Frankie’s Wild Years: An Interview With Gareth Luby and Paul Carroll

 

Writer Paul Carroll and artist Gareth Luby has teamed together to bring Frankie the feline assassin to Irish comics. I ask them about working together and some of the other projects that they have going on.

How did you come to start working together?
Paul: It all started with the Geek Mart. When I joined the organisation team, Gareth didn’t have much of a choice but to put up with me! That went on for about seven months before talk of comics came up between a few of us who attended the market every month. Gareth had an idea, but needed an writer, and I wanted to break into comic writing, so we started working on Meouch together. Tracy Sayers made her start with us, while she was trying to get an artist for her comic, Freya.

Gareth: I concur, Paul and I got chatting at one of the first shows I did. He got a Flash commission off me and like he said we started organising the Geek Mart together.

I needed a writer to help me with an idea that was knocking around my head, so I pitched the idea of Frankie the Assassin Cat to him, focusing on how nuts, violent and fun I envisioned it. I think it was right up his alley and after those and more subsequent brainstorming chats, Frankie was born in comic form.

What was the inspiration behind Meouch?
P: The basic idea – the character of Frankie – was Gareth’s. His new kitten, Frankie, was attacking him, and he got the notion to make him an assassin. We sat down with a couple of friends, and I jotted down every idea we could think of – from who his first target could be, to the sort of insane shenanigans he could get up to. We had a few things we wanted at the start that I’ve since refused to let go, like Frankie being able to break the fourth wall, his obsessive use of cat puns (particularly in the place of swear words), and his capacity to carry more weapons than a small cat ought to be able to manage.

G: Frankie, as a kitten (in real life) was off the wall nuts. He was constantly up to all kinds of mischief, and he was vicious when playing around. He was a character from day one! I wanted to make a comic that was crazy, fun and violent! And as Frankie was yet again ripping his pound of flesh off my arm while playing, I had the idea, ‘What If you crossed Rocket Racoon and Deadpool and stuck them into this little guy’… Boom! Meouch!

There are a lot of fun Easter eggs for comic fans on the cover of Meouch. You seem to draw from a lot of fandoms.
G: There are plenty of Easter Eggs alright, like the Buster Sword, Thor’s Hammer, Kryptonite, Cap’s Shield etc. This is something I wanted to do with Frankie from day one. I didn’t want him to have any limits. I wanted him to be able to jump into any universe, to be able to interact with any character. I even pitched an idea of Frankie taking on Thanos and stealing the Infinity Gauntlet only to find out he was on a hollow deck and the brunt of a Ferengi joke, so you get the idea.

P: To me, the cover a good indication of the variety of story we can tell with the character, before we’d really considered his limits. The Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII is the first real indication that we could throw Frankie into the fantasy genre – which we then followed through on with A Knight’s Tail in One Comic to Rule Them All.

The latest book is Frankie’s Big Book of Assassination. Any hints on what readers should expect?
P: Oh, the usual, but in full colour. Blood, cat puns, a slightly deranged high from cat nip – all the makings of a deadly cat!

G: Any budding assassins can learn a thing or two from a master of the art. Everything from picking your vantage point to body disposal.

It could soon be required reading at the Worldwide International Serial Killers Educational Reform School (W.I.S.K.E.R.S)

Paul, you met the real Frankie recently. Is he anything like the comic character?
P: He was a scaredy cat in real life! I couldn’t move near him without him bolting!

G: He was just luring you into a false sense of security.

Paul, you’re writing The Wren for Buttonpress. How did that come about and what is it like jumping into such a long running series?

P: I think it started with Tomte the Warrior Elf, a short comic Jason Browne and I worked on for Christmas 2016. He needed someone to write a poem for the comic, and he knew I knew his style. I’d been collecting Buttonpress books for a few years before that. Jason wanted to take a small step back from the writing after that, to focus more on the art of the comics, and on other projects, so he asked me one day while I was talking to him at work. It was equal parts exciting and terrifying to jump into issue 13, but I was made to feel like part of the team at Dublin Comic Con when Jason greeted me with my own Wren t-shirt!

Gareth, you’ve done some sketch card work for Marvel. How did that come about?
G: Before I started working on a project of commission, like most artists I warm up by doing some quick sketches. I started doing full colour illustrations on Post-It notes. I found this as a good way to warm up doing pencils, inks and colours without having to commit to a large piece of work. So I started posting these illustrations to my Instagram and they proved quite popular.

One day out of the blue, I received an email asking if I would be interested in working on artist sketch cards for a Marvel run of trading cards, as my work suited the style of art they needed i.e. a lot of detail and colour on a small canvas. I didn’t know what to think; I instantly thought It was a joke, but a couple of more emails back and forth, it turned out to be a genuine offer and I accepted. I got the first batch done and they were well received. I have just completed a run for an X-Men line. That was awesome and a lot of fun.

You’re both involved in the Geek Mart. Can you tell me about that?
P: The Geek Mart officially launched in May 2016 on Free Comic Book Day; we were going monthly at the time. Gareth had come up with the idea, and I was just helping out a bit on the side in the run-up to the first event. Bit by bit I took on some more responsibility with the running of the market after I lost my job. But it was at our August event last year that Gareth alerted me to an opening in his office; this little market that kept me occupied while on a job hunt ended up getting me some lasting employment!
Now we’ve gone quarterly, and I do my best each time to make sure we have some variety for attendees – we aim for a good mix of small press, artists, crafters and merch sellers. We’ve got our regulars, and we’ve got a little community building around it, and that makes the work worthwhile – even if I end up exhausted by the time the public start showing up!

G: Like Paul said, the Geek Mart is all about Community. We started out not knowing what to expect, but we have been blown away over the last few years by the response and positive feedback the Mart gets. We pride ourselves in giving our Attendees and our vendors a great day out.

There seems to be an increased in comic events around the country. What do you think about these events? You’ve attended a number of them.
P: Sometimes I wonder if there are too many events, but then I end up seeing a lot of people for the first time – locals who don’t want to, or just can’t, travel to the bigger cities. The small conventions offer a great chance to meet new people and to talk to other creators. You get more out of them when you put in the effort, and sometimes you can come away with some good stories to tell – like someone getting Frankie tattooed on his arm!

The Dublin events will always be easier for us to get to, but there’s a lot to be said for putting yourself out there and getting to at least a few shows around the country during the year.

You recently formed Limit Break Comics. Can you tell us a little about that?

P: Limit Break Comics started when myself and Gary were looking to get started with publishing our own books. We’d already stumbled upon the name, and went with that and the idea to Gareth. It was a totally casual arrangement, to help us keep motivated and working. As we’re each developing styles and voices, it made sense to combine our efforts into one brand, which has generally been well received since the launch of the first books at Small Press Day – Life & Death, which I wrote, and Mixtape, which Gary wrote, both of which are short story anthologies. We have ideas for future books, both collaborative projects and other solo books, and we’ll be launching Meouch #1 under the label, too, which will be exciting.
At the end of the day, forming Limit Break was a way for us to turn one part of our friendship into something we can work together on. It’s an identity that travels with us, so when we attend events – either tabling, panelling or just as customers – we have a name to operate under. We’re still at the early stages of our overall plans, but it’s going to be a fun journey in making comics together – which should, at the point we’re at in our comic careers – be the point.
Paul Carroll on Twitter: https://twitter.com/writeranonymous
Gareth Luby on Twitter: https://twitter.com/garethluby
The Geek Mart on Twitter: https://twitter.com/geekmartireland
Limit Break Comics on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lb_comic