• Equestria Daily Interview Series: Interview with IDW Writer Katie Cook

    For those of you who aren't aware, Gronk, A Mother's Story is the ongoing weekly webcomic by IDW MLP Writer/Artist Katie Cook. It is a slice of life comic filled with good humor, engaging characters, beautiful art, and some really heartfelt moments that just tug at the heart strings.

    Sound familiar?

    Anywho, I had the distinct honor of interviewing Katie Cook to find out about her experiences as a writer and artist on the series. While being one or the other has proved insightful in these past interview, remembering that Katie can draw brings in a whole different perspective that proves to be quite enlightening.

    You can find out all about that, and more, after the break!

    Who is your favorite pony and is that pony the same as your favorite to write and/or draw?

    My favorite pony is Twilight Sparkle! I grew up helping my mom in the library every summer, so Twilight and I are insta-bonded. However, my favorite to write is Rarity. She’s a comedy goldmine. 

    How did you first get interested in drawing?

    I’ve never wanted to be anything BUT a cartoonist. There are notes on my kindergarten report cards about me doodling on everything. 

    When did you start drawing comics?

    About the same. Since I could read, I’ve read comics and newspaper cartoon strips. I started to copy them and make my own when I was SUPER little. 

    What ultimately led you to start writing comics?

    I’ve written my own gag strips for years… I’ve written my own stories for things like the Fraggle Rock comics and others, but I always was drawing what I wrote. MLP is the first project that I didn’t draw. I was really freaked out to give over the drawing duties to another person… but I love Andy and I knew he’d make a way better book than I ever could. 

    Who are your biggest influences on your artistic style?

    Sergio Aragones, Stan Sakai, Bill Watterson, Jeff Smith and every cartoon I ever devoured as a kid. 

    What type of comics did you read growing up, and have any of those writer’s styles influenced your writing on MLP?

    Every morning, I ripped the comics section out of the newspaper. It was the best part of my morning while everyone was getting ready for school. This was back in the day when the comics section of the paper was 2 full pages every week day. I’d read everything as my mom drank her coffee. As far as comic books, it was Archie Archie and more Archie at first. I think I got my comedic timing in what I do from loving the 3-4 panel gag. 

    So far we’ve heard about the college experiences of every single artist who has been on the book. 2 of them from the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD). What was your experience like at the College for Creative Studies and what sort of lessons did you learn from there that you apply to work professional work?

    I have a BFA in Illustration from CCS. It was a blast. They pushed us all to work in other mediums… so I learned everything from oil paints to digital. It pushed me to work in ways I wasn’t comfortable with and gave me a chance to grow. I think most “Art kids” that go to art colleges go in with the chip on their shoulder from being “the best artist in their high school”, I did and then I was NOT the best artist when I got to college. It took me down several pegs and really opened me up to new things. I mean, I ended up studying TECHNICAL DRAWING when I wanted to be a cartoonist! I’m glad I did, it made me a better draftsman. 

    You did a couple of professional comic projects prior to landing the MLP gig with IDW. Fraggle Rock,  Mouse Guard, and Jim Henson’s The Story Teller to name a few with Archaia. A My Space Dark Horse Presents issue with Dark Horse. And two Avengers’s spinoff title with Marvel. Of those projects, which parts did you find the most memorable/rewarding?

    For me, anything I’ve done with the Jim Henson company. My biggest nerd passion in life are Muppets. Being able to write and draw something like Fraggle Rock (especially my Cantus story) and work on something so closely tied to Jim’s legacy made me feel like I’d really done something with my work. 

    Were there any major takeaways from those experiences with regards to the comic industry?

    I got a card from the folks in Henson licensing thanking me for my work and telling me how much they loved it. That little card is like an award to me. I keep it up on my shelf with my full-sized Kermit replica!

    Katie, you have a job that most Bronies would gladly give just about anything for. For those of us who haven’t heard this story before, how did you land the job as a writer for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?

