Wook Jin Clark Henshins His Love Of Tokusatsu And Atlanta Into ‘Megagogo’ Vol. 001 [Interview+Preview]
This Wednesday Wook Jin Clark destroys much of downtown Atlanta with Megagogo Vol. 001, the debut chapter of his new ongoing graphic novel series from Oni Press. The destruction's a matter of love, though, and it's the kind you could only get from a native -- a native who also happens to love live action Japanese superhero shows. Clark's new story takes the conventions of his favorite tokusatsu and drops them into the city he grew up loving for a compelling original work that moves at the speed of cosmic-powered kicks. ComicsAlliance got ahold of Clark to see what went into launching the new series and to otherwise get to the heart of its mecha-minded action. You can read the full interview, plus a preview of Megagogo Vol. 001, after the jump.
ComicsAlliance: Tell me a little bit about how you got started working on Megagogo. What was going on in your life at the time and how did you take it from idea to an approved pitch at Oni?
Wook Jin Clark: I had finished up The Return of King Doug for Oni back in 2009 and was working at couple of jobs, as a lifeguard and a line cook at a breakfast place, and realized I wanted to do something of my own and hopefully be able to quit my jobs and just do comics full time. For the pitch, I already had a good relationship with Oni and wanted to see what they thought. Initially I was just gonna do it as a webcomic, but when I shopped the idea around, they agreed to help me and let me do what I wanted. It’s been really nice, and I still can’t believe they said yes in retrospect considering some of the things that unfold even in just the first volume.
CA: One of the fastest ways to explain what the book is about is to talk about its aesthetic and tonal inspirations from tokusatsu -- stuff like the Power Rangers and its Super Sentai source material -- but what I like about Megagogo is that it's a human story that doesn't rely on pop culture references or any of its (really fun) nods to some of its influences. How did you work ensure you were creating a wholly original work while still nodding to your influences?
WJC: I like super Sentai/Power Rangers a lot and they are a huge part of my childhood and resonated a lot with me into adulthood. I wanted to acknowledge that, but also make something that could possibly resonate with someone else the same way I was inspired by Super Sentai or Kamen Rider. I remember reading the Power Rangers comics that came out around the time it was initially popular in the '90s and thinking that they were okay, but kind of just straight adaptations of episodes. With Megagogo, I want to tell my own stories with some similarities, but really just be able to envision how I would do things given the same tools and rules of those same kind of alternate worlds. You could almost say it’s my own fan fiction of that show, while still trying to be original in design. Much like each Super Sentai/Kamen Rider series each year has a new separate storyline, I wanted to do the same. I want Megagogo to feel like it could take place in those same universes, but also function as a separate one. One that only takes place in the South too!
CA: Were there any ideas or concepts that you maybe started out with while brainstorming for Megagogo that you dropped completely? How does this final version compare to the "first draft" you had in your mind?
WJC: There are some ideas I have that I wanted to keep, but decided I’d wait and reincorporate them into a later volume. One that I threw out was the number of the team. Originally I wanted it to resemble the standard five-person Power Ranger type team, but then I decided to pull back to three. Part of that was because I wanted to be able to have room to focus on a smaller tighter group of people and really have space to develop their own personalities and their interactions with each other. Plus it gives me room to bring in possibly more members and grow the team!
CA: Megagogo has so many clean screen tones that I get the sense that you worked digitally or are otherwise very patient while inking. What's your usual drawing process like form start to finish?
WJC: Yes, I am working fully digital now. Some of Vol. 001 is done by hand, but a majority of the book is done in Manga Studio EX4. I like to have my outlines pretty tight before starting anything. Within the outlines, I have a solid breakdown of where and when scenes will take place and give myself a few pages extra for each section to have room to play with visuals when I get there. From the outlines, I script it and thumbnail it together. This is usually the most fun but also the most intense stage for me. After that it’s straight to inks. I’ll scan the thumbnails and start in right from there with finishes and tones.
CA: You're a member of Portland's Periscope Studio, which is one of the most recognizable studios in comics right now. Did working at Periscope shape your work on Megagogo at all?
WJC: Funny you should say that. I met Jeff Parker before even being a member back in 2009 I think at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. It was after King Doug was over and I was just kinda showing my stuff around and talking to other pros about being confused as to what to do next. Parker actually asked me what I loved, to which I responded Power Rangers. He essentially asked me if I wasn’t doing stories about things I loved, why wasn’t I or what was keeping me from doing them. The simple answer is nothing. So I went home and started really hashing out Megagogo from the ground up and have been since. It was nice to be able to keep that going once I joined Periscope and be able to work on it in a supportive working environment.
CA: You lived in Atlanta before relocating to Portland. Is there anything you miss about your former stomping grounds?
WJC: Haha there are some definite creature comforts that I miss! Chicken biscuits, sweet tea, good hashbrowns, and the heat and sunshine! I grew up my whole life in the South, so it’s taken a little getting used to out here in Portland. The Atlanta area and southern region in general holds a special place in my heart. There’s a ton of talent spread throughout Georgia in Atlanta, Athens and Savannah that I love visiting and catching up with folks. Also the south has Fluke in Athens, and Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC which are some of my favorite cons and try to do every year!
CA: At your Megagogo release party/signing this past weekend you had a Kamen Rider pencil case on your desk. Do you have a favorite Kamen Rider series?
WJC: The last one that I really fell in love with was Kamen Rider Fourze. It’s altogether a really positive show and has fun storylines. I liked OOO and Decade too, but Fourze is really the last one that did it for me. And the movies are always the best! There budget is way bigger so the special effects are nuts! I’d totally recommend Kamen Rider X Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen! It’s pretty much all Power Rangers vs. all Kamen Riders! SO GOOD!
CA: Alternately, what are some of your other favorite tokusatsu shows?
WJC: I have been starting to watch the new Ultraman Ginga show and so far it’s pretty sweet! Some of my other favorite shows are Shinkenger and Hurricanger from the Super Sentai franchise. I dunno, we talked about it briefly before, but for the most part, I really enjoy that almost all of those types of shows have an overly positive outlook of justice and helping others. I love watching them and escaping into the storylines. They have their down moments, but overall they make you want to do good things and be a better person. They aren’t really ever too depressing or overly dramatic with weird messages behind them, they just focus on staying positive no matter what magic or monster or weirdness is thrown their way.
CA: Megagogo is clearly marked "Volume 001" -- what can you tease about Volume 002?
WJC: Volume 002 has a lot more to do with Evan and his troubles in high school. Also how that and his extracurricular activities are butting heads with his home life. There’s also more backstory with what happened to the old team that broke up.
CA: You've been working on Adventure Time: The Flip Side and other projects lately. What else is in store from you in the near future?
WJC: I’m working on a couple of projects that are unannounced and I don’t think I can mention them yet, but they are gonna be fun and I’d say something to look forward to in the next couple of years!