After signing a four book deal with comiXology recently, Rafael Albuquerque and his Stout Studios has since released the first series, Funny Creek, a seemingly cartoon-like comic book, but with a rather tragic subplot. The first four issues are available now, with the fifth and final issue out this Tuesday 1st September 2020.
Olly MacNamee: Funny Creek is the story of one young girl’s journey into the world of make believe and her favourite cartoon show, and title of this new series. I’m intrigued with your choice of genres for your imagined cartoon show. Why a Western themed cartoon show though?
Rafael Albuquerque: We gave it a lot of thought. This is a story we took around two years developing, so it changed a lot since the beginning. On one end, we needed to have that magical and astonishing circus aesthetic, since we’re part of a generation who grew up watching Bozo and stuff like that, but also we needed some certain power relationships and a big menace on the series, which works just fine in westerns. A mix of both worlds kinda clicked at some point and that’s where we found the essence of what is the ‘Funny Creek Show’.
OM: Now, you’re down as providing the story, along with Rafael Scavone, but did you get your hands dirty with any of the character designs too, or was that all down to artist Eduardo Medeiros?
RA: To be fair, this is a 6-hand creation. Eduardo has been involved on the story since the beginning the same way as Rafa and I have our share on art decisions. I remember sketching some versions of the characters and I recall some of Scavone’s doodlings as well, but ultimately Eduardo had the magic touch on them all, defining what would be the look of the series with his incredible charismatic artwork. It’s safe to say, though, that Funny Creek was literally designed for him and if he couldn’t be onboard we’d just think of something else.
OM: May I add, Medeiros is a great choice of artist for this particular book. Has been a part of Stout Club for long?
RA: I know! We know each other since 2008, and we’re all best friends and had some really cool collaborations in the past: Mondo Urbano (2010, Oni Press), Matt and Open Bar (Self Publsihed in Brazil), that I co-edited are just a few. But I’m so lucky to have some of the most talented artists as friends, so Stout Club is this kind of initiative: Getting together the best people/creators you know to do the best work as you can and see where it goes. It’s been the most challenging, yet, fantastic experience of my whole career.
OM: The purposefully cartoon art style doesn’t necessarily match the tone and themes explored in this new series all the time, does it? There is another story also unfolding, involving Lilly’s friend, Andy, foreshadowed really well by a change in colours. What can you tell us about Andy?
RA: This is a very smart question. Funny Creek is a story aimed for young audiences, and its reflected of course in the art style, colors and tone, but there is a deep layer in this story that deals with really heavy subjects such as guilty and grief. Stuff that is hard to deal with, literally, any time of our lives. We wanted to deal with these subjects from this particularly point of view and invite (and somehow dare) the readers to follow us into a deeper journey on how kids may deal with complex questions like these, so Andy is a big part of Lilly’s journey into solving these questions.
OM: What were some of the influences behind the story? To me, it feels like Lucky Luke meets Fred the Clown (by Roger Langridge) with something of Little Nemo in Slumberland about it too.
RA: Yeah, these are really good catches. I’d say that conceptually we got a lot of influence from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but story and tone wise there is a lot of Inside Out and Up! (both from Pixar) on it too.
OM: If all goes well, can we expect further visits to Funny Creek? Have you got other stories in mind already?
RA: At some point of story development we faced this question. “Should we have a softer story, that could become a franchise or really write with our guts, and tell the story we feel we should do?” Of course we went with the gut, so this is a limited mini series. No sequels or prequels.
OM: Funny Creek is the first in a four issue deal with comiXology Originals, but what can you tell us of any of the other three at this stage?
RA: As we say, a ‘creative powerhouse” you can expect very different genres, stories, subjects and creators. All it matters for us is having the passion for the projects we’re working on and finding people who have the same feeling as we do. We were lucky to assemble some of the most talented people of the industry in this endeavor. Some of the best artists out there are illustrating Stout Club projects and it’s refreshing to work with them. It gives me (as an artist) a whole different vision of the media and I learn a whole lot every day.
OM: Finally, as a big fan, I can’t leave without asking you about American Vampire, the series you co-create with Scott Snyder which is finally coming back to wrap up the whole century-spanning saga. I know it’ll be set between the 1970s and the present day, but are there any tidbits you can tell us about the new series beyond that?
RA: Thank you! Yes. We’re very excited about it. All I can say is that Scott is such a great writer he was able to leave loose ends all over these 10 years of series, and he built the very best ending ever. Every single question you may have rose over this time period will be answered in the most amazing and surprising way. It’s a fantastic conclusion to this series we love so much.
OM: Rafael, thanks for your time, and all the best with Funny Creek and further releases from Stout Studios.
RA: Thank you so much! We’re incredibly happy with Funny Creek’s response and we can’t wait to reveal the next projects and their teams.