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vol 6 - issue 09 (may 2004) :: interviews
MIKE ALLRED
Interview by D.J. Kirkbride

COMIC WRITER AND ARTIST/FILMMAKER/MUSICIAN/FAMILY MAN MIKE ALLRED TALKS TO OUR OWN RESIDENT FANBOY, D.J. KIRKBRIDE, ABOUT COMICS, THE STATE OF THE COMIC INDUSTRY, AND THE MOVIE BUSINESS IN THIS MAMMOTH INTERVIEW. ENOUGH HULLABALOO... LET'S GET ON WITH IT!

D.J.: I have a pretty generic question to start off with, but if youíre tired of answering it you can make something up.

Mike: (laughs) Okay.

D.J.: How did you break into comics?

M: I was a TV reporter for the Air Force. I donít know if youíve heard of A.F.R.T.S. (Armed Forces Radio & Television Services) or A.F.N. (Armed Forces Network). So, I was in the Air Force, but I had always aspired to be a filmmaker, a musician, or an artist. I wrote a screenplay, and was in the process of storyboarding it; not being a professional artist, but having the skill to be confident enough to storyboard my screenplay. At that time, I also made friends with a guy named Charlie Custis, who was a huge comic book fan. Now, growing up, comic books were always around, and largely taught me how to draw, or gave me enough interest in art that I took art classes in school. Comics also taught me how to read. So they were always there, but I never really was a fanatical collector, and I was never really exposed to one until I met Charlie. He was giving me all this stuff that was valuable and critically acclaimed, like Frank Millerís The Dark Knight Returns, Maus, Watchmen, Mr. X-- that was my first exposure to the Hernandez Brothers, who are one of my greatest inspirations and artistic influences. So, anyway, Charlie suggested I take my screenplay and draw it out like a comic book. So I crash coursed it. I really immersed myself in the comic medium, even going back to stuff my brother exposed me to when I was kid. I found out who my favorite artists were. I always knew what art I loved, but I never knew who the people were making it. (laughs)

D.J.: (laughs) Right.

M: I just had this enormous education, and started drawing out my screenplay. It ended up at 104 pages, and I sent the first 24 pages to publishers. It got picked up by this small company called Slave Labor Graphics. I look back on it now, and I have to say itís pretty amateurish. (laughs) I think the reason it got published was because it was completely done. They didnít have to wait for it to get finished. It was all there.

D.J.: So, you lettered it and everything?

M: Very crudely. I inked it with a Rapidograph. Theyíre just stiff. They donít have the lushness or variety of line that a brush can have. Anyway, while waiting for it to be published, I kept drawing. We were living in Europe at the time, where I was a TV reporter for the Air Force. Around the same time I met Charlie Custis, I met Steve Seagle, whoíd just had a comic published called Kafka. Heís from Colorado Springs, where I was when I was teaching film and television at the Air Force Academy. It was exciting to meet somebody whoíd actually had something published. When I was living in Europe, he contacted me, telling me that he had hooked us up for a 12 issue series for a company called Comico, which published Grendel, Mage, and... Iím blanking.

D.J.: Those are the only two that popped in my head.

M: Well, Jonny Quest-- they had a lot of licensed projects. They were one of the top five publishers at the time. And Steve had another book, The Amazon, with an artist named Tim Sale. I think it was one of Timís first published works, too. So, this was pretty exciting. I had a whole yearís worth of working in comic books in front of me. I was able to get an early out from the Air Force, and we moved back to where I spent the first 14 years of my life, Oregon. Itís where I always wanted to end up. I began working full-time as a cartoonist. This was in January of 1990. Shortly after that, Comico went Chapter 11. (laughs)

D.J.: (laughs) I was wondering what happened to that comic you were working on.

M: Yeah. It was called Jaguar Stories, and all the artwork is lost. I donít have anything from it.

D.J.: Oh, no!

