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Comic-Con Exclusive: Comic Book Men's Bryan Johnson on new Cryptozoic Man mini-series

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Posted by: Byron Brewer, Contributing Editor
created 07/19/2013 - 5:10pm, updated 07/19/2013 - 6:08pm

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9525 It’s reality show come to life, or life come to reality show.

Amid the announcements of Dynamite Entertainment at SDCC, CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci has revealed that the company will be publishing Cryptozoic Man, the comic book project featured in an episode of the AMC television serie,s Comic Book Men.

To separate reality from “reality,” Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer hunted down one of the stars of the show, comic book writer Bryan Johnson, to exclusively get the 411 on the SDCC news.

Cosmic Book News: Bryan, this is all very surreal. How did an episode plot device from AMC's Comic Book Men become an actual Dynamite comic?

Bryan Johnson: Walt [Flanagan] and I had done two comic series for IDW Publishing in the past and we'd been talking about doing a new project which at first, we were going to self-publish. After some discussion, we thought it may be interesting to see if one of the bigger publishers would be willing to hear our pitch on an episode of Comic Book Men. The idea was to give viewers a glimpse (albeit somewhat untraditional) into the process of making a comic book from concept to completion. The flipside of that was running the risk of having our work rejected in a VERY public forum. Proposing the book on the show also gave us the opportunity to make the presentation much bigger than it would have been otherwise. It's unlikely we would have gone the route of a pitch tape and wrangling Stan Lee to do the narration had we traveled the self-publishing route.

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CBN: Any chance that this whole realization of the book may in fact wind up as part of a TV series? (laughs)

Bryan Johnson: We have the reality end nailed down and will be revisiting the storyline in Season 3, but who knows? Maybe AMC is looking to produce a mini-series about Bigfoot and his buddies running afoul of a hostile race of inter-dimensional creatures.  

CBN: For the uninitiated, who -- or what -- is the Cryptozoic Man?

Bryan Johnson: The Cryptozoic Man was once a normal, everyday guy named Jack Gimlin. After Jack's daughter goes missing on a camping trip, his life falls apart. One night after Jack gets his ass handed to him by a bully in a tavern parking lot, he's abducted by aliens. Turns out the aliens harbor a dark secret, the fate of Jack's daughter. If he agrees to allow himself to be medically transformed into a weapon they'll use to defeat an enemy who threatens the destruction of their race, the aliens promise to reunite father and daughter. The result: Cryptozoic Man, a patchwork monstrosity comprised of pieces of several legendary cryptids

CBN: How does this four issue mini-series for Dynamite differ from what we know about the book from the show?

Bryan Johnson: Since the time allotted to present the idea was so limited on the show, we weren't really able to explore the finer points of the story. Most everything we had planned back then and everything we discussed in that episode is still in effect. 

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CBN: What are your inspirations for the book? Any particular comic or something from other media?

Bryan Johnson: Both Walt and myself were huge fans of the Leonard Nimoy narrated '70's TV show In Search of. The premise of the show was quite simply exploring the unknown. Now sometimes the “unknown” was extraterrestrials, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle ... THOSE were the edge-of-your-seat episodes. Unfortunately sometimes you'd encounter real clunkers ... Episodes focusing on subjects like King Tut's tomb or Easter Island. I'm happy to have grown up during that time period. Without constant media saturation, you had the opportunity to exist as a relatively naive kid. When I heard the Killer Bees were making their way to the United States, I went Defcon One. For better or worse, your imagination was on overdrive at all times because there wasn't an internet that could immediately debunk whatever bogeyman was currently haunting your dreams.

CBN: What particular challenges will your protagonist face in the mini?

Bryan Johnson: The most interesting challenge Jack faces is how to face the minutia of day-to-day life after having lost a child. Walt's a father and I'm so close to my seven-year-old niece that she calls me 'Dada'. Like most parents, neither of us could conceive of how difficult, if not impossible, that situation would be to deal with. Jack has the added burden of having been the last one to see his daughter alive while they were on a camping trip together. Needless to say, more than a few suspicious glances are cast in his direction. 

