Sean McGuinness, Legend among Men and MonstersDecember 20th, 2006 by Al , Category : News
A key figure in the world of webcomics, Sean McGuinness has been writing and illustrating Twisted Kaiju Theater before most of us knew what a webcomic was. With six and a half years and one thousand plus episodes under it’s belt Twisted Kaiju Theater can comfortably claim the title of the first, longest-running, photo-webcomic of all time. Sean has used his love for Kaiju (Japanese word for giant monster) toy collecting, and his sense of humor to create internet magic. Twisted Kaiju Theater’s brand of comedy can be sometimes crass or irreverent, but it is always hilariously funny. It is what makes Twisted Kaiju Theater so damn funny and puts it right up there with the likes of Family Guy. It is all the things you know are funny but were afraid to say and laugh about. If you haven’t heard of Sean (Shin-Goji) McGuinness or Twisted Kaiju Theater you really don’t know what you are missing. I myself have been a long time fan of the webcomic and have watched Sean’s mad Photoshoping and digital camera skills develop over the years. You can imagine my utter amazement when Sean emailed me this past week when he saw White Powdered Doughnuts’ profile on ComicSpace.com. He noticed that our site was seriously lacking in the webcomic department (which it is) and wanted to help us out by letting us do a story about Twisted Kaiju Theater. To which I replied “Sweet Monkey Jesus” yes! In fact I asked him for an interview and he said yes. I could hardly believe it. It actually was somewhat of an honor. Made even better by the fact that Sean created a custom episode of Twisted Kaiju Theater for us. All I can say is this was a good week for us at White Powdered Doughnuts. A very good week.
Al Quesada: Sean, tell us a little bit about yourself in your own words?
Sean McGuinness: The truth of the matter is I am a lucky fluke. I started this game with a sack full of enthusiasm and not much talent and brains. Over the years I continued to improve on my quality and skills, while the original quality is still somewhat embarrassing to me. The fact that I’m six and a half years into this still surprises me. But somehow I have attracted a loyal and faithful following of some of the greatest, most well-behaved fans any webcomic artist could ever dream of.
AQ: Besides your love for Kaiju and toys what is your motivation for doing Twisted Kaiju Theater and how did the series first come about?
SM: Well, I had this growing stash of Godzilla collectables, and I wanted to show it off. But there was an ocean of websites already doing that, and I have a personal philosophy that you should try to do something original that speaks of your soul. Toyfare Magazine was still new and all my friends and I loved it. I thought to myself, “I could do that.” I was in my second apartment shooting figures on a foam board backdrop with the poorest lighting conditions imaginable, with a joke so obscure I thought only Godzilla fans would get it, with a punchline that was the bargain basement of scatological humor. Even as poorly composed as the first episode was, it’s a fan-favorite and one of the most memorable.
The origin came from a Trendmasters Space Godzilla figure that looked like it could be posed as if he was shielding his eyes from something he did not want to see. Some basic poop humor entered my brain, and a script was bashed out. When I say script, I mean more of an improvisational act that never got written down.
AQ: What other hobbies do you enjoy besides collecting Kaiju toys?
SM: About twice a month I roll down to the local comic store [Heroes & Dragons, best in the whole state of SC] and play HeroClix, a superhero miniature game by Wizkids. I’m also an anime fan [Bleach, Hellsing, Ushio & Tora, Baoh, Battle Angel Alita, and Naruto] and I really enjoy video games [Fighting, Survival Horror]. Comic books have resurfaced as a big passion over the last few years, and have influenced some of the TKT scripts.
AQ: I have been a Kaiju fan since I was 5 years old. How did your love for giant imported monsters start?
SM: I loved Godzilla since I was a kid. He was like the dragon of all dragons to me. I remember the first matinee my parents let me see alone in the theater as a kid was “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.” Right when Hedorah flies over the schoolyard and kills all the children with his pollution, the film melted. I remember all the kids booing, while I sat there in silent awe thinking Hedorah had melted the screen! Then I started collecting here and there, very passively. This was WAY before conventions and the Internet. When E-Bay came along, it was all over for me. Godzilla collectibles were my non-female related orgasms.
AQ: Do the characters in TKT represent friends and family in the real world or are they totally made up personalities?
SM: Word of warning to all up and coming webcomic artists: make SURE you ask your friends before you put them in your comics. I’m lucky enough that they tolerate me doing so. The Toxic Pirates are over the top exaggerations of my friends and myself. When I say over the top, I mean we would get arrested or deported if we tried some of the stuff we do in the comic. My girlfriend and my father have also made full cameos in the comic.
