It feels somewhat unreal for me that it’s been over a year since I did my previous interview with Doug TenNapel, but it’s as true as it’s said. Anyways, on a positive side note, just recently I found out that TenNapel is working on a brand-new graphic novel called “Bigfoot Bill” (there’s also plans for a “Bigfoot Bill” video game!). So, long story short. I got the chance to do a new interview with TenNapel (yay!).
So we talked about everything from Bigfoot Bill’s success on indiegogo, TenNapel’s plans for “Bigfoot Bill” game, #GamerGate, old Gaming memories to TenNapel’s thoughts on Comicsgate. So with that said, please enjoy our interview with TenNapel =)
Wow, time really does fly you by when you’re having fun. Because it’s been over one year since I interviewed you the last time. Anyways, enough of me. So please go ahead and introduce yourself to our readers =)
I’m best known for my character Earthworm Jim, but many gamers don’t know that I’ve been working for 28 years in television and comics. I worked on Sega Genesis titles all the way back to Jurassic Park and Stimpy’s Invention, as well as Nintendo’s Jungle Book. I’ve sold seven of my 16 graphic novel titles into Hollywood and have exec produced four animated series. I’m a Christian and a Republican and a family man and a fine artist. I love people and am the happiest person I know.
Funny enough, I found out about your brand-new graphic novel “BIGFOOT BILL” today. So it would feel rather fitting to ask you how the “BIGFOOT BILL” project came to be, and what the novel is all about (when, where, why and how). So I’m going to do exactly that.
I had crossed paths with Ethan Van Sciver on Facebook and saw his outrageous success independently publishing CYBERFROG through Indiegogo. I told him I wanted to try an independent comic, and he asked if I had any ideas. I showed him some early sketches of Bigfoot Bill, and he said, “Do that!” So I cobbled together about two years of notes on the character and found gold. So I really, really like him and his world. I haven’t been this excited about a character since Earthworm Jim, so I knew I was onto something.
The story is about a deep state government holding facility called The Crypto-Zone where mysterious animals like Loch Ness, unicorns, elves the Chupacabra etc. are kept in secret away from the public eye.
Bigfoot Bill finds out he has family somewhere outside the facility, so he steals the Finger of Poseidon, which gives him authority over The Kraken who attaches itself to his body. So that he can use it as a living, talking super-armor of unfathomable power. Bigfoot Bill breaks out of the Crypto-zone and spills out on the streets of Los Angeles, where many other monsters have escaped the facility, only they intend to destroy innocent human beings. This first book concentrates on Bigfoot Bill vs. The Mothman!
From what I understand it, “BIGFOOT BILL”is a comic book follow-up to “Earthworm Jim!”. So does that mean that we will also get to see “Earthworm Jim” in action again? (both in comic and game form) And can we expect to see the same kind of craziness that we experienced with “Earthworm Jim”? (it sure looks that way based on pictures from BIGFOOT BILL’s indiegogo page).
The Earthworm Jim rights are outside of my reach. I can’t do anything with him, unless I get permission from the rights holder and most of my attempts to secure those rights have been rejected. So a guy who didn’t make Jim is going to try to make Jim. I wish him luck with that because Earthworm Jim and I share the same DNA. It’s a difficult character to express, and it’s easy to get wrong as the abomination known as EWJ 3D demonstrated. Even so, I will say that Bigfoot Bill shares that DNA, so he is a more authentic EWJ than any new EWJ without me.
What thoughts went through your head when “BIGFOOT BILL” got fully funded on indiegogo? And did you ever think that your project would get over 500% funded?
My heart flipped when we funded in less than 12 hours! However, crawling over a finish line with minimal funding isn’t what I call a success. Funding at 500% is what I call a profound success! The way I run my campaigns, I don’t drain the money out of the campaign to line my pockets. So I try to pump as much value back into the book and perks so it becomes an obscene value to the backers. I’ve always found a special joy in underpromising and overdelivering.
What could you tell us about the “Bigfoot Bill” playable demo? (what’s your plans for the game?) Because the demo got unlocked via indiegogo just recently thanks to the fact that “Bigfoot Bill” has raised over 75,000 USD so far.
That playable demo will be the hardest part of the campaign by far. Nevertheless, I’m especially proud of that freebie because it honors my Earthworm Jim fans who helped make Bigfoot Bill a reality. I take that very seriously. I’m putting together a small team of animation and programmer hammers who are fans of the original Earthworm Jim and my goal is just to get the gravity, play mechanics and animation working on Bigfoot Bill to demonstrate that we can make something BETTER than Earthworm Jim game-wise.
