When you spend a large amount of your time creating in different fields, you build up an extensive collection of pages and ideas from those endeavors. The question is what you might do with the fruition of those projects. Which includes not only previously published works but also stories that had collected over time. In the case of talented creator Kraig Rasmussen, he decided to gather up his different stories and offer them as part of a new Zoop campaign. Some of which has been published through his MonkeyGong label. While the others were the fruit of some of his other works. The results were a collection of his stories entitled: Odds and Ends, Volume 1 and 2.
Recently, we had an opportunity to catch up to Kraig, just as his Zoop campaign had started. We sat down and talked about his beginnings, the different venues he has applied his talents to, and of course, Odds and Ends, Vol.1 & 2 and his collaboration with Zoop. So, let’s welcome creator Kraig Rasmussen to GVN’s Talking Comics.
GVN: Thank you for your time, Kraig. Since this is my first opportunity to talk creative shop with you, let’s
start out with a bit of creative background. What was it about comics that captured your imagination
and whose work , whether by word or art, motivated you to pursue that field?
KR: thanks for taking the time to talk with me! Ever since I saw my first boxes full of comics in the mid 90s, they were irresistible to me. Already a fan of drawing, my immediate and delighted reaction was, “you can do that as job?!” The ones that really caught me were Jim Lee’s “Uncanny X-men” and Todd McFarlane’s “Amazing Spider-Man,” then shortly after that, “WildC.A.T.S.” and “Spawn” respectively.
I think it was the explosive levels of imagination on paper, and the densely detailed worlds made from noting but ink and a little time. The worlds were bigger, more exciting, and more creatively free than anything movies had shown me by then.
Pretty quickly after that Mike Mignola debuted “Hellboy,” Matt Wagner reinvented his darkly compelling character Grendel with “Grendel Tales,” Frank Miller’s launched “Sin City,” and then I found everything he had done prior to that. I dove headfirst into those books, and it was love all over again. I also had an early love for Barry Windsor-Smith that still persists, and probably informed my ink work quite a lot.
More recently, the art of Paul Pope, Moebius and Richard Corben blew my imagination open in all new ways, and along with a host of other European comics, seem to have helped me crystallize what I’m going for visually.
The MonkeyGong Label
GVN: I have to say, I admire your tastes in artists. Almost all them you mentioned has had an impact on me, one way or another. But, I digress. You have self-published a large number of works under your MonkeyGong label? What inspired you to create your own publishing house and where did the name MonkeyGong take its origins from?
KR: You’ll note that many of the names I mentioned are writer/artists, which has always appealed to me because my mind is full of story ideas. Plus the control of my own IP really appeals to me, both because the genesis of Image comics when I was young, and it’s continued success, but also because in our multi-platform content age, it’s just smart business to own my concepts. Maybe I’m a bit of a control freak creatively…
“Monkeygong” is a nonsense word I came up with years ago and it stuck in my head. Over time it came to mean my “primal alarm” or primal voice— the voice of my monkey self and my most primal thoughts and feelings. That voice feeds my perspective on social commentary and themes of the human condition, both major components to great science fiction. Once I started focusing on the genre, “Monkeygong” being a weird word, plus the meaning I’ve attached to it, made it the perfect brand name.
Science Fiction Genre
GVN: Many of your titles reflect your love of science fiction, whether it be “Sojourners”, “Technopolis”,
“Furthest Reaches”, or “Epoch.” What appeals to you about the science fiction genre and when
developing such stories, which element tends to come first, the written word or the art?
KR: I enjoy the reflective quality of sci-fi. The “through a glass darkly” view of our world. Being a stone’s throw away from our time or our world make it a great vehicle to explore big concepts and meanings, without coming off as heavy handed or solipsistic. Plus, for me, the visual flavor of the genre is undeniable, inescapable, and full of endless possibilities.
When I’m working on stories, it does seem to come from visuals first, but almost always there’s some theme or idea attached to them that I can’t stop thinking about. Not to mention the world building element, which is one of my favorite things to play with. I never seem to get tired of it.
GVN: Creating comics and graphic novels are just some of your talents. During your career you have
hosted & produced the “Storycraft” & “Repeat Viewing” podcasts and worked to establish the overall
visual design for the upcoming film “The Dead Remember.” Not to mention doing layout art on the sci-fi
comic “the Crossing” for the Stela Comics App, and storyboard art for several independent films. When
you pursue each of these different types of projects, does it require a different mindset for each one or is
it just a matter of letting your creative side take control?
KR: It does require slight shifts in mindset, but it always comes down to the core inspiration and my passion for it. Once I can wrap my head around that, I can crank out the work. Although with storyboards, time is always a factor, even more than in comics, so it’s more about hammering out drawings with the clearest, most dynamic storytelling possible.
With podcasting, well… as you can probably tell I like to talk about ideas. It’s an addictive medium for that reason. But it’s also a lot of production time for a single episode and that clashed with my comics goals. Someday I’d like to return to hosting a show but have someone else do all the production work.
