A few years back, Brad Neely impressed the hell out of just about everyone with
Wizard People, Dear Readers, a hillarious redubbing of the first Harry Potter film.
Before that he was drawing single frame comics, still is, but these days he's also making brilliantly original animations for Super Deluxe.
Ladies and gentlemen, the father of Baby Cakes... Mister... Brad Neely.
Chief Magazine: what kind of kid were you growing up?
Brad Neely: I came from the Ozark Mountains. I grew up in Fort Smith,
Arkansas. As a little kid I wanted to be a stand-up comedian and a
cartoonist. I did impressions and break-danced. Then I got really into
martial arts. Next, I took up weirdness. This consisted of getting
books of paintings that I pretended to like, listening to music that
scared the shit out of me and my parents, skateboarding and reading
comics. In high school I got crazy into acting and singing in bands. By
the time I graduated (which is when being a kid stops), I had covered
most of the usual ground.
What kind of stuff were you hooked on
creatively at a developmental age? Any books or comics you would just
obsessively grab on a regular basis?
As a little boy, GI Joe was very important. I played with my Joes like
they were actors, and I’d set up lavish scenes and sagas. This is
pretty typical, I know, but I think that back then I enjoyed the role
of producer and director. “That is a great
costume.” “I don’t like what
they’ve done to Scarlett’s hair.” “I think Flint is better for this
scene.” “We need to break up the tone here, too gray. Let’s have a
scene where Snake Eyes tells a joke.” I looked at a large amount of
Marvel Comics: X-men
, Hulk. Still do. When I was around twelve, my big
sister saw that I was drawing a lot and wanted to plant some [artistic]
seeds. She got me a book of Picasso paintings and I did copies of
those, only in pencil. I did tons
of copies. I’d find a good panel of
and I’d try to make an exact copy. I’d copy magazine ads. What
I’d pick to copy was never the most obvious pin up or face shots. I’d
be drawn to a type of line, or a perspective that I had never seen. I
don’t know what I was up to, really. But, I think this is how most
people start out.
When did you get started making Creased Comics? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
In High school I started doing sequential comics. I’d take one 8.5 X 11 sheet of crappy paper, turn it landscape and fill it with a story of
fifteen or so panels. I had a character
called “Nihilist Pete.” I once
made a parody cartoon of the song “Everyone Knows It’s Wendy.” Yeah.
The funny thing was I didn’t really focus on these cartoons. If someone
had called me a cartoonist I would have asked them why, despite the
stack of obvious cartoons I was making all the time. I was focused on
being a cool band guy and a “fuck you” type of actor kid, and a serious
artist. Funny. I worshiped Gary Larsen, The Simpsons
and all variety of
comics personalities, but in less of an outward way than I did with my
cool interests. I wanted to look like The Minutemen
, but a lot of me
wanted to be Weird Al. So even as I started going to college and art
school, trying to paint like Lucien Freud, thinking I was going to
somehow sell paintings and get famous for my seriousness I was always,
sort of somnambulantly making cartoons. I started moving into doing the
single panel stuff with other art guys. We’d make zines of cartoons
that no one could understand, but I really feel like I was learning to
get ideas across with cartoons. When I was living in Philadelphia, I met
Laris Kreslins. I was then calling my stuff “Creased Comics” because I
had made a zine and needed a title. He got excited about them and has
ever since been a great help in getting my cartoons out into people’s
Did you ever decide to draw and write any comics that expanded from the one panel format?
What drew me towards single panel stuff was the thought that the
audience, the reader had to do a lot of work, too. I feel like when I
made a good comic, the reader has to imagine what has happened in
the moment previous, as well as what will most likely be in the next
moment. Making that thought provoking, present instant was very
attractive, even if it just got people scratching their heads, getting
someone to focus on my little world was intriguing.
Did you have any interest in recurring characters when you were originally doing Creased Comics? I
know you’ve created a universe recently with the SuperDeluxe shorts,
but I’m curious when that began to interest you.
