The latest entry in the Megg & Mogg series, Werewolf Jones & Sons®: Deluxe Summer Fun Annual by Simon Hanselmann and Josh Pettinger, is available now! If you haven’t already, you can read The Beat’s full review here.

To celebrate the release of Werewolf Jones & Sons®, The Beat got the opportunity to catch up with Hanselmann and Pettinger over Zoom. We asked all about the origins of their team-up, the duo’s collaborative creative process, and whether or not we can look forward to future annual-style releases!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

AVERY KAPLAN: Josh, how did you come to be involved in the franchise?

JOSH PETTINGER: Yeah. Well, me and Simon became internet friends during the pandemic. He’d seen an interview with me in Bubbles Zine where I mentioned some British comedies like Blue Jam and Brass Eye that Simon was also into. So we had common interests. I was already a fan of Simon since the Tumblr days. We became friends online. And then eventually, he moved to California (where I was living) from Seattle, and we just started hanging out and eventually drawing together.

SIMON HANSELMANN: Josh, you said “fan” from the Tumblr days? I think I recall you telling me early on you didn’t like my work and you thought I was a dickhead.

PETTINGER: There was an overlap. There was a long while during the Tumblr days where I dismissed it as hipster a bit. 

HANSELMANN: I’ve done that. “Ah, I hate this, this is shit.” But then later, I’m like, “Oh, actually, I like this.” Yeah, I’ve done this. I just thought that was funny. Yeah, fan from back in the Tumblr days… Fuck you, you were, Josh.

PETTINGER: I think at some point, I reluctantly read Megahex and I was like, “Okay, this is good.”

HANSELMANN: I gotchya. Yeah. I totally understand that. “Ugh, what a vile hipster.”

PETTINGER: I mean, there was a picture of you holding a knife. And I was like, “This guy looks threatening and hip.”

HANSELMANN: Yeah, I remember that edgy photoshoot. Some paper came to my house, and I couldn’t be bothered getting dolled up and I didn’t want to shave. So I just posed like a knife on my desk. Like, “I’ll look tough and ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.” Very douchey.

PETTINGER: I was terrified.

HANSELMANN: I still do and stuff like that. I don’t know. You gotta risk looking like a douche sometimes. It’s better than boring. Douchey is better than boring.

KAPLAN:  I’m curious how the book came together. When did you decide to adopt the annual format?

HANSELMANN: After the zines. Yeah, I’ll take that one, Josh. I mean, yeah, we’re gonna do zines for the Permanent Damage zine fair. We just wanted to make a fun zine together. It was easy to do Werewolf Jones. I said to Josh, “Do you just want to do Werewolf Jones?” Because he’s this base bad dad character.

Both got bad dads. I asked you Josh, “What’s your dad situation? Can you handle this situation? Can you handle it?” And you said, “Yeah, yeah.” Just casually, confidently. “Yeah, yeah.” And I knew he was the guy for the job. But we boofed out the zines, and then afterward it was like, “Oh fuck, let’s collect it up and color it and put it out with Fantagraphics and double our money.”

PETTINGER: Yeah, it started off very throwaway. We’re gonna make these quick things for this show that’s coming up so we have something to sell. But we realized, actually, these are quite good, maybe start collecting them. Do another one and then collect them.

HANSELMANN: Yeah, why not? We want to do more of them. Change it up a bit but do more of the annual formats, with like Tedward and Megg and MoggWerewolf Jones & Sons® Presents, and do the different seasonal colors. It’d be fun for us. Just cobble it together in the annual. It’s what I call the summer book.

Yeah, Noah Van Sciver started putting out these thin collections in the summer, where he’d have two books released on the same day. Just this ridiculous outpouring. Can’t market either book, gridlock for marketing, but he’s mad. He’s lost it. He’s mental. Noah Van Sciver has lost it. You heard it here first.

But I decided to ape that model and put out this slim kind of summer book. Nice to have a book out every year. It might be the only annual we do, people might get upset because they’re like, “Oh, I got there was an inference here that this would be happening annually.” But Josh and I’ll be like, “We’re working on other projects at the moment.” So they might be disappointed.

No, it’s for money as well. As I said, you know, we made the money off the zines and sold all those, so how can we monetize this work further and succeed at what we’re doing? And, you know, have more time to work on comics with our rent paid up?

PETTINGER: So yeah, it was quite fruitful selling those stories twice, wasn’t it?

HANSELMANN: It was, it was a shrewd business, you know, marketing thing in the library markets with Fantagraphics. You know, we couldn’t tap the Barnes and Nobles or the libraries, but Fantagraphics helped us get in through the door. And yeah, horrible book, Werewolf Jones & Sons®. I do worry about it a bit.

It’s a squalid horrible book. We allowed ourselves to be offensive. It’s a Werewolf Jones book and it’s quite horrible. I’ve joked before that I want the left and the right to unite and cancel us so we can get massive sales. When Art Spiegelman went on CNN and he was vaping and eating mango, doing another Maus controversy. And Maia Kobabe must be a millionaire at this point, with all the controversy around Genderqueer.

