Recently I “sat down” with Pat Grub creator of the awesome indy comic Andy Christ. Pat and I talked for a few hours about a lot of stuff, and what follows is the product of that conversation. If you like comics I can highly recommend you look into Andy Christ. Read on to see what Pat has to say.
Doctor Rampageo:Tell the readers a bit about yourself Pat.
Pat Grubb:Well, I studied animation at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Not out of any intense desire specifically to make animation, because I’ve always had a lot of interests. That just seemed like one I already knew how to do and could make it happen professionally.
I spent two years banging my head against the wall as a freelancer in the industry. Didn’t work on anything anybody’s ever seen and worked like 14-16 hour days six days a week. Like slave labor, essentially.
It was rough and the longer I did it, the more I realized it wasn’t really the path I wanted to be on.
DR:Yeah that seems like a hard field to get into. That explains the animated trailer you did recently then?
PG:Oh yeah. My discipline in school was in 3D animation, actually, but the technical stuff pulls me out of the creative process and I’ve come to be happier with 2D, Flash-style stuff.
I don’t do it much these days. The book eats up all my time. But I wanted to have a quick little cartoon job to get it out there.
The thing is that I always had a lot of ideas and no focus.
Animation was like a surrender, just pick a thing and do it, you know?
Not really concerned with the realities of the industry and work-for-hire.
DR:yeah I can totally see that about the 3D stuff. Focus is a hard thing to nail down sometime when you have all these ideas floating around in your brain and limited time to bring them to life. So in the intro for Episode 1 you mention how Andy has always been there in your head. How long have you been internally working on this story?
Okay, like I was saying about focus… I was the weird kid in school who disappeared into the corner and drew a lot of fucked up shit.
I had all these ideas, not especially in the service of anything that was close to me or that mattered.
When I was 19, I had a really rough year in terms of relationships and losing friends, I had moved to a place where I didn’t feel like I fit in… Which I guess I was used to but this was more so. Very isolated.
And I don’t exactly know where Andy came from but I remember very distinctly that that was the year the idea came.
And a funny thing happened after that.
That I think explains why I’ve been obsessed with it for so long.
DR:Oh? What was that?
PG:Every story idea I had following that little germ of an idea, this lonely orphan kid whose father is the devil and whose best friend is a demon-possessed teddy bear… Everything started to bleed into this thing.
DR: One of those “ah ha” moments where it all starts to make sense.
PG:Exactly! The tone that I wanted for it, this kind of friction between innocence and corruption, it gave me free reign, really, to tell any kind of story I felt like.
So if I’m screwing around drawing one day and I go “OH! Cyborg priest who keeps kids locked in his basement!”
Well, there’s an Andy Christ story. Easy. Fits right in.
DR: Awesome! Makes perfect sense to me.
PG:I can do horror, I can do science fiction, I can be funny and violent as hell…
But at the center of it, to me, there’s this essential sweetness. This is a lost, lonely kid who doesn’t fit in.
DR:I think you have struck a great balance with the book so far.
PG:I appreciate that. I do have certain misgivings about how well I’ve struck that balance so far. It’s a tightrope. Like those Simpsons episodes that sucker punch you with the feels out of nowhere.
DR:Ha ha yeah I know those feels.
PG:Thank you, by the way, I’m typing a mile a minute here.
But I think anybody can relate to this character.
As harsh as the material can be, this is a character that has resonated with me for such a long time.
And I think, I hope, that keeps people coming back.
DR:It feels very relatable to me personally, and after reading episodes 1-3 I will certainly be waiting anxiously for episode 4. I see a lot of my favorite comics in Andy Christ. is there any particular books that have influenced you?
PG:Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is the one that always comes up. And when people make that connection, it seems to range from “Oh, this looks like that thing I like, cool!” and “This guy’s a ripoff” and it’s kind of dismissive. I’ll be honest, that stuff hurts, but I’m not super-conscious of my influences.
JTHM was a revelatory moment for me, personally.
I grew up with comic books but they weren’t really the kind of thing that I related to.
I was big into Spawn as a kid. I can barely read it now. But there’s definitely some that DNA in Andy Christ, I think.
But JTHM was the first book I ever saw that… It was like “You’re allowed to do this???”
