Leviathan releases in August from Image Comics, and it is everything comics should be. In an era when just about everything you read or hear is tinted with a little gloom, creators John Layman and Nick Pitarra decide to just go out and have fun in their new book. AiPT! recently spoke with the two in a entertaining and informative talk.
AiPT!: How would you describe Leviathan?
JL: Over-the-top action/insanity. Comics turned up to 11. Comics that grab you by the throat and don’t let go.
NP: A giant monster is conjured up from the depths of hell, and the first thing it decides to do is kill millennials!
AiPT!: The art is very distinct. It is reminiscent of pulp comics or Robert Crumb. Was this intentional?
NP: I certainly gravitate toward indie artists; there’s something raw and honest about their mark making that speaks to me. I tend to draw with very solid forms and often over render until I feel the drawing has captured the weight and sense of completion that I desire. If you look at artists like Robert Crumb, Basil Wolverton, Richard Corben, and different eras of Moebius, I think they all tend to have that same goal in mind, in that you’ll often see them use excessive amount of mark making over cartoony forms. I believe that’s probably the similarity you’re sensing, the cartooniness and the excessive detail/mark making (as I’m definitely not as good as any of those gentlemen).
AiPT!: Yes, there is a kaiju, and the premise is silly, but by the end of the first issue it is clear this is going to be a tender love story. What was the inspiration behind Leviathan?
JL: I just wanted to give Nick crazy stuff to draw, that would show off what he brings to a page. Leviathan is tailor-made for him. Literally nobody else could draw it.
NP: There’s such a richness of personality in all of the characters in Leviathan, it’s so snappy, fun, and unexpected from issue to issue. John has really set me up to shine and I hope my abilities as a cartoonist live up to his bombastic scripts.
AiPT!: It may not be typical, but I think it’s fair to call Leviathan a love story. What’s your favorite atypical love story?
JL: Titanic. Jack sacrificed everything for Rose, his true love, freezing in the cold, dark, ice-frozen waters. Has there ever been a more beautiful love story than that?
NP: I thought The Shape Of Water was lovely. It was so odd and enchanting — I particularly loved the use of symbolism throughout.AiPT!: Leviathan is fun, but there are scenes dealing with the current administration and the media. Were these intended to convey a deeper meaning or were they “what you see is what you get” moments meant solely for humor?
JL: Well, it’s not overtly political, but if a monster attacked a city in the U.S., the president would certainly have to deal with it, so we’re kinda obligated to include the president, whoever the president is. I don’t intend to get too political in the book, because I don’t want to insult any racist, brain-dead, knuckle-dragging, lead-paint-drinking, Trump-supporting mongoloids who may want to read this book.
NP: I don’t believe that voting for your party’s candidate means you hold the worst parts of said candidate’s character as high-water marks of your own. I believe that thinking is a byproduct of the limitations of the two-party system. I added in a ton of jokes in the art on that Trump page you mentioned (the clock where he’s holding a cat, his own memorabilia decorating his room, the big sexy painting) — my hope is that they read positive for each reader’s own personal opinions, if you hate Trump then we’re making fun, if you love him then you have a cool over the top version of him running around in our comic.
AiPT!: How did you two get together for this project?
JL: Grindr. The swimsuit section.
NP: Backpage: Casual Encounters section (just before it was shutdown for violating laws associated with prostitution, drug trafficking, and excessive anal sex.)
AiPT!: Who is your favorite kaiju?
NP: I love the design, size, and scale of the kaiju, designed by Geof Darrow, in Big Guy and Rusty!
AiPT!: Leviathan is filled with big scenes and fittingly many of the pages have few panels. This is great for action but is not always conducive to relaying emotion. This is not the case here. How are you able to deliver action and emotion so effectively?
JL: Most of that is in the act, but the key in writing is, no matter how silly or outrageous the action, not to forget the characters are people, that have their own different motivations, fears and drives.
NP: I’m a big believer in decompressing the narrative and adding panels to dialogue-heavy pages. For example, if a character is supposed to talk twice in a panel, I’ll often add an extra panel to sell the beat rather than put two word gallons in one panel. I think this approach creates more chances to connect with the characters.
AiPT!: I know you can only say so much, but what can readers expect from the story?
JL: It will be the craziest comic they read this decade, and the second best.
NP: It’s a big fun monster book and so much more, no two issues are the same.
AiPT!: What projects do you have upcoming?
JL: Beside Leviathan and Charlie’s Angels for Dynamite with Joe Eisma, I have another book being announced this summer debuting this fall. I am writing an “Apocalypse Trilogy,” of which Leviathan is the first, and my book coming this fall is the second. All are very different, but thematically similar. Love stories with black magic and infernal magic thrown in.
NP: It’s Leviathan all day every day for me. I’ll occasionally do covers: look out for a big connecting five part cover on Bebop and Rocksteady Hit The Road, IDW’s summer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles event starting next month.