And the story in there that I did, “Autofocus Jr.” That’s kind of my version of Genderqueer in a way, playing with those tropes. And daring people to come for us and Streisand effect-boost our sales. We want to go on CNN. We want to go on Rogen. Anything that’ll sell books so we can pay for our rent and get our dog’s teeth fixed.

PETTINGER: Yeah, we want to be on Tim Pool and David Pakman.

HANSELMANN: Yes, the whole breadth of everything and just sell books. Controversy sells. We’ll see what people think of this one. I felt bad for Josh, dragging him onto this sinking ship. After I did Below Ambition, and now this Werewolf Jones book. I hope it doesn’t ruin Josh’s career going forward with his Tedward project, which I’m very excited about.

PETTINGER: We’ve had some good feedback. I’ve been reading Goodreads. People have been liking it.

HANSELMANN: I’m actually disappointed by the lack of scathing reviews. And the lack of cancellation attempts. This book, I thought, was perfectly engineered to get us in trouble and get us canceled by a wide array of people, which I would welcome with open arms and wallets. But it’s not happening. I don’t know. I guess you can’t engineer these things. That’s a lesson for me.

PETTINGER: I think there’s enough in this book to like kind of upset both the puritanical trad right and also the giant, heaving HR department that is the left. I think there’s enough in the book to upset both of them.

HANSELMANN: Yeah, so it’s a confusing book. That’s what I wanted it to be as well. And I think you too, Josh, when we discussed it. Just be kind of confusing. I always go back to John Waters, just that sort of school of transgression. It was shocking to everyone.

PETTINGER: This might not have been true 10 or 15 years ago, but I do think nowadays, there’s like an inherent value in offense for offense’s sake. Which, it’s not the entire point of the book. But there’s definitely some of that in there. There was like a little bit of goading each other on to go a little further as we were writing this thing together.

HANSELMANN: And also at the same time, it’s aggressively sad as well. It’s just incredibly squalid and sad. I think you have to end empathize with Werewolf Jones a little bit when his wife’s beating him. I should have put in some stuff about Werewolf Jones his father. The idea of [upcoming book] Meg’s Coven is to show where he came from and why he is like he is. And people might have a bit of sympathy for him despite him being a complete monster. Yeah, it’s a challenging book. I hope it gets on the banned book list.

That’s what Josh and I hope. Or it’s completely milquetoast, and we’ve misjudged the whole situation. It’s just like a funny book and people like, “Oh, that was quite good. That was funny.” And just, we were wanker-ly thinking all these lofty, stupid culture war thoughts and trying to game cancellations. Egg all over our faces. Perfectly happy to accept that.

KAPLAN: What kind of creative oversight (if any) did Simon have regarding Josh’s contributions? Do you even discuss the stories beforehand?

PETTINGER: Yeah, it’s Simon’s characters, so there has to be approval. But there was nothing that didn’t get approval. It’s just sort of like, I write something, Simon reads and goes, “I approve.”

HANSELMANN: I kept a good eye on him.

PETTINGER: It’s just whether it gets a laugh or not. If I was writing something that didn’t make Simon laugh or wasn’t funny, I think may have gotten, “You know, this is no good.” But I think just as long as the thing is funny.

HANSELMANN: I think I gave you one note, on the bunkbeds one. On the spit game. I just said, “Make it longer.” Yeah, the first draft was a bit shorter. So I just said, “Just draw it out a little bit more.” And you didn’t tell me to go fuck myself. I was worried that Josh would upturn the table and just tell me to go fuck myself. Because he’s a talented writer in his own universe.

It’s weird getting someone on your franchise. I’d worked with HTMLflowers on the other Werewolf Jones spin-off stuff. And he’d done stuff. And it worked very similarly to that. I mean, I was just working with a friend. And then afterward, I worked on Josh’s Tedward character for a split zine, because I thought it’d be fun. Because he did Werewolf Jones, now I want to do Tedward. And that was really fun.

We just workshopped ideas together. Josh did some stuff on his own. I gave him like, “I’ve got this story, maybe you could tackle this and like, write the middle and the end of it and sort of finish it,” it’s fun. Josh is a similar age. We both love The Simpsons, and just that old school, that writer’s room type comedy. So I don’t know, Josh, do you enjoy fantasizing you’re in a writer’s room? It’s fun trying to impress each other and just work on this stuff together.

PETTINGER: Oh, it’d be nice to have a giant whiteboard. If you ever saw Six Days to Air, the South Park documentary. I got a lot of wishing I was in that writer’s room, you know?

