The Creators Of ‘Trip Fantastic’ On ‘Baywatch Nights’ And Professional T-Shirt Design [NYCC 2012]
If you've been following ComicsAlliance for a while, you may already know that we're devout fans of Trip Fantastic, the lurid tale of a renegade stuntman out for revenge by Jason Baxter and Derek Charm. There's something about those neon colors and boat chases that just speaks to all of us. Last weekend's New York Comic-Con gave me the opportunity to hang out with Baxter and Charm to talk a little about their comic, Kickstarter and their influences, and a lot about their deep and abiding love of Thunder in Paradise and Baywatch Nights.ComicsAlliance: The first thing I want to talk about is that we are all passionate about one thing in particular, and that is the 1966 Batman TV show. You have cited that as a major influence on Trip Fantastic.
Jason Baxter: I think it's most evident in the one-off short story zine we did, loosely inspired by the kinds of... I don't want to say "dick measuring contests," so... oddly friendly competitions between Batman and his adversaries.
CA: There is a lot of that. In Batman's race for mayor against the Penguin, they are both very clean campaigns. He's not buying votes. There'll be episodes where they have to get into a horse race. I miss that, when there would be these weird non-crime related bouts against the villains.
JB: They're rivals more than enemies.
CA: What are the other inspirations?
Derek Charm: The '90s Superboy series, which we read after Trip Fantastic, but we found a lot that we had in common with it, tone-wise and color-wise. It's set in Hawaii, so it has that tropical vibe to it. He has the same haircut, the same style. Kind of the same supporting cast, but we realized that after.
JB: After we finished #2, before I wrote the third and fourth issues, I got really into this series called Slash Maraud. I just bought the entire run for Derek, it's an 80s series by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy that's really psychedellic and weird, so there's a lot of stuff from that that's going to go in.
CA: What draws you to those stories as opposed to the standard superhero comic? Obviously even just calling them "standard" is sort of condemning them already, but is there something in the story of Superboy in Hawaii with a hi-top fade that speaks to you on a level that other modern age books don't?
DC: The tropical setting is fun. It's a different kind of thing that you don't see often, so that makes it exciting, at least for me. Just take anything and put it on a beach.
JB: It becomes immediately better.
DC: And it becomes more lighthearted that way, too. It's not depressing, and there's a lot of that out there.
JB: Some people would see that Superboy '90s series and be like "that is so f**king lame," but I don't know. Everyone looks like that kid now, and I think it's hilarious that he's a little s**t. That's way more interesting to me than a dude in a black t-shirt and jeans who's on top of his s**t. A well-behaved young man living with two old people on a farm is less exciting to me than someone who's hanging out with models on a tropical island.
DC: And Dubbilex.
JB: And a crazy telepath. Just weird, forgotten, overlooked or underrated series are more interesting to me than something that's shooting straight down the middle.
CA: What are some other books that you consider to be underrated? Is there anything you love that you had to hunt for? I used to work in a comic book store and all we'd do all day is go through the back issues and pull out stuff that looked weird or interesting and read them, but you guys have jobs.
JB: I used to work at a comic book store, but I found Slash Maraud as a set at my LCS, and it looked really weird. All the covers have a border that's either zebra or leopard patterned in neon, so I was like "Yeah, this looks great!" The font is that great paintbrush badass Baywatch font, and the cover to the first issue is a dude with a machine gun on a motorcycle with aviators. I was like "This is going to be great." And then I found out later that it's kind of hard to find, and they sell it through Picturebox, which is sort of a hipstery comics imprint website that sells back issues, so I thought this must be a cult book.
DC: For me, the '90s Legionnaires series, like the first twelve issues. I read the first issue and they're all a**holes in it, which is kind of the vibe of our comic too, so I found all of those. I like accidentally finding things, getting the vibe of it, and then getting into it. It's usually things you haven't heard of before or that got lost somehow. We only found Baywatch Nights by looking up Hulk Hogan and finding out about Thunder in Paradise, and then finding other crappy shows set on beaches.
CA: Not to hijack this, but we've talked about comics enough, right? Let's talk about Thunder in Paradise, the show in which Hulk Hogan and Jack Lemmon's son have a super-boat.
JB: Wait, Bru is Jack Lemmon's son?!
JB: Now I understand the resemblance.
DC: They have a super-boat that is enormous on the inside, but boat-sized on the outside.