M: I think I was penciling the cover for the sixth issue when it went down in flames. Our editor was Shelly Bond, who now works for Vertigo. This was 1990. Now, 14 years later, the three of us did a project together called Vertical. That came out this past December. Shellyís husband, Phillip Bond, inked, Laura [Mikeís wife] and I colored it. So, if Steveís significant other had been involved in the project, it wouldíve been three couples working on this. (laughs)

D.J.: (laughs)

M: But, at least Shelly, Steve, and I were able to finally complete a project together, because weíd talked about it for over a decade. But when Chapter 11 put a stop to Jaguar Stories it threw me into a panic, because, I donít know how much you know about the Air Force, but they pay for your housing, and they give you a clothing allowance. They babysit you, and really take care of you.

D.J.: Yeah. My brother is in the Air Force.

M: So, youíd know. All of a sudden I was out there, and had committed to this career I thought I had at least a year to get some foundation under me. But then it was gone. So I just started working like crazy. I just drew and drew, knowing that itís what I would do full-time were I given the opportunity. There [Air Force], at least, I wouldíve been paid to be doing it, but we were living cheaply enough where I had enough money to keep us going for a while. Fortunately, soon after that, I did a one-shot for Marvel Epic--

D.J.: The Everyman?

M: Yeah. And I ran into Kevin Eastman, co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I heard his company was looking for projects, and I had one. It was Madman. He put a lot of promotion into the work, and weíve never really had to worry since then. So, thatís how it all began.

D.J.: Thatís cool. Actually, the first time I remember hearing of you was in the comic magazine Comic Scene.

M: Yeah.

D.J.: I think I saw it at a convenience store. I forget who was on the cover, but I donít think Iíd seen a magazine about comics before--

M: I think Justice League was on the cover.

D.J.: That couldíve been Justice League, right after the Keith Giffen Justice League. I might still have it in my closet, actually.

M: (laughs)

D.J.: But I remember reading about Madman: The Oddity Odyssey. It sounded really cool, but I didnít have any comic shops around at the time. Iíd always buy my comics at the drug stores, on the spinner racks.

M: Right.

D.J.: So, the first comic I actually bought of yours was Madman Comics from Dark Horse back it '94. Iím looking at the cover right now. Wow. Ten years ago!

M: April of '94, I think is when that came out.

D.J.: Yeah. I was buying lots of comics at the time. I was in high school, and had plenty of disposable income.

M: Right.

D.J.: It took me awhile to actually read it. But when I finally did, it blew me away. I loved the art, the characters, and the innocence of Madman and Joe [Madmanís girlfriend]. It was really different from anything I was reading at the time, like a lot of the X-Men stuff.

M: Sure.

D.J.: And I was just wondering where that poppy Madman universe came from. Like, how you first thought of Frank Einstein [Madmanís real name] and the gang.

M: I first came up with Frank Einstein when we were living in Germany. I was building my own stable of characters as I was figuring out what I loved about comic books. And I put him in this experiment of a comic book series in Grafik Muzik [one of Allredís early comic series] called "Ghoulash". I had these G-Men who escaped from Hell, and there were vampires and all kinds of stuff going on. Frank was my favorite character. And I was just absorbing everything! Discovering Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Cole, and, of course, Jack Kirby and Will Eisner-- just figuring out what I wanted to do. The obvious thing, as far as wanting stability and success, were superhero comics, which have always been the mainstay in comics. So I thought, "Iím just gonna throw a costume on Frank."

D.J.: (laughs)

M: I didnít even reveal until the third issue of what became The Oddity Odyssey collection that Madman was Frank. So, the few people who followed my work didnít even know that until the very end. They were like, "Hey! I know who this guy is!"

