Kenny Bristow and I have had a lot in common; early years reading comics digests to an adolescent love of Mad Magazine and Cracked. From there years spent in Los Angeles kicking around the entertainment industry to creating our own comics. The main difference is that he now lives in a near paradise near the the Sundance Film Festival while I still toil in the San Fernando Valley. Here’s our conversation.
First, who are you and where are you from?
My name is Kenny Bristow and I’m originally from Evansville Indiana.
Where do you call home now?
Heber City, Utah… which is a little town just up the mountain from Salt Lake City. Near Park City where they have the Sundance Film Festival.
Sounds beautiful. I’m sure its inspiring as a creator.
It is for sure. I lived in Los Angeles for 11 years, so it has been a great change of pace. Much more like where I grew up. The winters are long and snowy so that definitely works in my favor as far as time writing and drawing.
Kinda like “Misery” lol.
Haha, Yeah, I’m sure. So let me step back in time. What was the first comic that you bought and then what was the first comic that blew your mind?
The first comic I bought would have probably been Spider Man. Something with the Green Goblin ’cause I remember that dude really tripping me out. But I was much more into things like MAD and CRACKED than I was comics.
See, I was into both comics and the funny magazines. I loved CRACKED more than MAD for some odd reason. Was there a particular comic that made you want to create your own comics?
I have to go to the newspaper comics for that one. Lil’ Abner. I would get so sucked into that strip that I would wait for the paper lady every afternoon. I was just coming of age to understand some of the political stuff and I was fascinated with not only the drawing, but with the dialogue. I loved the dialogue! The way Capp wrote with an accent forced me as a reader to step into those characters. It became the single most important thing I try and put into my comics. Character.
And of course… Capp created Daisy Dukes…lol.
Right on. Yeah, the one comic that hooked me as a kid was the old Beetle Bailey digest collections. It was how I discovered storylines in comics. I know that you’re both a writer and artist. Did you pursue any formal training or are you self taught?
I’ve had some writing classes after high school and some art classes too… all on the “casual” level I guess you could say. I loved the Beetle Bailey digests too. And the Archies. It was probably where I learned how to unfold the storyline as well. I also loved Dick Tracy. Learned a lot there.
Yeah, I really dug Dick Tracy. I also have this huge collection of Buck Rogers strips that I’ve had since a kid. Even the Family Circus digests taught me about structure and camera placement. Anyway, how did you decide to start creating your own books? Is Mad Mouse your first foray into this crazy Indie Comics world?
It is! Funny you mentioned camera placement… I love manipulating my panels with extreme changes in pov’s.
Well, I was a Director of Photography in a previous life, so I’m really strict with that sorta thing. Walk me through the process of how you created Mad Mouse.
Awesome! so you understand me lol. A lot of people have told me I’m a frustrated film director. Okay… creating Mad Mouse….
I’ve dabbled with screenwriting. I had messed around with some story-boarding attempts. I knew I wanted to tell a story, but wasn’t sure how.
I had a character in my head who was a bit autobiographical. He wasn’t necessarily Mad Mouse. Yet! Mad Mouse was more of a angry guy. Bitter. Resentful. I wanted my character to be endearing. He needed to have the qualities of an underachiever, yet still have hope.
In the beginning the drawings were very Mouse-like, but I wanted it more human. I almost started drawing Mad as a human. I’ll give a glimpse into the future here by saying that we will someday see Mad when he was a human. I want to keep the parallel universe aspect of it going. That’s important to me. I started with short stories… small misadventures I guess you could say. Working on more humor with the characters. Then one day, “The Unnatural” just began. I knew the story in my head as far as beginning and end, but had no idea what I would do with the middle. turns out… I went a little nuts. lol
Man, that sounds inviting. I’m looking forward to reading it. By the way, I saw it at Comic Con. I had just interviewed the FHA-Q creator, had gone to the booth and spotted your book but of course was too busy to look through it. Who would you say are your major influences as a creator?
As a strip artist, which is where my natural feel is… definitely Schultz in the beginning. Then onto mocking the work of Chic Young and Gould and of course Capp. I ventured more into animation at this point probably. Chuck Jones is the greatest ever. His Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny still leave me in awe. But I guess about 10 years ago when I was first kicking around this comic-strip/graphic novel concept – ha… i found Eisner at Barnes and Nobles on a tiny shelf of graphic novels. I read those immediately… contract With God, Dropsie Avenue. They blew me away. From that point I was inspired to back-catalog. Which is what I’ve been doing ever since. The literary story is what I seek. A novel with pictures and dialogue balloons. I can fool myself no longer lol!
Do you see Mad Mouse in that vein? What are the philosophical underpinnings of The Unnatural Submission, if that’s something you feel comfortable commenting on?
Mad is on an arduous quest for spirituality. He doesn’t know that, but i let everyone else in on it right away. He is in no way a bad individual, just a lost one. Not much unlike middle age (not that I would know yet), or difficult failings in life as divorce or alcoholism. He is unknowingly willing to accept these challenges that come his way in The Unnatural.
Sounds like you’ve got a great story on your hands. Well man, its been great. Lastly, where can fans find Mad Mouse to purchase and where can they contact you?
Right here on the almighty Facebook of course. Kenny Bristow. I also have a Mad Mouse page and am in a very influential group (founded by FHA-Q creator and friend John Orlando). I can be emailed for purchase of a copy of The Unnatural at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can get a copy from Dan Fogel of Hippy Comix at hippycomix.com.
Cool. Thanks for a nice interview.
Thank you very much Andre!
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!
By Andre Owens
“Its a Mad, Mad, Mad Mouse World, an Interview with Kenny Bristow”