Derek Charm On IDW’s ‘Powerpuff Girls Super Smash-Up,’ The New Cartoon Network Team-Up Title [Interview]
With New York Comic-Con coming up this weekend, many publishers are saving up their big announcements for the Javits Center. IDW Publishing, however, has decided to get the jump on everyone by releasing their first big announcement a few days early, and it's one that we're definitely looking forward to. Following on the success of Super Secret Crisis War, the Cartoon Network crossover event, IDW has announced Powerpuff Girls Super Smash-Up, a new ongoing series that will team Townsville's favorite heroines up with Cartoon Network shows like Dexter's Laboratory, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Johnny Bravo and more -- and the series will be written and drawn by Derek Charm.
To find out more about the series, scheduled to kick off this January, we spoke to Charm about more about the premise of the series, which characters we can look forward to, and whether the Talking Dog will finally get his starring role.
ComicsAlliance: I'm going to go ahead and guess that the idea of a Powerpuff Girls team-up book came about while you were working on Super Secret Crisis War.
Derek Charm: Definitely. They actually asked while I was doing it if I had a pitch for a PPG team-up book, and my mind immediately went to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and I was like "Yeah, I can do that!" Just the way that they do team-ups. Anything can happen, anyone can jump in at any time, that kind of craziness was what inspired me for this one.
CA: Super Secret Crisis War had the Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Laboratory, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends and Ed, Edd and Eddy. The biggest question that I had about Super Smash-Up was whether it was just going to be those books, or whether you were going to be going deeper into the Cartoon Network catalogue.
DC: I don't want to give everything away, but the list that they gave me of characters that I have access to was much bigger than I expected. We're finally doing Courage the Cowardly Dog, because everyone's been asking for that during Crisis War. He shows up in the second issue. It's going to be an issue per team-up.
There's an overarching storyline that allows for all the team-ups to happen. The book is actually split into two stories, so there's an A story by me, which is the main story with the Powerpuff Girls and their team-up, and then a shorter backup that's unrelated, like a Foster's Home adventure. It's basically a rescue mission, with the Girls going through different universes going after... something. I don't want to give too much away.
CA: [Laughs] I probably should've started by asking what you can actually tell me about the book.
DC: It's not out until January, so I don't know what I can say yet!
CA: Let's talk about the Powerpuff Girls, then. You did a two-issue story in the main PPG series and you've been working on Super Secret Crisis War. Did you find when you were doing their stories that you were wish it was it a mate you could get other characters involved? Did you feel like you had a good enough handle on the Girls themselves that you were comfortable bringing in other elements to open things up?
DC: Yeah, I really love doing things in the world of The Powerpuff Girls, and they're not really in it too much in Super Secret Crisis War, so we're spending a bunch of time in Townsville in this series. It starts in Townsville every time, and I'm trying to include as many Powerpuff villains as I can, too. But yeah, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on them, but it's cool to be able to get back into a PPG-focused story, instead of having them floating around in a big group in Crisis War.
CA: How does the team-up affect the dynamic of the characters? The Powerpuff Girls have these really complimentary archetypes, with Bubbles as the bright, happy and occasionally manic one, Buttercup as the tough one, and Blossom as the know-it-all leader. If you throw in someone else, like Dexter or Courage, do they start playing off each other differently?
DC: That's the inspiration that I was taking from Brave and the Bold, where all the characters are sort of very pure, iconic versions of themselves. I think it helps to have those different personalities, because you know them, you know who they are, and you can follow them into their new adventures a little easier and see where they're coming from when they meet new people.
CA: The Powerpuff Girls are also really defined as superheroes. There aren't really any other superhero-type characters -- we saw that in Super Secret Crisis War. There are adventure heroes like Samurai Jack and Dexter's Lab had a lot of fun superheroic elements to it on occasion, but the PPG are a pure superhero concept. So when you introduce something like, say, Ed, Edd and Eddy, something as far from superheroics as you can get, have you noticed any clashing of the genres?
DC: Not really. Okay, I'm just going to tell you part of the story.
DC: So the basic storyline of this is that Deedee, Dexter's sister, gets mutated into a horrible monster and ends up crashing into one of his machines and transporting herself to different universe. The whole idea of the series is that the Powerpuff Girls and Dexter are trying to get Deedee back before she destroys whatever world she's in, so it adds a superhero element to these other stories, where there's a threat that the girls have to come in and deal with, and there's individual adventures along the way within these worlds. The Girls did stuff that wasn't superhero focused, too. When I was watching for research, there'd be a lot of episodes about doing their hair or school days. They have real-life experiences too.