It was funny and incredibly dark and cartoony, which made the violence go down easier. And it looked like a more developed version of the kind of stuff I was doing as a little kid.
This wreckless abandon in my art that I had gotten away from over the years.
And it all came back when I read this thing. Vasquez did what I didn’t do. I was always trying to look like what I thought was… professional at the time, I guess?
He followed his instincts and did something very unique and punk rock and “fuck you if you don’t like it” and that inspired me to get back into cartooning.
It didn’t make me want to make comics, interestingly enough, but it showed me there was a place for me.
The other big one was Scud the Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab.
And for me, personally, when I look at my own books, I see that more.
DR:I feel the same way about Vasquez’ work, and I think some of the indy comics of the 90’s-00’s really helped shape the world we know nwo. I do see a bit JTHM touches in Andy, and I see some Scud in there too. I think anyone who would assume it was a ripoff of anything clearly hasn’t read the book because it really is leagues different from any other book out there. I think with so many different things that have come out over the years its really hard to have something that isn’t at least a bit reminiscent of something else.
Also Scud and JTHM are too of my favorite comics to ever come out.
PG:I appreciate that, man, thanks.
Scud was very cinematic, it was made with a filmmaker’s eye, and movies were really my first love.
But it was also a cartoon, wasn’t chained to the laws of reality.
DR:Yeah. I mean the fact that Rob used soundtracks and suggested voice talent in each issue really helped feed that film vibe of Scud
PG:AND it told a really dense, well thought-out science fiction story with this expanding world, yet still very intimate and personal. That’s incredible to me. And I love that character.
I had to track those books down, they were out of print a little before my time.
I’d only seen bits and pieces online.
And I think that, more than anything, was when I finally went “Alright, Andy Christ is a comic book. That’s what’s happening.”
DR:Scud is such a great character, and I’m so glad Rob finished it up over 10 years later.
PG:Beautiful ending too, man.
You felt like you saw a life happen there. It was a silly story but a very personal journey.
DR:It really was. I was around for the original run in fact issue 20 came out when I was a sophomore in high school so finally having that ending after all those years felt REALLY good.
PG:God, I can’t even imagine.
Such a brutal cliffhanger.
DR:It was tough..I hope to see some closure on Harmon’s La Cosa Nostroid someday too
PG:Same here! I’m a huge Dan Harmon fan too.
His podcasts were the background noise to the third Andy Christ book, actually.
There’s over a hundred. Listened to them all. Kept me sane. Still trying to find something to fill the void.
DR:Ha Ha!Harmon is another great one as well ,but getting off the Scud tangent here.
PG:Real quick, just wanted to say on the subject of influences, and then I’ll come back.
There’s a lot of other stuff out there that gets me, I think, and has a lot of influence on Andy Christ. Evan Dorkin, Mike Mignola, Aaron Alexovich, just to throw out a few names… But then if you throw in stuff outside of comics… That list becomes very long. I would say that my framing has a lot to do with movies and my storytelling comes from this TV renaissance that’s been happening for the past decade.
DR:Man its no surprise that I enjoy the book so much as it seems we have a lot of similar tastes.
PG:I grow frustrated easily with the storytelling in comics, I feel like even when they’re really good, they have a hard time cramming enough story into 20-30 pages to really satisfy the reader.
So even though the content isn’t similar… In terms of structure, I’m looking at TV.
Hence the books being “episodes.”
Alright, I’ll get off that tangent cause I could be on it all day.
DR:Yeah that can be tough, and I think you have really woven something good out it with stuff like starting the first episode with a cold opening like a movie or show, and the Stuff with the television talking head guy in book 3
DR:Yes Bill Oblivion
PG:His monologue there… I dunno. It was rough opening a book with that much dialogue that was sort tangential to what was going on.
That’s me not setting up that book, but future books. And it was worth it to me. So I went for it.
DR:I think it works well, and also leaves you bit of room to guess what may be coming.I also really enjoy the parts at the end where you talk about all the stuff going on. I think
that it gives a real great glimpse into what makes these books
PG:Thanks! I was thinking of that in terms of the special features on DVD’s. I must have watched every bit of shit in that huge Fight Club DVD when I was 15. I love that stuff. Seeing how the sausage gets made.
DR:I myself love audio commentaries and stuff like that so I’m right there with you. Another thing I think is interesting is your use of color on key scenes which is something you don’t see often in comics.
