Comics are weird. They’re also amazing, but often get stuck in the rut created by the Big Two and the accursed direct market. Luckily, there are some rad creators trying to make fantastic things that will change the landscape of comics and bring more great stories to more people. Two of those comic book heroes are Benji Nate and Michael Sweater, who have not only been making a ton of rad comics but are also the minds behind Good Boy! Magazine, which is currently funding its first issue on Kickstarter. I chatted with Benji and Michael about making what they call the American Shonen Jump, and why Good Boy! is a vital addition to the way comics are being made and sold in 2018!
You might have come across the two radical creators through their work at Silver Sprocket, or their rad Instagram comics, but in case you haven’t I asked them to introduce themselves! “I’m Benji Nate! I’ve been drawing comics for a few years. I drew Catboy, Lorna and am currently drawing a comic called Hell Phone that I’m attempting to draw four pages of every day and posting it all on Instagram. My interests in comics lean heavily towards anime and manga. I have three beautiful cats that I share with my ~fiancé~/co-editor Michael.”
Benji isn’t doing this alone, as she’s joined by her aforementioned fiancé and co-editor. “I am Michael Sweater. I drew a comic and zine series called Lion’s Teeth, did a few books for Silver Sprocket, and now I am getting some stories together for Good Boy! and working on a fantasy series called The Wizard with my friend Rachel Dukes. I like to waste about half of every work day talking about why people shouldn’t go to college or work for BOOM! Studios on twitter. I am also getting married to Benji Nate. So that makes me her fiancé along with co-editor!”
So what drove this editing team to create the comics magazine extravaganza? “Good Boy! is basically the amalgamation of all of our interests put together. It’s American Shonen Jump for the comics that we love. We’re collecting all of our favorite cartoonists and having them serialize long-form comics along with some one-shots. We’re also doing cool, exclusive interviews with musicians, comedians, ghosts, etc. It’s basically everything we like that we think other people will like too,” Benji explained.
“I think you hit the nail on the head,” Michael continued. “There is a super obvious hole in comics right now where this kind of material should be. It is easy to walk the entire floor of a show these days and not find much that seems like there is something fun going on or that will take a reader on a nice little adventure.”
The pair are very committed to providing something new that will appeal to comics fans new and old! “We’re definitely trying to fill that hole,” Benji told me. “I think we also want to make a fun and approachable place for people who don’t normally read comics at all to get started. There is a massive audience of people who want to read comics but have no idea where to start and find work they’re interested in and we want Good Boy! to be that place.”
If you’ve had a chance to check out the Good Boy! Kickstarter, you might have seen their incredible infomercial for the project. I really wanted to know the story behind the unique and sweet video. “Since we are selling a thing, an infomercial seemed like the obvious choice,” Michael shared. “It came out a little differently than most infomercials, but I think the ways it is different are the same ways Good Boy! stories will be different than other comics. We are having a good time and we want anyone who sees anything we do to have a good time too.”
So how do you curate an ambitious and wide reaching project like Good Boy!? “If we like it and we think other people will like it, it’s in. We’re keeping our editorial roles very loose and not asking people to change anything so a lot of how we’re choosing people is also just picking people whose work we know and trust to be consistently good. We pick people who have super clear visions of what they want to do,” Benji stated. “Exactly,” Michael agreed. “We mostly just looked at stuff and asked each other is it this comic pitch sweet? Does it rule? And if we both agreed we approved it.”
I was really interested in the process of a project like Good Boy! How do you make it? Who designs it? For Michael, it’s all about whether or not they think the work is a good fit. “I think our process and inner workings are incredibly simple. If we like it, and it looks right next to the other things we have put in, we go for it. One key thing I think we want to do differently than a lot of comics magazines and anthologies to to have an extremely limited number of contributors and try to have kind of a Good Boy! family, so that you can watch people develop and have a more personal relationship with it. So many anthologies have more than twenty people in [them] and are a complete mess. Even with a ‘theme,’ most are incredibly jarring to read story to story because the artists don’t share any personality or sensibilities.”
As a fan of both Benji and Michael, I’m super stoked for Good Boy! and couldn’t help wondering what they were most excited about for the future of the project. “I’m excited for the potential to open up comics to a whole new audience of people and introducing them to work I think they’ll really like. I’m also equally excited about cultivating a place for complete creative freedom for the folks contributing their work,” Benji enthused, to which Michael expanded: “Working on something with our friends in the way that is the most fun and not worry about the conventional wisdom about what a comics magazine should be. Knowing what advice to ignore can be more important than knowing what advice to take.”
The pair are clearly super committed to making great art and supporting their buds who do the same. “I want Good Boy! to be a place that people can put on their comics resume and be given a book deal or a show immediately right on the spot,” Benji stated emphatically. “Making comics for people who don’t traditionally read comics,” added Michael. “Also, our own version of the Cartoon Cartoon show. Call us, Netflix!”
You can support Good Boy! Magazine right here!