AQ: How do you feel that TKT has improved over the years?
SM: Art and writing, bar none. When I started I had no storylines, just one-shot episodes poorly composed with figures crammed into the camera field of vision. Today I take pictures of each figure individually from every angle, using lights and white plastic panels to properly illuminate the figure, with the latest of Photoshop techniques to make the viewer forget that these are toys. I want the reader to think of them as living, breathing creatures.
Of course, it took forever to get a cohesive vision. Plots didn’t start until late in the seasons. It was really random. But while I still put out some one-shot gags, the storylines are sometimes much more epic in scale. The current one I’m working on has a Silent Hill theme, and promises to be the longest and best one I’ve ever worked on. I actually think it’s TOO good. Everything I do after this will look like CRAP!
AQ: What is the process for creating the TKT webcomic like? Give us the rundown on the creation of a typical strip from start to finish.
SM: The ideas are easy, they usually come from something I overhear during the day, or it’s a personal spin on an actual event, or I’ll come up with a one-liner and I need to fill it with some fluff material. Then I usually have a good idea of how to block out the storyboard in my head. I have a decent-sized book of script ideas I take wherever I go. I also have a pretty good idea of what figures I’m going to use. I’ll pull them out of the collection like stars in a casting call.
I’ll take pictures of the figures, several times. You never know when something turns out blurry. Then comes the hard part: Photoshopping everything into a 400×300 square while leaving enough room for text bubbles and special effects. Since I do everything myself, sometimes spelling errors slip through. Then I assemble everything in GoLive for the html and I have your basic TKT episode.
AQ: How did the whole Kaiju girls thing get started? Ever think of doing a webcomic series featuring only them?
SM: There are no female kaiju. You might count Mothra, but it depends who is directing the film. So with such a sausage-fest heavy carnival, I needed something for the fanboys to drool over. Hence, I came up with the idea for GINA [Godzilla Inspired Naked Anthromorph]. I went to a noted furry artist, who helped me bring her to life. About half a year later I had another print of her. Then the fan artwork started pouring in, covering everything from each Toho Kaiju to Go Nagai giant robots and original creations. I would say the Kaiju Girls are just as popular as the comic, even though the furry genre tends to turn off a good portion of the populace. I see things differently. I see nothing so out of place between a human girl and a Kaiju Girl, as I would between a white and a black girl.
I would do a K-Girl comic, but only if I could draw it, so it won’t happen. Some artists have done some REALLY good comic strips with the girls, but it’s not something I would ever want to pursue full time. Over the years the K-Girls have become less and less of a focus for me. I don’t even pay artists to do artwork at conventions, mainly because, and I know this will sound bad, the majority of them can’t get the work done in the time that you were promised, plus they’re very bad about getting back to you after the con. I have enough fans who want to send me gift art, and occasionally I will commission a piece. But through a convention? Never again.
AQ: Do you ever attend any conventions Kaiju, Comic, or otherwise?
SM: Yes, I’ve been to Katsucon, Nekocon, Animazement, and most recently I-Con. It’s great making new fans and meeting faces that proudly introduce themselves as long time readers or lurkers. For me, there is a greater joy in just sitting at the table, people watching, talking with con fans, and being quiet and polite than attending most of the panels. I got to be a guest at a few panels at I-Con and have conducted two small but enthusiastic Godzilla Fandom panels. One day, I would like to be invited to G-Fest.
AQ: What do you feel is the reason for TKT’s continued success and longevity?
SM: I don’t freaking know. I’d like to think I was doing something different. Unlike the majority of webcomics, I’m expressing myself through a rarely used medium, and I don’t have any filter. I say what I want when I want, and to hell with the repercussions. Even though he is a world renowned icon, Godzilla is a pretty obscure character in these modern times. But I have talked with fans that have had the Godzilla of their youth reawakened, and fans who don’t know any of the monsters but love the story, art and humor.
AQ: What webcomics do you like and why? What webcomics do you hate and why?
SM: I am gay for Alien Loves Predator. Straight out of the starting line he found the success I’ve been chasing for years. Plus he has figures with real articulation, not like mine where I have to digitally reconstruct them to pick their nose.
Other notable toy comics are Nukeland Cinema, Insecticons, and Perils of the Bold. For the drawn spectrum VG Cats [of course], Death Piggy and a good portion of the new friends I’ve made at Comicspace.