Both: (laugh)

M: So, there was already a history to him in the beginning. Iíve always enjoyed playing with things like that. Building on things, layer after layer, until they get more depth and, hopefully, reader identity, so people really care about the characters. When theyíre having fun, the readers are having fun. When theyíre sad, the reader is sad. When they feel pain, the reader feels that pain. The characters mean that much to me. And Frank was the character I identified with the most, and, because of that, Iíve used him as a doppelganger in many ways. I feel and speak and communicate through him. Have fun through him. Of all the characters Iíve created, and any creator, whether youíre an author or artist, thereís always a piece of you in everything you create. Having said that, Frank Einstein is the character I identify with the most. I tend to put more and more of myself into him.

D.J.: Iíve noticed he looks a little bit like you. In the flashbacks and stuff, as Zane.

M: Right. I recently revealed his real identity. And "Zane" was a nickname I had in school. Thatís little known. And people who know the music Iím a fan of, that would obviously relate to Pete Townshend of The Who. Thatís where I pulled those names from.

D.J.: Yeah, Madman, I love the character. And that Madman special came out not too long ago.

M: Right.

D.J.: It was great to see Madman back in comics again. I know youíre doing a lot of work for Marvel right now, and a lot of one-shots. It seems as if youíre really prolific this year.

M: I try.

D.J.: I read, I think back when X-Force [Mike's Marvel comic with writer Peter Milligan, now called X-Statix] came out, about Madman Atomic Comics. Is that an idea that would meld Madman and The Atomics [Allred's self-published comic] as one series?

M: Exactly. When we first began self-publishing, I still had a commitment with Dark Horse Comics, with Madman. Otherwise, we wouldíve immediately started self-publishing with Madman, but I had to fulfill my end of the bargain, and I still owed them four more issues.

D.J.: And that was the G-Men From Hell miniseries?

M: It was the last four issues of Madman, which was the "G-Men From Hell" story arc. It was really more their story, because, when I was doing Grafik Muzik, they were part of that "Ghoulash" experiment I was telling you about, and I never concluded it. It just wasnít successful enough to continue, and I just thought this was the perfect opportunity to start that over and finish it. Also, Christopher Coppola was making a movie of them, even though there was never a conclusion to the comic! (laughs) So, thatís what we did. We inserted Madman into the G-Men story, and I was able to tell my version of the end of their story.

D.J.: Itís a little different from the movie. Robert Goulet as the devil, though... that was great casting right there. Just hilarious.

M: Iím really happy with that movie. They made it for less than four million dollars. They squeezed every buck. (laughs)

D.J.: Yeah. Thatís a really low budget for a flick that has all those characters and effects.

M: Them squeezing out of the faucet into the bathtub was my favorite effect.

Both: (laugh)

M: It was pretty cool! I was really happy with that. They seemed to really care what my opinion was, too. Iíve always wanted to appeal to an all-age audience with my work. Every once in a while, thereís something edgy and more adult-oriented, but I prefer the stuff I loved when I was a kid. Especially the early Marvel stuff that college kids were really digging, but little kids, like myself, loved, too, because of the visual excitement. Iíve always wanted to do stuff that was sophisticated, but that kids could really love, too. And I didnít write the G-Men From Hell movie script. They just took what Iíd done, and bounced off from there. But it was very much an R-rated film. There was a lot of harsh language in it, and they actually asked my opinion of the film when they edited it together. I said, "Iím really impressed. This is looking really great. The casting is fantastic. I just wish there wasnít so much swearing." And the next week the producers called the actors back in, and they re-looped it.

D.J.: No way!

M: When you watch it, you can tell. Especially Robert Goulet. Thereís this one scene where heís just muttering gibberish; it doesnít make any sense what heís saying. They actually did that for me. It meant a lot that they cared that much to make that change for me.

D.J.: Thatís terrific; to respect the creator that much.

M: I almost didnít even say anything.

D.J.: Itís almost unheard of.

M: But, you know, my mom, for instance, will not, absolutely will not see an R-rated movie. And here I was, able to send her a DVD.

D.J.: Of course you want your mom to see the movie! So that worked out.

M: Yeah. And I actually forgot your initial question! Oh, yeah! You were asking about Madman Atomic Comics!