CA: Did you watch the show, or did you watch the movies?
DC: We've only seen the movies. It's really hard to find the show, we tried through every illegal means we could.
CA: Around 1997, you would get two hours of Monday Nitro and then immediately after, you'd get an episode of Thunder in Paradise.
JB: That is beautiful.
CA: What's the best thing you saw in it?
JB: My favorite was --
DC: I think it's going to be the same one.
JB: Hulk Hogan's daughter is going to go to summer school, and she's talking about it, and he says "are you excited about going to school?" and she goes "Well... I'm nervous and I'm excited." And then there's this amazing moment where Hulk Hogan is thinking through it out loud. He's like "You're nervous... because you don't know anyone there... but you're excited because it's a new experience!"
DC: We had to rewind it because we could not believe it actually happened. Or that weird fight that him and Bru get in on the docks.
JB: Oh, that's just unbelievable.
DC: They get in this really serious, angry fight with each other and push each other into the water, then they hug it out and it's all over.
JB: I think Bru kicks Hulk in the nuts in mid-air. It's amazing. And it's at dusk, it's beautiful.
CA: I like how devoted they are to boat crimes. They did three movies and two seasons of a TV show with a super-boat.
JB: Of crimes that had to be accessible by boat!
CA: And that led you to Baywatch Nights.
DC: The first season was like a real crime show, but in the second season they were trying to be like X-Files, so there are suddenly aliens on the beach, and ghosts on the beach.
DC: And mummies! There was one written by Gerry Conway that we called him out about on Twitter, and he was like "I don't remember writing that, but apparently I did."
CA: Was it like a Scooby-Doo situation where Mitch Buchanan was debunking these things?
DC: No. Well, sometimes he was a skeptic and sometimes he believed it and everyone else was a skeptic. It was really inconsistent. We were talking about this on the way here. He's barely a character, but yeah: Real mummies that tried to open a portal to space and stuff.
JB: And Mitch getting possessed. We could give you a list of where to start.
DC: An alien who wants to surf and control the lightning is one of the episodes. It's very good.
JB: Low-budge attempts at cosmic hijinx.
DC: And then David Hasselhoff's Shatneresque attempts at overacting.
JB: Dude just wants his cappuccino, constantly. "I just wanted my cappuccino and then this f**king wind monster showed up..."
DC: There's a wind monster!
CA: Can we talk about your day job, Derek?
DC: Sure. I design t-shirts for Marvel, Nickelodeon and WWE, for boys ages 8 to 20.
CA: That's weird, because I know I have some of those shirts and I am not 8 to 20.
DC: Some of them are pretty cool! I'd wear them.
CA: Is that something where you work all day doing these very marketable versions of other people's products and IPs, and then at night you go home and you make Trip Fantastic, which, no offense guys --
JB: It is not marketable.
CA: It's an extremely non-commercial comic about a stuntman who does mountains of cocaine and uses a small child as a human shield.
DC: A lot of that's true. We're not allowed to use pink at all in our designs, so that's why Trip Fantastic is slathered in neon pink. It's all the things I'm not allowed to do, but there are also things I learned making glitzy WWE-style letters.
JB: And then using them to describe an erection.
DC: Right: Using them for things I'm not allowed to do.
CA: On the subject of the book not being marketable, how'd the Kickstarter end up doing?
JB: Good! We met our goal with a little bit to spare.
DC: Yeah, but Amazon took it, so we ended up making exactly what we needed to get everything printed up and do the rewards.
JB: They turned out really nice.
CA: Did that come from an established audience that you got from doing Trip on the web, or people spreading the word about it, or just new fans from Kickstarter?
DC: Some people did find it through Kickstarter. My art director actually didn't know we were doing a Kickstarter, and found it on the site, donated to it, and then put it all together, so that was cool. A lot of it came from that, a lot of it came from promotional stuff that we did, like through ComicsAlliance, and constantly reminding people on Twitter.
JB: To the point of irritation.
DC: To the point where you hate yourself.
JB: To the point where I was promising to write love songs for people that have yet to be written or recorded.
DC: Now you have to do it. It's on record.
JB: If you live in Seattle, LA, hopefully San Francisco, Austin, New York or Chicago...
DC: You can go to a comic shop and buy Trip Fantastic. We're working on distributing what we have, and we're sending out all the rewards this week.
JB: And we'll probably sell the rest online.