In 2015, veteran comedy writer Rob Kutner (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Conan) launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Shrinkage, a phantasmagorical burlesque about a group of nanobots that invade the President’s brain with the intent of launching, oh let’s say, nuclear war! From there, it’s a sci-fi action thriller and political comedy all wrapped in a pretty bow! With some demented art from John Lucas (Deadpool), Shrinkage is part political satire, part heartwarming story of a general and his quest to die for this country, all laffs.
The COMICS BEAT sat down with Kutner to preview the newly collected edition before its debut at San Diego Comic Con ’17. ( Fun fact, there was so much buzz for Shrinkage that it’ll also be available soon on the nanobot-approved comiXology.)
FROST: Rob, you’ve taken readers on an incredible and hilarious journey of the mind for your comic series Shrinkage. Do you remember when the seed of the idea to create an epic sci-fi cum political farce entered your brain?
KUTNER: It’s funny. I do so much political stuff at work I wasn’t even thinking of that. I was drawn to the brain and sci-fi stuff, and I wrote an earlier pitch where the Aliens just invade a regular dude’s head. I sent it to Karen Berger at DC Comics, and she wrote back “Interesting but the stakes aren’t high enough.” So then I thought, “What if it was the most powerful dude in the world?”
FROST: So the idea the President (here rendered as the wonderfully dubbed “President Dullard”) should be the focus of the action was almost a Nigel Tufnel response? Instead of a random, regular guy’s brain getting invaded, you thought it would be more interesting to see what would happen if the Leader of the Free World’s brain got invaded? And all the bureaucratic hi-jinx that would ensue?
KUTNER: I resent that analogy! I took this to 12! Yes, that was it: to me, the most hilarious hi-jinx ARE the bureaucratic ones. I loved Yes Minister and I’d like to think that was one of many influences.
FROST: Going back a moment, so you have this idea for a comic that’s been brewing for awhile. It encompasses your interests and your sense of humor. As an established comedy writer, was it liberating or daunting to create a work that was entirely in your voice? Especially one this ambitious and personal?
KUTNER: Both. I’ve spent so long writing in other people’s voices it was exciting to get to use my own. But writing for such a different genre did make me feel like I got dropped on a bike without the training wheels. (Don’t worry – the seat was well-padded.)
FROST: How so? What was the biggest part of the learning experience for you?
KUTNER: At the risk of sounding like a stoner, writing a story in comics makes you totally rethink the nature of time. You’re trying to create the fast-moving thrill of a mini-movie, but in static images. So you have to boil it down to “What’s the most electric moment of this sequence in time that will convey things along?” It’s like writing with a strobe light.
FROST: You mentioned DC before, but “Shrinkage” ended up being published with Farrago Comics. I believe it was Farrago that set you up with John Lucas to be the artist. What was it like hooking up with Farrago and having John illustrate your vision?
KUTNER: Both were a dream come true. Farrago loved and supported my vision 100%, and John was so much in sync, it was like he was my other brain hemisphere, and there was no corpus callosum between us (lil’ brain humor, folks – what’d you expect?)
FROST: You’re pulling double duty at San Diego Comic Con this year. Besides signing copies of Shrinkage on Friday night, you’re also in town with Conan. How do you balance both sides of your professional and personal obligations? I assume nanobots!
KUTNER: No, cloning – they call me “Orphan Extremely White.” Basically, I’ll work all day writing for Conan, then after our taping, hustle down to the convention center, dodging hordes of Wonder Women and fat Deadpools.
FROST: Besides John Lucas providing the wonderfully vibrant covers and art for Shrinkage, the collection includes guest art from comix legends Dean Haspiel AND Paul Pope! How did they come on board and get involved with the madness?
KUTNER: Dean was in Farrago Comics principal Matty Ryan’s Rolodex, and Paul Pope was due to our social media/PR guru Jeff Newelt (aka Jahfurry).
FROST: Where can comic fans and/or neuroscientists find you on Friday night to get their copies of “Shrinkage” signed?
KUTNER: What a softball! Booth #1806 (Golden Apple Comics) from 6-7 PM. But people can buy it all week at a special SDCC discount from that booth too!
FROST: That’s great! Here’s a hard(ish) ball! Considering the current political climate and the delicate balance of world affairs, how do you think the nanobots would wreak havoc inside the brain of President Trump?
KUTNER: I think they’d get there, take a quick look around his brain, and say, “He’s got this.”
FROST: What’s next in the pipeline for you? Do you think your cranium quests are satiated, or is there more of the “Shrinkage” universe you plan to explore?
KUTNER: Well, I left it with a very definite cliffhanger. So if called to continue it, the skull’s the limit!
FROST: Haha! Thank you so much for chatting Rob! Any last words?
KUTNER: Kutner barada nictu!
Shrinkage will be available at the Golden Apple Comics Booth #1806. Rob will sign copies THIS Friday, July 21, between 6 and 7PM.