First it was vampires, then it was zombies. After that it was bronies but now? It’s all about monkeys and Image Comics is one step ahead of the latest ape craze with a new creator owned series, The Humans – an epic tale of big hairy apes on badass choppers looking for sleazy, biker gang exploitation style kicks in an alternative, bleak and nihilistic version of late 1960’s California.Yesterday at SDCC’s Image Expo, the company announced that the series (created by Keenan Keller and Tom Neely and colored by Kristina Collantes) is slated to debut as a regular series this November. Keller, Neely and Collantes are hawking an issue zero at SDCC that’s going quick (stop by the Image booth for a copy while you can). They kindly took time out from monkeyin’ around at SDCC to answer some questions and grace Beat readers with some preview pages:

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1) How did The Humans come to Image? How did you initially see it published (did you always plan to do it in a multi issue format)?

Keenan Marshall Keller: From the moment Tom and i started working on this, we wanted it to be a mini-series with possibilities to expand and continue the story line after The HUMANS ends, if we wanted. The story arc will hopefully be collected into a TPB one day, but we’re fans of single issue, monthly comics and are very excited to be working on one together. 

Tom Neely:
 We both come from the DIY, self-publishing world, so naturally we had planned to self-publish the series somehow. But when my friend Charles Brownstein apparently mentioned it to Eric at Image, pretty soon we were talking to them about the possibilities. They were happy to let us do our own release of The HUMANS #0 for SDCC and then we’re excited to launch the rest of the series with them later this year. I’m excited to have my first traditional size floppy comic in my hands and can’t wait to see a series hitting the shelves on Wednesdays. 

2) The first comic is a great fight comic that builds up the Humans post apocalyptic landscape slowly and subtly. What can you tell us about the story arc you’ll follow over a multi issue series with Image?

KMK:  The story’s not really set in a post apocalyptic world, but a world with a history that matches our own, except with Apes at the head of the evolutionary hierarchy.  Its a nihilistic, bleak and violent story of biker gangs, drug running, human-cock fighting, and Vietnam flashbacks. The story follows the HUMANS as they deal with in-fighting, rival gangs, crooked cops, violent hijackers, and the freedom of the supposed American dream.


3) The three of you make for an interesting team with varied credits (Neely is perhaps most recently well known for his popular Henry & Glen series from Microcosm, while Collantes is an an up and coming superstar illustrator who is on deck to color another upcoming Image series, tentatively titled, Null:void with series creator, James Harvey and Keller has been self-publishing comics and curating art shows for several years under his imprint, Drippy Bones Books). How did it all come together for you to work on the project?

TN: Keenan and I have been friends for years, but we’ve always done our own comics. After working on Popeye a couple of years ago, I became more open to the idea of working with a writer because what I really want to do is focus on drawing as much as I can now. So, when he mentioned his idea of a biker gang of ape-men in 1970s America, I immediately started drawing apes on motorcycles in my sketchbook and we’ve been developing the world collaboratively ever since. I’ve loved apes and monkeys and motorcycles and exploitation movies all my life, so it just felt like a perfect new project for me following Henry & Glenn and my other more “artsy” comics. Kristina and I met a little over a year ago and have been collaborating on a few art projects so far. She’s a brilliant artist with a unique color palette and very interested in working in comics, so when she offered to color our series, it was a perfect fit!


Kristina Collantes: I’m the latest addition to the Humans collective. I met Keenan through Tom, who invited me to join the gang earlier this year. Tom and I have collaborated on projects before so it made a lot of sense for me to be the colorist for the series, which demands very specific art direction and ambience. I feel lucky and proud to be a part of this hairy team!


4) Kristina, you’re coloring another Image book and you’re also an in demand freelance illustrator. What advice do you have for comics freelancers to successfully manage multiple projects?


KC: This year I had to learn how to remove myself from my drawing table when I became too frustrated with a project. I liked doing all-day drawing sessions and would often find myself going to bed at 5AM. I would then wake up groggy and uninspired and repeat the process. A peaceful, well-rested mind is often rewarded by a flow of great work. Learn how to walk away from stress! – it clears your head and lets you see your drawing with a new perspective. I believe this is important to keep in mind while working on one or more assignments.


KMK: Don’t work with Tom Neely or Keenan Marshall Keller…. don’t drink with Tom Neely or Keenan Marshall Keller…. hahaha.


5) In the letters section, Humans gang member, Karns, says he wants letters from “skins only.” I take it this means the letters section will be a regular feature with the series. What’s a skin? Can “skins” write to any other Humans member other than Karns?


TN: A “skin” is a hairless, non-ape human-animal like yourself.


KMK: Karns is a deviant sexual freak. He’s not interested in his own species, he’s only into skins, which is the term for homo sapiens in The HUMANS.  Thats why Karns is hoping to meet a few skin ladies while answering fan questions in our letter colum, APESHIT: The Karns Korner. It will be our ongoing letters section thru the IMAGE series but that doesnt mean that people can’t write to any of the other HUMANS. Karns is just the perfect, gnarly mouthpeice for the HUMANS, he cant even read the letters sent, Marras gotta read them to him…So, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see some of the others getting involved along the way.


6) What’s next for The HUMANS in terms of upcoming appearances through the rest of 2014?

KMK: I can’t wait. We’ll be heading to SPX in Sept. It will be my first time and I’m very excited to hang out with East coasters I rarely get to see, like Jim Rugg, Benjamin Marra, Matt Crabe, Josh Bayer, Pat Aulisio and a bunch of others. Should be a blast. In November, when IMAGE launches issue #1, we’ll be doing a west coast tour on our way to Short Run, in Seattle, WA. We’re hoping to hit around 7-8 shops on our way up and down the coast. Should be alot of fun. Starting to book that now. Then, into the next year. I hope to attend as many conventions and events as we can, spreading The HUMANS like a venereal disease across America.


Let’s get to spreadin’ then. Here are the first five pages of The Humans Issue #0, available while it lasts at Comic Con:

Humans_0_Page_1 Humans_0_Page_2 Humans_0_Page_3 Humans_0_Page_4 Humans_0_Page_5


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