    It’s a super boring story. Bobby (the editor of the MLP comics) and I have been writing back and forth for a bit about trying to work on something, probably back-up gags to a different comic, but nothing had ever come of it. One day, I tweeted that I really liked the new MLP show… he e-mailed me and asked me if I wanted the comics. I said “yes”.

    What inspired you to initially start off the series with a 4 issue arc featuring The Return of Queen Chrysalis?

    Hasbro had a couple ideas about what they wanted for the first arc. One was simply “Something Queen Chrysalis”. I ran with it. 

    And what inspired you to start off the series and that arc with a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

    In all honesty, I really thought that the MLP comics would have a much smaller audience, like most kids’ comics. I didn’t think that the numbers would be so high! So I wrote the book to amuse myself and my brony older brother (I get a lot of my sense of humor from him… he made me watch a lot of Monty Python as a kid). So I just went nuts writing something I thought was funny to me. 

    After it was announced that you were writing MLP Comics, who was the most excited member of your family?

    Probably the aforementioned brother. HA. Maybe me. I was pretty excited to get to “play in the pony stables”. 

    Does G know you write MLP? And if so, is she a fan and do you read your comics to her?

    My daughter is not quite 4 yet… so she doesn’t really understand my job. When she sees anyone at daycare with a pony shirt, she does say “my mommy works on ponies”, which leads to a lot of weird looks. 

    She DOES like the comics, however! They are regular bedtime reading and she will tell you I do a really terrible impression of Rainbow Dash. 

    It was mentioned before that the original pitch that you gave for the Rarity Micro issue was extremely similar to an unreleased episode for season 4. Which episode was if you can talk about it?

    Sure! My pitch was REALLY close to Rarity Takes Manehattan. SUPER close. When I got the word that was out, I went with my other idea with the Hippy Ponies. I’m glad I did. It’s still my favorite issue we’ve done. 

    So I take it your comic idea didn’t have a musical number with Rarity singing about her element?

    Musical numbers in comics are a hard sell. 

    This leads right into the next question, how much material do you get with regards to the upcoming episodes? Scripts? Synopsis? Hasbro notes after you do something wrong? Nothing?

    Hasbro sees the “pitch” for the comic MONTHS before I write it… so they come back and say “Not this because of X, Y and Z”.

    For the next two arcs that you did for the regular series, something has always bothered me about them. Were Neigh Anything and Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair released in the order you wrote them in or was their release order swapped during production?

    They were released in the right order. 

    Speaking of Neigh Anything, I have to say that turning Shining Armor into a—to quote Homer Simpson—“NERD!” was genius … as well as slightly controversial. How did you come up with that idea?

    In my mind, Twilight Sparkle’s brother (who she is so close too), would be more like her! Besides, my comfort zone is writing about D&D and nerdy things. 

    Speaking of controversial, was there anything specific you wanted to accomplish when you wrote the 8 page backstory to Sunset Shimmer?

    Hasbro asked me to write about the build-up to Sunset Shimmer going though the mirror and only gave me 8 pages to do so. When you only have 8 pages for a new character to have a total melt-down, you better make her intense to show her true colors. 

    It’s been said that you write the funniest Princess Luna in the franchise, which was on full display in Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair and Princess Luna’s Micro issue. How did you stumble upon Luna’s funny bone?

    I really like the idea that Luna is a little “out of it” because she’s been away for so long. I just turned that up to 11. There are enough things in this world that are dark and stoic, Luna doesn’t need to be among them all the time. (I know, I know, people give me grief about this all the time that she shouldn’t be “funny”. I’m sorry to all the people that hate how I write Luna). 

    Do you have a favorite and/or most demanding moment from the Luna Micro?

    I like that Celestia just took the day off and went to a secret spa. I originally thought of having her secretly follow Luna all day, but I thought that showed she didn’t think Luna could do it. I changed it when I started writing. 

    Is Tibbles a gift to Andy Price and every single Trekkie in the fandom?