I decided to stay away from recurring characters in Creased Comics,
but it was a conscious choice that I had to maintain. Making a world
always sounded like something I’d wanted to do, but I just had decided
to keep that out of Creased. There are recurring types in Creased:
pilgrims, chefs, superheroes, god, demons, babies, chappies. But
characters would have to wait for another project.
When did you first decide to switch
from the one-panel comics to animation? And do you still find time to
make new Creased Comics at all?
All the way up to this moment I still have that attitude of “I’m not an
animator. I’m not a cartoonist. These cartoons are just things that I
do while I work on other stuff, the real stuff.” And although I am
working on non-comics type stuff, the cartoons and comics are very real
to me whether or not I sometimes deny that. However, this sometimes
attitude about comics not being a focus keeps me spontaneous. Maybe I
don’t think as much as I could about them and I think that helps. So to
answer the question, one day I just made the George Washington video
because I thought it would be funny. Then people really liked it and
Super Deluxe asked me if I had anything else that I could do. So I took
a little time and developed the Prof Bros and Baby Cakes, seeing that I
now had the opportunity to not work in retail.
I keep telling myself, “Yeah. I’m just doing these cartoons because it
kinda just happened.” And that’s partially the case. But, also I feel
like I am getting a lot of good work out through the cartoons. The
characters are taking shape and it is really fun for me.
I have stacks of notes; notes for all variety of media; notes for all
sorts of projects and jokes. And, yes, I have a huge stack of notes for
Creased Comics, but I have not drawn one in years. I’m currently talking
with Super Deluxe about putting out a few collections of all the
Creased stuff. I’m planning on adding hundreds of new cartoons to those
collected volumes. I miss thinking in the single panel way. When I was
in the thick of working on
Creased I would collect all my notes and
spend a couple of months reefing around one hundred ideas. Then I’d
take a week or two and draw them out, go to Kinko’s, make zines, and
sell them to local shops. I did this off and on for ten years, all the
time thinking my band was about to get huge or that I’d get cast in a
How did Wizard People, Dear Readers come about?
Again, I would feel very wrong if I tried to say that I made Wizard
with any other motive beyond trying to be funny. I think that it
took a long time after I had made it for me to see quality and meaning
in the project. I love it now and I feel proud about it, but I didn’t
really think I would when I started making it. I thought it would just
be something funny people might like to talk about. Some friends and I
were at a bar—and right here I have to say I have very funny friends,
without whom I would be considerably less funny. Anyway, we were at a
bar and were getting a good laugh at a guy who was playing pool all by
himself while wearing a hoody over his hat, sunglasses under that and
headphones on the outside of all of it. So we started riffing on “What
could he possibly be listening to?” Someone who I don’t think was me
said that he was listening to a book on tape of Harry Potter. And out
came the Wizard People
narrator. I joked that night that I was going to
rush home and record an entire misinformed book on tape of The
due to the fact that I had not and have not ever read
any Harry Potter books. Once I started making notes for it I realized
that an audio track alone could get boring, so I decided to sync it
with the movie. Then I took a week or two and made the damn thing. I love it.
What has been the public’s response to
it? How did you not get sued into oblivion for messing with what would
become this mammoth franchise?
I’ve only dealt with people who’ve really liked it. I still get tons of
e-mail from people who have just watched it and want to tell me thanks.
I made it back in 2003. I started doing it live in venues. They’d rent
a copy of the print and run it with the sound off and I’d sit down at
the front of the theater with a little reading light and a six-pack.
People really seemed to like this. I traveled around and did it in
Chicago, Seattle, and I set up a great tour of the East Coast. Warner
Brothers got wind of my doings and called around to all my scheduled
venues and threatened them with “No more Warner Brothers films if you
do this.” So there the project died. My wife and I lost a lot of money
on those tours.
