I had the opportunity to meet Corey Kramer of Wonder Weenies through a webcomic community in Facebook. The wonderful way social networking brings people together, I found myself able to learn about another comic creator’s passion. Read on below!
Travis Blair: Hi, Corey! Thank you for speaking with me. You create the webcomic Wonder Weenies. How did such a funny idea come about?
Corey Kramer: In my original concept sketches for the comic, my original idea was to have a group of heroes that all worked for different restaurants and had powers that reflected that. There are so many different types of restaurants that this seemed like a good idea. I quickly found however that it was very difficult for me to avoid having the characters not seeming culturally offensive. The only character that really stood out to me was the one that was meant to represent your typical fast food worker- mostly because I gave him the powers of a shapeshifting mullet. Like the hairstyle or not, that there just makes me giggle. I still liked the idea of basing the comic around restaurant themed heroes and wanted to continue down that path. I wanted to create a fictional fast food chain that felt like it could really exist and made hot dogs the main course as that’s one food that deserved a national chain. Things just really started to click at that point: food being sanitized using low does of radiation had been in the news (BOOM origin story), fast food chains need mascots (BOOM idea to make their first major villain the chain’s former mascot)…
Travis: I’m digging the mullet. Here and I thought the business end was up front! So for the uninitiated, here’s what you told me about the comic prior to the interview: “Wonder Weenies is a humorous superhero comic about a group of fast food workers that gained superpowers after being exposed to irradiated hotdogs. They now act as both superheroes and corporate mascots. The main characters are Murrey (gained a shapshifting prehensile mullet), Dee (can project flames) and Frank (regeneration powers with the unfortunate side effect of causing him to look like a hot dog).”
Since coming up with these characters, what have you learned about them? It sure seems like they have minds of their own.
Corey: It sure seems that way sometimes. Murrey was originally envisioned as that annoying coworker that keeps his job despite being completely inept at everything he does… and something of an idiot. He’s become something of an idiot savant to me (forgive me as that term seems really un-PC and I’m not sure of a better way to put it) when it comes to his powers. He seemed to take to them right away (his counterparts have been constantly discovering new things that they can do since gaining their powers) thought due to his less than average creativity and intelligence usually the only thing he can think to do with his shapeshifting mullet is to make a big fist (I’m something of a huge DC Comics fan so that’s a bit of a nod to Green Lanterns everywhere- the “make a fist” part, not the “less than average creativity and intelligence” part). He’s surprised me quite a bit as he is by far my favorite character to write for. Dee was originally envisioned as a snarky goth girl, but she quickly departed from that vision. She’s snarky, certainly- but far less dark and gothy than I originally intended. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and all things considered is very patient (she’d have to be as she works with Murrey). I like to think she’s a strong female character without being an amazon or supermodel steroetype- at least that’s what I am going for. Frank was envisioned as the nerdy straight A type with a lack of street smarts and extremely bad luck/timing… he (seemingly) go the short end of the superpower stick as he now looks like a hot dog, but I’ve found that a subtle running gag is that, in some way or another, it has been Frank’s powers that has saved the day in every adventure. Murrey takes all the credit, of course.
Travis: With characters like Frank, and those with powers of fire and a wacky mullet, has the use of super powers given you any freedom when approaching illustration and humor?
Corey: Oh certainly. Frank can be a lot of fun to draw as essentially he can’t be harmed- his regeneration powers allow him to recover from any injury. So I’ve sliced him, diced him, blown him up, had him eaten alive by a pack of evil squirrels, cloned him, burned him many times- coming up with new and creative ways to draw that has been a blast. In the current storyline he’s lost his glasses and I’ve had to draw him squinting a lot. That’s been a weird challenge as with the glasses he can make some great facial expressions; squinting, not so much. Dee’s flames can be hard to draw sometimes, so my cartoony style really lends itself to that as I can stylize them quite a bit and they still read as fire. In the pencil/ink stage, I’ve taken to rendering them kind of like the Human Torch. I’ve been trying to find different ways to color Dee’s flames- that’s been a fun challenge as well. At times a hugely time consuming frustrating “why oh why did I do this to myself” challenge, true. As much as I love Murrey’s mullet, sometimes it’s a little difficult for me to draw it in action- hair’s always been tricky for me to draw (why oh why did I do this to myself?). Luckily for me Murrey doesn’t think to use his powers all that often and when he does he demonstrates an uncharacteristic mastery of them- which gives me the opportunity to go for broke on the illustration should time allow. The wacky powers of the main characters and the other villains and heroes they encounter really lend themselves to my cartoony style and I enjoy making things look fun.