CA: A lot of action goes down at Pokey Oaks Kindergarten.
CA: So is Dexter a permanent part of the cast?
DC: It's him and Professor Utonium. They hit it off right away.
CA: They both have those angular faces.
DC: They love science. They wear labcoats. They're the ones back at the home base sending the Girls to various universes to solve this problem, as they're tracking Deedee from Townsville.
CA: So you have two different kinds of crossover going on at the same time, then: Dexter and the Powerpuff Girls at home, and then the Powerpuff Girls going to all the other universes.
DC: Without giving away the end of Super Secret Crisis War, they stay in contact. Dexter and the Powerpuff Girls know each other from that, so they're friends. They have interdimensional email.
CA: So there's an interdimensional Deedee monster running around and bothering... Who's someone who makes it in?
DC: Like, Cow and Chicken. I'm obsessed with the red guy from that show, so I'm really excited to draw that issue. But yeah, it's the first arc, so it goes on for a few issues. That's a good way to get everyone involved in the first storyline, but after that, we'll see.
CA: You mentioned bringing in PPG villains, and I have to imagine that, as a creator, that's way too difficult to resist.
DC: Oh, yeah. I'm using them as often as possible, and I'm planning on doing something about what's going on in Townsville while the girls are off doing all this dimension-hopping. We definitely come back to them.
CA: Have you ever done an ongoing before?
DC: No, and this is my first time writing and drawing myself, too. It's slightly shorter, too, because it's only 16 out of 20 pages.
CA: What's that been like?
DC: It's great! I love it. There's complete freedom, and Cartoon Network is totally behind everything. They're totally into it, it's fun. I haven't been told no for too much, but I haven't sent in the Cow and Chicken issue, either. So we'll see. I just write the things I want to draw.
CA: I know every writer-artist has their own process. There's that story about Kirby having those six-panel pages because he'd start at the upper-left and just finish at the bottom-right.
DC: Yeah, and just see what happened.
CA: As someone who hasn't done a lot of writing before, did you try to sit down and break it into a script? Did you do thumbnails as you were writing?
DC: Yeah.It's kind of changing all the time. When I did the two Powerpuff issues, I wrote in thumbnails, so I would just go off of each and add dialogue as it came up. But then after looking at all of Louise Simonson's scripts for Crisis War, I got comfortable with how you'd write a comic book script. Now I'm writing it all out, because Cartoon Network has to approve it before you start drawing.
CA: If you're going to learn from somebody, a pretty amazing 30- year career is a good way to start figuring out how to do it.
DC: Yeah, I know. Exactly. It's going to be very much a comedy book. That's what they asked me to do, playing up the weird humor in all of those shows, and see how they'd bounce off each other rather than being all angsty and action-y, which it could be depending on who was the guest star.
CA: Trip Fantastic's very funny, and your Powerpuff Girls story was very funny, so did that come naturally? Writing comedy's hard work.
DC: I think these characters are so defined that it wasn't a struggle at all. It came out so quickly and easily that I was laughing at myself. I think that they're solid characters, and the humor in those worlds is pretty hard to mess up.
CA: Artistically, since it's a big crossover book between all these animated shows that have their own distinct looks, is there a specific look for this book, or are you trying to balance having to draw the Powerpuff Girls standing next to Courage and hoping it doesn't look too weird?
DC: I actually just finished the Courage cover, but I don't know. It's all filtered through me, so I feel like that'll give it some unity. One of the ideas of the book is that each universe can have different properties to it, and Deedee changes her form to match whatever universe she's in, the style of that universe. So we're acknowledging it. I don't think it's too jarring -- Crisis War had Ben 10 standing next to the Powerpuff Girls and that wasn't too weird.
CA: I love the idea of Deedee being this unknowable horror.
DC: That's exactly what happens! Well, it's more of a rampage.
CA: So is there pressure to stay on model?
DC: A little, there is. They want it to look as close as possible to the shows, but stuff like line weight can make a difference to make it feel right. PPG has very thick lines, and that's a subtle thing you can do, a small thing to keep them looking like who they are. I think it's just like thinking about trying to see what the character designers were trying to do, and doing your best to think like that.
CA: One last question, and I want you to prepare yourself. You don't have to say yes or no, I just need to say it.
CA: Courage and the Talking Dog: Buddy Cop Comedy.
DC: I would say... yes. The Talking Dog is definitely in this series, with a whole world of talking animals. But yeah: I will put that Talking Dog in anything.
Powerpuff Girls Super Smash-Up launches in January from IDW Publishing.