HANSELMANN: Yeah, we keep talking. I keep saying to Josh, we gotta start writing screenplays. Just writing, just idea generation. Getting the whiteboard, like Josh said. You know, it just looks fun. Because I mean, it’s just Dungeons and Dragons, isn’t it? It’s professional, suburban Dungeons and Dragons. It’s hanging out together and writing stories. But instead of going home to have a sleep you sell it to HBO. It’s like slightly more advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

KAPLAN: How collaborative was the process for the elements, the book that you each did symmetrically like the reversible dust jacket or the endpaper artwork?

PETTINGER: Simon has more experience designing larger books. So he took the lead on that. And he would be like, “Here’s my cover.” And just sent me his cover. And I tried to draw something that I thought would complement the other side.

By the time that stuff was happening, I’d moved away from LA to Philadelphia. It was less like in-the-room collaboration and more just sending files and chatting about the book on the phone.

HANSELMANN: Felt like the pandemic all over again. Isolation. I stole the reversible dust jacket idea from a Lemony Snicket book. Remember A Series of Unfortunate Events? I was blown away by that when I was younger, “Double reversible jacket, there are two covers.” It’s blank space back there, why not utilize it? And Josh can flip it around in Barnes and Nobles like, “Look, Mom, my book.”

We put the big giant Fantagraphics logo on the front of the jacket, which was a joke for one man. It was just for Frank Santoro, who constantly rails against the Fantagraphics rebrand. I agree with him. There are like 20 volumes of Donald Duck and then suddenly, volume 21 has a different logo on the spine. Collectors were infuriated. And I understand. They should have just kept the FB on there. But anyway, there was a silly joke on the cover. A ridiculous book, really. Another ridiculous book where I’m playing with fire and like, “What am I doing? I need to get serious.” And I drag Josh down with me. I’m so sorry, Josh. I’m so sorry.

PETTINGER: I love it.

HANSELMANN: And you love it. He loves it.

KAPLAN: Is it possible you will return to the annual format at some point in the future for other characters? Or can we expect further formal experimentation?

HANSELMANN: Well, yeah, we said earlier that we want to do two more colorways of these comic zine annuals. Then we could collect those, Josh. I mean, if make two zines and bang in a third zine’s worth of stuff and just monetize it again, as a follow-up. We could do it through Kickstarter. I’ve done the math, and Kickstarter would be far more lucrative for us than working with a traditional publisher, at this point. With our own infrastructure and our fan base, who we can directly communicate with.

PETTINGER: Yeah, we did the Summer Fun Annual and then we did the Autumnal Grievance Spectacular. So the OCD artist in both of us wants a spring and a winter book.

HANSELMANN: Green spring and a white winter book.

PETTINGER: So then if we end up doing that, why not make it a book and double our money?

HANSELMANN: But who knows. We’re working… Josh is working on his Tedward stuff, I’m working on my Megg and Mogg zombies thing and Meg’s Coven and a bunch of other stuff. We’re cranking away.

We want to do a newsprint anthology together. We’ve got other zines we want to do. So many things. Our manga chat YouTube channel, we’ve just relaunched, we’re going hard with that. We’re gonna get new hosts in and do all this Masterclass-type informative stuff about how to pay your taxes as a cartoonist. Just story writing and just trying to inspire people and get people excited about comics and what we’re doing and what they’re doing and what they could be doing. And just, a positive force for the alternative comics community.

We’ve got lots of irons in the fire. And that’s not even half of it. There’s all the stuff we can’t talk about. Just cooking away. Comedy barons, the Commonwealth boys.

KAPLAN: Is there any upcoming projects or any ongoing podcasts or other projects that you’d like to specifically plug?

PETTINGER: Ici Meme editions just put out a French collection of my series Goiter.

HANSELMANN: It’s available already?

PETTINGER: For pre-order. It collects Goiter two through eight. I also have a new zine out called Warm Television, the third in the Tedward series. And that’s about it for me.

HANSELMANN: Warm Television is a banger. I’m excited for Josh’s French book as well. It’s exciting as a cartoonist when you get your international collections going. I remember when I got my first French collection. You’ll get Spanish next hopefully, Josh. It’s nice to get those little royalty checks every year and get the little advances. It’s lovely. Maybe get a trip out of it.

PETTINGER: Yeah, yeah. I’m working on the Spanish one right now.

HANSELMANN: Yeah, that’ll be nice. I miss traveling, but I’ve got my kiddo. Yeah, well, why don’t I plug… I’m going to Short Run in November. Josh will be there as well. Doing an art show with Alex Graham. Love Alex Graham. Have to plug The Devil’s Grin. Her book series is fucking awesome… Go and pick up The Devil’s Grin.

I’ve got a French art book coming out with The Mansion Press collecting all my paintings throughout the years, Hypnotic Midday Movie. That’s exciting. Yeah, keep forgetting I got too much stuff coming out. The second issue of the zombie thing coming out soon, working on that. Having fun. Yeah, we’re just cranking it.

The Werewolf Jones & Sons® Deluxe Summer Fun Annual! is available now.