By Stefania Rudd. From November 2012 to… well, right now, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has captured the essence of Hasbro’s iconic characters and projected them onto the printed page in a manner that can’t be described without using the word “magnificent”.
In the tradition of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye and G.I. Joe, IDW Publishing approached its adaptation of the My Little Pony franchise with respect by recruiting creators who had a clear reverence for the source material, and also know how to have a lot of fun with it. Now My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic celebrates its Fiftieth Issue, so naturally we had to get in on all the fun.
Ted Anderson and Andy Price spoke with DoomRocket contributing writer Stefania Rudd about the Fiftieth issue of Friendship is Magic, keeping the series relatable for readers of all ages, and if they had cutie marks, what would they be… and why.
1. Before you began work on ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’, did you have any sort of personal connection to ‘My Little Pony’ from the ’80s? If so, what? If not, how is your relationship to the property today?
Ted Anderson: Not at all! When I was a kid, my sister had a couple of the toys but didn’t watch the show, so I had basically zero exposure to it until the most recent iteration. Like a lot of other fans, I got into it based on Lauren Faust and her vision, but since then I’ve checked out some of the previous generations. It’s important to know your roots!
Andy Price: Not by much, other than I remember my niece playing with them around the time they started in the early 80’s. I remember it being on TV, but it was pretty much a girl’s club thing at that point. I was too busy with SuperFriends and Thundercats.
2. The ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ creative team is large, with different writers and artists coming in for different issues and story arcs. And yet it all feels seamless. How does this team maintain such an obvious level of cohesion?
TA: Major credit has to go to our editor Bobby Curnow, first of all, for keeping us all working together. He’s the one who keeps everyone on the same page and juggles all the continuity. Beyond that, we writers just make sure to keep reading each others’ issues and stay current! And when there’s something specific I need to check, there’s always the internet—if I ever need to know exactly how many episodes Bon Bon has appeared in, that’s just a click or two away.
AP: We made a group deal at the crossroads at midnight… really, I think part of it is the material; it’s fun to work with and it’s very organic, so the flow of it is pretty easy. When you work on something you enjoy, it shows, and I think all of us have a ball with this franchise.
3. When approached to work on ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’, what was your first reaction? Follow up: Why did you decide to work on it?
TA: I actually came into it from the other direction: I deliberately sought out the job! I’d been trying to break into comics for years, and I was a big Pony fan from early on in the series, so when I heard that IDW was going to be doing the MLP comics I absolutely had to get in on it. I’m good friends with Zander Cannon, who’s a comics artist who’s been in the industry for decades, and he knows pretty much everyone. He got me in touch with the right people at IDW, I sent them samples of my work, I pitched some stories, Hasbro gave me the seal of approval, and I’ve been writing ever since! I’ve been amazingly lucky to get into the industry this way, getting to work on one of my very favorite properties right from the start.
AP: I was all about it… I had just started watching some of the show after many recommendations (yes, I resisted at first… “that’s for GIRLS!”) about a month or so before the project came along. The show proved itself an intelligent and fun project right off, so the idea of bringing it to comic format was immediately something I wanted to play with. Comics allows so much more than most storytelling mediums, so we have an incredibly wide field to play in.
4. The cast of characters is pretty substantial, so how do you determine which ponies will be featured in certain story arcs or issues?
TA: It depends on the story, obviously—most of my stories in the main series have been about some big event or issue that affects every pony, so my job is to try and make sure they all get some page time, with more emphasis on those characters who are more directly affected. In some stories, I’ve gotten to have a more limited focus, like my Trixie story: I knew it was going to be about Trixie, so I chose characters who hadn’t had as much interaction with her. And with the Friends Forever stories, those start with me asking, “What two characters have never interacted much?” or, “How can I show a side of this character that hasn’t shown up before?”
AP: Visually, I try to rotate characters around when I can, even if the book centers on one individual. It keeps the page more interesting visually, and reminds the reader that the other characters are still around and matter to what’s happening.
