The Humans Interview with Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller

Published by Daniel Bennifer on May 14, 2015 10:56 am
2 Comments
 

We sit down with the creative duo behind Image Comics’ The Humans, Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller, for a wild ride through 70s biker exploitation.

We here at GizLine have thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of The Humans. It’s a wild ride through and one of the hottest new comics on the scene, available now from Image Comics.

The next issue is right around the corner, and ahead of its release, we sat down with the creative team behind the book to discuss what’s in store next from the band of outcasts, misfits and no good punks – otherwise known, as the biker gang, The Humans. Read on below to see what the pair had to say.

GizLine: Were ‘The Humans’ always planned to be apes? Where did the inspiration behind this come from?

Keller: Yeah, The Humans were always apes… I started out wanting to write a biker script. I dig genre. I’m always trying to come up with different ideas for some of my favorite genres, one of which is biker movies, so that’s how it started. It quickly turned from a straight forward biker-idea and became the idea which was the seed for The Humans. Then that idea just banged around my head for 12 or so years till I told Tom about it drunk.

Neely: I think it had to be apes. As soon as the words “Ape biker gang” fell out of his mouth, I knew it was something I wanted to draw!

GizLine: Why a biker gang? Do either of you ride? If so, what do you own?

Keller: I don’t ride, I just party. It’s a romantic notion… To be an outlaw with no responsibilities and have no fuckin’ cares in the world, with a killer ride, flying down the road with yer hot mama just livin’ from party to party in the fellowhood of yer brothers…
Its appeal is the freedom. That’s what I get about it. Thanks what intrigues me.

Neely: I ride, but I’m far from being a “biker” in this sense. I currently have a ’79 KZ1000ltd. But I’ve spent so much time drawing monkeys on bikes, haven’t had much time to ride her lately.

GizLine: I initially was met with a huge Planet of the Apes vibe from the series. But, this isn’t post-apocalyptic, at all. If anything, it’s more Sons of Anarchy. How would you describe The Humans?

Keller: Its pure Apesploitation. A HIGH-OCTANE, NO HOLDS BARRED, APE BIKER CHOPPER RIDE INTO 70’S EXPLOITATION GENRE BLISS!!

Neely: I can safely say Sons of Anarchy had no influence on us. I had never seen an episode until I’d drawn the first 5 issues. Now that I’ve slogged through several seasons of it, I’m happy to say our book is very different from that show. We draw more inspiration from old biker flicks from the 60s and 70s – Wild Angels, Hells Angels on Wheels, Psychomania, Easy Rider and the spirit of exploitation in general. If you like Russ Meyer or Roger Corman movies, or underground comics from that time, this comic is for you.

GizLine: Was the plan always to make the ‘skins’ slaves, rather than let them co-exist alongside apes?

Keller: Yep. That was the idea from the start. Its funny how much everyone wants to focus on the actual humans in this world and how we’re depicting them. It seems to upset and weird some people out.

Neely: I’m really enjoying how much it disturbs people to see homo-sapiens treated the same way we treat animals in the real world.

GizLine: Why was California, during the 1970s selected as the time period? Why not a more modern setting?

Keller: I didn’t want to do a contemporary biker idea. That held no interest to me or Tom. The biker world I was interested was a 60s-70s depiction. I wanted to do a period piece and have fun with it. There is an allure to the freedom of that time in America and a fearlessness we want to tap into..

Neely: Keenan’s idea of setting it in the ‘70s definitely appealed to me from the start. I’ve always had a romantic fascination with that decade.

GizLine: The preview issue of The Humans wasn’t in colour. What was the reasoning behind this? Was it down to time constraints, or was the series initially planned to be uncoloured?

Keller: We self published issue #0 and our idea from the start was to do the entire comic in B&W, when we thought we’d be self-publishing it, but once we hooked up with Image, we jumped at the chance to do colour and Kristina Collantes was into being our colourist (she rulez), so she jumped onboard and it took off from there! But we left #0 B&W cause we liked the idea of this prelude issue being in B&W in contrast to the series which would be in psychedelic colour. It also harkens back to B&W indy comics of the 90s a bit… It was a fun stylistic choice that I’m glad we did.

Neely: Yeah, we didn’t intend to do a colour series until Image picked us up and Kristina volunteered to join our gang. I love black and white comics and I love the way the issue 0 looks, but Kristina’s colours really took this series in a new direction and opened the door for us to really explore the psychedelia in ways that we couldn’t have in black and white.

GizLine: My favourite issue to date is that of #3, in which Johnny experiences flashbacks from his time in Vietnam. Can we expect to see more of his past, as well as that of other characters?

