Monkeys Fighting Robots

Kyle Starks is a comic book writer who created works like SEXCASTLE and ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN. Starks is currently the writer of the RICK & MORTY comic, and released the original graphic novel KILL THEM ALL in September. MFR spoke with Starks at NYCC about all of his various projects, his influences, and adding color to his work!

Is it a daunting task to write the RICK & MORTY comic while the show while its still running?

KYLE STARKS: When I started, someone said “oh, that’s great – are you SMART enough?” And I said “well, I don’t know, I’m only recreating two geniuses every month.” So yeah, it’s super daunting. I like to think I know the show very well, which is why they’re letting me do it as long as I want.

Monkeys Fighting Robots Youtube

You are clearly a big fan of classic action movies. When you were growing up, did you grow up wanting to write those kinds of movies?

No. My father would definitely let me watch those movies when I was far too young to watch them, which has affected me as an adult. It’s more that those are the kinds of stories I know how to tell well. RICK & MORTY is very similar – you just take out the fights, and put some sci-fi stuff in instead. But given a choice, especially as an adult with children, in which you don’t really need high art as you once did, sometimes you just want to see people punch each other, and be amused and entertained. That’s what I want to do, especially right now in my career, because I love when things are always happening, and always interesting.

In SEXCASTLE, you have a great montage of great, goofy-named characters. Do you often try to think up zany characters like that for your work?

Well it was easier for SEXCASTLE, because they’re all plays on character names that [action actors] have played. I don’t remember their names, but I mash up one character with another character… like Hulk Hogan was Thunder Lips in ROCKY, so I did Thunder-Butt. I do a hobo book (ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN) for Image now, so there’s a lot of dumb names in that. I just think it’s fun – it makes it interesting, it makes the characters more interesting. If even their name’s a bit, then it adds to the total bit.


You also went from one main character in SEXCASTLE to the trio with KILL THEM ALL.

An ensemble, yeah. I mean, you want to grow as a creator. After doing SEXCASTLE, I thought that if I did another action movie thing, I should do a buddy cop thing. But then I was watching a lot of John Woo, because I love John Woo. They recently made THE KILLER – which is a great movie – readily available, so I rewatched it as I was thinking about this buddy cop thing, and I fell in love. John Woo loves to do this thing where there’s a good guy and a bad guy team up to fight another bad guy. Just like how SEXCASTLE is a love letter to those 80’s action movies, I was like “man, John Woo does all these great things.” And in SEXCASTLE, I didn’t get to do a DIE HARD bit, I didn’t get to do a buddy cop bit, so I consider KILL THEM ALL a sort of spiritual successor to SEXCASTLE. This is going down the line of a good era of action movies, the 80’s and early 90’s.

So how many characters will your next project have?

Oh, it’ll be 700 characters, it’s gonna be just like 300, but with cowboys – I’m just kidding, I don’t know… ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN is two characters, steadily, so it’s really whatever works best for the story. It’s funny you say that, because I’m sort of in the middle of planning something that I think is eight characters. I really like having just one or two characters as the focal point, but I’m interested in telling different stories in different ways, and one of those ways is you make a bigger cast. The act of juggling actual personalities, and not just figures – like, “look, here’s guys in capes.” I’m interested in seeing if I can do a similar story, with unique characters, that interact uniquely. I’m really interested in how dialogue and personalities work, and that’s daunting… RICK & MORTY does that a lot – that’s one of my favorite things. Rick or Morty will make a joke, and then Jerry will just make a comment that’s a realistic response, like you would do with your friends. That’s what I’m interested in right now.

RICK AND MORTY (Copyright Oni Press)

KILL THEM ALL also features full color, whereas SEXCASTLE was black & white.

There’s a reason for that – I’m really bad at colors. So SEXCASTLE is black & white because I self-published it. I wanted to do it as cheaply as possible, because I wanted people to want to read it, and be able to easily get it. I Kickstarted KILL THEM ALL also as a black & white book, then Oni Press made it bigger, and they put it in color. Luigi Anderson did a great job, I’m very pleased with the work he did. I’ve worked with him now, and I’ve worked with Chris Schweitzer, who’s maybe America’s best cartoonist that no one knows, but they should, he’s amazing. He colored ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, it’s unbelievable. I wish I could do it, but I can’t color things. SEXCASTLE’s a tonal book, it gets darker as the book goes on, it goes from sparse to dense tonally. But my palette is terrible, man. I know my shortnesses. I’m not good at font design, that’s why I have Dylan Todd do my stuff – he did the KILL THEM ALL book and ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN. I can’t color, but everything looks better with color. Everyone agrees, everyone knows, right?

Jon Barr - TV Editor
Jon Barr is a comedian and TV Phanatic. Yeah, he meant to spell it that way. It's like the Philly Phanatic, like from Philadelphia, because he's from - you get it. He loves good TV & mocking bad TV. You can find him all over the web.