    The possum was a gift to Andy because he likes them (I think they’re terrifying looking), naming Tiberius was my idea. Andy and I both LOVE Trek. I grew up with my mom putting up a Star Trek themed Christmas tree! 

    Reflections is the most ambitious story arc IDW has ever done for the series. It’s also been the most controversial. What inspired you to explore Equestria’s Mirror Universe?

    Classic comic book stroyline… MLP did it with Equestria Girls already, but we wanted to use it in another way. 

    Did you have any guidance when it came to developing Starswirl the Bearded as a fully fleshed out character?

    I wanted him to be a combination of Yoda and Obi-Wan. Wise and firm when he needed to be… but a little “off”. 

    While the show didn’t deal with Twilight’s… promotion to princess outside of giving her a pair of wings and a crown for a good long time, you used the first issue of Reflections to partially deal with Twilight’s thoughts and feelings about this major change in her life. Which begs the question, what do you think of Twilight Sparkle’s character arc from the first episode to the present? 

    I am a loud and proud Princess Twilight supporter. I like that they are showing her growth from what could be considered a sheltered bookworm into a leader of ponies. 

    The next 3 issues of MLP that you are doing seem to be focusing on Applejack. Was that intentional on your part or was it more of a coincidence?

    “The Good, The Bad and the Ponies” is a 2 issue arc that DOES have the Mane6 in it, but Applejack gets to take more of a focus. It’s intentional, as it’s a Western… who else would I put in the front? Fluttershy?

    Issue 8 of Friends Forever is titled Reins, Trains and Carts with Wheels. What inspired you to do a parody of Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring Rarity and Applejack?

    I know, I know… the Rarity/Applejack pair-up is “overdone”. But, In case I never got the chance to do another team-up issue, I wanted to write the book I REALLY wanted to write. They play off each other SO WELL and I knew I’d have a blast writing it. I wrote that issue for me. I’m selfish that way. I’ll write some obscure team-up next time… Shining Armor and Buck Withers go to Comic-Con or something. 

    Issues 25 and 26 of the main series are going to be an old fashioned Western tale. Any hints you can tell us about the arc or what inspired you to write in the genre?

    I really wanted to write a new villain and I liked the idea of these big bulls (ala’ the old Bugs Bunny cartoon with the matador). King Longhorn is menacing and smart, I REALLY like him as a bad guy. 

    While MLP is what you are most well-known for you’ve also done some work on some extremely well known properties, like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. What did you do for those properties, cause I think I remember seeing your art on a Star Wars book a while back?

    I used to draw the webcomic on StarWars.com for the Clone Wars back when it first started. I also did artwork for the StarWars.com blog. I’ve done COUNTLESS pieces of licensed Star Wars art over the years… I’ve lost count on it. But man, I do love me some Star Wars. Who doesn’t? Crazy people, that’s who. 

    Over the past year, you’ve done a lot of covers for a comic covers for Marvel Comics, specifically for their Marvel’s Animal Variant Covers—The Deadpool #25 Cover cracks me up. How did you land that job?

    I got a call out of the blue one day! It was a random, unknown New York number… I’m glad I picked up the phone that day! 

    Pony or otherwise, what has been some of your favorite covers to create?

    I really like the one I did of Big Mac and Apple Bloom reading under a tree. It’s boring, I know… but it makes me happy. 

    Now for the big news Marvel revealed today. You’re credited as a creator on Spider-Verse #1 with you introducing a new Spider-Character for the ages! Anything you can say to tease us about your contributions to the Spider-Verse event other than we’ll just have to wait until November to find out?

    They've announced a bit more… they asked me to re-imagine Spider-Man if that spider had bitten an 11 year old girl. The result is Penelope Parker.

    You can find Katie Cook on the web at: http://katiecandraw.typepad.com/

    You can follow Katie on:

    Deviant Art: http://katiecandraw.deviantart.com/?rnrd=7055

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katiecandraw.fan
    Tumblr: http://katiecandraw.tumblr.com/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/katiecandraw