MIKE McGee, Co-Creator and Writer of EL GORGO!,
AP: Who is Mike McGee?
MM: Well, for the purposes of this interview, I’m one of the founders of the late, lamented Frontier Publishing, which ran serialized fiction by such luminaries as, uh, Derrick Ferguson; and more recently, I’m the writer and co-creator of EL GORGO!, a comic book about a gorilla luchador who punches sea monsters.
AP: Give us the background stuff. You know the drill: where do you live, where do you work, etc.
MM: I’m from Cleveland, but I’ve lived in the Metro DC area the last few years.
AP: How long have you been writing?
MM: Forever, basically. When I was a little kid, I had pretensions toward writing and drawing my own comics, but I soon discovered that literally every other kid I knew was a better artist than I was. So that was a blow. Anyhow, I could write okay, so my course was set, pretty much.
AP: Who is EL GORGO! ?
MM: El Gorgo is a genius talking gorilla luchador who’s also a superhero, a rock star and a historical novelist. He doesn’t sleep a whole lot.
AP: Why is EL GORGO! “The World’s Most Awesome Comics Magazine”?
MM: We-ellll…you know, we call it that in the spirit of fun, which is what the book’s all about, but honestly? Slapping that on the cover really does keep us on the beam, I think. It’s a challenge Tom and I have laid down for ourselves – can we make the book live up to that? We definitely try every time to make it the most awesome comic that we can do. EL GORGO! is a comedy, and in the sense that the tagline is kinda over-the-top it’s a joke, but it’s not really a joke. It’s more like a distant Shangri-La just off the horizon that we’re always striving toward – never mind that it could be and it probably is just a mirage and we should really think about drinking some water and maybe comb a few of these scorpions out of our hair – and we’re getting there one panel of a monkey punching a dinosaur at a time.
AP: Is it safe to say that EL GORGO! is inspired as much by the pulps as by comic books?
MM: Uh, in the sense that superhero comics took their inspiration from the ‘30s-era pulps, sure. There’s probably a little bit of Doc Savage in El Gorgo…really, a little bit of all those characters who were super-capable autodidacts with limitless resources and boundless idealism to go along with their teeth-gritting and ass-kicking. Our main inspiration is (as I think is obvious to most people who read EL GORGO!) the work of Jack Kirby, and because Kirby drew every single kind of comic book there ever was to draw, he did at least one pulp adaptation back in the ‘70s: JUSTICE, INC., which was actually a comic about The Avenger, only I guess DC couldn’t call it that, for obvious reasons. I have pretty fond memories of reading a random issue when I was a kid, and it’s possible some of that’s crept into EL GORGO! somehow or another.
AP: What do and your co-creator/artist Tamas Jakab have planned for future issues of EL GORGO! ?
MM: Oh, man, so much! Probably much more than we’ll ever live long enough to get down on paper, or pixels, or however people choose to read it. When we started the book, it was intended as a one-shot, and then it became a miniseries, and before long it turned into this whole epic we may never have time to finish. In the next few issues, we’re going to learn a lot of El Gorgo’s backstory, encounter his arch-nemesis, and venture off to the Himalayas – it’s gonna be a good time.
AP: You wrote a story for the Pulpwork Press anthology HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD. How did that come about?
MM: Well, I was invited aboard, and I nearly didn’t do it because I really couldn’t get a handle on the genre at first at all, but then I saw the cover by Jim Rugg (he of the comics Street Angel and Afrodisiac), and that was that. If I could have a story underneath that artwork, I knew I had to do it.
AP: Tell us about your co-writer on that story: Chris Munn.
MM: Chris kinda saved my ass on that story, because I didn’t have the first clue what to write about, and Chris had a killer idea and no time to write it himself – this thing that was kind of a cross between High Plains Drifter and The Wicker Man (the one without Nicolas Cage as Woman-Hating Bear-Man), which right away I knew I could do a lot with. I’ve known Chris for a really long time; he’s a really good guy, and a great writer. Unfortunately, we didn’t collaborate as directly as we’d both hoped would be possible on “The Town with No Name” – I wound up writing the whole story myself, but it is Chris’s story, too, which I know has been overlooked in a few places. His name is on it as well, as well it should be.
AP: Are you a western fan at all? Weird or otherwise?
MM: I’m a huge fan of Joe Lansdale, who’s written in and who halfway invented the horror western genre, at least as most people know it today. The influence may be indirect, but I don’t think HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD would exist without books like The Magic Wagon and Dead in the West, to say nothing of his collaborations with Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman on their Jonah Hex comics of the ‘90s. As far as just western-westerns go, I’m also a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and think “Deadwood” may be the best drama ever to run on television (though, I dunno…”Breaking Bad”…), but I have to admit, I’m not terribly well-versed in the classics of the genre. Westerns on film just moved too slow for me when I was a kid – I’d always switch them off if one of the other UHF stations had Godzilla or a horror movie or something. I probably turned off half the movies John Ford ever made (though as an adult I’ve fallen in love with The Searchers). Like, John Wayne just bored the hell out of me when I was a kid, though I get the appeal now. But I always did dig Clint Eastwood. So…I guess I’m more of a western fan than I thought I was when I started to answer your question, but I wouldn’t say I’m like a western aficionado.
AP: There’s a HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD 2 in the planning/development stage. You planning on contributing to that?
MM: I’m thinking about it!
AP: What other writing projects are you working on now?
MM: Oh, I think it’s bad luck to get too much into stuff like that. I’m working on a few things, though.
AP: Here’s your chance for a shoutout or to pimp something. Go.
MM: Okay! As far as shoutouts go, naturally I’ll mention there’s some great stuff at Pulpwork Press (http://www.freewebs.com/pulpworkpress/) people should be checking out, if they haven’t done so. And of course everyone should read EL GORGO! (http://elgorgo.com/) and if they like that, there’s some really terrific stuff coming out of Action Age Comics (www.actionagecomics.com) that’ll be very much up your proverbial alley.
AP: Any final words of wisdom from Mike McGee?
MM: For the love of God – turn off your computer and go outside! It’ll all still be here when you get back.