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Tony Gregori talks humor and huge hammers in 'Porkchop Robot Killer'

Comic Books

Tony Gregori talks humor and huge hammers in ‘Porkchop Robot Killer’

The story of a pig battling A.I. in the End Times is crowdfunding now via Zoop.

Even the least attentive comic fan will surely note the noticeable rise in dystopian sci-fi stories/series in recent years. There’s something about our own society staring down the brink of financial, ecological, and political ruination that’s clearly inspired creators. Yet for the sheer variety and just total number of stories obsessed with what happens at the end of the world, few are seemingly as inventive as Porkchop Robot Killer.

That wonderfully-titled, 32-page special edition comic comes from writer-artist Tony Gregori (Deuce of Hearts, Karma Police). In it, we follow the titular Porkchop and his “robot valet Doug.” Together, the dynamic duo battle the “viral menace” of A.I. in a post-apocalyptic hellscape (that sort of looks like if a Circuit City exploded). Described as an “oil-soaked symphony of destruction,” it’s Gregori’s own art and general worldview that informs this bonkers-looking tale of life after the collapse that promises to be both heartfelt and utterly hilarious.

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Porkchop Robot Killer is currently crowdfunding via Zoop. Before that campaign kicked off, however, we caught up with Gregori to talk all things Porkchop Robot Killer, including how the book honors his grandfather, why he chose a giant pig as a hero, writing about the End Times, and the mystery at the heart of this book.

If you’d like to support the campaign, head here.

Porkchop Robot Killer

Courtesy of Tony Gregori.

AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Porkchop Robot Killer?

Tony Gregori: In a dystopic future overrun by A.I. bots, a defiant, lone pig makes a stand.

AIPT: Similarly, where did the idea come from? How long has it been baking in your head?

TG: Well, my grandfather’s nickname was “Porkchop” — he was a 5’6″, 230-pound immigrant steel worker from Italy in the ’40s. And around 2018 I wanted to make something to honor him. Originally I was thinking of doing a bio-comic, about his time in Italy and his experiences coming to the States with my grandmother and father, but I quickly realized I wasn’t capable of doing that level of research to do his story justice, he had passed in the 80’s along with my grandma, and my family wasn’t too helpful either. At the time I was doodling these piecemeal bots in my sketchbook, complied from everyday household appliances and devices we use everyday, and the idea for Porkchop Robot Killer kind of took shape from there.

I wanted to write and draw something of my own, but it needed to be action-focused and full of destruction, and I didn’t want to draw humans or animals getting ripped apart. So smashing bots seemed perfect. I first started posting the pages on my patreon in 2018, around the first 12 pages or so, but in October 2018, my father passed away and I shuttered my Patreon and took some months dealing with the ramifications of that loss. A couple years later, around 2020-2021, I decided to finish the first issue and even drew the first eight pages or so of issue #2, and sat on it for a while until Zoop came into existence! They’ve provided the perfect partner to get this story out into the world.

AIPT: You’ve worked on some fairly bonkers comics, including The Worst Dudes and TMNT. How did those influence or help shape the insanity in Porkchop Robot Killer?

TG: Actually, I started Porkchop Robot Killer before I even worked on those books, so if anything Porkchop Robot Killer shaped them. If I remember correctly, I sent some of the original Porkchop Robot Killer pages to the editors at IDW to help get me the TMNT gig!

AIPT: Why is an anthropomorphic pig such a compelling or interesting hero?

TG: I think pigs in general are just compelling creatures, they’re some of the smartest animals in the kingdom, they can be adorable and charming one minute but then are capable of unimaginable brutality and horror the next. Kind of like humans…

AIPT: The big bad of this book is A.I. Is that a bit of social commentary, or are you just having fun (or both?!)

TG: I’m a child of the ’80s and ’90s — [I] didn’t really grow up with computers, and there was definitely no social media, so I have an inherent disconnect when it comes to technology and computers in general. I’m not a luddite or anything; but for example, I prefer drawing traditional and I’m the type of person who leaves their phone at home when walking the dog or going on errands. That being said, when I conceived Porkchop Robot Killer in 2018, AI wasn’t at the forefront of the discourse like it is now so I’d be lying if I said something like I intended the book to be brilliant social commentary. I will say it’s kind of been kismet the way it has played out, everyone’s come around to my technophobia!

AIPT: Please complete the following sentence: Porkchop Robot Killer is (blank) meets (blank) with a side of (blank).

TG: Porkchop Robot Killer is Mad Max meets Short Circuit with a side of TMNT!

AIPT: Why does a large pig use a giant hammer as a weapon?

TG: Hahaha! Porkchop’s gear is a bit of an homage to my grandpa’s steelworker uniform, hammer included. I wanted Porkchop to feel blue-collar, and the imagery of him smashing advanced tech with a large blunt object just appeals to me. Also you don’t have to reload a giant hammer!

AIPT: Is there something more difficult and/or more compelling about exploring dystopias given the state of our own world?

TG: I think anyone with half a clue is concerned with the state of the world, so many looming threats from climate change to AI overlords, so I think when you’re exploring stuff like this you can easily go down a dark road and make something nihilistic and depressing. I guess it’s up to the creator how they choose to go about it, personally I try to find the joy in life no matter what, and I wanted to bring some of that to a potentially disheartening situation. Also, the book is about a giant pig who kinda talks and loves french fries so how dark can it be?

AIPT: The book hints at some potential “unexpected discoveries.” What can you tease about those?

TG: The “unexpected discoveries” are the friends we made along the way…

Seriously though, issue #1 is 32 pages, you get dropped right into the middle of Porkchops world and his situation, plenty of action and some tender moments, and by the end of the issue you get introduced to another anthropomorphic character who plays into the larger plot. Outside of that you’re going to have to read it to find out!

AIPT: Why should anybody contribute to this campaign?

TG: If you value independent artists, telling stories they want to tell, without corporate oversight, you should support Porkchop Robot Killer. If you want to see some bots getting destroyed you should definitely support Porkchop Robot Killer. If you love pigs and want to see a handsome one run roughshod over AI while possibly learning a bit about himself you should support Porkchop Robot Killer. If you want to stick it to the man, you should support Porkchop Robot Killer!

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