D.J.: Oh, yeah! I forgot, too.

M: So, I was finishing my Madman commitment at Dark Horse, and we were hungry to self-publish, so I spun off these mutant beatniks [from Madman Comics] into a superhero team called The Atomics. And it was successful. So now, wanting to get back to that again, Madman is our flagship, but also The Atomics have gained some notoriety. So the easiest way to solve that problem is to just simply say it's a Madman comic. Madman is in big letters, with The Atomics underneath. But for people whoíve gained affection for The Atomics, itís obvious that The Atomics will very much be a part of the new ongoing series.

D.J.: And it rhymes, too. Catchy.

M: Yeah. (laughs) I know.

D.J.: Is that on the horizon any time soon?

M: It is, actually.

D.J.: Really!

M: Weíre wrapping up X-Statix. We want to go out with a bang, and I donít know whatís ever going to be bigger than The Avengers arc, which starts this month.

D.J.: I was going to ask you about X-Statix next. Is the series wrapping up, or are you leaving?

M: The series is wrapping up.

D.J.: What?!?

M: Peter, Axel [Alonso, the editor], and I... you know, Marvel has always kind of regarded it as a creator-owned X-Men, although itís not creator-owned, truth be told. But weíve always controlled, with one horrible exception, which was the Princess Diana story.

D.J.: I was gonna ask you about that, too.

M: (laughs) Yeah. Itís always been a great ride. Some people are sensitive about me talking about this, but I think itís important that people understand. Iíve said it publicly before, and Iíll always say it, what Peter had written was genius. I didnít find anything offensive about it. And I do care about being sensitive about peopleís feelings. And I thought it was flattering. There was a lot of affection towards Diana, and weíve seen how everyone has exploited her horribly, even more recently, where there have been tapes revealed. What we were doing... for instance, if she was my mother, and somebody was doing what we were intending to do, I wouldíve thought, "Wow. Thatís really cool. Theyíre going to turn my mom into a superhero. And these guys clearly have affection for my mother. Itís fun. Itís poppy. Itís affectionate." That was our intention. Thatís where we were. And yet, some heat came from above, people got scared and blinked. So here we were, halfway through a six-issue story, and weíre being told, "You gotta change everything." Having said that, Peter, the guy is brilliant, managed to squeeze an incredible quality anyway. But I canít imagine anybody who was aware of where we were going not being disappointed because of where we couldíve gone. It probably wouldíve been the most talked about storyline all year of any comic book. It was that out there.

D.J.: Wow.

M: Instead, it kind of got smooshed into something that was still above average for a comic book script. Fortunately, we had J. Bone [comic artist] in the wings ready to help me out with inks. Had he not been there, I wouldíve gone insane.

D.J.: I was wondering how much redrawing was involved.

M: A lot. For the first three issues I worked to capture her likeness, and yet make it match with my style, so it didnít look like photo reference. I donít know how you feel about it, but sometimes youíll see books, and itís clear that they look like traced photographs.

D.J.: Yeah. Sometimes it takes you out of the books when certain characters look like celebrities.

M: That was something I really wanted; for it to look like it meshed into the comic world, and wasnít just these static photo images that got slapped on a body. But it didnít matter, because that all went out the window anyway.

D.J.: Iíd seen the preview covers, and it definitely looked like her.

M: Thatís the thing. There were two full-page catalogue ads that have the first two issues, and Dianaís face is slapped all over them. Iím really grateful for that. And the third issue, sheís leapfrogging... that was in People, for crying out loud. That was part of the problem. Here I am, thinking that any publicity is good publicity. I didnít regard it as bad publicity. I mean, there was, "Can you believe Marvel Comics is doing this?" That was essentially the tone of People and Newsweek and Time, and whoever else jumped on this. I didnít see any reason to pull back. From what I understand, nobody at Marvel proper did either. I was told it was shareholders who had connections with Buckingham Palace or something. I donít know who put the kibosh on it. Our choices were either, well... I wonít go into that.

