The Most Debauched, Drugged-Out Comic Heroes Return in James Kochalka’s SuperF*ckers Forever

Comics Features James Kochalka
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The Most Debauched, Drugged-Out Comic Heroes Return in James Kochalka&#8217;s <i>SuperF*ckers Forever</i>

We all take our comics darn seriously nowadays, as we should. These are serious times. A fascist madman and likely KGB sleeper agent stands to conquer and subjugate the world’s most powerful nation. Entertainers can’t make a movie or comic book that ruffles any feathers without ruinous implications for their Twitter accounts. In certain sections of New England, heroin is killing people on a scale that makes ISIL profoundly jealous, meanwhile, many consider the new Pokémon Go update a nightmare of a global magnitude.

Perpetual dourness is well and fine, even necessary, but a little levity now and again isn’t going to hurt anybody. So when the shadowy cabal behind IDW Publishing bought up Top Shelf Productions in order to curtail mankind’s collective despair, they commanded affable Vermont cartoonist James Kochalka to revive SuperF*ckers, a comic about a team of awful, awful superheroes who say and do awful things that make us laugh.

In its latest permutation—a mini-series dubbed SuperF*ckers Forever—Kochalka’s mid-’00s sequential circus includes contributions from other creators. Teen Dog architect Jake Lawrence whipped up a side story concerning the irresistible joy and wonder of swear words for the first issue, zapping into stores this week. As for the primary timeline, SuperF*ckers Forever picks up a bit after Jack Krak got really high and unmade all of reality in the final episode of the SuperF*ckers cartoon. His teammates Grotessa and Vortex race to repair the space-time continuum, as Krak, Ultra Richard and Orange Lightning sort out their amusement and mild confusion regarding penises and vaginas.

I screamed these questions at my computer monitor until answers from Kochalka appeared in my inbox.


Paste: Tell us about SuperF*ckers Forever. Why is it happening? How did it happen? What is your endgame with this SuperF*ckers business?

James Kochalka: It’s called SuperF*ckers Forever because they just won’t die! They destroyed the world once in the graphic novel and then again at the end of the animated series, but they keep coming back.

Okay, so why exactly did I want to draw it, are you asking? It’s a dumb reason. My publisher Top Shelf was acquired by IDW. Chris Ryall at IDW asked me to draw more SuperF*ckers, and I was like, “Wow, golly, sure I can do that.” Then I just pounded out the pages. Ideas are easy, then you just gotta sit down and draw hard. My endgame? Mutually assured destruction.

SuperF*ckers Forever Interior Art by James Kochalka

Paste: How do you go about crashing through the threshold between stupidity and genius in this comic?

Kochalka: It’s kind of amazing that you ask that, because the very first public review my work ever received…it was an album review in a local newspaper for my band James Kochalka Superstar, back in the ‘90s. The reviewer said “Genius or moron? You decide.” And that has defined my whole career. I was struck by absurdist anarchist lightning when I was a very little boy, and I ride it like a bucking bronco.

Paste: Notsomuch in the new book, but in the cartoons and in his previous incarnations, Jack says and does a lot of things that could be considered, uh, “triggering” by today’s standards. As a humorist, what’s your take on the shift in cultural tone? Is there a balance you have to straddle when writing an intentionally offensive character?

Kochalka: These things trigger me, the author, as well. But I am scared of being on the receiving end of an internet shitstorm, that’s for sure. I’m just a small man trying to make art. Unfortunately, many people’s reactions today when you write a bad character is that you yourself, the author, are a bad person. And maybe I am bad, if I have these ideas stuck inside me. But just let me work it out, okay? I’m on a path, a long difficult process of becoming a whole person.
Jack Krak began as a satire of assholes that I knew in high school and college, but then I began to empathize with him a bit. I started to write him less as just an asshole and more as a guy who is lost and confused in the world, a guy who fundamentally does not know his own soul. His extreme swagger is an overcompensation for his own emotional desperation.

So, in that sense, he’s kinda like me. I can empathize with that conundrum, because I lived it and I think every young person lives it. You don’t yet really know yourself and so you fake it. It can take a lifetime to learn who you really are, and then add on top of that the fact that you never stop changing.

And so you draw comic books.

SuperF*ckers Forever Interior Art by James Kochalka

Paste: This run is SuperF*ckers’ version of an “event” story, correct? Do you have any favorite superhero “event” stories? Are you a fan of “events”?

Kochalka: Yeah, I like event comics a lot. At least in concept, if not in execution. I kinda hate them in execution. My favorite is Secret Wars 2, where the Beyonder comes to earth as a human being and experiences pain because he doesn’t know that when your bladder fills up you need to relieve it.

Paste: Without spoiling anything, SuperF*ckers Forever #1 includes a B story involving a character who may or may not have more than one penis. What would your life be like, if you had to guess, if you had two or more penises?

Kochalka: I’m pretty sure it would be awesome. Maybe a little awkward.

SuperF*ckers Forever Interior Art by James Kochalka

Paste: How would you explain your approach to gross-out humor? How does one write a bit about characters shitting on things without it reading like an Adam Sandler movie?

Kochalka: When I’m writing offensive stuff, I think I do it with a pure heart.

Paste: So how’d you get Urkel actor Jaleel White to be on the SuperF*ckers cartoon? Because that’s insane.

Kochalka: Everybody in the cartoon is awesome. Maria Bamford! David Faustino! Justin Roiland! The main reason we got so many good people is by paying a truckload of money. I found Veronica Belmont by doing a Google search for “who’s the next Felicia Day.” She freaking nailed it as Grotessa. But basically, we just sent out a call for auditions, and I listened to hundreds of recordings.

Before finding Jaleel White, I had approached Tay Zonday about playing his character, but Tay turned me down. And then even though I knew Jaleel White’s work from Urkel and Sonic the Hedgehog, I didn’t recognize his name right away… I just liked his voice and his acting in the audition tapes.

So, it was the unique quality of his voice that got him the job. The fact that the voice belonged to Jaleel White was an awesome bonus.

SuperF*ckers Forever Interior Art by James Kochalka

Paste: Is there anything else we should know?

Kochalka: A lot of cartoonists ask me, “So what was it like having your publisher bought out by another publisher?” I’ll tell you what it is—it’s confusing. There are way too many guys named Chris now. Chris Staros, Chris Ross, Chris Ryall… I work closely with these three guys all the time and it really drives you nuts to have so many guys with the same name, for sure. I’m just teasing. I threw this in just to see if they’re paying attention. But it’s true.

Barry Thompson is happy he’s named Barry, ‘cos it’s a way less common name than something like Chris or John. He tweets @barelytomson.