This isn’t even a full level, mind you, but it’s a start. My goal is to have three more Bigfoot Bill books each revealing the super arc of a sprawling epic. I hope to expand the game by adding a demo for each of the next three book campaigns…then we launch a stand alone Bigfoot Bill full epic video game!
It’s grass roots building from the ground up. We will see if this works or if this was the stupidest idea, I ever came up with, but I’ve got a good feeling about this so far. For the record, the game will ONLY be available to my 1500 or so backers of the campaign. They’re paying for it, so it is their game, and it’s a free bonus as a thank you for buying the book.
You have mentioned that “Bigfoot Bill” is something of a dream project for you. So I take it that you have wanted to turn “Bigfoot Bill” into a reality for quite some time then?
Yes, Robin. I came up with the character and pitched it to Dreamworks about three years ago, and they didn’t go for it. These pitches are really hard to land when someone has never heard of such an absurd character. It became clear to me that the only way Bigfoot Bill was going to be made was if I did it independently. It’s still going to take a long time to get these books out so I’m in it for the long haul.
Is it correct that you will now read and provide audio commentary to “Bigfoot Bill”? And if the novel manages to raise 90,000 USD via indiegogo, there will be a hardcover edition of the novel? If so, groovy!
I do think we’re going to hit the 80k by Friday afternoon (the deadline) no problem, so I will provide that commentary. However, it’s much more than a commentary. So It’s more like character creation and story-telling school. I’m a natural educator, and I like to pass on all of my techniques to anyone who cares to listen. As for the nardcover, it represents a huge financial risk to me before hardcovers are so much more expensive both to print and to ship.
Yet again, it demonstrates that I’m dead dog serious about this book. It’s not a hobby for me. As It’s my primary outlet for artistic expression, and I want the very best quality on all aspects of the book. It nearly doubles the value of the book for the same backing, so I will be happy to see us reach this goal, but it really is a stretch! I hope lots of readers will step in and make this happen, because my hardbound books I’ve done before like my Sketchbook Archives were a $25 book that also weren’t available in stores and now regularly go for $130.00 on EBAY. That’s how I maintain the value.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but as of lately I have noticed that a handful of well-known people from the games industry has started to release books or comics of theirs (like American McGee’s “Out of the Woods” card game and book, for example). So I take it that the market is still hungry for products of that kind?
There is a voracious appetite for entertainment like we haven’t seen in my lifetime. Content creators are seeing the benefit of having complete control and freedom by taking on the projects themselves. I still love working with my publishers and the big studios, but Bigfoot Bill is just way more intimate to me.
We now have so many outlets for independent creators that we can have Youtube channels, indie comics and I’ve even seen indie action figures. These avenues just weren’t possible when I was growing up so I’m happy the business model exists for up-and-coming creators. These are good times as far as that goes.
What has the indiegogo experience with “Bigfoot Bill” been like for you? And how have the feedback and reception been so far? (good, bad, mixed?).
This Indiegogo experience is a lot like Patreon, which I don’t have! Nevertheless, I feel support from a ton of patrons who support the arts, love good story and trust me as a character creator. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but I can’t let that go to my head. In a lot of ways I tune out the positive messages because I never want to lose my edge. So I am grateful for the success, but work like I have to keep improving.
On a personal level, what do you like the most about “Bigfoot Bill”? And what are you the most proud of with the novel so far?
Bigfoot Bill, like all of my characters (including villains) is autobiographical. Now, one can take that too literally and wonder if I wear The Kraken as armor, but I mean it in more of the sense of he is a character who longs for connection with family, is in a moral quandary because he himself is a crypto-creature yet he is at war with fellow crypto-zoological creatures.
He didn’t deserve the powers of The Kraken, yet he has them to wield. I love my family. So I’m in an epic struggle with others in a giant culture war, and I don’t feel like I’ve deserved the ability to draw I have, nor my constant success in spite of how difficult I can be.
I’m most proud of the artistry. That’s what turns me on. I love good design principles, interesting characters that keep me wondering what will happen next, and I am turned on by the unique business structure of an independent comic run. It’s fun and scary at the same time!
Now that “Bigfoot Bill” has become such a huge success on indiegogo, do you think that there a tiny chance that we might get to see a new “Earthworm Jim” game in the future? Because no offense, but neither “Earthworm Jim 3D” nor “Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy” lived up to the epicness of the first two “Earthworm Jim” games. Simply put, the series really deserve at least ONE more good EWJ game.