PG:Yeah, the black and white was a practical and stylistic choice. Obviously, for print, color is more expensive. But in my mind, Andy Christ has always been black and white. It takes less time to make too so there’s an added benefit. And then to bring color in at key points, it’s a visual shorthand, a conversation you’re unconsciously kinda having with the reader.
PG:Frank Miller’s Sin City would be the obvious influence. Aaron Alexovich does that on Serenity Rose to great effect. I wanted to do it less than that though.Andy’s fire will always be green. I’m never gonna not color that.
Demons are red.
There’s a particular character later on that will have some color going on.
And then some bits here and there… There’s some red blood in book 2.
It’s like saying “Look at this! This is important!”
DR:Yes I agree, and not to mention how visually great it looks
PG:I think as an artist, I think more in black and white.
DR:I think a lot of people are like that, and sometimes color detracts from a book and almost makes it more about the fancy shading and blends than the actual art.
PG:Yes, exactly. I can do a color page if I want to but… You know, 90% of the time, I see a color cover on a comic but they also release those limited black and whites… Those looks way better to me.
I like ink, I like the look of it.
DR:yeah its nice when the art can stand on its own.
PG:I felt that some of my shading in book 2 detracted from the ink… but then I’m not nuts about the ink in there anymore anyway… but 3 has a bit less of that. I did that very consciously.
DR: Has there been any kind of backlash to the content of Andy?
PG:So far, I don’t think it’s reached enough people for anyone to be legitimately angry with me.
DR:I have noticed your style has been evolving as the books go on, but it was really top notch to begin with.
PG:Thanks. I appreciate that. I can’t look at book 1 anymore, honestly.
Feels very scribbly and I think if anyone really wants to call me a ripoff artist, that book makes an easy case for it.
DR:Ha ha well it looked great to me.
On the controversy subject I personally found nothing offensive about nay of the books, but I have a pretty open mind. Hopefully other feel the same way and no one tries to start some crusade.
because while you do deal with some touchy subjects I think its presented in a light hearted way.
PG:I mean, I’m cool with it. I would like to say that I put my best foot forward and found the most effective way to introduce this character to the world. I’d like to say that. But I would do so much differently now. But at the same time, I do really just enjoy the idea in a romantic kind of way of people being able to watch me get better. Because I like seeing that in comics. I like seeing that the book was made by a human being. I like when character designs change over time. So however much I beat myself up over the quality, I like that people will get to see that.
I don’t feel like anything I do is that out of hand.
But it is dealing with religion, and I think pretty clearly from the perspective of a non-believer.
Or at least as somebody with doubts and very few boundaries about what is and is not okay to talk about.
DR:Comics are in my mind supposed to improve over time. Just like a tv show where you go back and watch season 1 and realize how much different it was from where you are now, but at the time it blew you away
‘m glad no one has tried to call you out on the content in any case
PG:I think if I had tried to do this when I was 19… Well, the art wouldn’t have been as developed as it is now, obviously, but it would have been a much angrier, meaner book, I think.
In terms of how it would have dealt with religion and believers.
I’m 30 now but back then, you’re still at the age where you’re sorting all this out.
DR:Yeah sometimes its best for things to brew a bit before being unleashed to the world.
If I had been doing DoomKick at 19 you’d be seeing a lot less positive reviews I’ll tell you what.
PG:And having been raised Catholic and having personally experienced a lot of things that sickened me within the institution… as well as, fuck, growing up under a fundamentalist Christian president and watching a bunch of religious whackjobs drive planes into skyscrapers…
Andy Christ did stem a lot from that anger. I think it would have a book of just blind fury.\
I’ve mellowed out a lot. I’m still a pretty angry guy, like that’s definitely in parts of the material, but I think I come at faith more from a place of understanding and curiosity.
That’s more interesting to me now. Because we all have something, whether we mythologize it in an anthropomorphic God character or we just leave the house and pretend a tanker truck couldn’t just plow into us at any minute.
DR:Yeah its tough to try and create something truly great out of anger. So thankfully you waited a bit to unleash this monster on the world.
PG:And really, just look at the Bible and the whole umbrella that Christianity falls under… That’s an amazing sandbox to get to play around in.
