We’ve all done it. You sit down at a bar, inevitably one thing leads to another, and before you know it you’re concocting the wildest of plans and stories about different characters and situations. From the now trope-worthy “who would win a fight between Batman and Superman?” to deciding which character would be good on a night out for a few drinks.
Well, ALPHA KING is the brainchild of one of those kinds of nights. Teaming industry superstars Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS, DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE) and Simon Bisley (SLAINE, HELLBLAZER) with Nick Floyd, President of 3 Floyds, one of the ‘bad boys’ of the beer industry, this new Image Comics series features the production of “a home-brew so distinct that it attracts a monstrous king and his horrid minions from another dimension”. Sounds great, right?
I recently had the pleasure as our resident “BCP Beer Geek” to call both Brian Azzarello and Nick Floyd (due to technical issues, Simon was not present) and have a chat with them about the series.
Big Comic Page: First off, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you both here. It’s a strange one for me, with beer being my career and comics more of a hobby.
Brian Azzarello: (Laughs) I’m the opposite of that! Beer is my massive hobby!
BCP: After reading the issue last night, the first question that came to mind is that there has to be a story behind the inception of the book. ALPHA KING, as we know, is a 3 Floyds beer, but can you tell us a bit about who approached who?
Nick Floyd: Barnaby (Struve, VP of 3 Floyds) and I talked about doing the Mythology of all the characters. Brian was at Hop Leaf, and we asked “y’know, you’re off writing Batman and Wonder Woman, you know who could write our comic book?” and Brian said, “What about me?”
BCP: Brian; was this around the time you were doing DKIII, or earlier on? What’s the time scale we’re looking at here?
Brian: It was prior. Maybe 2 years ago.
BCP: Has it been an easy process? Has it fitted into your busy work schedule, or has it been detrimental to your work?
Brian: oh, if anything, when I get a chance to work on this, it’s like I’m happy! This book is like – I mean you know, you read it- it’s pretty crazy!
BCP: Yeah! That ties into my next question. The first issue starts off talking about Tolkien, with Orcs, or Goblins?
Brian: Those are two beers, actually! They’re two 3 Floyds characters!
Nick: Yeah, Razorhoof, from our Beer with the band High on Fire is there.
BCP: From there, we jump into the real world. Is The Brewer based on anyone in particular?
Nick: Loosely he’s based on whoever was at 3 Floyds 20 years ago (laughs)
BCP: Everything seems to just build and build. Was there a plan in place already or just a case of sitting down, drinking beers and talking it out?
Brian: The characters were all already there. All of 3 Floyds beers are characters. Their labels have these really in your face visuals, so it just became “How do we create a universe where ALL these characters exist?”
BCP: The labels themselves are all overly caricatured. They have a big “Heavy Metal Comics/2000AD” feel to them.
Nick: Heavy Metal: The Movie for sure, Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons for sure.
BCP: Is that your youth, what you were into growing up?
Nick: Pretty much, yep. We weren’t really religious, so D&D kind of became our religion! There’s way more books! (laughs)
BCP: Speaking of Heavy Metal (The magazine), the comic industry seems to be skewing more towards the feel of the late 70s and early 80s. We’re almost back out of the PG era. Brian, Do you feel the work you’ve been doing has a part in that? Do you think you write books you want to read?
Brian: I’ve always written books I’ve wanted to read and I continue to do that. It’s why I’m involved with this project as well, because, I’m at a point where I don’t have to take gigs. I work on the books I want to work on. As far as things skewing a little older? Man, y’know a lot of comics talk down to people and that’s not something that I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m not interested in writing that way. I want to leave things vague, I want people to get engaged, the way I get engaged when I read.
BCP: Comics tend to have that visual element already. I’ve always thought it helps having a writer who’s making you have to think about thing a bit more – something I’ve actually found a lot with your work. It’s not so much what’s on the page, it’s what you take from it afterwards. Massively so with 100 Bullets.
Brian: Thanks man, I really appreciate that.
Nick: Now *that’s* and adult comic! Everyone that grew up with them still reads a good one. No one just drops them at 12, y’know? Brian’s a classic example of leading that charge.
BCP: To tie this more into the beer side of things. Would you recommend drinking Alpha King when reading Alpha King? Is there anything else you’d go for?
Nick: Hey, whatever turns you on. If it’s milk… that’s cool. Beer would help, sure! This isn’t marketing, or anything! If you’ve only got one issue it’s going to be pretty fast! Maybe one shot and one beer?
BCP: In doing the book with 3 Floyds, Brian, has it made you want to make a beer? Or are you still just happy drinking?
Brian: We’ve never talked about that! I’d leave making a beer to the professionals, I love what they make. I’ve been drinking 3 Floyds beer for like, 20 years now. It’s been a favourite of mine for a long time.
BCP: Would you think about doing a collaboration if Nick was game?