D.J.: Okay.

M: I wonít go into the politics of it. I just wanted to make clear that, in my opinion, Peter was going to make something really special, and it didnít happen. We wanted to do something big and special and fun, and I donít know if it was gratitude for our efforts, but we were given permission to play with The Avengers. By that point, I think everybody-- everybody at Marvel, us-- just decided, "Okay. Nowís the time." So we're gonna do this arc, have an epilogue issue, and say goodbye.

D.J.: So it wasnít necessarily planned to end at any certain issue number, but after this, it just felt like the right time?

M: I think everybody involved-- I mean, for all I know, they were gonna cancel us anyway. (laughs) Unfortunately, I havenít been able to ink the book, so itís not what it should be. Itís something good. The guy inking it, Nick Crane, I really like what heís doing. Each issue is getting better and better. For me, itís exciting to see this grow. Typically, Iím kind of selfish, you know? Leave my stuff alone. I donít want anybody touching it. But this, and other collaborations.... For instance, Darwyne Cooke is a friend of mine. He has come and stayed with us before. Now, I drew a picture, and he inked it. Then, he drew a picture, and I inked it. It has that kind of feeling. Just this fun thing happening. Itís great to send these pages out, and I can see what Nick has done, where heíll use certain inking techniques that I wouldnít have, and itís exciting. Thereís some stretching going on there. So, thatís nice. Then, Iíve got a project at DC that Iím excited about. But, above and beyond, Iím just happy to get back to our own stuff again. Where itís all ours. We call all the shots. If we want something to look a certain way, it will; itís more satisfying. I have to be honest, as thrilling as it is to work with major talents like Pete Milligan and Axel Alonso and Joe Quesada [Marvel's Editor-In-Chief], thereís a deeper, richer satisfaction of doing your own thing. Itís riskier, but itís more satisfying.

D.J.: Are you going to be publishing AAA Pop [Allred's company] through Oni Press, or is it going to be totally self-published?

M: Theyíve always been there with advice, and we sat up at their booths when weíve gone to shows, which, unfortunately, weíve not done very much of lately. So weíve always kind of regarded them as a sister company. But, technically, weíll be doing everything ourselves, just like we did with The Atomics.

D.J.: And Laura will be coloring?

M: Yeah.

D.J.: Her colors are great. They really impressed me on Vertical, the book you did with Steven Seagle. She used some different techniques, maybe more Warhol-esque--

M: Yeah. (laughs)

D.J.: It's appropriate for the book. Really fun. And Han, your son, does some coloring, too, right?

M: Yeah. Sheís trained him very well. And he has this whole other color sense that he can go off on. Itís really fun to watch. Heís a natural talent, too. He has a keen color sense.

D.J.: Itís a family affair. And as much as I enjoy your artwork, itís great to hear Madman is going to be back with your writing again. Youíve written a few one-shots, like It Girl and Mr. Gum, but itíll be great to see Frank and Joe back.

M: Weíre pumped. Also, Iíve been referring to this top secret project for several years, which will probably be the most significant thing I ever do, and itís now close to moving on to my drawing board. Itís something Iíve had this intense passion for. And Iím now ready to move on it. Within the year, Iíll reveal what this project is. And thereís this even more ambitious thing Iím toying with the idea of now, and someday Iím hoping Iíll actually be able to do it and talk about it.

D.J.: (laughs) Very secretive.

M: But in the meantime, yeah, the dream is just to be able to have the Madman books successful enough to keep going, because itís the greatest day job I could ever imagine. Thereís nothing Iíd rather be doing for a living. There are other things I like doing, like filmmaking or music, but with comics, Laura is there by my side all day long, and the kids can be involved as much as they want. Itís the one thing I can do where my loved ones can be there.

D.J.: Sounds excellent. What about Robert Rodriguezís Madman movie? I heard about this years ago. Can you talk about it?