DR:The mythology there is certainly fertile ground to work with
PG:I mean, I could do more or less this same story without the religious stuff. Maybe Andy’s dad is a supervillain instead of the devil, maybe Frooky’s an alien.
But to use this cultural touchstone, this common ground that everyone is aware of, to explore certain themes that are very close to me… Why wouldn’t I?
DR: Yeah you could, but I think grounding it in something so many people are intimately familiar with works so much better
PG:And if there’s anything offensive in what I do, maybe it’s that. Because to me, it’s just a thing I can use and for other people, it’s their lives.
I have a lot of religious friends. The reactions have been interesting. Some of them really like what I do. Everybody else is actively avoiding looking at it.
DR:Yeah it can be tough, but I think most people who will be drawn to a indy comic like Andy know that it’s all in good fun and not from a hateful place
PG:I have a buddy who just straight up was like “I like that they’re out there making stuff but I think it would upset me if I saw it.”
And I respect that, I guess. It is what it is. I do this because I want to connect, yet I don’t especially care if people hate it for those reasons.
DR:As an artist you can’t care what people think or it becomes disigenuous.
PG:I think a lot about whether or not I’m hitting my mark, in terms of what I’m trying to say. But I don’t think about who I’m going to please or piss off.
I mean, I DO want to be liked.
Well, not me. I don’t really care that much if they like me.
But I want people to like the book.
But I don’t think about it, I guess. It doesn’t pre-occupy me.
DR:yeah exactly you want people to like your stuff,but if you are worried about who will be offended by this or that then it compromises your vision which is what will draw people to your stuff anyway
PG:I write to where I think the story is going, not what I think would make people happy. I think that would be disingenuous.
PG:And really, I think honesty and transparency connects more than any pre-meditated focus-grouped thing.
I don’t know if I have anything to back that up… But I believe it on faith.
And there’s that word again.
DR:yeah this is true. If its not from the heart why bother doing it.
PG:That’s why I can’t seem to do the fanart thing.
I really fucking should, man.
That is such easy money, it’s ridiculous.
DR:Ha ha yeah it is, but there dis respect in wanting to do your own thing instead of just drawing other peoples stuff
PG:I’ve done sketch commissions at conventions. “Draw me Superman!” People get way more excited about expensive original art of stuff they already like than 32 pages of a new thing that would cost them three dollars.
DR: Yeah some people are like that, but it sucks because there is a world of new possibilities out there
PG:I’m not judging. We are so inundated with distractions now, we are constantly absorbing media from every possible direction. Getting into a new thing is work at this point. You can throw a few bucks at an artist you’ve never heard of to read a book you MIGHT like or you can watch old episodes of Doctor Who. That’s way easier.
DR:So changing gears I notice you have been posting a lot of pics of Episode 4 lately. About how long does an issue take you to finish?
PG:It has varied. The first issue, I sat on for over a year.
It was hard to maintain the work ethic is really all that was.
DR:That is the hardest part of starting anything new. It took me ages to get in the swing of doing weekly posts on the site
PG:I could sit and do a page or I could go to a bar and maybe meet a girl and that was just a way more attractive proposition at one point.
DR:Yeah you have to give up most if not all of your life to bring something new to the world ,a nd that is hard for a lot of people
PG:I think what really motivated me to finish was I had a really bad year in terms of… all that stuff.
Being single and dating and drinking too much and getting your heart broken.
Like “Whoa, I should have just stayed inside and worked on that book.” And then I met my current girlfriend, and I’m like this wounded animal. And she really, really dug the art and wanted to know the story. So I finished.
DR: Again shades of Scud since that book was born of a broken heart. All of that can be a huge drag to be creative. So now that you have put out 3 episodes have you noticed it getting easier to finish the book each time?
PG:Nah. They get harder!
Book 2 took three months. I raced through it. I think it shows.
3 was tough. I wrote it specifically to force myself to do thing I didn’t know if I could do.
All that nightmarish Limbo imagery and action sequences.
I think 3 took five months altogether. 4 should go a little better but we’ll see.
DR:I don’t think it shows, but i know that its hard to not be spur critical of your own work.
I loved those limbo bits quite a bit actually
PG:I did a lot of scribbling to get that just right. I am notoriously horrible with backgrounds.
It was my biggest point of improvement. I needed to get better at that and Limbo was just throwing myself to the wolves.
