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Welcome to Fishy Burger: A conversation with Brad Sun!

 

Our Kickstarter campaign for Monkey Fist ends in just a few days! So many backers have already opted for the RAGE EDITION, and I wanted to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes goodies you’ll get with this special edition. Let’s start by taking a look at the design of Fishy Burger.

For those of you who have already had the chance to read through Chinatown and Apocalypse Man, (Wait, you haven’t? What are you doing on this blog?) you’ll notice that Monkey Fist looks markedly different. The colors are bright, the line-work crisp, the whole thing more cartoony. When I talked with Brad, I brought the style difference up.

“Yeah, but I feel like cartoons these days are already so manic, so out there.” He pointed out to me cartoons made for kids which really pushed animation into the realm of the bizarre, like Ren and Stimpy – even Spongebob, which is undeniably a kids show (what a terrifying laugh, and what vaguely sexual references – Bikini Bottom?).

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But don’t get tricked into thinking of this as a kid’s book (sorry, kids who keep coming to our booth hypnotized by the Lucky Cat or bright bowls of candy). Or if you do, think of this as the overgrown kid’s book. The kid who now has a face full of stubble to match his memories of these old, wacky cartoons.

Then, there are also the videogame themes of the book that layer with the cartoony aesthetic. The first big clue comes when we first see the world outside of Fishy Burger – the packed fast food joint becomes a dinky square building that couldn’t possibly match the dimensions. In fact, it becomes a Tomica building – one that was sitting on his mantle.

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Anyone who ever owned a Gameboy knows this: spatial compression is a hallmark of old RPG games. It feels perfectly normal to live in a two-story house in Pokémon that on the map, looks like a small square slightly wider than your own the width of your sprite’s waist.

Did you ever think you were walking around with a house-sized belly?

Or that you were actually living in a doghouse?

Mach Pizza

According to Brad, every Nintendo game he could possibly fit is crammed into Monkey’s home town, Hubtown. “There are Mario hills, a warp pipe – the lakes are gridded off, like in Zelda, and the buildings are all from Earthbound.” There’s even a butterfly flitting around one scene as a fun Easter egg for RPGers reading the book. The idea was to tap into the same curious draw of those 2-D maps. As Brad put it, “there was something perfect about that side-scrolling 16 bit world.”

At first, Wesley and Brad had played with the idea of keeping everything realistic until reaching Fishy Burger HQ. In the end, they decided to inject readers into a hyperflat, warped videogame world right away. That way, Brad said, “It gives the sense that anything crazy can happen.”

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In the first and second sneak previews of Monkey Fist, you’ve seen Monkey in Fishy Burger unclogging toilets, working at the counter, and dealing with hordes of customers who crowd every crevice of the fast fish joint – every corner of which makes sense relative to the other, with Brad keeping conscious of staging.While keeping in RPG logic – every entry and exit have a corresponding door on the dollhouse rendering of Fishy Burger on the outside – the interior of Fishy Burger is pretty damn meticulous.

Little aspects, like a mural of the rainbow in the interior, clue you in to Fishy Burger being one of those chains “marketing their own nostalgia,” as Brad put it. “I kinda took inspiration from Dairy Queen, Steak N’ Shake – those classic, soda jerk, milkshake shop types that are supposed to be kind of timeless, classic, vintage.” At the same time, both brothers want to be clear –  Fishy Burger is not meant to be a Supersize Me-style commentary on fast food chains in America. “The point was that he’s on the bottom rung” said Brad.

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The infusion of detailed reality (oil stains in parking lots, baby-on-board bumper stickers) in the midst of the warped dimensions of the book once again goes back to the interesting things that an artist can do with comics. For example, referencing the process of drawing Chinatown, Brad talked about how “When Lao goes into the old martial arts studio, there are cobwebs. You wouldn’t pick up on that in a movie and just assume that it was just a part of the scenery,  but because it’s a drawing, all you have to do is put a little crack in the wall in a comic and people pick up on that.”

Paying attention to every extra line was how Brad picked up Adventure Time’s deviance from the typical kid’s show. “Especially the knee high socks that Fionna wears. That tells you everything you need to know about Adventure Time,” he said, “Kind of a modern sensibility.”

So pay attention to the details when you’re reading Monkey Fist.  The vibrant palette, the too-wide smiles, the exhaustive interior decoration, everything adds up to – dare I say it – a hint of something fishy. And stay tuned for more inside looks at Monkey’s world, all of which will be included (with sketches like these) in the MONKEY FIST: RAGE EDITION!

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