Spümco, Inc. is the brainchild of John Kricfalusi and his long-time partner Jim Smith. The two animators met when they worked together on the Harlem Shuffle
video for the Rolling Stones in 1986. From there they moved on to The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse
and the revival of the cartoon classic Beany & Cecil
before they co-founded Spümco in 1990. Spümco's first work was the controversial Ren & Stimpy Show
which first aired on Nickelodeon. In July, 1995, they released the comic book Comic Book
through Marvel Comics which was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication. Soon thereafter Spümco and Marvel agreed to part ways and Comic Book
was put on hold. But you can't keep a good book down, and this November Spümco will be releasing the second first issue of Comic Book
in conjunction with Dark Horse Comics. Michael Gilman got together with Kricfalusi and Smith to find out just what this Comic Book
is all about.
Michael Gilman: What's happening with the first issue of the Dark Horse Comic Book?
John Kricfalusi: We're picking up right where we left off from Marvel.
Gilman: I've seen Jimmy the Idiot Boy and George Liquor American. Any other characters in the works?
Kricfalusi: There are a lot more characters: Jimmy's Pussy, Eddie the Dirty Atheist, Harvey Whiteman the barber...
Jim Smith: Victor Lug Nuts the butcher.
Kricfalusi: Can't forget about Lug Nuts. There's also Slab n' Ernie, George Liquor's mean nephews who come over all the time to corrupt Jimmy. We have a story that Jim's drawing that's going to be on our web page [http://www.spumco.com], "Babysitting the Idiot." Slab n' Ernie come over and teach Jimmy how to smoke cigarettes and read naked magazines. Another story we're doing is "Weekend Pussy Hunt."
Smith: We drew that a couple years ago and it's just waiting to be published.
Gilman: How did you end up at Dark Horse?
Kricfalusi: After Marvel and Spümco decided to go our separate ways, we were looking for a new publisher. Mike [Richardson] and I have been talking about doing something together for a few years and now that we have a good excuse to do it, we're doing it.
Gilman: Why the name Comic Book -- other than truth in advertising?
Kricfalusi: That was my contribution to the comic. Jim draws it, Richard Pursel writes it, and Rick Altergott colors it. I came up with the title so I could put my name in it.
Gilman: Did you read many comics when you were a kid?
Kricfalusi: Yeah sure, I read tons of comics. So did Jim.
Gilman: What kind of stuff?
Kricfalusi: When I was real young, my dad had a great instinct for buying the lowest grade comics. Instead of getting Casper the Friendly Ghost I'd end up with Timmy the Timid Ghost. I was always in the hospital when I was young, but I loved it because they used to give me free comics. I would purposely leave the windows open at night in the middle of winter so I could go and read the latest Timmy. But when I started getting an allowance I would spend almost every cent on comics. I liked Marvel Comics... Jack Kirby was my hero. All the Marvel Comics from the '60s were my favorites.
Smith: Mine too, but I did read a few Superman issues. I liked the ones with Bizarro Superman.
Gilman: There's certainly an early Marvel nostalgia in Comic Book, although it's a bit more demented.
Kricfalusi: It's a throwback to the way comics used to be. I love old comics... I still collect them. I like anything by Owen Fitzgerald, the artist of Adventures of Bob Hope and Here's Howie. I like a lot of old funny animal comics, many of which were drawn by animators. Terry-Toons Comics were all drawn by the guys who animated them. One animator, Jim Tyer, was probably the wildest animator that ever lived. He drew great comics with these weird characters.
Gilman: That's the kind of feel you're trying for in Comic Book?
Kricfalusi: Well, it's not that we're copying old comics, but those are all big influences. So are Harvey Kurtzman and Milt Gross. We just do what we do: we just sit around and come up with ideas and if we think they're funny they end up in the comic.
Gilman: What about Dr. Jean Poole? Will she show up?
Kricfalusi: No, Comic Book deals with the George Liquor world, Land of the Republicans; she's part of a different corner of the Spümco Universe. She's a scientist who has invented a chromosome extractor that sucks the genetic material out of you.
Gilman: Is she ever going to show up in comics?
Kricfalusi: Maybe. We started to develop a television show with her called True Cartoon Romance. It's a good show for girls and a way to endear ourselves to women. We sell-out men in the series. All the men on the show are jerks.
Gilman: Any limit on how long Comic Book will run?
Kricfalusi: If it sells well, we'll do it forever. If it doesn't, we'll pack bags in the supermarket.
Gilman: Is Comic Book the only title you will do through Dark Horse?
Kricfalusi: There are no immediate plans to expand, but if Comic Book does well... who knows? Our big problem is that it's hard to find artists who can draw in our style. We don't want to do a whole bunch of comics just for the sake of it, but if we have a lot of good artists we can do quite a few.
Gilman: Have you ever gotten in trouble with parents who think your work is inappropriate for their children?
Kricfalusi: No, parents like our stuff. It's TV executives that don't like our stuff. Kids like it, teenagers like it, adults like it.
Smith: Dogs like it.
Kricfalusi: Everybody but executives like what we do. My dad doesn't like when we do space stories, though.
Gilman: Why is that?
Kricfalusi: He doesn't believe in space. After we did "Space Madness," "Black Hole," and "Marooned" for Ren & Stimpy, he called me up and said, "Johnny! I took a tape of some of your goddamned cartoons there over to some friends. And y'know, we put it in the VCR there and they laughed! So I guess it must be pretty good. But your mother and I were talking about it and we don't think you should do anymore of the space cartoons. They're no good." So we stopped -- you gotta do what your dad tells you. Otherwise he'll take his shirt off and give you a lickin'.
Gilman: Did you always want to do comics?
Kricfalusi: I did when I was a kid, but then I got into animation. The reason we got into comics was really Mort Todd, our editor at Marvel. He just called me one day and said, "Why don't you guys do a comic for us?" So we did.
Gilman: Right now you're in the midst of doing a rock video?
Kricfalusi: Yeah, we're doing a video for Bjork.
Gilman: How did that come about?
Kricfalusi: I had read that she was a Ren & Stimpy fan, so when she came to LA to play -- I don't even remember how I got tickets -- I met her backstage. I said, "Why don't we do a video?" She said, "Great." She had a song called "I Miss You" on her second album she wanted to be animated anyway. So it worked out. George and Jimmy make appearances in the video.
Gilman: Are you going to do anything for the comic besides name it?
Kricfalusi: Jim doesn't let me.
Smith: He's lying. He drew about half of the first one and some of the second one.
Kricfalusi: I kind of "noodle" it. What I do is put Post-Its(TM) on top of other people's drawings: "Change an eye" or "That pecker's not big enough."
Smith: Usually it's not disgusting enough.
Kricfalusi: "You call that a dump?! Where are my Post-Its(TM)? Add a few more pieces of corn to that!"
Smith: Tell 'em about "Nutty the Friendly Dump."
Kricfalusi: We have a story called "Nutty the Friendly Dump" coming up. It's a really heartwarming story.
Gilman: It sounds like it.
Kricfalusi: It teaches you valuable lessons about life and growing up. It's like a Disney story. Remember the Sunday night Disney show, Wonderful World of Color? They used to have movies about Johnny the Chipmunk where a kid would find some animal and take it home. Well this is inspired by that. Inspired by Jim's hero, Walt Disney.
Gilman: Any advice for the kids back home? We already have "Listen to your father."
Kricfalusi: Skip school.
Smith: Please the girls.
Kricfalusi: Wait, that was irresponsible of me. Skip school and read Comic Book -- your education lies there.