Exclusive: Ken Kristensen Talks Todd, The Ugliest Kid On Earth’s New Story, The Upcoming TV Show, And More
This Wednesday saw Todd, the Ugliest Kid on Earth coming back in a brand new story featuring a satanic cult located at PBS led by Charlie Rose. As you may know, a lot of big things have been happening in the world of Todd besides the launch of the second arc. The trade paperback for issues #1-4 have been burning up the sales charts and news recently hit that a cartoon was in development with Titmouse and Thank You Brain Productions. With everything going on there’s never been a better time to pick up the series and see all the hilarious and politically incorrect things writer Ken Kristensen and artist M.K. Perker are doing. Back in March we were lucky enough to chat at length with Kristensen about all things Todd (part 1 here and part 2 here). The writer was kind enough to speak with us again earlier this week before the release of issue #5 about the new story and what’s happening with the TV show. There are some spoilers if you haven’t read the first four issues, so be warned. They’re clearly marked just to be on the safe side. Strap in, read on, and enjoy the ride through the land of Todd!
Todd was pretty popular from the word go, but it seems in recent months, and with the release of the trade paperback, it has reached an entirely new level. The last issue came out in April and the next arc starts late September. What have the past few months been like? How exciting has it been to be inhabiting the world of Todd?
The past few months have been an insane juggling act – we were working on trade paperback and simultaneously busting out pages for the next arc, and going to San Diego Comic-con, and taking meetings with television producers and toy companies, and playing phone tag with lawyers about many things! Somehow we kept all the balls in the air. And you know how balls love a nice breeze.
The next arc sees Todd wandering into a satanic cabal headquartered at PBS headed by Charlie Rose. I have to ask, what in the world brought about that idea? After your first arc, it does seem like a logical next step as weird as that sounds, but how did you decide on cult, PBS, and Charlie Rose?
Our goal is to make fun of everything and everyone – that’s what this book does. That said, every comedian and variety show makes fun of Fox News to the point where now it’s just like shooting fish in a container of lots of fish. There’s a real law of diminishing returns in comedy. It’s called beating a dead horse. Everyone hates the dead horse because horses are supposed to do stuff – like carry you across the open plains before the Indians scalp you. And when the horse dies you hate the shit out of it because you know someone’s about to deliver a bloody Mohawk you didn’t order.
MK and I like to beat a living unicorn. What that means is – what we find really challenging — is making fun of the things you LOVE. Just ask my wife. My point is, we absolutely adore Charlie Rose, but you just have to be honest and ask yourself how a 71-year-old man manages to have four network TV shows when everyone says TV is a young person’s game. How is that possible? And how is it possible that Downton Abbey, a show that most Americans can’t even pronounce – just ask my letterer who kept spelling it “DownTOWN Abbey” – is a ratings smash? The conclusion we came up with — PBS has made a deal with the devil.
So, to answer your question on how we came up with it—simple logic.
The solicits for issues 5 and 6 are out now, but where do we find Todd on page 1 of issue #5? Is this shortly after #4 or has a little bit of time passed between the stories?
About a week has passed between issues 4 and 5. [SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ISSUE #4] – Todd and his parents are getting used to living with the new addition to the family. It’s not easy.
ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT HERE: Todd is going to be having enough trouble of his own, but will we see things carried over from the first arc? I mean it must be odd even for Todd to find out he has a new “sister.”
Dude! SPOILER ALERT! Jeez. This is a brand new arc of #5-8 is self contained. We very deliberately want all of our arcs to be water-tight, stand-alone stories. If you’ve read the first arc you will find some elements that are familiar, but if #5 is your first exposure to the book, you don’t have to know anything about 1-4 to get immersed in #5. A lot of the characters you love from the first arc – Mike the Bully, Chief Hargrave, Detective Ruben, etc. will have roles in the 2nd arc but the storyline is not at all reliant on the what happened in the past.
We talked about this in our last chat, but how is the relationship between Todd’s parents now? We saw them change and sort of grow over the first arc. How have they changed since Todd’s prison stint?
The relationship between Gus and Peggy is as fucked up as ever. They’re both outrageously self-centered – and it’s their selfish obsessions that tend to drive the stories. For example, in the first arc – if Peggy hadn’t insisted Todd go outside at night during a police curfew, he probably never would have gotten caught up in all that serial killer business. Starting with issue #5 Todd’s exposure to Charlie Rose and the whole satanic cult at PBS comes directly from Gus’s nutty obsession with his favorite TV show and his insistence on going to comic-con.
