RICKY ROUSE HAS A GUN: the Saturday AM Interview
Saturday AM: This is a truly handsome collection—did you create this specifically as a graphic novel or was this serialized?
Jörg Tittel: This was designed as a standalone graphic novel from the ground up. But now that you've said it, perhaps we should do the reverse and serialize it one day.
Saturday AM: Having read the foreword, I found the discussion regarding Mickey Mouse and corporate mascots an interesting one. Especially when viewed through a non-American lens. What do you think of Disney's new corporate look, which consists of upcoming the Star Wars films and the mammoth success of the Marvel movies? I noticed that there were some superheroes (men dressed as them, that is) that popped up later in the story.
Jörg Tittel: Disney has clearly made all the right moves from a business point of view. They now own Pixar, Star Wars AND Marvel and could probably fill their pockets with their products for years, even if they only released cynical sequels and spin-offs like Planes for instance (which, by the way, could easily be a Chinese rip-off). But it would be too easy to write them off purely as a bank with an über-powerful marketing department. They do also attract incredible talent. Even if you've reached total Marvel-overload, it's hard not to love Guardians of the Galaxy, and I'm sure the Star Wars franchise is in capable hands, too. There's another part of me, however, that wishes Disney was about fearlessly and confidently investing their gazillions into new, 21st Century ideas. I do have a feeling we'll have to look East for those instead.
Saturday AM: Ricky was a really fun character, and, as a person of color, I was happy to see just how much diversity you had running throughout the book (especially with roles of substance). What inspired you to approach this story with such characters? Likewise, was the real Chinese Disneyland (not that they have a Ricky Rouse character---that I've seen at least) a chief reason that you set the story in China?
Jörg Tittel: We all live in a diverse world. It would be stupid and boring not to reflect that in our stories and, frankly, a bit creepy—which smoothly brings me back to Disney. I know that the supreme megahit Frozen, for instance, is supposed to be set in some pseudo-Scandiland, but since the world is completely invented, why not put some people of colour in there? We can have a girl that can freeze the entire planet, but you can't have a single Black person? Nooo, that would just be too unrealistic. Same with Game of Thrones (which I greatly enjoy by the way): why does the first Black character have to be a thief or a slave? Isn't this an alternate universe? I digress…and as you hopefully saw in my book I'm anything but politically correct—but I am bored of this white "supremacy" in entertainment.
The chief reason for setting the story in China comes from the age-old stereotype that the Chinese like to steal our ideas and do cheap knockoffs, but I find that to be rather silly given that they are rapidly evolving into the world's dominant culture. Human rights aside, I know we'll be seeing some incredibly original stuff out of China soon; whereas here in the "West," we seem to be heading into a dangerous era of recycled 20th Century ideas.
Saturday AM: How did you come to work with your co-creator John Aggs? His work is very striking in parts and reminds me a great deal of 90's western comic creators like Luke McDonald (of DC Comics' the Suicide Squad).
Jörg Tittel: I met John through our mutual friend, the supremely talented artist Paul Duffield (you need to read his webcomic, The Firelight Isle, as well as his collaboration with Warren Ellis: Freakangels). John is absolutely fantastic and I wish I could tell you what he's currently working on, although I'm sure a bit of Googling will get you the answer.
Saturday AM: The book does not shy away from discussing political commentary. From the great line, "everyone in America is named Donald" to the speech that Mr. Hucheng gives about American corporate idols like Mickey Mouse. Were the political flourishes always a part of the story or did you add them in to bring a more subversive quality to the work a la such past action stories as Verhoeven's Starship Troopers?
Jörg Tittel: They were always part of the story—I think the premise itself is inherently "political" and a social commentary. Also, I am a massive fan of Paul Verhoeven's work! Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Trooper, Black Book! I find his films infinitely rewatchable, and that's mostly thanks to these additional layers if you will. As I grow older, I find all sorts of new opinions and references and critiques in his films…whereas you'd be hard pressed to find any deeper meaning in the Total Recall remake (if you could ever make it all the way to the end of that abomination). The Robocop remake was equally flat and soulless. I hope they'll stop there.
Saturday AM: As I indicated with diversity, you also played against stereotype throughout the book. Three characters really stood out to me:"
'Florence' is an amazing character: bi-racial, quick-witted and extremely resourceful. Most action storylines make the women (especially children) into damsels in distress, but we see early on that Florence plays with knives and even wishes to stop being a girl.
There is a similar notion here with 'Jing Wei'—who not only owns her sexuality but she also owns her scenes as the tough, rational executive within her Uncle's theme park. Her twist comes with a strong unapologetic moment on the roller coaster.
Even Florence's stepfather is not portrayed as a preppy heel; he comes across as just a normal loving man.
Jörg Tittel: Yes, yes and yes! I hope that despite the "rip-off" premise, many readers will pick up on these nuances and find the story and characters to be original. Diversity is by definition original...
Saturday AM: Given your transmedia background, I was not surprised to see how many times the story read like a screenplay of a large action film. Do you have any plans to turn this into a feature film? Would that be possible without any interference from Disney?
Jörg Tittel: I assume you mean Disney producing the film, right? Haha. It would be a fantastic Jerry Bruckheimer production. I'll happily take the phone call!
Saturday AM: You've been active in the gaming business, and it looks like we were both doing work for the Dreamcast. I'm curious to know what you make of the gaming market today. While I've always seen gaming as a potential art form—there is no doubt that it has become drowned out more and more of the big-budget mega blockbuster shoot-em-ups. Now with mobile though, there appears to be a growing culture of diversity in games and genres. As a creator, do you envision bringing your vision to this new mobile world? Could we ever see a Ricky Rouse game? Furthermore, do you see digital publishing for books as a viable option for future creators?
Jörg Tittel: I am working on a game project with an amazing and similarly mad developer and it certainly won't be on consoles, at least not to begin with. Consoles are a bit of a weird beast at the moment. I can't say I've been inspired by any of the recent mega-games. But "indie" titles such as "Papers, Please", "Stanley Parable," and many others prove that games are an incredible medium. The future is bright. You'll just have to literally think out of the box/console.
Saturday AM: Ricky Rouse ends in a way that one wonders if there could be a sequel. Could there be a sequel? If Die Hard can do it…surely so can Ricky.
Jörg Tittel: There could definitely be a sequel! It's in my head already. Now all we need is to sell a few of the first one first. :)
Saturday AM: Finally, what advice can you give to up and coming comics writers?
Jörg Tittel: Write. Never stop.