- Metal Shark Bro volume 2 (Coming soon)
- Scout Comics
- Written by Bob Frantz & Kevin Cuffe
- Illustrated by Walter Ostlie
- Volume 1 available now
Before we get started, I just want to thank the creative team behind the most unlikely piece of awesome I’ve read in a while, Metal Shark Bro– Artist Walter Ostlie, & writers Bob Frantz and Kevin Cuffe. I’ve been singing the praises of this insane story, all about remaining true to one’s true self while discovering one’s true self, since I stumbled onto the first trade paperback by pure luck (review here). When Scout was running their campaign donating a portion of their sales to local comic shops, I was looking for anything that looked remotely interesting. I found Metal Shark Bro. The rest might not be history, but I think it may be bordering on obsession.
PB: Where some stories about an anthropomorphized shark bro might have approached it from the angle of a shark growing & discovering what it is to be human, yours is all about a shark who’s turned into a shark bro, but in his heart he just wants to be a shark. To do this, he has to reap the souls of a the damned on behalf of Satan’s nephew Beelzebra (first arc). The second arc finds him face to face with the penultimate demonic hybrid badass, Hamzig. So I have to ask the obvious question for the sake of clarity… How in the name of all that’s holy did you come up with this bonkers concept? Was there a singular driving force behind it, or was it more of an all-around collaboration?
Bob Frantz: Metalshark Bro is an exercise in pure fun and silliness. I have told the story of MSB’s birth a thousand times and I feel like I should spare you from having to read it. But it’s so much fun to tell…
(cue fanciful flashback music)
Metalshark Bro was born on the long and desolate highways of West Virginia. In the early hours of a brisk and foggy October morn, I, a weary and homesick writer, heard a radio DJ read a news story about scientists placing speakers blasting AC/DC in water to gauge the reaction of sharks. An idea went off like a bomb in my skull. I frantically phoned my friend and co-writer, the majestically bearded Kevin Cuffe to discuss this revelation!
Over the next 7 hours, Kevin and I giggled like stoned teenagers as we transformed this news story into the saga of the demonic, half-man, half-shark killing machine! So after Kevin and I plotted the book out, we wrote the scripts and hooked up with Walter.
Walter brought his own set of ideas and fun to the project. Walter would pitch an idea for a design and if it looked cool, we would do it. Hence Ira’s (metalshark bro’s partner) bowler hat. Walter thought Ira should have a hat. He drew it up, it looked so ridiculous that we just went went it, and why wouldn’t we. The hat rules.
Our collective goal with Metalshark Bro is to have as much fun as we can physically put on the page. To just keep pushing the silliness of it all. I mean, if you’re going to write a book about a satanic half man/half shark creature, you might as well have fun with it, right?
PB: The artwork is a little unconventional, and totally fitting for this kind of story. Walter Ostlie, how did you settle on this eclectic attitude, seeming to take a piece of every 80’s metal album cover ever made and blending it into the look for this title?
Walter Ostlie: You know, I didn’t really change anything about the way I drew for Metalshark Bro. I think people hear that title and immediately have these preconceived ideas of what it is or what it should be. I don’t think anyone of us wanted that and my weird art really lent itself to the whimsy of the story. Yeah, Metalshark Bro is a muscle-bound demon slayer and Ira is a giant eye-ball with exposed nerve tendrils and bat wings, but both in the most adorable way that just makes the two of them likable. It’s a Saturday morning cartoon and I wanted the art to reflect that.
PB: In talking to people I’ve recommended Metal Shark Bro to, the common thread that seems to really bring the story together is the subtle (and often not so) humor. There’s a bizarre mix of “dad jokes” and movie references, with an underlying spirit that I can only really compare to movies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Wayne’s World. Bob Frantz & Kevin Cuffe, how much of this was all of you riffing off of each other, double-dog-daring each other to go farther, dig deeper into the ridiculous? And just for the sake of my own curiosity, who is the David Lynch fan?
Bob: I was going through a Dune phase at the time. Forgive me.
All of our work is just riffing off of each other. There isn’t a lot of ego involved in Kevin and I’s work. The script isn’t law. It almost serves as just a suggestion about where we want to go with the tone and tenor of a scene. We all have input on the gags. Walter, who is a great writer in his own right, added his own one liners and visual gags. If they were good, Kevin and I would keep them in the book. Chas! Pangburn, Our brilliant editor and also a very talented writer, would say “what about this?” or his favorite note is and forever will be “I know you’ve got something better in you.” So Kevin and I would just work the gags out until Chas! Approved. He is a cruel taskmaster, that one. At the end of the day, we are a team with a singular goal, to make the book as good as it can be.
PB: Now, please don’t take offense to this, but realistically speaking there is no way that this concept should have worked as anything more than maybe a one-off before it stretched the boundaries of good taste and common sense. You guys managed to make it work and kept it going. At any point, did any of you look at the other two and cringe? Did you find yourselves backing off at some point, pulling back from the edge of insanity, or did you all just unanimously decide to DIVE? Along those lines, are there any ideas or concepts that DIDN’T make it into the book that you’d be willing/able to share?
Bob: None taken. Since the idea’s inception, Kevin and I’s motto was “this is just stupid enough to work.” And i think it works for two reasons: the first being we just wanted to make a fun book. We aren’t taking anything too seriously. We have a clear vision/theme of what we want to do with the book.
The second reason is we made Metalshark Bro and Ira very likable, well rounded characters that connect to the audience. The reader LIKES Metalshark Bro and Ira. Their relationship is a real friendship. We’ve had readers tell us they wish they had a friend like Ira.
PB: You’ve got the second arc of Metal Shark Bro set to release to trade paperback in August. Assuming there’s an ongoing market for this level of bizarre storytelling, how far do you see the madcap adventures of Metal Shark Bro and Ira going? Beelzebra couldn’t stop them. Hamzig couldn’t keep them down. Is there a plan beyond the next arc? Is there even a plan, or are you guys winging it to brilliant effect?
Bob: Personally, the first book was much harder to create. We had this vision, the weird idea. There were so many concerns that the reader wouldn’t go with us on this wacky, weird journey into the ether. This was a character that no one had ever heard of from creators no one gave a shit about. But once the audience proved they were willing to come along for the ride, it gave us the freedom and confidence as storytellers to go weirder, go more outrageous.
As for a third arc, we have an idea outlined that we’re excited about. We just need to find the time. We are going to continue to make metalshark bro books as long as we are having fun with it. If comics aren’t fun, then why make them?