Exclusive Interview with Monocyte Creators Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari plus special guest Ben Templesmith

Mike DeVivo here for Comic Vault . ComicVault was fortunate enough to be invited to the Studio space of Menton3 , Kasra Ghanbari , and Ben Templesmith . We talked about how the artists first met, MONOCYTE issue 3 , the genesis of the story, Brotherhood, and dick and dick jokes. We also were allowed to take pictures of their studio to share with all of you which can be seen at the end of the interview!

ComicVault: Menton3 Can you tell me how you and Ben met and started operating out of this space together?

Menton3: There was a company called Comics Pipeline that represented both of us. They had a dinner and we were both at the dinner and we were just texting awful things to each other the entire time because we wanted to talk.


Kasra Ghanbari: Which Menton lost

Ben Templesmith: I called him the Amish Terminator I think.

Menton3: Kasra and I had the studio space before we met Ben and it ended up being really organic actually. We asked him if he would work on a cover for MONOCYTE and he agreed to do it which was an honor. I spent several years deciding whether or not I wanted to get into comics and then I saw Ben’s work and saw that you can thrive in this industry. He’s a wonderful artist and its amazing to see Ben do work .

CV: That cover is great , there are tons of layers to it .

Ben Templesmith: When you have a very dense story with tons of visuals its very easy to come up with something . The original painting is in the hallway actually.

CV: Ben can you tell me a bit about the short story you did in issue 2?

Ben Templesmith: We all talked about it and I had this humorous idea for the story which they liked. It marked my first two published comic pages in a very long time . Kind of my first come back.

CV: You also have Choker still though correct?

Ben Templesmith: Yes but there hasn’t been a new issue out in over a year….but the new issue is now finished and you can tell everyone its coming out shortly so spread the word. Fell I’m not sure about but I’m hoping it comes back soon. I actually started doing artwork again because of Menton3.

CV: So that brought you back into wanting to do comics again?

Ben Templesmith: Yeah I was dealing with some personal things , and you can’t create when you’re not happy. I wasn’t really sure whether I was going to come back to the States. Menton3 invited me out to stay with him for a few weeks during the summer and I decided Chicago seems to like me and I like Chicago. Menton3 makes me feel creative…and I don’t just mean in the bedroom.

CV: I definitely get a sense that you guys have a constant underlying sense of humor amongst each other. That and you all seem to enjoy the occasional Dick and Fart joke.

Kasra Ghanbari: It’s a lot of Dick and Dick jokes basically

Ben Templesmith: It has to be told that we have a thing in the studio that when Menton farts he lets people know. However I recommended that when we fart now we have to name them after movie titles .

Menton3: I think the best one Ben had was “There will be Blood”

Kasra Ghanbari: When he farts for me its “The Unforgiven”

CV: “A Thin Red Line”

Menton3: “Single White Female”

Kasra Ghanbari: “Wild Blue Yonder”

Ben Templesmith: “Jackie Brown” You can see now why I brought it up.

Menton3: Obviously there is a lot of camaraderie between us

CV: So how did the idea about MONOCYTE come about?

Menton3: I got a commission to do a superhero character that I really loved as a kid. So before I did this commission I wanted to go back and read the books again to get excited about doing this piece and they were terrible. I realized I had placed all these projections on this character as a child that weren’t there. So I began writing all of those projections I had on paper and also with the idea behind it of what would be a cool superhero to me right now. Which lead to the basic concept of MONOCYTE. Kasra is my art rep and also my best friend and I started talking to him about the project. Kasra started to legitimately poke holes in the story and ask legitimate questions. So between the two of us over six months we created this world. Then we decided that we wanted the entry point to be at a time of great change.We literally have hundreds of years of story before this and after that we have planned as well.

CV: I noticed in issue 3 GROD opens the book up by quoting psalms . It seems like he’s using religion now to gain followers. How does that affect the belief system of the Olignostics?

Kasra Ghanbari: In a way he was resurrecting one of the old methodologies the Olignostics used to rise to power to begin with.Those ideologies borrow heavily from Catholicism and when the time came to resurrect his race he naturally went back to those ways.

Menton3: Grod finally has the power that he so wanted and now he’s verbally masturbating using these Catholic Ideologies . I’m not speaking for Ben or Kasra , but I have major issues with the Catholic Church. If your Catholic I don’t have a problem with you.What ever you believe is right for you and that’s fine. If I walked down the street in a Nazi Uniform people would be upset for a real justifiable reason. If a Priest walks down the street in their uniform people are happy. Can you tell me though of another organization responsible for more genocide , torture, rape and pillaging than the Catholic Church? Yet no one holds them accountable because they are closer to god than us.To me that’s Hubris at such an extreme level that its not even fathomable. We have million dollar churches being built while people are starving. Writing,making Music,creating for me is about internalizing my anger and getting it down on paper. So MONOCYTE for me was the manifestation of that kind of anger. The Catholics are represented to me by the Olignostics and their mouths are these white anuses represented by the collars of Catholic Priests.

CV: Explain to me the creative process that goes into making an issue of  MONOCYTE

Ben Templesmith: Before they say anything I’ve observed them doing this and its insane. They put hours into this and it’s some of the most complex intense stuff I’ve ever seen.It shows in how good their work is.