Keller: Thanks. We’re proud of that one too. Yes, we’ll see glimpses into more of Johnny’s Vietnam story as we go along. And you’ll find out a little more about The HUMANS when we tell a few different stories in The HUMANS CHRISTMAS Special (this is a real thing that will happen at some point in 2016) plus we have lots of ideas for some one off stories of The HUMANS past in the future.

Neely: Yeah Johnny has flashbacks that come up throughout the main storyline. And we have several other story arcs planned out for the future that will involve all kinds of stories. I love the idea of going back in time and exploring more stories with these characters.

GizLine: The Humans is a rare breed of over-the-top violent, adult-oriented comics. With so much focus on super-heroes in the industry, was it hard to find a publisher to put out the series or was there initially a great deal of interest from the start?

Keller: Well, we were lucky. A friend of Tom’s told Eric (Image publisher) about the idea and he told us to send him some stuff. Then we set up a meeting and we went in all nervous and Eric sat us don and was like “So, we’re gonna do this.” and that was it. Easiest meeting I’ll ever have. And that one of Image’s strengths, seeing there is an audience for all types of stories and genres and investing in the new, weird and fun.

Neely: We were planning to self-publish because that’s what we’ve always done. So, we didn’t even shop it around to see if anyone else was interested – when Image fell in our laps, we just ran with the opportunity. I think anyone that thinks comics are still dominated by superheroes is either short-sighted or going to the wrong comic shops. There is so much more happening in comics these days. Keenan and I both come from the indie/DIY/self-publishing scene where people make comics about everything. Super-heroes are for movies now.

GizLine: That leads into the next question: how has Image Comics been with the series? Have they had much oversight or involvement from issue to issue, or have they allowed you creative freedom?

Keller: Image fucking rule. They have been very supportive and understanding, as Tom and I fumble our way through our baby steps into monthly comics. We’ve finally started to figure it out, but they were patient with us. As for their direct input on The HUMANS, there is none.They let us have complete control. That’s what Image is all about. The artists and artistic control. I don’t know of any other major publisher that would print the stuff we’re doing and support us this strong. Image have got some big balls. Happy to be rolling with them.

Neely: I’m really happy working with Image. They’ve been awesomely hands-off in all the right ways. Nobody says I can’t draw more ape cocks. And that’s good, because every time we meet our fans they ask for more ape cocks! And the experience of being published by Image and seeing a book I draw reach such a huge audience is overwhelming and exciting.

GizLine: Having previously worked on Henry and Glenn, what was it like transitioning to The Humans and its motorcycle heavy art?

Neely: The biggest change was collaborating with a writer and a colorist. But that has been a really fun and interesting transition that I’m enjoying because it allows me to draw a lot more! As for the drawing, I always like to find a new way to approach art making with each project. From my earlier books The Blot and The Wolf to Henry & Glenn and Popeye and now The Humans, I’m always changing what I do to fit the story I’m creating. I never really drew this way before and I’d barely ever drawn a motorcycle before I started working on the Humans. It’s been a fun challenge and it’ll probably keep evolving because I never want to be confined by a strict style.

GizLine: If you could say one thing to encourage readers to pick up the book now, what would it be?

Keller: It’s got 80% more Ape-cock than any other series on the shelves!

Neely: Just 80%? I think it’s more like 110% more ape-cock!

GizLine: Finally, when can fans expect to see the next issue of The Humans hit comic book store shelves?

Keller: June 3rd! Issue #5! It’s the most action-packed issue to date! Tom really out did himself this issue!! Viscous vehicular mayhem and madness!!! The HUMANS must protect two semi trucks full of dope from curious cops and deadly hijackers!!! So go out and bug your local comic shop to order it for you today.

Not had a chance to read The Humans for yourself as of yet? Check out some of the comic covers for the first four issues of the series below. If they don’t get you interested, we’re not sure what will! To view them in their full glory, simple click one!

The Humans #1 Comic Cover from Image Comics, Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller The Humans #2 Comic Cover from Image Comics, Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller The Humans #3 Comic Cover from Image Comics, Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller The Humans #4 Comic Cover from Image Comics, Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller

MORE HUMANS: View GizLine’s The Humans Comic Gallery, it’s a trippy experience!

That’s it folks. Thank you to both Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller for taking the time to answer our questions.

Stay tuned to GizLine for upcoming announcements pertaining to The Humans. We’ll be reviewing the upcoming issue upon its release. Humans for Life! Humans till Death!

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What’s being said...

  1. Seven (May 15, 2015 12:13 pm)

    Right, I’m officially picking this up. Looks crazy awesome.

     
  2. Jeffry (May 15, 2015 6:42 pm)

    Fantastic interview lads, great stuff! I laughed at “I think it’s more like 110% more ape-cock!”, that’s for sure!

     
 

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