Wednesday Interview: Curt Franklin and Chris Haley

If you enjoy comic books, and I know some of you do, then you should probably be reading Let's Be Friends Again. Writer Curt Franklin and artist Chris Haley combined forces in October, 2008 to create something awesome, like Voltron, or the Planeteers, or, I suppose, that Transformer that's a big Transformer made out of little Transformers. The strip, a loving parody of the comics characters and creators that we all hold so dear, comes out several times a week. If you haven't yet, take a half hour of your life to read all of them from the beginning. It's one of the best gifts you will ever give yourself. Do it while other people are doing yoga or something.

Not unlike Grant Morrison, Curt and Chris make themselves the star of their own comics, along with a rotating cast of superheroes, television characters, classic cartoon characters, political figures and rap stars.

I let Curt and Chris write my post today interviewed Curt and Chris for this week's Wednesday interview because all of the comic creators in the world are busy getting ready for San Diego I think everyone needs to read their comic. I got their Blackest Night hopes and dreams, and got up close and personal with two of the comic book world's biggest heartthrobs. The interview is helpfully peppered with links to their strips so you can read along.

I'll bet you guys have a pretty awesome origin story. When did you first team up?

Curt:  Like most milestones in my life, our first meeting took place at a karaoke bar. Chris was a friend of a friend and we decided to duet My Sharona.

Chris:  From there we discovered that we were the only two people on Earth who could do Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" justice besides Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

Wait, this interview is about our singing isn't it?

Curt:  You wish it was. It's the only thing you're good at.
Chris:  I think Nerd Dads would disagree.
Curt:  Cool. Get Nerd Dads to write comics for you. Get used to drawing stories about changing diapers and playing Naruto: Evolution.

Chris:  This may be getting away from us.

In your comic you have taken shots at people like
John Byrne, Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb, and Tyler Perry. Do you guys have a hit list that you are working your way through?

Curt:  I'm hoping to get to the point where we're completely unemployable in the comic book industry due to ruined husks of bridges we've burnt, which is when I'll take my mask off and reveal that I've been Chuck Austen all along and I'll welcome Chris into my bunker; my years of work having created the perfect sidekick to aid me in exacting revenge on everybody who hated WorldWatch.

Chris:  That would actually explain a lot about Curt's mysterious secretiveness.

Curt:  Well, to seriously answer the question, there's no agenda to people we make fun of. I really like Bendis. I have never met Tyler Perry though I think a little bit of Tyler Perry exists within all of us. Jeph Loeb has been putting out a terrible product for a while now. And John Byrne is, by any measure, an asshole. Those two, on the hit list.

Chris:  John Byrne's got good qualities too though. And we did that comic about Bendis after Ed Brubaker told me that Bendis had really liked one of our strips, so if anything, I felt like that one was done lovingly.

Curt:  So, it depends. We make fun of the ones we love and the ones we hate. And ourselves. Who we hate.

Chris, you are obviously a giant Superman nerd. What comics are you into, Curt?

Curt:  I'm always drawn more to writers than artists, though after doing Let's Be Friends Again for almost a year I have a much greater respect for artists than before. Having said that, I'll get the predictable Alan Moore and Grant Morrison answers out of the way. All of the ABC comics I think I've gone through at least ten times, and I remember Doom Patrol was one of the first comics where I paid attention to who the writer and artist were. Until then, I didn't think it really mattered. I'm a huge fan of Chris Onstad's Achewood, which has some of the most amazingly developed characters. I re-read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Sleeper every few months. There are so many that I'm going to forget. Starman. Hitman. Recently, Iron Fist has completely kicked ass.

I just like good comics. Western, kids, super-hero, manga, indie, whatever, if it's good and somebody I respect recommends it, I'll read it.

Chris: I wanted to chime in and say that it's not that I'm a Superman nerd, it's that I'm a Superman some other word I can't think of.. what would the word be?

Curt:  A Superman-phile. Like a pedophile, except instead of children you love Superman.

Chris:  Come on, dude, don't make it that way. I'm trying to say that it's like he's what I believe in.

Curt:  Like a religion.

Chris:  ... yeah, but not like a dick about it just you know, he is like the dude I look up to
Curt:  Yeah. I get that. People believe way more cruel and hurtful things than any Superman comic would ever teach you. Not to get too personal, but I know Chris had a tough childhood, and sometimes Superman was the only constant thing in it. Growing up in a non-stable environment, moving around a lot, never having the same friends, I'd feel lucky to have my kid turn to Superman for life lessons in that situation. And it's turned him into a pretty alright guy for the most part, so you'll never hear me make fun of the Superman nerdiness. Too bad Superman can't help him draw any better.