M: (laughs) Sure. Yeah!

D.J.: I just heard heís going to be doing Sin City, and then Princess Of Mars. And Iím like, "Whereís Madman?"

M: Iím not supposed to say exactly whatís happening, but I can tell you itís still in the works. Itís in preproduction. And my involvement is being escalated dramatically. So, itís all good. I know that the recent announcements have caused some confusion, but itís actually... itís amping up to be even more than we originally intended. So, itís still happening. Robert is still overseeing it. Itís his company. Itís his baby. But, well, for instance, do you know what Frank Millerís [Sin City comic creator] involvement with the Sin City movie is?

D.J.: Heís co-directing it.

M: Well, thatís, uh... weíll leave it at that.

D.J.: Aw, man. Thatís exciting news.

M: Another thing I can say, but I canít say, is that weíve got our Madman; our Frank Einstein. And he is a critically acclaimed, extremely talented actor whoís been in some of the biggest box office films ever made.

D.J.: Mmm, hmm. Mark Hamill.

M: But he's also an extremely unusual choice that I think is brilliant, and is going to knock people's socks off; but itís not the obvious choice. Itís not somebody youíd immediately think of. The few people who do know who he is have kind of paused for about five seconds, and then they go, "Whoa, yeah!" Iím really excited about it. I think itís perfect.

D.J.: That is great news. Man, now Iím all curious. Oh, well. Weíll wait. Weíll find out.

M: (laughs)

D.J.: Congratulations.

M: Well, donít say that yet. Robert has been involved for several years, but this would probably be his biggest budget film ever. Itís my understanding thatís why it keeps getting pushed back while these other projects keep coming in. Robert does what he wants, when he feels itís right. Fortunately, Iím an extremely patient person. And his option checks keep coming, so Iím not about to complain.

D.J.: There you go.

M: But Iím also the kind of person who prepares for the worst, and hopes for the best. So, for whatever reason, if it just died, Iíll accept it and move on. Iíve got enough passion that it wouldnít devastate me. It probably would be the greatest disappointment of my life and career, but I know I could move on. But in the meantime, I can say that itís closer to being made than it has ever been. So Iím more in danger of being disappointed, because Iím more amped about it than I ever have been! (laughs)

D.J.: (laughs) Right.

M: Iím aware of films that have actually gone in front of the cameras and then, for whatever reason, just imploded and never got made. For instance, Terry Gilliam.

D.J.: Yeah. Don Quixote.

M: Yeah. With Johnny Depp as the lead. So, if that can implode, anything can happen. So, for me, when Iím at the premiere, and Iím in the audience, and there it is in my peripheral, filling my brain, Iíll be doing cartwheels.

D.J.: You're cautiously optimistic right now.

M: Yeah. Always cautiously optimistic.

D.J.: Safer way to be.

M: And that goes back to why comics are my first love, as far as an artistic medium, and also why I am also as prolific as I try to beó- I get that fix every month. Sometimes twice a month! (laughs) And I look at it, and I go, "Ah, if Iíd only done that! Oh, I like how this came out. Now, what if I tried this?" Constant, almost instant gratification; whereas recording an album or making a film, thereís just so much more you have to wait for, and then-- POW!-- itís over.

D.J.: Yeah.

M: Iíve got one of those old, spinning comic racks in my studio. I remember when my favorite comics were filling it up, and then, all of a sudden, one of my comics filled one of the rows. Then the whole rack got filled up! Then I started replacing the originals with the trade paperbacks, and now I have a whole row of trades. And then I look at the bookshelf or the comic book box, and see it getting thicker and thicker. Itís something you can tangibly see and feel; you see your progress and this lifeís work accumulate. Itís very satisfying, and also a life-long process. Me and my brother were drawing comics on notebook paper when we were kids, and now I do it for a living. It also explains why the industry itself sputters and fizzles and pops and explodes and implodes and rumors of its demise. Itís just the most disappointing thing I could imagine: the comic book dying out entirely.