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CBN: Tell me about the art of your cohort, Walt Flanagan.

Bryan Johnson: Ehhh ... it's okay, I suppose ...

... But seriously, I've been a fan of Walt's art since the fifth grade. He was the new kid in school and one day in class he drew a picture of a big old butt sporting googly eyes and a crazy smile. Underneath the picture he'd written “Wild Ass.” Much like the scene in Jerry Maguire, he had me at “Wild Ass.” 

Fast forward to our thirties and that kid is a professional comic book artist. I love ... LOVE Walt's art. He's one of those guys his neighbors would describe as “that quiet, polite boy." Thankfully, instead of burying bodies in his crawlspace he puts pencil to paper and comes up with the most wonderful demonic and depraved images you could hope to imagine. I was looking at a particular page from Cryptozoic Man the other day and marveled at the number of unique monsters he came up with. I'm a fan of the grotesque and depraved so Walt's my man. 

CBN: Does it seem to you the comic book market is opening up to more off-beat concepts like Cryptozoic Man? It has humor, horror, sci-fi and even family drama of a sort.

Bryan Johnson: Concepts like Cryptozoic Man are never going to best the mainstays of the medium. Fanboys do love their tights and capes, don't they? However, I think as long as writers of note and talent, guys like Joe Hill, show interest in writing comics that aren't necessarily hero-centric the audience will be willing to give non-traditional comic book storylines a read. 

I'm not a cape and tights guy (outside the bedroom, that is) which is why when I read I'm drawn to titles like Preacher, DMZ, Y The Last Man, Locke and Key ... etc, etc. 

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CBN: What do you want readers to take away from this mini?

Bryan Johnson: Our goal with Cryptozoic Man is fairly modest. We want people to walk away feeling that they got a great story and some fantastic art ... bang for your buck. I realize that I'm not part of the mainstream which while imposed by my clear lack of mainstream appeal actually has worked to my benefit. Whether it's Vulgar, a movie I wrote and directed for Lion's Gate, Comic Book Men, our podcast Tell 'Em, Steve Dave, or Cryptozoic Man, I get to write what I'd want to read, I make jokes that I think are funny, we say what we want (without cursing) on Comic Book Men. I'm a firm believer in do it for you first. There ARE other people out there who will “get it.” The best part of doing it your way is you never walk away feeling like you tried to appeal to an audience against your better judgment and failed. Ultimately your audience should be you and if other people want to join in along the way, the more the merrier.

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CBN: What's up in the future for Bryan Johnson?

Bryan Johnson: I'm hoping we can get to season twenty-three of Comic Book Men so I can retire having never fully committed to a “real” job. I mean, c'mon. I get paid to make fun of my friends and customers, something I'd be doing for free anyway. Actually, can you strike that last sentence? I don't want AMC finding out they don't really need to pay me.

Other than planning to turn Comic Book Men into the longest running reality series of all time, I'll be working on another comic series with my friend Jason Mewes once Cryptozoic Man is finished, doing live shows under the Why Bry banner with Kevin, and continuing on with my favorite project, Tell ‘Em, Steve Dave with Walt and our friend and well-known Impractical Joker, Brian Quinn. We're @TellEmSteveDave on twitter, BTW. I saw you don't follow us. What's up with that?

CBN: Twitter? I’m 55; I can barely send emails and am still trying to figure out pencil sharpeners! (laughs) Finally, ever think of changing the name of the AMC show to COSMIC Book Men? (laughs)

Bryan Johnson: No, Byron, I haven't.

(Editor's Note: We now follow them on Twitter - Cosmic Man Matt)

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Bryan Johnson for answering our questions during his busy schedule. Also thanks to Dynamite’s own Nick Buccarri and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.

 
 

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