So how about those Harvey Award nominations? Do you think NASCAR Heroes #5 will sweep?
Chris:  Imagine us both answering 'Yes' in unison.

Curt:  YES. If it wins, I think we deserve full credit. That whole thing is ridiculous, but if everybody was working within the system I can't see anybody blaming a publisher for trying their best to get awareness of their comic out.

I hear rumours that you guys are planning on collecting your strips in a book. That would be awesome. How's that going?

Curt:  It's challenging doing it by ourselves. We're still trying to determine exactly how and what to collect. We looked at sites that some of our friends have used, but the cost for doing a color book is very prohibitive. We looked at some of the strips in B&W and it doesn't seem like it would be worth it to go that way. So, we're definitely planning on having something ready for SPX in September, but, right now, we're still not exactly sure what. But we need to hurry.

Probably the most intriguing thing about you, Chris, is your love of 90s-era Halifax, Nova Scotia indie rock. Especially since you live in Memphis or somewhere. Can you please explain this to me?

Curt: Smoke break.

Chris:  Comics, music, and cereal are really the only chapter headings in the book of my "background", so I don't really know how to obsess over much else. Ages ago, one of my best friends and former bandmates, Edward Stanley, let me hear "Coax Me" from Sloan's "Twice Removed". As is my way, I spent the next several years scouring used CD shops for their back catalog. By the time "Action Pact" came out they were well on their way to becoming my favorite band. Being a huge fan of theirs has led me to meeting other people who like them who have then told me to check out Thrush Hermit and Joel Plaskett Emergency and so on.
Plus it always gives Bryan Lee O'Malley and I something to talk about at conventions so it's not just me gushing over how much I love him.

Curt:  You worked in your O'Malley love, impressive.

Chris:  :)

In the interest of balance, what kind of music are you into, Curt?

Curt:  I'm listening to The Flaming Lips right now, but I usually listen to older classic rock and hip hop. Queen bonded Chris and I in a lot of ways, most non-sexual. I have a history with Elvis and classic country and blues. The Elvis stuff comes partly from growing up in Memphis, but mostly from working at the largest annual Elvis impersonator's contest that my parents started a long, long time ago. They also owned a country-western bar, so the first few notes of any Garth Brooks tune trigger a childhood urge to flee to my dad's office where I can watch cartoons and look at my dad's Playboys that he thinks are hidden.

What are each of your top five favourite ongoing series right now?

Curt:  I'm a wait-for-the-trade heathen, but I have the luxury of reading everything that comes out because the guys at the local comics shack, Comics & Collectibles, owe me a blood debt. I'd go with RASL, Green Lantern, Incognito, 20th Century Boys, Young Liars.

Curt:  And I know it's not an ongoing series, but I read the first two issues of Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers today, and I love them. No joke, it's genuinely funny and surprisingly well drawn.

Chris:  I'm scared to answer this question, because every time I start telling people how much I like some book, it seems to get cancelled. I know it just started, but I'm really excited about Wednesday Comics. Doug Mahnke and Patrick Gleason on the Green Lantern books makes them must reads. Anything Grant Morrison does is must read for me, so Batman & Robin has made an All Star Superman-less world a little more liveable. Up until the last issue, I was a huge Invincible fan.

Chris:  Agents of Atlas is taking the place of Captain Britain & MI13 on this list since it just got cancelled. God, I'm leaving so many out. Captain America! Iron Fist! The Unwritten! Anything Stuart Immonen draws!

Who do you hope comes back from the dead in Blackest Night? And do you think your White Lantern vision will come true?

Curt:  I hope Sue and Ralph Dibney come back and can enjoy whatever brief respite from evil and danger and madness fictional characters can. And if the rumors are true and Hal Jordan becomes a White Lantern at some point, I'll be disappointed if John Stewart doesn't at least raise an eyebrow or something.

Chris:  I'm really not that interested in seeing characters I love (Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Firestorm, Ted Kord, blah blah blah) come back as monstrous bad guys, and I can't really think of any characters that I didn't like that are dead, so I'm just kind of along for the ride.

Chris: If the White Lantern thing does happen, I just hope they ask me to do an alternate cover.

For real, guys, Let's Be Friends Again is the most consistently hilarious web comic that I read. Will you do it forever?

Curt: We'll do it 'til we're bloody well dead. Or until we split up over a woman's love.

Chris:  Unless he dies before me and I get the map and keys to the Scrooge McFranklin Money Vault, my plan is to be drawing Curt and I being friends (again.. and again) forever.