Sure, comics and beer have a long storied history.
I’m willing to bet fermentation and cave paintings have a huge connection. What happens when some beer drinking comic creator legends meet in a bar in Poland and discuss working together someday?
Swords, zombies and swear words erupt from the quill and the brush. Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Dark Knight III: The Master Race, Joker, Luthor) joins us today to talk Alpha King #1 and how he became teamed up with Heavy Metal and Lobo artist Simon Bisley.
From legendary brewmaster Nick Floyd (3 Floyds) comes the origin of one of his most popular brews, Alpha King by way of this legendary comics team. This weekend the team signs Alpha King #1 at the annual metal fest and beer celebration Dark Lord Day on April 30, featuring face melting bands Skeleton Witch, EYEHATEGOD and more.
Munster, Indiana may never be the same.
FOG!: Hey, Brian thanks for talking with us about your book with Simon Bisley, Alpha King #1. I’m sure lots of comic book creation has been fueled by beer, but how do you tap into the story of the Alpha King beer?
BRIAN AZZARELLO: Don’t worry, this is fueled by beer, 3 Floyds beer labels have these characters on them, their beers are names after characters, their flagship beer being Alpha King which I first had 20 years ago. I’ve been a fan of the brewery ever since. They distribute in Indiana, Illinois, some in Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, they don’t have a very large footprint, they really do things their way.
The beer is fantastic, I love it, when the opportunity arose with this book when Barnaby Struve who is a consultant with them and brewmaster Nick Floyd and he wanted to do a comic based on these characters, they had created this whole mythology behind them.
It’s own universe, a beer universe.
Yeah, Barnaby came to me and said, hey do you have any suggestions, I said, “What about me”?
Nick Floyd, is he writing the story with you?
Yeah, Nick is a pretty big D&D guy, for a long time he’s got the stories in his head, I’m helping him get them out.
This is an adult book, a 21+ book, I would say!
If you are buying this book because of the beer, you shouldn’t know what the beer is until you are 21!
Have you worked with Simon before?
No, this is the first time. We met maybe 4-5 years ago at a bar in a small convention in Poland.
Oh, what a surprise! Over beers!
Yeah, we hit it off and decided, we should work together some time. And this is the perfect project for that.
It really is and it is funny that it didn’t sort of come naturally though one of the big boys. This is such a cool and unique project it is really cool to see you guys branch into this. I’ve never seen the story behind a beer. Very cool.
The thing that Nick was really adamant about was that he doesn’t want this to be a marketing tool for 3 Floyds, it has to be a good story.
He said, “If it’s not a good story I just don’t want to do it”. Me neither. I turn down things constantly because if they don’t appeal to me.
This did. And it does. It is really fun to work on these things, and create this whole twisted universe.
And like you said, with Nick being a D&D guy, the beer is a byproduct of his imagination too. This is an expansion on what is going on inside his head and trying to figure out his own mythology which all sounds very cool to me, man.
Yeah it has been a really good time.
So what are people saying so far? Have you shown it to some people? What’s the feedback, are they diggin’ it?
Yeah, I don’t hear anything bad, I never hear anything bad, people don’t tell me bad things, they wait until I’m not around and just say them, or they can do it anonymously.
Right now, the response has been pretty good, it is unexpected which is good. That Simon and I are doing a book together and that this is the book with the brewery.
There are lots of variables in this thing, like you mentioned earlier, you thought we would have been working together at one of the bigger companies. Yeah, we could have…but this is a better thing for us to work on.
And you get to go party with them this weekend at a big metal fest. I don’t want to pigeon hole you or anything, but are you into all of these bands that are playing at the brewery?
Ahh…Yeah I am! I really like Skeleton Witch, they are one of my favorites.
Municipal Waste is great too. Simon is coming out for that too?
Yeah he’s coming in on Thursday and EYEHATEGOD is headlining.
Dark Lord Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I’ve been going for about five years now.
It used to be a lot smaller than it is now. You used to just stand in line and get your beer, and there were bands playing inside the brewery.
Now it is outside, they have a huge stage set up and there are lots of different breweries are also there. You can sample a ton of different beers.
I see they encourage you to trade beers and stuff like that.
That used to be the only thing, 3 Floyds used to have some tap handles set up in the parking lot, but you were in line to get your beer. Everyone that was in line would bring beer with them, swapping, trading, it’s a good sense of community.
With the comics, and the bands and the sharing of ideas, comics is just a natural fit.
It’s the same camaraderie you get at some aspects of a convention. You do feel little niches of a tight knit community and people encouraging each other. That sounds like what that is. Over metal, over beers, sounds like…almost like a Renaissance Fair (laughs).
Except no turkey legs. And no minstrels.
You get Skeleton Witch, I’d rather trade minstrels in for that. Did Simon take all of the character designs from Nick’s artwork?
It’s totally being filtered through Simon. He is taking the characters from the labels and putting them into sequential art now, so things are changing. Gumballhead does not look like Gumballhead.
When the three of us met, Simon was asking, “Do you want this to look like it looks already”?
Nick said, “No, you are doing it, I want to see Simon Bisley’s version of these characters!”
You always work with really talented artists anyways, so how is the back and forth with him, or are you pretty much giving him the script and letting him go nuts?
Yes, Go nuts.
Have him do the thing that he does, which only he can do.
Yeah, I want Lobo, come on!
You said it, I didn’t! I was trying not to use the “L” word!
Hey, Simon made his bones on that character, and that stuff was crazy at the time. There was nothing like it, it was really outlandish, and that’s what I want.
That’s what Nick wants.
That’s what I want too!
When we were conceiving this, I said to Nick, who do you want to draw this? He said, “Who do you think we can get”?
I thought Simon Bisley would be the best person for this.
May as well blue sky it, go for Simon!
And it just took a phone call, asking him, now he’s on board.
That’s awesome. How many issues is this? Is it going to be an ongoing? A Limited?
I think what we are going to do is something along the ‘Seasons’ idea.
We’re gonna do it, maybe take a couple of months off, and it will come out, and we’ll come back with a new season.
The new season can go into all of the other characters and beers and tie it all in, that sounds awesome. Maybe I’ll make it to Dark Lord Day one of these days. Sounds like a blast.
Oh, it’s so good man! It used to be the same weekend as C2E2, so I would take off Saturday for C2E2 and go to Dark Lord instead!
Cheers, great talking to you, Brian!
Alpha King #1 premieres this weekend at Dark Lord Day and arrives in comic shops and via digital on May 4th!