Menton3: Kasra and I make these characters real in our heads. For instance The Shepperd was supposed to be a much smaller character originally but after Kasra and I started talking about her it became much larger. I put these characters into my head and have them talk to each other and then the story flows from there. There isn’t anything in a MONOCYTE book that isn’t meant to be there. Kasra and I debate everything before it goes on the page. Kasra injects a ton of realism that I couldn’t have come up with. I know way too much about Alchemy and The Occult and Kasra is very into Biotech. So the Olignostics are based on a lot of info Kasra had and the Antedeluvians are based on things I’m familiar with. So then we write a loose script and put it on note cards . Then I do the artwork. After that we sit down at the computer with what Kasra’s written and argue for 4 days straight in a great way and that’s how the book is made.

CV: How do you view the overall progression of MONOCYTE from issue 1 to 4?

Kasra: Issue one was an introduction to the world. Issue two was the destruction of The Olignostics. Issue three was the attempt to destroy the Antedeluvian power source, and issue four was Resoultion. Though issue three has bled into four. It’s still not determined yet how we are going to end issue four. We just got a hard cover approved by IDW which will have 50-60 extra pages and will have a story in there along with a bunch of extras. There may be multiple endings and a whisper as to what may happen next in this world.

Menton3: It became really important to us in issue 3 to start talking about who Monocyte was . We weren’t going to give him a back story at first but it became really important to do it and I feel really confident about it.

CV: Issue three is great ! So Augustus is now the character of Monocyte. Can you share a little bit about that sequence where we  meet Augustus for the first time?

Menton3: Those pages are actually taken from a self published book I did called Ars Memoria . That was book 1 of 16 and MONOCYTE is a part of that story. Monocyte is a product of what he really wanted to be , but based in a society that tells you legitimately that you don’t have a choice when you do . We can look around and say people shouldn’t starve and pedophilia is bad but were not doing much about it. One of our whole things with MONOCYTE was how would you have it be. Like if you walked up to an everyday person on the street and said “would you like Immortality”that person would most likely say fuck yes. Well what happens when that person is Brittany Spears and you have to deal with that pop music for the rest of your life. So we wanted to explore to what end does this go to . How bad can things get? After that can there be a resolution.

CV: Towards the end of issue 3 Monocyte is outside of the Gate of the Antedeluvians . Moses is waiting for him and creates the Avatar of Life to take on Monocyte . I get a sense that Moses and the Antedeluvians are better suited to end Monocytes life.

Menton3: I’m definitely making a joke about Moses because it never says how he dies in the Bible. Moses isn’t dumb and realizes that the one thing that Monocyte wants in Entropy. Moses knows Monocyte has an issue with life and if death can have a manifestation so can Life. When we get into the Iconography of life we started talking about flowers and trees. In this world though where nothing has died for so long I wanted to examine what The Avatar of life would look like.Some people haven’t picked up on it but that creepy thing that talks to Augustus in the middle of issue 3 is actually the bird skull which also has talked to him through the entire book. At the end of the issue that Skull gets knocked off of his head by the character Light and we were hoping you’d be shocked that there was a person underneath that.

Kasra: The thing is Monocyte has always been human. What you see is his armor being knocked off of his body. Menton3 designed that armor to represent ego .

Menton3: Vices and Virtues , Vices have always been represented by elaborate clothing and Virtues are always naked and bare. I wanted to initially show Monocyte as ego. So I covered him in Bone Armor. When he does get hit by Light there is a part of him that remembers he’s human and that becomes the virtue. He’s starting to remember who he once was.

CV: In the short stories too it seems like the slaves are starting to remember who they are as well.

Kasra: What Monocyte essentially has done is liberated the humans. So when the conduit was destroyed it freed the slaves. However there is a price to pay for that. In the first short story the slaves now have to reclaim their sense of consciousness and self in order to become a collective. As a collective they realize they have power and rise up against their common enemy.In the other story in issue three we see one of the slaves drawing an Alchemical symbol for sulfur which looks similar to a flower. That’s like a spark in the memories of the other humans who see that image. From there they reconstruct themselves and become proactive humans again working in concert with each other with love for one another.

Menton3: As a whole Kasra and I really believe in Brotherhood. We really believe that if everyone was just nicer to each other things could be better . So our story has always been about the humans. We got a lot of flack originally because people were like where are the humans . We wanted to be true to the story but we have to tell this story in this way so that it doesn’t become cheesy and worthless in the process.

CV: So can you tell me a bit about the Hardcover Edition that you revealed is coming out?

Kasra Ghanbari: Its going to be solicited in May and out by July. Its going to be 9 X 13 format and 224 pages. With about 60 pages for us to play with. Obviously some other artists and creators will elaborate on the world as well as an additional story by Menton3 and I.There will be added sketches and sculptures , fan art, lots of fun stuff.

CV: Could you share with me some of your personal influences?

Menton3: Top for me is William Shakespeare . I don’t think there’s anything in the human condition you cannot find in Hamlet. Another one is an artist by the name of Hieronymus Bosch . Looking at his paintings changed me as a person. Of course there are contemporary people like Ben Templesmith, Ashley Wood, Matthew Bone, Bill Sienkiewicz.

Kasra Ghanbari: Yeah Sienkiewicz , George Pratt, Dave McKean. Outside of that Lars Von Trier as a film maker. What it really comes down to is people who show us how they see the world and that they see the world in a compelling way.

CV: Anything you want to tease to us about issue four?

Menton3: Well issue four starts out with Monocyte getting his ass kicked and he continues to get beat down throughout the issue . It will be interesting to see how Monocyte deals with the thing he fears the most.

CV: On that note guys thanks so much for your time!

Below are pictures that I was allowed to take of the studio . You will notice original artwork from the pages of MONOCYTE all around. Enjoy!

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Mike DeVivo

Follow me on Twitter @pandasandrobots








Matthew Sardo
Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.