Nick: I’m sure it’ll come up. It goes without saying his writing inspires some of the brand as it is, so… But then Brian would forever be tied to one brand and there’s LOTS of good brands, y’know?
BCP: You could be THAT guy at a convention and people just keep bringing you your own beer.
Brian: (laughs) you’d be in prison!
*At this point in the interview, there was a Simon Bisley anecdote involving conventions and beer, but seeing as he wasn’t there to defend himself you’ll just have to use your imaginations*
Brian: We should come to Glasgow and just set up a signing in a pub. See what happens!
BCP: Nick, 3 Floyds opened its own bar next door to the brewery, right?
Nick: Yeah, we had some empty offices, so ‘02/’03, before there was crowd sourcing, we put out a business plan where anyone could invest $500 and you get a free pint a day. People don’t seem to complain.
BCP: Sticking with 3 Floyds, could you give a bit more explanation into your “Dark Lord” beer? It’s a beer which most people on this side of the Atlantic just get to look longingly at.
Nick: Well just like there’s American Pale Ale and American IPA, it’s an American Imperial Russian Stout. Just like English, but turned up to 11 or 12. Generally twice the hops, definitely a few more alcohol points! Dark Lord is the epitome of American Craft Imperial Stout. It’s 15% alcohol, so it’s off the charts. We make it available for a day once a year.
BCP: People have been known to queue at 6.45 in the morning?!
Nick: Oh yeah, there’s people who camp here, there’s like an army here! Basically a siege for Friday and Saturday, the festival is all-day Saturday. 99.9% of it is sold to the public right there on Dark Lord Day!
BCP: Shifting back to comic, I saw the cover for issue 3 with the cat….
Brian: Gumballhead! Bisley’s version of Gumballhead… That cat wants revenge!
BCP: It’s definitely got a Bisley touch!
Nick: Gumballhead was just a street comic from St. Louis, and then we made it our Wheat Beer logo.
BCP: So it came from a comic first?
Nick: Yeah, in the early 90’s late 80’s SKiNGRAFT RECORDS used Gumballhead, a Rob Seyers comic, and a lot of Hardcore Albums that were kinda basement made. I remember I saw Gumballhead a few years after opening 3 Floyds and it was my favourite album cover and I remember thinking we need to make that the cover for our wheat beer.
At the back of every issue of Alpha King, there are 2 pages of a Gumballhead comic made by Rob Seyers. We’re looking to add the history of the brand and why characters are doing what they are doing or how they look.
BCP: Speaking of which, is there a plan for the final published issue to have maybe a glossary at the back?
Nick: Yeah, by the time we get it into the hard cover, right Brian? This is just the first issue!
BCP: Is there a comic character you’d like to go drinking with, and why is it John Constantine?
Nick and Brian: (both laugh)
Nick: Aquaman. I want to see if he can drink underwater.
Brian: Probably John? You say you want to hang out with Constantine, but maybe that’s a stupid idea…
BCP: You want to maybe be able to watch a night out with him, but not be on it?
Brian: The worst thing, if he calls you friend, you’re dead!
BCP: Alpha King aside, is there much you can say about what else you have in the works, Brian?
Brian: Well, Alpha King is going to be going until people aren’t interested in it anymore, so we’re going to keep that going; DK with Frank Miller; Eduardo Risso and I have a new series coming out called Moonshine coming out in October time with Image, and I’m doing a book called American Monster with Aftershock Comics.
Nick: American Monster has been good, yeah.
BCP: American Monster is another brutal book. Have you ever thought about doing something really like hearted with someone like Skottie Young?
Brian: Yeah, that’s what Alpha King is!
BCP: You say that you’ll keep going with ALPHA KING until people aren’t interested anymore. Does that mean there are plans to keep it going after the 5 issue mini?
Brian: We’re talking about it.
Nick: We have plenty of stuff, so… yeah?
BCP: You could bring Stone in with their Arrogant Bastard?
Nick: Oh yeah! Well the Zombie Kids that Alpha King kills are a colab beer we did with Duvel! There’s all kinds of intertwining cross marketing in a bizarre way with bands, artists and other breweries already.
BCP: Last Question – what would you say to someone that isn’t sure about the book to try and sway them on it?
Nick: You’ll never see anything prettier than Bisley’s art on it, or anything that sounds as good as Azzarello’s writing. I just happen to be attached to it.
Brian: I always make the “money back guarantee”. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy it back. I’ve never bought a book back. Maybe it’s just people don’t know where to find me?
BCP: Honestly, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk. I’m gutted we never managed to get Simon on, but I think for three guys that have never worked Skype before, we managed to get a good solid effort in!
3 FLOYDS: ALPHA KING #1 goes on sale May 4th from Image Comics.
We also want to offer a massive thank you to Pamela at Superfan Promotions for setting us up with this amazing opportunity