Travis: Well I certainly enjoy the antics their powers provide! Looking at your website, I see you’ve dabbled in some other fun things. What’s up with the board game? Looks neat!
Corey: Thanks… every year around the holidays I try to do something special as most webcartoonist do… for several years I tried to create something that my readers could print out, cut out, and make should they so choose. I collect vintage board games and really wanted to design one based on the comic. That particular year there was a scene where Frank had been blown up to giant size and fought a giant robot Kaiju style… so I designed a game based on that. It was hugely time consuming and ambitious but man I had fun with it. The last two years my schedule has been too tight to go that crazy with my year end specials, but I do hope to collect them all in a special “activity book” style comic to sell at conventions, as much as it pains me to encourage folks to buy a comic just to cut it up. Apart from the board game, I did a special where fans could cut out parts to make a paper action figure, some cookie recipe cards, another board game year (with special pieces and rules you could use in existing board games including Clue, Monopoly, Scattergories, and Apples To Apples)…
Travis: Sounds like you have ambition going into your interest, which I admire. What would you say has been a driving factor that led you to create over 600 entries for your Wonder Weenies comic?
Corey: I’ve wanted to make comics for a very long time… I decided to try and make it a career after creating a daily comic throughout much of high school based on the faculty (in fact the occasional guest hero in the Wonder Weenies comic Super Sahlstrom is straight from those days out of pure self indulgence- but I wanted other heroes for the team to work with and he fit the bill) I am a 1996 graduate of The Joe Kubert School- ’96 wasn’t a great time to break into the comic book biz and having a cartoony style made it even less so. My career sidetracked for a good long while (not that I am complaining- in my day job I work with depressed teens in an effort to help them live effective lives) and I really wanted to draw comics again. I started shopping around comic ideas to newspaper syndicates (as I’m just old enough to still view that as the ultimate cartoonist gig) but as newspapers were dying that wasn’t a thing. I started to pursue other avenues for creating comics and took over as the artist for the other comic on our site, Remedy. This was around the time I was shopping Wonder Weenies around and we decided to post that on the Remedial Comics site as well. Getting that many comics done has been mostly a labor of love- I work full time like I said- the ultimate goal is to make the comic the full time gig in whatever form it evolves into. I like to entertain!
Travis: Sounds like you do rewarding work, and I hope your passion for making entertaining comics brings you more enjoyment. Speaking of more, what’s that I saw about a Babe the Blue Ox plush toy?
Corey: Ah yes… my fiance is a huge fan of a company known as Squishables- they make big round stuffed animal toys; very cute- we’ve several dozen. They began to run a monthly contest several years ago where cartoonists and other artists could submit designs for new stuffed animals- they’d pick their favorite entries each month and let fans vote on which ones they’d like to see be put into production. I had a bunch of submissions make it to the voting stage but none of them made it to production. Cut to four years later, and I get notified that they were going through the archives and decided that one of those designs (for Babe the Blue Ox) was too cute to not put into production and they immediately gave it the green light (provided they get enough backers- either way they’ve a prototype and you can check it out and/or lend support here. I was pretty stoked by the whole thing as I submitted this to them four or five years ago and wasn’t expecting anything further to come out of it! Babe will be a fixture at my table at conventions for years to come, as everyone needs a mascot!
Corey: No problem! I enjoyed it too! Keep on reading! I am a huge!
Visit Wonder Weenies by clicking here and connect with Corey on Twitter!
Upcoming convention appearances:
Blizzard Con Minneapolis February 25th
Marscon 2017 “Dragons In Space” March 5-7
MSP ComiCon May 20th and 21st