Action Lab Comics has struck a balance between cute superhero stories like Molly Danger and more risque fare for a while now, and its newest release walks the fine line between the two like a cat on a wire. From the creative team of writers and real life married couple Nick Marino and Rosie Knight, and artist Daniel Arruda Massa, Cougar And Cub is about a superhero duo who find that the excitement and adrenaline of delivering justice to villains leads them closer than they might ever have expected.

Too close, many would say. And that, uh, "closeness" sets the pair up for some real trouble down the line. Ahead of the launch of issue #1 of the series next month, the creative team spoke to ComicsAlliance about what sparked the series, and what readers should expect from the launch. They also provided us with some exclusive preview pages of issue #2, out in February!

Read on, fearless companions, for there are sexy superhero relations to be discussed!

ComicsAlliance: Over the years we’ve seen several takes on the superhero-sidekick dynamic --- but Cougar And Cub has got a pretty unexpected new one. What can readers expect from this, uh, dynamic duo, in this five-issue miniseries?

Daniel Arruda Massa: Some punching, some drama, and of course some dramatic punching.

Nick Marino: We've got a whole lot of that good stuff from start to finish.

The Delicious Duo (as I like to call them) begin with a seamless partnership, but soon end up in an incredibly strained working situation because of their questionable choice to get it on. Things become even tougher when Cougar's rogues find out what happened and decide to exploit the circumstance to their advantage.

But that's just in our lead story! Rosie gets to explore a whole range of Cougar And Cub dynamics in her incredible backup stories.

Rosie Knight: I feel like the guys summed up the main story pretty well. But as for my backups --- you can expect a bunch of time travelling sequential storytelling action, incredible art by Daniel, a bunch of super nerdy comics history riffs, and a lot of strong badass women kissing and kicking butts.  

CA: Let’s start with Cougar, then, the experienced hero who is acting as mentor to Cub. What kind of a hero is she? What motivates and drives her?

DAM: I think she has a pretty simplistic view of the world. She’s the hero, so whatever she says or does must be right. I think she believes she embodies justice, so her will is law… at any cost.

But I think Nick and Rosie might have a less cynical view on her.

RK: I think Cougar is always trying to do her best. She wants to help people, and does care about Cub, but according to our timeline she's been being super for like seventy years, so she's definitely a little disillusioned at this point.

NM: Minerva Manx is fairly wrapped up in her own ego, whether that means exacting her own brand of "justice" on Megaville's residents regardless of the legality or making the hedonistic decision to sleep with her sidekick. But at the end of the day, more than anything else, she just enjoys dressing up in colorful tights and punching things.



CA: And then we have Cub. How does he react to Cougar? What does she mean to him as the series kicks off?

NM: I write Billy Bobtail like an ambitious intern. He desperately wants to be his own superhero, but first he needs to learn under a mentor. Cub looks up to Cougar, who's strong and experienced. Still, he's very wrapped up in being a teenager, from popularity squabbles to burgeoning hormones to self-conscious anxiety.

RK: In the main story, Cub is just super stoked to be a sidekick, it's his life's work, and he thinks Cougar is a seriously great hero to be helping.

But Billy is just the most recent Cub...

In the backups, I actually get to explore numerous Cubs and each of their relationships with Cougar. I introduce four old Cubs who have different reasons and motivations for teaming up with Minerva, from the malicious to the meaningful.

DAM: This dude has been dreaming of being a sidekick for as long as he can remember. So he’s made it in life as far as he’s considered.

CA: What kind of tone can we expect from the series? There’s an early lean towards comedy, but there’s a possibly dark shift towards the end.

NM: The comedy sticks around for the whole series and tends to dominate the tone, but things gets stranger and more twisted as everything progresses. It's adventurous and exciting, but definitely not light-hearted!

RK: Yeah, the book definitely deals with the darker elements of the superhero game, but to be honest I can't help but add darkness to these stories! They're about people dressing up to go and beat up other people... that's some dark biz.

CA: The twist of the first issue is interesting for a number of reasons, but also because it shatters the illusion of safety that exists in superhero comics. With the safety rope cut, how does that change your approach to the familiar tropes of the superhero story?

NM: It's okay to spoil the twist, Steve... they have sexy relations and this one night stand changes everything about their partnership.

I sought to find a relatable core to the scenario. I treat Cougar and Cub's hook-up as if any other coworkers had sex. Is it awkward when they show up to work the next day? Do they feel ashamed? Does one of them want to quit? Does one of them want to hide from the situation? And so on.

When the rogues find out, it's like having a vindictive supervisor discover that their employees had sex. So these (superpowered and incredibly evil) "supervisors" enjoy toying with our heroes, provoking them when they're at their lowest point.