These days, my original love of comics has taken over completely, and is carving out a very single-minded path for me. That’s a new feeling after all the bouncing around between projects for the last decade, and I’m really enjoying it.
Odds and Ends, Books 1 & 2
GVN: You have just started a Zoop Campaign for a two-volume anthology entitled: Odds and Ends Books
1 and 2. As you describe on the campaign site, it is an “overstuffed collection of nearly 20 short stories,
compiled from over a decade of experimental science fiction stories, film & TV pitch comics, and unseen
personal works.” What made you decide to put together such a myriad of your creative muses and how
much new work was involved to tie everything together?
KR: I published 50 copies of an early version of Odds & Ends in 2017, of stories that just felt like they were going to waste otherwise because the pitches weren’t going anywhere, and the personal work was sidelined by the work on the pitches. It all needed a home. The book was good but felt incomplete, and not just because it included roughly 15 penciled pages.
When I approached republishing it late last year, I wanted to fix that. Then I discovered I actually had another usable 100 pages, enough to make 2 big books. Better still, with all that new content laid out, my creative voice became clearer, as did my sci-fi brand, and they had been there all along.
Now I’m inking all the penciled pages, (around 35 total,) and doing some decisive corrections on some others, to amplify the visual power and tie everything together even more. It’s less work than it sounds like, and perhaps a bit more than I originally intended, but only because I’m trying to say above and beyond. The results are already turning into a visually exciting collection and feel very much in line with everything else I’m publishing.
GVN: Part of the excitement on your Zoop campaign (besides Odds and Ends), are the many offered
pages of your artwork. Many of them are exquisite pen and ink drawings. Do you have an affinity for
working with pen and ink or does it depend on the subject matter and the story you are trying to tell?
KR: Thank you for the kind words! I love working in pen & ink in general. It’s definitely the way I prefer to work, with the exception of my digital colors and the occasional watercolor. But if I have a story I’m enjoying, the work just pours out of me, which is why I’m excited to feel so single minded about focusing on making comics.
GVN: When it came time for choosing a crowd funding source, you have partnered with Zoop. What
were the selling points that Jordan and Eric and the great team at Zoop pitched that convinced you to go
KR: Zoop appealed to me immediately because it was for comics only, and seemed to have lots of flexibility as far as rewards and add-ons. Eric and Jordan were a big part of my interest in the platform too. They truly love the comics community, which is a huge confidence booster right off the bat.
I’ve known Jordan for around 10 years from San Diego Comic Con, so I was already intrigued by Zoop when he told me they were staring it a couple years ago. But Eric made a point of visiting me at my artists’ alley table in San Diego last summer. His kindness and encouragement there sealed the deal. The personal touch they provide is sorely lacking in other platforms, and it has exceeded my hopes at every turn. They’re extremely supportive, pushed me and championed me when I really needed it, and helped me design a fun campaign.
Plus, they offer PR support and have been incredible on that front. I wasn’t sure if I could succeed at crowdfunding without that and I’m glad I took advantage of it. I urge others to do so if they’re not sure they have a big enough audience or reach. Zoop is exactly what comics crowdfunding needs. I’m excited to see where it goes considering it still relatively new.
The Campaign and Following Kraig
GVN: Thanks again for a bit of your time, Kraig. Finally, before I let you go, please tell our fans once more
about your two volume anthology Odds and Ends Books 1 and 2 and what they will find at your
campaign home. Also, where can fans follow you on social media and the web.
KR: Once again, thanks for your time as well. I appreciate your questions and a chance to discuss my work.
I’m so excited for your fans to experience the “Odds & Ends” 2 volume anthology. If they love science fiction and even European comics, it’ll be perfect for them! It’s a densely packed sci-fi art experience, with small diversions into humor and history. There are robot stories, a sci-fi Alice in Wonderland adaptation, crime stories, a mystical sword & sandals take on the rise of King David, (which will be published as a series of graphic novels by a name label next year,) a brand-new sci-fi horror short, and more! Plus, in book 2 they can find the full first issue of my psychedelic time travel tale “the Adventures of Dr. Cotton Hickox” which ties all the genres together, and for my money is a pretty expansive, exciting story.
The campaign offers more than just “Odds & Ends.” You can bundle them with my newest Monkeygong books, “Sojourners, Technopolis & Furthest Reaches.” Those books are also available a la carte as add-ons, including both the standard or special sketch cover editions of Sojourners & Technopolis. Additionally, I’m offering lots of original pen & ink art, commissions, sketches, prints, shirts, and even comics coaching sessions. No doubt I’ll add more before the campaign is done.
I’m most active on Instagram and twitter under @kraigcomx. Right now, I’m promoting the campaign a ton and will be doing some IG lives of the art upgrade process— evening inking sessions where lots of new art reveals will be happening. Otherwise monkeygong.com is the home for all my work.
You can check out Kraig’s Zoop campaign here.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.