If I controlled the rights, then you would have ten fantastic Earthworm Jim games. Those are my values. What has happened to Earthworm Jim since my departure from Shiny is troubling, but it’s really none of my business. So if they wanted my help, they could pay me to work on a project and in 22 years, they always thought it was a better plan to go their own way with disastrous results.
I want to be careful to say that this is not by necessity! They could have contracted the Rayman team and probably at least have gotten a great playing game. I root for the success of others, so I do hope that Interplay makes something awesome with Jim regardless of my involvement. The fans always deserve a great game.
What games, comics, books and movies have you enjoyed the most so far this year? And is there any game titles and whatnot that you’re really looking forward to? If so, which ones, and why?
I can’t play games these days because they are too time consuming. I mean, if I ever played Warcraft, I’d probably lose my family. So I just play a little Freecell on my phone, which is about as basic as a game gets. I do play Call of Duty Zombies on survival mode with my kids from time to time.
As for books, I have John Calvin’s Institutes, King Arthur and Michael Shermer’s The Moral Arc on my nightstand. I told my kids that if they could run three miles in under 33 minutes without stopping I’d buy them PS4 Spiderman, so I’m looking forward to that! Otherwise, my year will be spent drawing Bigfoot Bill and overseeing the demo game.
I’m pretty sure that you are already well aware what Comicsgate is all about So, what’s your take on it? And what do you think fans of comics should do to fight the SJW, PC, censorship and feminazi nonsense? (just look at Marvel and DC comics…).
What is #ComicsGate? (Micah Curtis)
Knowyourmeme (archived link = http://archive.is/oO9km)
Inverse (“Comicsgate Is Gamergate’s Next Horrible Evolution”)
Polygon (“Top comics creators denounce ‘Comicsgate’ for the first time”)
Vulture (“Comicsgate Is a Nightmare Tearing Comics Fandom Apart “)
Comicsgate.wikia.com (archived link = http://archive.is/lnAbO)
#comicsgate via Twitter (archived link = http://archive.is/ohw7j)
For starters, I was Comicsgate before it was so much as breathed by anyone else. I’ve had my comics criticized because of my values for over 20 years. So while I don’t formally take on titles, because I avoid groups, we share a lot of values, and I’m happy to be considered one of them.
It’s really no different than when I got sucked into Gamergate. I had journalists from Kotaku, Joystiq, Polygon etc. targeting my games simply because I am a conservative Christian. Long after Comicsgate passes and the next gate shows up I’ll still have my values and still be making my art and there will be some unprincipled leftist coming after my work for my values.
When asked what I think others should do, I don’t like to point humans like a fire-hose at an opponent, that’s what the left does, and I want to avoid their practices any time I can. I already have a well-developed moral compass and boycotts and bitching campaigns isn’t part of my world view.
Instead, I would encourage consumers to buy what is good, do encourage people who share your values because we are strengthened by our fan’s positive messages. I do still have SJWs and Feminazis in my fanbase and I intend to keep telling them good stories.
As human beings, we may settle into a grouping of people, but it’s rare to find 100% agreement even within our labels. I’ve sat down and had a beer with my most vocal opponents and turned them into friends. In short, I think I have a better chance of changing an SJWs mind by being human with them than by yelling at them. It is rare for me to change someone’s mind, and it’s mostly because they won’t have a simple conversation.
I might think differently if my audience was just full of evangelical conservatives, it’s not. I’ve never had a high percentage of my own people in my audience, and I see that as a credit to my work being just that damned good.
Is there any chance at all that we could get to see a new “Neverhood” or “Armikrog” game in the future?
There is a better chance for both of those than you’d see an authentic Earthworm Jim… other than Bigfoot Bill. The rights to the Neverhood are a little more accessible, and I’ve spoke to a number of companies ready to pull them out of EA. Still; It’s a lot harder to chase after old rights that are buried in some company’s vault than to create something new.
What’s your plans, hopes and expectations for the rest of the year? And is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
I hope to just work hard and try to be a sane voice to my culture. I appeal to folks to take on the highest values we know and apply them as fairly to others as we do to ourselves. That’s hard to do when our culture rewards confirmation bias and treating your own like gods and opponents like shit. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
Addressing your readers, I’d be honored to have them join the Bigfoot Bill Indiegogo campaign, and I’d love to have you subscribe to my DougTenNapel channel on Youtube if you want to take a deep dive into humane, fun discussions on pop culture, faith and politics where we don’t scream at each other. I pray you all find peace and happiness.
I’m a HUGE fan of Doug TenNapel and Earthworm Jim.
Robin “V-Act” Ek
Editor in chief
The Gaming Ground
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