I think it worked. Book 3 has been out for a while and I still don’t hate it.
DR:You mention that a few times in the after parts of the books..i don’t see it, and I think the backgrounds are great. Again though its hard to see that from inside the whole thing.
PG:The thing about being self-critical as an artist. I don’t know that it’s… HEALTHY. Like, mentally. I’m a ball of nerves at all times.
But it’s so fucking good for the work, man.
Self-criticism is this need to be, or to believe, that you are exceptional.
DR:Tell me about it man. I hate nearly every picture I take for the site and every sculpt I do for the toys. It is good for the work because it pushes you to keep improving
I think most creative people are never 100% satisfied with anything they create
PG:Yeah! It becomes your responsibility to be the best version of yourself as an artist, as a writer, whatever your thing is. And you put that on yourself because no one else will.
It’s competition too, right? Because no matter how good you are, someone’s better than you.
DR:exactly. There is always someone better, and once you get better than one person you then have to get better than who is better than them.
PG:But I’m not really competitive. I want to be good enough to have a place in comics. The real drive is I believe my story is good but I’m not a good enough writer or artist to tell it. And I owe it to the story to get better, always.
DR: It’s true you should always be focused on the product not others doing similar things Is there an estimate of when episode 4 will be dropping?
PG:I would like to aim for September. Definitely early Fall.
I’m being careful not to rush this one. I would love for these things to be done faster and in the future, that may be the case. I COULD crank a book out fast right now but it wouldn’t be good.
DR:You should take your time. A better book is far superior to a timely book,
and its not like you have a bi monthly schedule to worry about. I can’t wait to see what episode 4 brings us. Where can those who are interested buy the books?
PG:The books are on www.andy-christ.com. Just hit the “Store” link up top. You can read the first and second issue for free on the site but the paid versions have a bunch of extra material in them. The third book is delivering one free page per week but you can buy it straight off and read the whole thing for two bucks.
Basically, there are tiered incentives. If you drop 2 bucks on a book, you get a PDF file you can read on your computer, iPad, whatever. 10 dollars gets you that, plus a signed black and white print. 25 gets a color book.
It’s kinda like a mini-Kickstarter. There’s posters and original art higher price ranges.
DR:Well that is certainly a good incentive for people to buy the books.
PG:I try. Getting them to actually see the site is the first step though, and I can’t seem to get past it.
DR:Well hopefully this interview helps with that at least a bit.
PG: We’ll see, thanks man, I really appreciate it. I have a very small but loyal fanbase of mostly friends and friends of friends. And then the odd guy that stumbled onto the fan page who checks in now and then.
DR:Not a problem man, I really enjoy hyping stuff I like, and is one of my favorite parts of DK.
PG: Dude, I’m thrilled you like it enough to want to hype it.
I’m hyper-aware of any good will that comes my way with this. I make my books at a loss and the love of just doing them only gets you so far. When someone steps in to say “You’re making something cool, keep going,” I need that.
DR:We all do man,and original stuff like this needs to be hyped over whatever mess the big guys are doing currently
PG:Ha! I have a hard time with mainstream comics. I like superheroes. Very rare that I actually want to read one of their books.
DR:You and me both man…you and me both. Especially since they cancelled Hellblazer.
PG:Yeah, that was a fucking bummer.
DR: Ridiculous to cancel a long running book just to fit it into some bullshit New 52 garbage. What books are you reading currently?
PG:I’ve been reading Black Science, Saga, The Manhattan Projects, and East of West.
Not exactly indie, but not quite mainstream either. Really wild, imaginative stuff, the kind of books movies SHOULD be emulating right now instead of rebooting Spider-Man again.
DR:I haven’t been reading anything except old stuff, and the 3 episodes of Andy lately
PG:You should check those out. Especially East of West and Manhattan Projects if dark humor’s your thing. Jonathan Hickman’s the guy that writes those. He’s very into alternate history, sci-fi, and pitch black comedy. It really is some of the most interesting stuff in comics.
DR:Andy was the first time I had binge read anything in ages. I’ll for sure check those out
PG:That’s actually very flattering!
DR: So I gotta ask man, where did you come up with the idea for a gas powered penis?
Ah, jesus… I’m not sure.
That’s going back.