As for webcomics I hate, I’ve grown past my need for a rival when I was young in the game. I used to want to hate a particular comic like Pupkin, but then I realized I’m wasting precious energy. If you actively hate something, then that thing has power over you. I don’t have time to hate. I do have time to be envious though.
AQ: Do you feel that photo-webcomics sometimes do not get as much respect as drawn webcomics?
SM: Absolutely. Photo comics don’t get a fair shake. They’re the redheaded stepchildren of the webcomic community and nobody really gives them a chance. People accuse us that it takes no talent to do what we do and that is unmitigated bullsh*t. You take a figure with no articulation and see how hard it is to get him to throw a punch. Artists of the drawing spectrum complain about how they have to buy expensive pencils and artboard. Punk m*th*rf*ck*rs need to shut the hell up and buy a digital camera, photoshop, a computer, find space for a studio, buy some lamps that will make you sweat like a stuck pig on an open fire, and then buy all the toys you need to make the comic. Cry me a f*ck*ng river! People say that photocomic artists aren’t really artists. To those people I say go f*ck yourselves. We work hard, and we ARE artists.
AQ: Do you feel a certain rivalry or motivation to out-do another webcomic out there?
SM: I feel more of a comradere than a rivalry. I try to learn from other comics as opposed to fighting them.
AQ: You have been involved in webcomics for 6 1/2 years how have you seen the webcomics community change and do you feel it has gotten better or worse?
SM: I think the access door has gotten wider. There’s hundreds more webcomics out there than there were back in the day when me, 8-Bit Theater and VG Cats were at the top of the TopWebComics list. We used to write back and forth a bit like roommates in a dorm. But now there’s so much more talent out there [good and bad], that it’s MUCH too hard to get noticed. I would never have lasted past the first year if Brian Clevenger didn’t let me use his characters in a crossover. That got me my first real audience past 100 hits a day. I know people who read 100 webcomics in a day, and that worries me. Can you really remember anything lasting reading like that? It really raises the bar for the new and old artist alike. The market is just oversaturated.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a diss on the new school and the youngbloods. But it’s a fact that the more there is out there to distract your attention, the harder it is to get noticed. If I started my comic now, I don’t think I would make anywhere near the amount of headway and longevity that I have over these six years.
AQ: How has doing TKT changed your life?
SM: It’s never brought me any real financial gain, but the popularity is my real bread and butter. But all the success and material wealth of my collection doesn’t even compare with the fact that my webcomic got me involved in a serious relationship with the woman I’m living with now. I got invited to I-Con 24 as a guest of honor [getting a bigger write-up than Peter David, by the way]. This woman came by my table and I took her picture holding one of my Godzilla figures. I fell in love at first sight, and she reciprocated in kind. After a year and a half of long distance dating, she moved in with me. She contributes to and reads the comic. I can look at any collector in the world and tell them that MY collection got me the woman I’m going to marry, so how much is THEIR collection worth?
AQ: What do you consider is the most rewarding part of doing TKT?
SM: People come and tell me how my comic gets them through their day, and helps them when their lives have turned to sh*t. I’ve had soldiers, battle hardened military, tell me that I am the bomb in their eyes. That is power right there. I may not have the tens of thousands of hits a day, or the profits to match so I can quit my job, and I never will. I’m comfortable with that. I take away from this that I have made a difference or an impact in someone’s life, for the better.
AQ: How long do you see yourself doing TKT? Can we hope to see many many more years of Shin-Goji and his pals?
SM: Sweet Monkey Jesus, I hope so. If I didn’t have this webcomic, what the in the gay blue hell am I going to do with my collection?! I hope to hit the ten year mark and outlast every other webcomic, so that I’m the last one like a survivor of a zombie apocalypse. Then I’ll get to repopulate the earth as the last webcomic standing. If anything, I’ll keep doing TKT long into the future so long as there are stories to tell, and because I just don’t know any better.
AQ: Your webcomic is enormously popular and you are pretty much a
celebrity. What would you like to say to all the fans of TKT and those who have never had the privilege of reading the Twisted Kaiju Theater?
SM: I want to be remembered.
I want people to say I lived all-out, with few regrets and miles of passion.
You don’t have to be passionate about the same things I am, just be passionate about SOMETHING in your life. That’s what TKT is all about, living it up in your own way to the fullest. I’m hoping and glad that someone can take something away from my site, even in the smallest amount.
The last thing I would like to say is that I am the luckiest guy on the planet, and that I have THE greatest fans in the world, and each and every one of them makes my heart truly sing.