D.J.: I donít know. I know thereís a lot of talk about the state of the industry and the audience getting smaller and smaller.

M: Yeah.

D.J.: Itís disappointing as a reader. Iíve been reading for half my life now, and it seems comics, like Marvel, quality-wise, are getting better and better.

M: It ebbs and flows. I can point at a year and say, "DC was rockin' that year," or, "Marvel was really inspired that year." It just depends on the mass of talent they were responsible for on a given year. Or this was a great year for the independents. So, creatively, you definitely see these big crashing waves come in, and then pull back to sea. But, statistically speaking, the comic audience has been consistently dwindling since its inception.

D.J.: Yeah.

M: Comics were selling in the millions in the late Thirties and Forties, and thereís been a steady decline ever since. Once in a while, thereíll be a hit that breaks a million copies. But now, your bestseller is lucky to break 100,000. Itís definitely not a business Iíd encourage someone to get into, unless they were prepared to take a chance for being one of the blessed.

D.J.: Itís definitely not something you can do on a lark. You have to be pretty passionate.

M: Like, for us right now, this is a huge risk, going back to self-publishing. I donít know what audience is going to be there. We know what numbers weíll need to sustain ourselves, and where we have to draw the line and say we just canít afford to do this. We also know what we need to make when working with another publisher, when it comes to negotiating page rates. Thereís a bottom line, where at some point I have to know when to roll up the carpet. Fortunately, that hasnít happened yet. And we are blessed. Weíve been extremely fortunate in our careers. And, for me personally, to coincidentally be married to a woman whoís got this amazing color sense and talent, to the point that we can work together, itís really been wonderful. And weíve been working towards where weíll be financially secure, and weíll be able to do the comics for free for a certain period until we can say, "Itís time to retire!" (laughs) So, weíve thought this all through. Weíve tried to be responsible with what we do. So far, I think weíve done alright, because itís 14 years later, and weíre still doing it. So, man, I just gotta say, everybody whoís ever supported us, thank you!

D.J.: (laughs)

M: Itís really been wonderful. If anybody picks up one of our books, reads it, looks at it, absorbs it, enjoys it a fraction of what we felt in making it, then we all win.

D.J.: Iím so glad you guys are able to continue doing it, and I hope you can do it as long as you want. (laughs) Iím a big fan of your stuff, and have turned some people onto it. We appreciate it.

M: Well, appreciate every single person that buys a comic. And appreciate it even more when they hand it to someone else and say, "Youíve got to try this!" Thatís what itís all about with any entertainment. Like, "This band is great! You gotta listen to these guys!" Jamie Rich, the editor at Oni, heís like that. Heís a huge music fan, and itís exciting when he gets jazzed about somebody. Right now, the album Iím excited about is the new Vines album. I really like them. I think theyíre special, and itís nice that theyíve followed up their first album, which is just killer.

D.J.: I like 'em, too. And, just so you know, at tlchicken.com, I donít know if itís still up, but we have a contest to win the CD, if youíre interested.

M: I already got it! (laughs)

D.J.: Oh, you already got it? Well, never mind. Is it good? Because I entered the contest. I donít know if thatís right, but donít tell anybody.

M: Well, I can always give it to a friend.

D.J.: There you go. I have one last question I have to ask. Itís in our contract at tastes like chicken that we have to ask everybody this.

M: (laughs) Okay.

D.J.: Do dogs have lips?

M: Yes.

D.J.: Yes?

M: Yes.

D.J.: Excellent.

M: We have three dogs, and all of them have lips. One of them has huge lips! (laughs)

D.J.: So, thereís no doubt in your mind?

M: (laughs) No doubt!

D.J.: You go in the "yes" column.

M: Iíve seen human beings that have smaller lips than them, so they definitely qualify as lips.

D.J.: Well, thanks for your time.

M: You bet.

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