Following a painfully long delay, the third issue of Black Mask Studios’ 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK is finally just around the corner.
The series, from writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Tyler Boss, instantly popped up on our BCP radar when the first issue went on sale back in April, with Kieran reviewing it and making the bold statement that “Not only is this the best opening issue to a series in 2016, it’s one of the best first issues I’ve read in my entire life. Period.”
Black Mask Studios recently launched an extremely successful initiative whereby an exclusive advance run of issue #3 – featuring a brand new cover by series wallpaper designer Courtney Menard was – made available, with all of the proceeds being donated to The National LGBTQ Task Force (http://www.TheTaskForceActionFund.org). That sold out in rapid fashion, leaving the rest of us having to wait until December 21st for the issues to hit comic shops around the world.
So, order to catch us all up on the series – and to hopefully bring it to the attention of anyone who may have (shamefully) missed it the first time round – we were lucky enough to be able to sit down and have a chat with writer Matthew Rosenberg about just how the series came about and some of the inspirations that helped it take shape.
BIG COMIC PAGE: First off Matthew, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. Now, 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK is definitely one of the funniest and most original crime comics to come along in quite some time. What inspired you to throw children into a world they probably shouldn’t be a part of?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG: I’d love to say that it was some stroke of clarity on my part, but really it wasn’t. I guess I had the basic understanding that putting people in situations you don’t expect is the basis of comedy, but mostly I just wanted to make a comedy book about kids doing bad things. It wasn’t until I started writing it that I discovered how painfully hard it is to write comedy. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. So part way into it we decided to make it lean much heavier on being a crime story. And, in doing that, it got funnier. Writing is weird I guess.
BCP: What kind of inspirations did you draw on when putting together the series?
ROSENBERG: Oh boy. So much stuff. Me and Tyler really wanted to wear our hearts on our sleeves for this. I’m a huge fan of dialogue driven comedies, or stuff where the dialogue really sets the tone. Films by people like Whit Stillman, Wes Anderson, William Goldman, Sidney Lumet, David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, and Quentin Tarantino are all influences. And obviously a ton of comics. We’re huge fans and generally steal freely from people like Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Chris Ware, G. Willow Wilson, Daniel Clowes, Jeff Lemire, Kelly Sue Deconnick, David Aja, Adrian Tomine, Frank Miller, and a ton more. It’s sort of too many to name.
BCP: Between 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK and WE CAN NEVER GO HOME, you’ve shown a great knack for writing alienated youths. What is it about these kind of characters that fascinates you?
ROSENBERG: I think it’s just a really interesting period in a person’s life. You are still being told what to do, but you are also expected to figure out who you are or who you want to become. I think, culturally, there is a ton of pressure to conform or act a certain way, and the temptation to reject that is so obvious. Getting characters who are on the verge of having to make these huge life choices and watching them just say “fuck it” is sort of a storytelling cheat, but it’s one I think still has value.
BCP: For me personally, 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #1 was probably one of the best comics I’ve ever read in my life. Seriously. What has the response been like overall?
ROSENBERG: Wow. Thank you. The response has been overwhelming and humbling. In the end this book is Tyler and I trying to make each other laugh. So if people connect to it that is an amazing feeling. In some ways it’s almost nicer than making something with the goal of having other people like it. It’s definitely weird and makes me feel a little self conscious, but it is always nice and flattering when people like the stuff you make.
BCP: Are any of the characters based on you or your friends at a younger age?
ROSENBERG: Yeah, in a lot of ways. Paige is probably the kid I wish I was, or maybe even thought I was. But I definitely was more Berger. I think Tyler really sees himself as Stretch in a lot of ways. The characters are pretty broad in some regards, but I definitely pull a lot from my life. In the scene where Berger asks the waiter if “the sprite is fresh”, that is literally based on something I did at a diner last year. The waiter just stared at me and everyone I was with got annoyed. So, I put it in the book to show how annoying Berger is.
BCP: We can’t talk about the comic without mentioning Tyler Boss’ artwork. How did you end up working with Tyler, and how ‘hands on’ are you with the visual aspect of the book?
ROSENBERG: Tyler and I used to work together in a comic shop. We’ve been friends for a while and I would always talk about my story ideas. He would spend a lot of time telling me what really sucked and what only kinda sucked. It was when I started talking about 4 Kids that he actually seemed excited. So it was something we kicked around for a while before we got started.
As for how hands on I am with the art? I don’t know. A little? I never send him notes or anything. It’s his book too. But I am pretty detailed in my scripts. But he changes a lot of stuff and challenges me to rewrite scenes to be better. Some stuff blurs as to who contributed what, which I like.
BCP: Can you give us any hints about what to expect from the rest of the series – besides the four kids, presumably, walking into a bank?
ROSENBERG: Well that is the big thing. Everyone assumes because it’s in the title that means they do it. It’s a classic “will they / won’t they.” Other stuff you can expect includes a dog, some drugs, a robbery, some violence, and a joke we stole from the comic strip Family Circus.
BCP: How far would you like to take this series?
ROSENBERG: Our goal is to take it all the way to the fifth issue and then stop forever. We’re almost there.
BCP: Do you have any other projects coming up that you can tell us about?
ROSENBERG: Yeah, I have a bunch of stuff coming up. My first series for Marvel, Civil War II: Kingpin just wrapped and is out in trade now. I did that with Ricardo Lopez Ortiz and Hayden Sherman on art, and Mat Lopes on colors. I’m pretty proud of it. It’s a pretty intense book, and the Kingpin in my favorite Marvel villain.
In December I am launching the new Rocket Raccoon series, which is crazy. It’s Rocket stranded in New York, trying to get out. I think it’s a little darker than I think most people will probably expect a Rocket book to be, but it’s funny too. Jorge Coelho is drawing it, so it’s worth it for the art alone.
And in the spring I am launching Secret Warriors for Marvel with Javier Garron on art. There is not a ton I can say about that right now. It’s a crazy team of Quake, Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, Inferno, Karnak, and a few other hidden surprises. I’m pretty excited.
And other than that I have some creator owned stuff coming up, including the second series of We Can Never Go Home with Josh Hood on art. I’m really looking forward to diving back into that and people ask me about it all the time, so yes, it’s happening.
BCP: And finally, if you could say one thing to someone who’s unsure about picking this one up to help convince them, what would it be?
ROSENBERG: You’re feeling unsure about reading 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank? You’re maybe sensing that it’s not for you? Go with your gut. There is a lot of better stuff you can spend $4 on. Go get yourself a milkshake instead and drink it really slow.
Interview by: Kieran Fisher
Kieran Tweets from @HairEverywhere_.