Washington, Washington. (You are a
fucking genius. That’s it. Didn’t want to ask a real question until we
said that out loud.) Where did that come from? And where was it
supposed to go before Youtube.com?
Um, a stranger came to me. He said we cold make money with a song and
images. Something about “ring tones.” I don’t know. So I took some time
and threw it together. It didn’t really feel like the start of
something new to me. It felt like those cartoons that I did when I was
young, but with music. I used to be the less funny half of an
improvisational recording team called “Snake and Blade.” My friend Tom
Echols is a very funny person. We used to make up songs all night and
record them as they came out. Two guitars and a hand-held recorder. No
booze. No drugs. Just fun times.
Well, Tom was visiting when the opportunity to do Washington
came up. I
showed him what I was working on and he fired me up about it. He gave
me the line, “got a wig for his wig.” Funniest person I’ve ever met.
Anyway, I made the damn thing. Learned a couple of easy programs and it
was done. I gave it to the initial stranger and he passed. I said,
“Well, do you think it’s funny?” And he said, “It’s alright. But maybe
instead of Washington, you could use like, Snoop Dog or Ashley
Simpson.” I live a sheltered life. I forgot that people out there can
say things like that and mean it.
Is there any reason why that hasn’t found its way onto SuperDeluxe.com? Are you holding on to that for some reason?
I don’t own Washington
anymore. Spike and Mike’s Twisted Film Festival
owns it. I signed a contract that I didn’t understand. And once I
realized my error, I had sold the rights to the whole thing, characters
and all, for two-hundred fifty dollars.
When I tried to fix the problem they would not talk to me. It’s my
fault. I didn’t read what I signed. But God, nice guys, let me tell ya.
How did you end up working with
SuperDeluxe.com? Did they just want you to do Washington over and over
and you showed up with BabyCakes and just blew them out of the water?
Super Deluxe came to me saying, “We Love Washington
. Can you do more?”
I told them the Spike and Mike story. I thought That Super Deluxe would
bail. “Kid’s too litigious; first that Harry Potter thing, now this.
Pass.” Luckily they are great guys at Super Deluxe. They just said,
“Well what else you got?” I said, “Give me a week or two.” Out popped
Baby Cakes and the Prof. Bros. I had never even thought of them before.
So in the long run, I am really glad that Spike and Mike didn’t budge
on Washington. They forced me to think of something bigger and better,
more sustainable. I hate the thought of doing the same sort of thing
twice. Washington is unrepeatable. I love it and miss it, but I would
never touch those characters again anyway.
Do you ever dream of working long format and giving BabyCakes an epic 90-minute adventure?
I love long form. I’m always thinking of a long form that is made up of
tons of short forms. Sometimes I say to myself, “Fuck it all. Just
write books. Churn all the ideas into novels.” But I do the Super
Deluxe stuff now not just to get out of retail. I have ideas that I
want to get out that work only in the short video format.
What animations are you working on
now? What can we look forward to seeing before the year closes out?
Feel free to lie in the grandest way you feel comfortable.
Lots of songs. Kenny Winker music videos. Cross overs with the Prof.
Bros. and Baby Cakes. Wrestling. Oral reports. Movie reviews. Gods and
monsters. TV watching. I have everything outlined until the end of 2008.
How can fans make sure you keep
putting out new stuff? What can the people reading this who love you,
what can they do to make you rich?
Wow. Keep asking for books: books of still comics, big funny novels.
That’s the future. Books. Not the internet. (I joke.) Tell Chevy Chase
that I am ready if he is. Um. Keep watching the videos. Demand that
Super Deluxe puts out a DVD, maybe.
Tell us a bit about the novel you’re
writing. Is there a passage you’re really proud
of that you can share?
I cannot share one word. It is precious, fragile material. I’m
currently working on a comedy novel about the Civil War. I started
working on it around 2004. The cartoons have derailed my focus, but
it’s coming along nicely. It’s mainly about Ulysses S. Grant.