James Brown, alligator people, Prince as a deer, and a band of five funky women and a shrp makes for one crazy dream, but that’s where we are with Bill Campbell’s Baaaad Muthaz from Rosarium Publishing. The raunchy, ridiculous, cosmic space adventure follows these pirates-slash-James Brown cover band on an epic romp across the galaxy to find the almighty booty. Afro Desia, Cali Vera, Alley Bastard, Candy Ass, Katana Jade, and Snake are just what the funk doctor ordered for any fan of music and the Blaxploitation era.
Dreamed up and written by Bill Campbell, publisher of Rosarium Publishing, this is a “spaceploitation” story, where “the Muthaz travel the galaxy, fighting alligator women, freakazoids, and a crazed reindeer that looks suspiciously like Prince.”
Throw in some bright colours, fantastic art, and biting humour—what’s not to love about that kind of madcap fun? Read on to find out more from Campbell himself.
As a publisher, much of your time is spent bringing other people’s stories to life, but writing comics has been a dream of your own since you were a teenager. How did the dream of Baaaad Muthaz develop?
It happened a few years ago. Sometimes, to get my mind off of things, I’ll watch exploitation movies. So many of those old B movies are so bad, they’re kind of fun to watch. I think I was watching some girl biker gang flick. I thought, “This is so bad, I bet it was fun to make.”
My mind went directly to Blaxploitation. Even though they’re largely hit or (mostly) miss, the music was always on point. All of the best funk musicians contributed to those soundtracks.
Funk also lends itself very easily to a science fiction fantasy. The costumes, the constant look to the future, the sheer fun of it, and the vocabulary. For example, the pwantas are from an old Cameo song called “Alligator Woman.” The freakazoids are an old Midnight Star song.
And funk, in general, and James Brown, in particular, are foundational to almost everything we listen to today. I wanted to pay tribute to those musicians and have a bit of silly fun. I really needed to have some silly fun.
Was there a lot of music playing in the background as you wrote this story?
Always! There are very few things I do in life without music playing in the background.
How does it feel to finally have your own comic book come to life?
It’s 14-year-old Bill’s dream come true. All my teens I wanted to write comics, but then I fell in love with the potential of science fiction and ultimately pursued writing novels. Then, of course, I became a publisher. It’s sort of a return, but it’s also an exciting new challenge because writing comics and writing novels are two different skill sets. I just hope that I can be somewhat decent in either medium.
How did you pull this team together? What did each member of the creative team bring to the story, beyond your original concepts?
Well, David did a piece for our comics anthology, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, back in 2015. I met him during the first Sol-Con and really liked him. And John Jennings is a huge David Brame fan. You add all that and the fact that he’s an incredible artist, how could I resist but to ask him to be a part of the project.
Damian and I have known each other for years. He’s been a part of Rosarium almost since the beginning with Kid Code, which he’s doing with John Jennings and Stacey Robinson.
I haven’t written anything comics-wise since I was a teen, and I don’t know if anybody would consider that writing. What they both did was really help shape the narrative. A lot of novelists want to put a lot of words in their comics because they haven’t learned to appreciate the power of the visuals. I don’t think I do that. However, I still have a lot to learn about isolating the most essential actions that need to be shown to move the narrative forward. It’s great having such a talented artist in Brame and an Eisner Award-winning writer to help you.
Also, I’d say that, when David started drawing it, I saw that he really got what I was trying to do. He also made the comic a lot freakier and funnier than I’d originally envisioned it. Once I saw that, I knew I could let my freak flag fly, that whatever craziness I came up with, David would make it even crazier. Ha!
There is a lot of inspiration for the story and the characters. From music to the Blaxploitation genre—how have these elements inspired other elements of your life, creatively and otherwise?
That’s a really good question. And pretty hard to answer. I would say that, overall, Baaaad Muthaz is a celebration of black culture. More specifically, while I saw a lot of the Blaxploitation as a kid, I was more of a bookish kid. When I wasn’t in school or playing sports, my nose was either in a book, trying to learn how to write, or trying to learn how to draw. A lot of TV and movies were sort of background when I was doing a lot of those things.
Music (black music), on the other hand, is fairly central to my very existence. As is obvious, Prince was a huge influence on my life. A lot of very pivotal memories—from my very first concert to playing 1999 for my uncle when he was on his deathbed—involve Prince.
It’s the genius and struggle of so many black musicians—from Bessie Smith to Jimi Hendrix—that really inspires me. The greatest gift America has given to the world is black music. Yet, they had to suffer so much for their art and so many of them are still underappreciated to this day. It’s those rich cultures they created, basically out of nothing, that inspires me every day. Though I’m not a musician, I want to do what little I can on the writing and publishing side to contribute to it.
Talk about the character designs—what was the inspiration for each character and each of the alien races?
I was thinking of 1970s racial stereotypes and decided to play with them. I wanted Afro Desia to be that bad sista like Pam Grier or Tamara Dobson. Cali Vera is a calavera, of course. I was thinking of Peggy Fleming for Alley Bastard. For Katana Jade, I thought it would be fun to basically turn the Asian woman stereotypes on their head and make her a Viking warrior instead.
As for the aliens, as I said before, the alligator women come from the Cameo song. The rainbow children come from an old Prince album, as well as those old Tribe album covers. The mandrills come from the old funk group of the same name. And J-Me Star is a Prince alias, and we made him a deer because of Prince’s doe eyes.
I was always trying to make obscure connections like that, creating all kinds of little Easter eggs for music junkies, when thinking up characters, etc., then David just ran with it. And boy did he! Ha!
The trade of Baaad Muthaz collects the six issues of the story that began in May 2018, and will be available this September 2019.