DR: So good man
PG:I think it just made sense to me.
Robot arms, legs, eyes…
DR:It makes perfect sense
PG:It all had to build to this sick punchline that I had… no bullshit, been wanting to write for years.
DR:It really helps cut the terror out that moment thinking about him gunning that thing up. I love it.
PG:That was the hope.
I had written some version of that scene years ago.
I always assumed I would change it.
There had to be some better idea, something more clever, less scatological, because I don’t really do dick jokes.
Plus, the whole child rape thing, like that’s really uncomfortable.
But the idea just stayed. I thought it was hilarious.
DR:It didn’t really read as a “dick” joke to me so much as just a great gag, and the rape element needed that comedy punch to avoid going too dark, but it really cemented that this is a book whose tone is right up my alley .
PG:The thing that made it work for me is that Scratch is so cartoonishly evil.
Some of my other characters have a bit of the gray going on but Scratch is a caricature of a monster.
DR:Yeah the rape element needed that comedy punch to avoid going too dark, but it really cemented that this is a book whose tone is right up my alley .
PG:And the idea of this massive robotic thing he was somehow concealing under the desk was so absurd, there was no reality to it at all.
And then that he IMMEDIATELY gets his.
In a brutal, nasty way.
And as a kind of poetic revenge.
DR:It really is. Thats what I like about the whole thing.
PG:Eaten by the kids he had hurt.
It was cathartic.
PG:And I’m glad you said that, that it was when you knew it was for you.
Because holy shit, I actually had anxiety before releasing that book.
DR:Sealed the deal for me man.
PG:I knew I had drawn a line there.
The first book is… dark but cute in an almost PG-13 way, aside from the sex and stuff.
Book 2 was relentlessly dark and then that scene hits… and in my mind, you’re either like “I have to see where this goes next” or “I’m calling the police.”
DR:yeah its good let people know what they are in for early.
PG:I wonder a lot how many people just stopped there.
I wonder if it was that bad.
I can’t tell.
DR:I can’t really imagine someone picking up a book called Andy Christ and that being too much for them,but you never know.
PG:I’ll say this. The first few scenes in Book 4… I think they’re way worse.
DR:Oooooh that is good news!
PG:There seriously is a little voice in my head constantly going “Maybe you shouldn’t do that” and every time I hear it, I know I have to do it.
DR:You gotta do it.
PG:And I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, they’re gonna have to turn on me eventually.
DR:Or you blow up and become huge.
I dunno, I don’t think about that too much. My goal, if I have one, is to be able to do this for a living.
That alone is a high mountain to climb.
If I can make it there, anything after that is gravy.
DR:Yeah that is a great goal. As long as you can do what you love and survive doing it who cares about anything else.
PG:Yup. I just want to be done with the damn day job.
It’s just this shitty thing that I have to do to keep my rent paid and all I can think about is how much time it takes away from being creative.
But that’s not a unique experience, I know. I’m no hero for saying it.
DR: It’s not, but it is something we all strive for.Rent should be free.
DR:Is there anyone in your life you’d like to shout out?
PG:Yeah, obviously, Cassie McAndrews just did this awesome tattoo for me.
One of my very few old friends, Paul Montgomery, he’s one of my favorite writers and he’s looked over my scripts for me to tell me what’s wrong and then I don’t listen and I do it anyway and he was totally right.
Not sure if he’s still with iFanboy.
Rod Filbrandt who’s been a friend and bit of a mentor since I started releasing books. He’s here
Not that he needs the help but I’ve been in touch with Rob Schrab on and off for a few years now and he’s been really encouraging and inspiring.
So thank you to him for all of that and so much more.
DR:Rob is great. I have had the honor of speaking to him a couple of times, and he’s just the best.
PG:Rob is so gracious to his fans, he’s awesome.
I could fill up this space with hundreds of inspiring people so I’ll cut it off there and catch them on another interview.
He really is. Ha ha yeah these lists can get pretty long.
PG:Yeah, I’ll end up talking your ear off about stuff that’s got nothing to do with comics.
DR:Well thanks for the interview man! I greatly appreciate it, and am glad to be a small part of the Saga of Andy Christ.
PG:No problem, man.
Thanks again for having me.
DR:You are very welcome Sir, and I look forward to Episode 4 of andy coming in the coming months.