TokuNet Comics Corner: Interview with Zander Cannon
Kaijumax was a pretty big phenomenon. Were you prepared for the amount of attention it got?
Well, thanks for saying so. I was surprised, although I’ve been doing comics long enough that I was pretty well prepared for the things that start popping up when your work gets some attention. What’s interesting is that I have always thought about the work that I do in terms of how it seems to me — whether or not I’m delivering on its premise and so forth — and so things like an increased interest in kaiju and tokusatsu in general adding to Kaijumax’s popularity were kind of a pleasant and unexpected plus.
Every page of Kaijumax is brimming with references in both the dialogue and art to old tokusatsu shows and films, and pop culture in general. How much of that is stuff that’s just always swirling around in your head, and how much is research?
The general stuff is swirling in my head. I’ve seen the movies and the TV shows and the toys, etc. and so I have some jokes in mind about how they would dovetail with prison and crime tropes. But at a certain point I have to go down that wiki rabbit hole and look up a name of an obscure wolf-kaiju from some 70s show so that I can have a good gag in someone’s word balloon. I do feel like the general jokes are sometimes more effective than the specific references, because my ideal audience is not necessarily those who know EVERYTHING about kaiju, but rather those people who have hazy, pleasant memories of seeing a ridiculous number of monster movies in their childhood.
Season One features almost every type of kaiju imaginable. Do you feel pressure to dig even deeper into obscure pop culture for Season Two?
Not deeper so much as wider. Kaiju like Godzilla are only one tiny slice of tokusatsu, as you clearly know, so it’s fun to start bringing in other kinds of shows and movies (and video games). I like the idea of marrying a type of creature or type of hero with distinct groups as they appear in crime dramas. The second season sees a lot more of the Kamen Rider/Super Sentai/Gundam/Shogun Warriors-like Team G.R.E.A.T., and I like that that technology overload sets them apart from the Ultraman-like Team H.E.R.O.I.S.M. that works in the prison. I also hold a lot of things in reserve for future seasons; there hasn’t been a direct analogue to Gamera, Mothra, or King Kong yet, and all of them loom so large — so to speak — in kaiju pop culture that I have to riff on them at some point.
Season One ended on a huge cliffhanger. How does that new event raise the stakes in Season Two?
Kaijumax’s editor Charlie Chu likes to say that it’s The Wire with kaiju, and this season takes the focus out of the prison and onto the kaiju underworld as the beneficiaries of the — ahem — unknown cliffhanger try to negotiate all the monsters who haven’t gotten thrown in the clink. I like that it expands the implied universe of Kaijumax, but I’m making sure that it hews pretty close to the structure and the tropes of crime and police fiction, and keeps that gritty, morally gray tension. While remaining brightly candy-colored, of course.
One of Kaijumax’s strengths is the world-building. How much more of the world of Kaijumax will we get to see this time around, and is there anything you’re particularly excited about exploring?
I’m excited to look around the world and see what the life of a felon is like for kaiju, having to live outside of society and the law while also being somewhat conspicuous. I try not to do too much worldbuilding beyond what is required for the story; it keeps me from writing myself into corners and having to explain too much. Because we’ve all read crime fiction and seen monster movies, I can let those genres fill in the blanks with what happens offscreen, rather than worrying about it and slowing down the pace of the story.
Can you tease any new characters from Season Two?
MechaZon’s sister Chisato has joined the police force, and now jointly controls a giant robotic version of herself with her veteran partner. The Green Humongo’s brother The Red Humongo has been out on parole for several years and is trying to make an honest living despite the strong anti-kaiju sentiment in Tokyo. And the tough, take-no-prisoners H.E.R.O.I.S.M. administrator Matsumoto has come to determine the future of Kaijumax prison after the catastrophic events of issue 6.
Which Godzilla franchise kaiju do you think would fare best in Kaijumax? Which would have the hardest time?
I believe that Gabara from All Monsters Attack would do the best. Clearly he’s an amoral bully, and would think nothing of knocking off a rival for his gang. As for the worst, I think Jet Jaguar would quickly have to be put in protective custody so that he wouldn’t be shanked in his sleep.
Let’s settle it once and for all. Godzilla vs. Ultraman. Who would win?
I love Ultraman, but his color timer is a hard limitation to get around. Godzilla has some quick feet and good dance moves– in some of his films — so I think he could bob and weave until the end of the round, and then, as we all know, Ultraman would never rise again.
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