Can you tease some of the new characters we’ll be seeing? I know we have Charlie Rose and a demon hunter, but can you talk about the new additions?
You’ll recognize a few new characters – because Todd goes to a comic book convention. So there are some familiar comic book industry faces in the book. Surprise, comic book industry! But the bigger characters we are introducing to the Todd universe include the demon hunter you mention – who goes by the moniker The Marxman. As well as a back-alley cosmetic surgeon, and Satan himself. We also have an amazing new rookie cop that gets introduced in issue #7 – her name is Mahogany Davis-Junior.
I’ve raved over M.K. Perker’s art countless times. What can we expect from him this time around? What are your thoughts as you’re starting to see pages from him for this arc?
MK crushing it, as always. He insists that issues 5-8 are far and away superior to 1-4. He really feels like the style has hit its stride. A huge change is that we have two new additions to our creative team – a new colorist named Sedat Gosterikli, who is bringing a new, brighter tone to the book. And letterer Pat Brosseau has joined the team too. Both these guys are doing amazing work.
Another big thing going on with Todd is the recent announcement that Titmouse will be working on a Todd show. How did that come about?
Yes, Titmouse and Thank You Brain Productions came to us and asked if we’d be interested in developing a show with them. MK and I have been big fans of both companies – the producers at Thank You Brain are known for really edgy comedy like Flight of the Concords and the Jesselnik Offensive. And Titmouse is an Adult Swim powerhouse, producing shows like Venture Bros, Superjail, and China, IL. I’ve always said that Adult Swim is the most creative place on television. For me, Adult Swim is like the Image Comics of TV – where new voices are discovered, multiple genres are welcome, and generic toilet paper is in every stall!
That news hit around mid-July. Have there been any recent developments on that front? Are you starting to find a home for that or maybe starting to think about the cast?
We started talking about cast at our very first meeting. Those producers know a lot of great actors, so we have a ton of great candidates. And we’ve got a meeting coming up right before New York Comic Con, but I can’t say much more right now.
I know it’s still very early days on the TV front, but do you see it being a pretty good adaptation of the comics or will it be more of The Walking Dead route where the comics are more just the show’s foundation?
Well, we don’t have tons of storylines to pull from – we’re only on issue #5! So, it’s not like if they gave us a 13 episode order we’d be able to adapt directly from the book for more than a few episodes. So I see it being the characters and the world, and the same politically incorrect satire, but with mostly new storylines.
You and M.K. will be pretty busy with the comics and development on the show for a good long while, but do you have some other things you’re working on? There were a few projects that hadn’t been announced or hadn’t found a release date yet when we last spoke.
Yes! I’m happy to say we have a metafictional extension of TODD that I’m writing currently – which will be published through Image. It’s not a spinoff, but it’s going to have an element of TODD in it that deserves its own book.
And there’s another pretty ballsy Image project that Eric Stephenson and I started talking about back in March – though we’re not ready to announce either of them yet.
What do you want to say to the Todd fans and what do you hope they get out of everything coming up. What do you want to say to them about Phase 2 of Todd if you will?
First, I want to thank the fans, and let them that MK and I will be at New York Comic-con – signing every day at the Image booth and the Splashpage booth. Bring us your stuff. Come say hello and give us your stuff to sign! Wear a bag on your head! Bring us your ugly kids!
Second, I want to let everyone know that I will be coming to Tuscon Comic Con in November – as a special guest.
Last but not least, I want to shamelessly ask TODD fans to get their friends to buy the trade paperback! We sold out of every issue from 1 thru 4, and we need to keep that streak alive with the trade. Someone told me that our August trade sales equaled those of The Walking Dead Volume 18. Not bad for a kid with a bag on his head. But we can do even better in September!
As for Phase Two of TODD – #5 is out Sept 25th and #6 is out October 2nd. And #7 is out November 13th.
And #8 will have a special cutout origami TODD toy because it’s our first Christmas issue! Put ‘em on your pull lists, please!
Our thanks to Ken for sharing some updates on the goings on in the world of Todd. The first issue of the new arc kicked things off in style. This week #6 comes out, and we’ll have a review for that on Wednesday, but I’ll go ahead and let you know it’s even better! This new story looks like it is going to take everything to an entirely new level. The Charlie Rose angle and all the jokes coming with that hit harder, Kristensen is throwing the cast into some crazy situations, and Perker really seems to have hit his stride with the characters. Things looked great before, but the artist finds a way to top himself (as hard as that is to do). Did you like the beginning of the new arc? Are you ready for the TV show?