Publisher Self Made Hero describes its new graphic novel Ricky Rouse has a Gun as taking “a curious look at China – a country that, once we look past its often outrageous copyright infringements, is a culture ripe with innovation and a unique, courageous spirit.” The book is a satire of action movie clichés and stereotypes, turning those familiar tropes and images on their proverbial heads.
Ricky Rouse writer Jörg Tittel took the time to talk with Unwinnable about some of his favorite comics, films, copyright, creativity and, of course, his brand new comic.
UNWINNABLE: What makes comics the medium to tell this story on?
Jörg Tittel: After realizing that a movie would probably be quite expensive – and I somehow didn’t have the money to finance it myself, nor the balls to pitch it to Disney – I decided to tell the story as a series of haikus on Twitter. My wife suggested it was unlikely that would pay the bills. And so someone told me about this new medium called “comic books”
which cleverly combines pictures and the occasional blurb to tell stories and I thought to myself: that’s it! I’ll just make one of them! I started to draw it myself, but somehow stick figures look crap in mascot outfits. Nonsense aside, I thought comics would be perfect to tell this tale.I’m a massive fan of Paul Verhoeven’s movies and if you take his original
RoboCop, that was heavily inspired by Judge Dredd and 2000 A.D. comics of the day.
I don’t have any scientific data on this, but comics may have been the first entertainment medium to seamlessly blend high concepts, action, political satire, stories and the occasional burst of ultra violence. Unless you take the Bible of course. I saw the historically accurate Noah movie the other day and that managed to be both hilarious and totally insane. And all these people drowned in it. It was dark, man! Even the Man of Steel can’t kill that many civilians in a boss fight!
Comics are possibly the leanest and meanest medium to tell stories visually. They manage to dodge even the most brutal political and corporate censorship and occasionally they even get adapted into awesome movies. Who knows, perhaps someone will want to make Ricky Rouse has a Gun for the big screen with me. I’d like to nominate Quentin Tarantino as executive producer and Stephen Chow as director. They do read this, right?
UNWINNABLE: What brought you to comics?
J.T.: I was born in Belgium, so my parents literally brought me into the European capital of comics. Some of our dearest family friends – like the awesome Grzegorz Rosinski whose Thorgal series is still massive in France, Belgium and beyond to this day – worked in the world of comics. As a kid, I often entertained the idea to draw for a living – I used to be rather skilled at it (not sure what happened) – but my passions took me into theatre, film and videogames. I almost lost touch with comics entirely, except for masterpieces like V For Vendetta, Watchmen, etc. Ricky Rouse reignited my childhood love for
comic books. And as a sleep deprived dad of two little ones, they also seem to be the only thing I can read from start to finish.
UNWINNABLE: And now for the elephant in the room… Ricky Rouse has a Gun is a comic where American terrorists invade a Chinese theme park and murder people on Christmas Day. It’s coming out (according to Amazon) in mid-September. Early September still has a sting here across the pond. Why release the book at that particular time?
J.T.: Argh! I hoped you’d never notice. It’s a coincidence, really. September just happened to be the only open slot in my publisher’s event packed year. This month for instance saw the UK release of their biggest book ever, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds (it’s published by Random House in the US). It was great to see Bryan on his book UK book tour. He even got cornered by a real life Ricky Rouse. Seconds is awesome. You should all read it, but only after you’ve bought Ricky Rouse has
a Gun of course. Nah, just buy both. Treat yourself. You know you deserve it.
UNWINNABLE: That’s the other thing that’s interesting about this book – the marketing campaign. You have a music video and the free preview up. Has the marketing, especially the video, brought more attention to the book?
J.T.: Yes, I think so. The music video has had over 240,000 downloads thanks to our BitTorrent Bundle campaign and people have downloaded the 30-page sample in the thousands. I probably went through all this trouble – and have been lucky to get the blessing and tremendous support from Self Made Hero to pull it off – mostly out of insecurity. It’s my first comic book, I’m a total nobody in this world and so I’m overcompensating. Ultimately, I hope the book will speak for itself.
UNWINNABLE: There is a scene where Uncle Hucheng shows Ricky the costume he will be wearing. It’s Hucheng’s pride and joy and he is offended when Rick notes that the costume looks like a certain famous rodent. How do you intend to continue the discussion about copyright and innovation in a world where so much art seems to be more and more obviously derivative?
J.T.: Chris Sprigman, author of The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation and the awesome foreword in my book, has only just invited me to talk at NYU on September 23rd (two days after Brooklyn Book Fest, where I’ll be signing books, too) and hopefully we’ll have an awesome discussion on copyright vs. creativity there. Do come and bring friends! I’ve also been invited to speak at the Lakes Comic Art Festival and there will be others.
But more importantly, I hope that my next projects – which probably won’t be as overtly satirical – won’t be derivative, joyless products as so often seems to be the case these days. I generally am left rather cold by brand-driven movie sequels, prequels and mega marketing universes but then suddenly a Guardians of the Galaxy comes along and restores my faith in the medium. True joy and creativity shine through, even in the most corporate and dull times.
Ricky Rouse has a Gun is available 5, September 2014 in the UK from Self Made Hero and September 30, 2014 in the US from Abrams Books. Also, you can see Jörg at the Brooklyn Book Festival or the Lakes Comic Art Festival. Go get your book signed, Dear Reader.