.

Wow, did you read Brian’s original pitch document?! I’d agree with that appraisal of Vic, and I think those traits make him an appealing character to follow. He definitely goes on a bit of a journey through the forty-odd pages of the one-shot, but – as do we all, dear ICN – he still has a long way to go as a human being, which is where Brian and I plan to take him over the years. The jerkiness of him really affords me the chance to play with some comedic facial expressions and body language – he just gets it so wrong ALL. THE. TIME. I like the fact that he looks kind of wrecked too, that he’s in as much need of repair as the cars around him. He’s probably my favourite character ever to draw, and I hope I’m still breathing life into him for many years to come.
MONSTER MOTORS Vic Frankenstein Model
Just on the art, I must mention Len O’Grady’s colours. It must be great having him on the book.

It truly is. When you see the credits ‘LYNCH. ROCHE. O’GRADY’ on the cover, it looks like the most Irish comic team ever assembled. (The O’ Vengers. Hello…? This thing on?) I had worked with Len on a Megatron one-shot, and had been a fan of his from our Eclectic Micks (ask your parents, kids) days. Brian had Len in mind for colours on this before I was even on board. That’s not even one of my ‘jokes’. Len himself is a terrific artist, and very much in the cartoony mould too, so he knew precisely what was required for the world of Monster Motors.

We know you like your robots but this book really shows its horror influences. Are you a horror guy?

Not especially, actually. I was leading a sheltered childhood at the age when you’re supposed to watching films you shouldn’t. By the time I was ‘of age’, the desire to chow down on buckets of gore just wasn’t there, so there are HUGE holes in my horror knowledge. Brian’s a film guy in general (he’d want to be, having written the animated features ‘Hop’, ‘Puss In Boots’, and the upcoming, soon-to-be-on-all-your-lunchboxes Despicable Me spin-off, ‘MINIONS’) so any genre-specific nods came from him. But it’s all storytelling and staging, at the end of the day. I just try and convey the twists and turns in the most dramatic and effective way I can.

Given the robots and horror, people could be forgiven for thinking that this book had a serious or dark tone but it is actually a very funny book and it is definitely all ages. Did affect your art decisions in any way?

Absolutely. It was just very freeing. That can, in itself, be stifling – without pre-existing model sheets or style guides, you can become choked by TOO many options at times – but our shared love of 80s classic family movies and animation in general informed the look of Monster Motors. There was a spate of films in the mid-80s – Back To The Future, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Gremlins, etc – that practically all age-groups could watch and get something out of. Kids felt they were being elevated to grown-up movies because they weren’t being talked-down to, and there was an air of peril about them that they could just about manage. And adult viewers were encouraged to suspend their cynicism and enjoy sharp (mostly swear-free) writing that could transport them to the realms of the fantastical again. I like to say (because I’m a ponce) that Monster Motors is Joe Dante melged with Pixar. And I like saying that, because of the disdainful looks people give me when I do.

This issue feels like a feature length pilot with the hopes of more of the future. You really packed a lot of story and left it open for a lot of future story-lines. I assume that was the plan.

Yeah, we’re really hoping that this won’t join the realms of those all-time classic movies Flash Gordon, Masters of The Universe and Super Mario Bros, in that it promises further adventures that never materialise. This one-shot works as a standalone, but you definitely get the sense, in the last ten pages, especially, that we’ve just skimmed the surface of the Monster Motors world. I’ve seen Brian’s outlines for future stories, and they’re insane. And funny. Like, funny in a way comics often aren’t. In the same way that X-Men 2, The Dark Knight or Empire Strikes Back (are these all-time classics movies? I never really understand the definition) improve on their predecessors, by dint of having all the heavy-lifting done on the intros, Monster Motors is ready switch gears and take you on the ride of your life.

This one-shot is forty-plus pages of story, and swathes of backmatter, describing ‘sightings’ of the Monster Motors (in the form of sketches and design artwork) and character profiles, all for $5.99. It’s better value than if we had put this out as a two-issue event, AND the comic has a SPNE! It’s more like a mini-OGN, really. It feels like a summer animated feature, and we’re hoping folk will take a chance on something that’s pretty different in tone and presentation to most comics out there.
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What’s your convention schedule for the rest of the year? (in case people want their copy signed or heap praise upon you in person)

Currently I’m scheduled to appear at DICE in Dundrum, Dublin (27th & 28th September), London Film & Comic-Con, (October 18th & 19th) and Wales Comic Con (November 30th). There are some Transformers events too; I’m at Auto-Assembly in Birmingham ( August 10th -12th) and Roll Out Roll Call, Southampton (October 11th & 12th), with a possibility of doing Thought Bubble in Leeds, in November too, but it’s all schedule-permitting. There’s a lot of drawing – and writing – needs to be done between now and then. Praise-heaping is greatly encouraged, but not as much as sketch requests for iGOR and Vic Frankenstein.