5. Looking back at all 50 issues, which story stands out to you the most and why?
TA: Out of my own work, I’m most proud of the Twilight/Spike story—I wanted to tell something really specific to those characters and their backstory, something central to their relationship, and I’m happy with what I came up with. Out of all 50 issues, I’ve always been a huge fan of Katie and Andy when they try something really stylistically new, like with the “Rainbow Dash” and the “Very Bad Day” issue, or with the “Reflections” story. I love how experimental they can get, how much they try to add to the franchise and the characters in a cool way.
AP: The “Reflections” arc by Katie Cook and myself will always be my favorite of the big arcs; we got to really push the envelope, exploring Celestia’s past and tying it to another, alternate reality. Creating alternate versions of some of the major characters was a ball, and the story got pretty emotional, which isn’t something we get to do much. Stand alone stories would be issue #10 of the microseries, the Luna issue! We got to create Luna’s pet possum, Tiberius! He’s been a giant hit with the fans. We also got to display Luna doing Celestia’s job for a day so that was great fun.
6. This book has a fan base that spans all ages. How do you keep the stories relatable to MLP devotees but still appealing to everyone?
TA: It’s a tough line to walk, particularly because the intended audience for these comics generally isn’t old enough to post online and give feedback about them! Part of it is finding a theme or idea that even young readers, with less life experience, will be able to find relatable; part of it is also telling a story that could only happen with ponies and magic and friendship. Ideally, if I and the other writers do our job right, then even adult writers enjoy these stories, for the same reason they enjoy the original show.
AP: That’s part of the myriad of reasons this show has such appeal — it has never spoken down to any part of its audience, especially children. The magic of this is it’s not a kid franchise, at least with the stories… it’s an all ages franchise. The wry humor is key. A joke or a sight gag might make a kid laugh, but an adult can react to it on a different level. It borders on high camp. Visually, I add a lot of sight gags and references (Magnum P.I., Star Trek, Fringe, etc) for eagle-eyed readers… although it’s main purpose is to entertain me!
7. There are quite a bit of life lessons taught throughout ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’. Which one do you feel the world needs to practice a little more of these days?
TA: I’m a big fan of empathy—when any character finally sees something from another character’s point of view and understands why they’re doing what they do. That’s the core of a lot of the show, and the basic principle of human emotional reasoning. I think empathy is just as important as any of the Elements of Harmony, and it’s the single most important takeaway from the show.
AP: The basic one: Be good to each other. Friendship is something everyone craves, and it can be magic if one allows it to happen.
8. What ‘My Little Pony’ character do you relate to the most and why?
TA: Absolutely 100% Twilight Sparkle. Anxious, overthinking, well-read—those are all things we have in common. The Friends Forever issue I did about her and Big Macintosh was really heavily based on my own anxiety issues.
AP: Two — Applejack and Luna. I immediately took to their unique designs and personalities. AJ represents honesty, which is important to me. Luna’s constant mood swings make for good drama. And she’s a night owl, like me!
9. If humans had “cutie marks” what would yours be and why?
TA: Well, a friend made me an avatar that I’ve been using for years where my cutie mark is a comic book. That pretty much sums me up.
AP: Mine would be the same as my pony depicted in both the show and the books! Leadwing is the pony I created to represent me, and he has now appeared on the show. His mark is a pencil with black bat wings. The pencil represents me as an illustrator, and the bat wings depict my love of the character Batman (as well as all things horror and Hallowe’en, both of which I am a major fan).
10. What would you like to see happen in the world of ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ at some point in the next 50 issues?
TA: Young Celestia and Luna, and the early years of Equestria. I’m a big fan of origin stories, and that’s one of the biggest origins of the show. And one of the strengths of the comic is getting to tell the stories the show doesn’t, so that might be something we get to do? Here’s hoping!
AP: More back story on some characters, more history of the area and cultures… what’s Zecora’s story? How about more on King Aspen and the hidden deer city in Everfree Forest? “What if” stories… What if Celestia was banished instead of Luna? What if Twilight never came to Ponyville? What if Sunset Shimmer had worked out as Celestia’s prize student? And always more slice of life type stories. Adventure is always great, but kicking around home is fun too!