And since this story is set in Megaville, a city full of exaggerated characters and extreme action, the physical and emotional fallout just happens on a larger scale.

DAM: By shifting the context we get to create a new view on certain tropes, if that makes any sense.

RK: For me, having the rogues gallery discover their secret identities is a really fun play on the whole nature of not great superhero disguises. As for the relationship between Cougar and Cub, I think it's something that's been hinted at in so many books that it felt pretty exciting to explicitly cross that line. It's definitely something I explore more in the backups too.




CA: Rosie, as mentioned, you’re writing back up stories for the book, also drawn by Daniel. What kinds of stories are you going to be exploring there?

RK: I got to do something super fun with the backups, as when I started talking to Daniel and asking what sort of stuff he wanted to draw, we came up with the idea of setting each backup in a different era of comics. So the five issues follow Cougar as she kicks butt and takes names in a Golden Age story, a '60s Romance comic, an Underground-inspired zine, a Ninja Turtles style black and white romp, and a '90s Indie comics riff.

Daniel's take on each of the varying styles is incredible, as he's just the raddest artist, and it's been super fun to see them all come together. Plus because it's written by me there's lots of girls kissing each other and beating up bad guys!

CA: Nick --- you and Daniel have worked together before on another Action Lab series whose name I don’t think I’m allowed to say on ComicsAlliance...

NM: We can call the previous series Holy Fudge if you'd like. Or Holy #$%&. Or Holy Cluck. Oh, and don't forget about the sequel, Holy Effed!

CA: ...but what do you feel Daniel brings specifically to Cougar And Cub, as artist?

NM: Daniel and I accidentally fell into a cohesive collaboration back in 2013 and we've been chugging along ever since. In those first couple of stories, he brought along a great sense of satire regarding the characters and their actions, managing to mix all of that with a lot of humanity too.

He continues to bring that to Cougar and Cub, but he's also elevating his visual language in the process. From his hand-drawn SFX to his outrageous fight scenes to his chameleon-esque ability to jump from one era of comics to another, Daniel brings a whole lot to this comic book.

CA: And Daniel, how do you find working with Nick and Rosie on the series? What’s the collaborative process been like for you?

DAM: A pain in the butt, man! These dudes are just like ughhhh.

Nick and I have worked on two miniseries before, and we’ve become good friends in the process, so working with him is just great. For Cougar And Cub, we both had certain ideas that we brought to the table and combined, so it’s truly collaborative. Working with Nick is almost a seamless process now.

Working with Rosie has also been great. Nick and I knew we wanted to have backups for every issue and we also knew we somehow wanted to mix things up. I had heard Rosie was a great writer, so I proposed we get her involved. I think she did an amazing job! I’m not sure she’d written any comedy before, but she didn’t only write in a tone that matches ours but she also brought her own voice to it in such a way that it’s hard to imagine how CnC could have ever existed without her.



CA: What was your approach in designing the characters? What did you want to emphasize about them, and bring to the page?

DAM: I wanted the reader to feel as if they had been reading this comic for years. So for me it was important to give them a classic look that feels familiar yet distinctive.

For Cougar it seemed important to me to make her look assertive and classy. Her color palette was very important to me. The yellow kind of feels like the color of an actual cougar and I think her palette makes her look unique. Also, I just dig the big pointy masks.

Cub was a lot harder to nail down. I tried out many different things, but at the end the most important thing was that I wanted the reader to immediately see that he’s a sidekick.

CA: How’ve you all found working with Action Lab as a whole? What do you think they bring to the table as a publisher?

NM: To be honest, I've found it to be a tricky partnership with Action Lab this time around! While they're wonderfully hands off with the interiors, our creative team has had a little trouble seeing eye to eye with the publishing team in terms of the book's presentation.

Some of what we've experienced are normal minor disagreements between comics publishers and creators. But I also think that Cougar and Cub has been a tough fit for Action Lab, a company that specializes in kid-friendly adventure on one end and often risque offensiveness on the other end. Our book doesn't really fit into what retailers may expect from the publisher in that regard, so it's been difficult for us at times.

DAM: I think Action Lab is willing to take risks other publishers are not willing to take, though --- and that’s pretty cool.

RK: This has been my first experience working with a publisher, as I've previously just made my own comics/zines and self-published. It's been an interesting experience. In some ways it's been exactly as I expected being that I've come up against a lot of the problems I pretty much knew I'd experience as a queer disabled woman making comics, and in others it's been a learning curve of how to change and adapt your expectations without compromising what you believe in or want to say.

NM: Ultimately, we all want people to read this fun story we've hustled so hard to create. Hopefully we can find the best way possible to deliver that with Action Lab. Our first issue will be in shops in January. Beyond that, everything else is up in the air right now!


Cougar And Cub #1 will be published this January.