After 14 years, and more than 3,500 cartoons, James Kochalka is bringing his diary comic American Elf to an end. Since October 1998, Kochalka has been chronicling small slices of his daily life in short comics, seldom longer than four panels, and if you read the comic, you already know he has mixed feelings about ending it.
Of course, Kochalka has plenty still going on, including the animated version of his comic SuperF*ckers, plus teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, playing rock music and being the Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont. He’s going to keep the American Elf site live, and of course, you can get the collected editions from Top Shelf (and digitally via comiXology).
Keeping a diary comic for 14 years is a singular achievement, so we asked Kochalka to talk a bit about the experience of creating — and living — American Elf.
SuperF*ckers made its animated debut today on the Cartoon Hangover site. Based on the comics by James Kochalka published several years ago by Top Shelf, it features, as Kevin noted earlier this week, “teen superheroes doing, and saying, bad and occasionally disgusting things.” And some very funny things.
A censored version of the first episode can be found below, and you can watch the uncensored version on YouTube. Neither one of them are really safe for work, though, so put your headphones on before watching.
In addition, once you’ve enjoyed the cartoon, you can buy the merch … WeLoveFine has a whole Cartoon Hangover section on their site now, featuring the SuperF*cker characters, and to celebrate the show’s premiere, the above shirt featuring Ultra Richard is their deal of the day. They’ve also got one featuring Jack Krak that’s tied to the first episode. You can find images of some of them below.
Top Shelf points out that Cartoon Hangover has been adorably counting down to the Friday debut of SuperF*ckers, the online animated series based on the comics by James Kochalka. If you’ve read the series, which the publisher describes as “obscenely funny,” or even just read about it, you have a pretty good idea what to expect from the cartoon: teen superheroes doing, and saying, bad and occasionally disgusting things. If that’s not enough to sell you on the animated SuperF*ckers, it’s produced by Frederator Studios, the folks behind Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors.
When you’re somebody as well known as James Kochalka, both in terms of music and comics, do you really need an introduction? Probably not, but just in case, Kochalka and I recently got a chance to discuss his latest release, the collected SuperF*ckers (Top Shelf [due out in March])–as well as his upcoming graphic novel/video game project, Glorkian Warrior. As described at the Top Shelf site: “SuperF*ckers collects all four fan-favorite issues of James Kochalka’s beloved series, plus the all-new Jack Krak one-shot! Foul-mouthed, filthy-minded, and completely oblivious, these young ‘heroes’ do everything BUT fight crime – they’re too busy getting high, hazing the new kids, playing video games, scheming to be team leader, and designing new costumes.” I agree with the first line of Top Shelf’s Kochalka bio which states he “is, without question, one of the most unique and prolific alternative cartoonists working in America today”.
After the interview, be sure to check out Top Shelf’s preview of the book here. My thanks to Kochalka for the interview and Top Shelf’s Leigh Walton for his assistance. One final piece of advice, as great as this interview is (thanks to Kochalka’s answers), it only touches upon one of Kochalka’s projects. I reference two of Tom Spurgeon’s interviews in my questions to Kochalka and I strongly recommend that you read both of them.
Tim O’Shea: Looking back at a 2005 Tom Spurgeon interview with you, I was surprised to see you say of SuperF*ckers: “Once it turned into a superhero book, I thought I could force it into some kind of all-ages type book, but the characters just would not stop swearing.” Even the interior page marketing of the first issue has cussing: “Hey kids, take your dicks out of the Playstation Three for one god damn minute and read some fucking comics.” Why do you think the cussing bolsters the comedy (and I ask this thinking it would not be as funny without the cussing).
James Kochalka: Not every character swears. The ones that should swear, do. It fits their personality, a kind of “I can do whatever I want because I’m awesome”, and that includes insane wanton swearing. The swearing is also pretty creative at times, it’s often not just straight up swearing. And it makes the action more dramatic. For instance, instead of yelling “I’m going to punch you” or even “I’m going to fuckin’ punch you”, at one point Jack Krak yells something like “I’m going to fuck your face with my fist”. That’s just way snappier sounding, isn’t it?
To me it isn’t even really an issue of funnier or not. It’s just an issue of the characters being as awesome and overblown as they can be.