by Jarrod Jones. In space, no one can hear you hork up a proper hairball.
Captain Ginger, at first blush, is precisely what it appears to be: Cats in Space. But Captain Ginger is also an AHOY comic, where wit and character and thrills and yuks convene for maximum enjoyment, so know going in that Captain Ginger has far more to offer than mere first impressions. Contained within its pages you’ll discover compelling space-faring sagas, just the sort you’d find in a dang good Leigh Brackett novel, filled with an expansive universe filled with secrets, humor, heart and, yes, cats.
So many cats. Operating a space ship like that should make sense. “You know that problem in science fiction, where aliens tend to act and sound like humans in rubber suits?” Captain Ginger writer Stuart Moore asks me. “That’s because it’s very hard to write a truly alien being that you can actually relate to.”
Fortunately Moore—working in lock-step with artist June Brigman, inker Roy Richardson, and colorist Veronica Gandini—came up with the perfect answer before crafting this lovely AHOY cat-stronauts tale. “Cats are the perfect solution. They’re like an alien species, but they’re also like us. Why does my little cat run around in circles and bat at absolutely nothing? She’s an alien. At the same time she wants food and she wants warmth and companionship, and those are all things we can relate to. So it’s a way of exploring a different kind of life form without losing touch with what makes us human.
“I didn’t realize any of that, by the way, until I sat down to write this answer. But it’s all true.”
Thinking of creative gift ideas this holiday season? Consider Captain Ginger the ultimate catnip for those sci-fi/cat-lovin’ types in your life. Both Volumes of Captain Ginger are available now (details below).
Looking back on two volumes well told, Captain Ginger‘s Stuart Moore spoke with DoomRocket about this anthropomorphic sci-fi wonder, writing the perfect “all is lost” scenario, and how the small furry friends in our lives contributed to one of the sweetest AHOY Comics stories yet.
1. I was describing ‘Captain Ginger’ to a friend the other day and the best I could come up with was “cats in space, only a helluva lot better than that sounds”. You’ve said that you originally dreamt up this book specifically to have June Brigman draw it, but I have to know: Why space, and to put a finer point on it, why cats?
Stuart Moore: You know that problem in science fiction, where aliens tend to act and sound like humans in rubber suits? That’s because it’s very hard to write a truly alien being that you can actually relate to. If you go too far outside human experience, the reader loses interest. If you stray too close, you’re not really writing aliens at all.
Cats are the perfect solution. They’re like an alien species, but they’re also like us. Why does my little cat run around in circles and bat at absolutely nothing? She’s an alien. At the same time she wants food and she wants warmth and companionship, and those are all things we can relate to. So it’s a way of exploring a different kind of life form without losing touch with what makes us human.
I didn’t realize any of that, by the way, until I sat down to write this answer. But it’s all true.
2. I have two cats at home and they can’t stand each other. [Laughs] And when I read ‘Captain Ginger’, I’m more pleased than I should be to see how much the core crew of this AHOY starcraft do in fact bicker and hiss at each other. How have you gone about anthropomorphizing the characters in ‘Captain Ginger’ so that they could become more than just ‘Star Trek’ types with fur?
Ginger’s crew is descended from cats who had their intelligence boosted, which definitely changed the way their ancestors viewed the world. To continue the endlessly fascinating tale of my deranged little cat, imagine what would happen if she suddenly understood deductive reasoning. She would still run around in circles, but she’d realize her behavior was irrational. Or else she’d just double down and vote for Trump.
I think I had a point there… oh yeah! The anthropomorphizing tends to come from the fact that they’re still cats, but they have a greater awareness of science, nature, and the things that contribute to their long-term survival. So that changes their perspective.
Also, I like writing litterbox jokes.
3. Is the behavior of your cat-stronauts just a matter of all the feline observations you’ve made over the years? Has there been any kind of cat foolishness that you’ve observed in your own pets that you have worked into ‘Captain Ginger’?
Yes. At this point it’s all so baked-in, so instinctive, that I’m having trouble coming up with a concrete example. Without getting too spoilery, the behavior of Science Cat throughout—and especially in Dogworld—is based on experience.
4. I found the first two issues of ‘Captain Ginger: Dogworld’ to be a master class in escalation, a chain of events that leads to the most proper of sci-fi calamities: The “abandon ship” scenario. When a cast of characters is this large there’s a balancing act that takes place to keep all the story elements in working order, but in a sequence like this, do you feel that you have an opportunity—nay, an obligation—to kick litter all over the place? (Apologies; that’s actually really gross.)
Thank you—I worked very hard at all that. I wanted the story to escalate, so I did what I always do, and what I think most writers do, when faced with a six-part story: I took my time at the beginning and made sure everything built at the proper pace, then started to panic a little after the halfway point. The last two issues were a massive juggling act because of the huge cast. I needed to make sure the dogs got their time, and that all the plots were resolved, at least to some degree.
I always look to Joss Whedon when it comes to ensemble dynamics; I think he’s our living master when it comes to juggling a large number of characters. I was very pleased to hear him say, in the commentary to the first Avengers film, that he’d had a lot of trouble with Hawkeye. In the first several drafts of the script, he said, Hawkeye had nothing to do. All I could think, in a dark jealous way, was “Thank god it’s not as easy for you as it looks.”
5. During these two issues the effect I got from the first volume of ‘Captain Ginger’, where I became fully invested in the plight of Ginger and his crew, came back around in a rather impactful way. The ship has been besieged by the Lumen, Ginger has locked up the only person who can fabricate a new manifold controller, and options are quickly running out. You see the panic in Ginger’s eyes, and then you see the resolve that follows soon after. The way June illustrates this book just breaks your heart. How do you write scripts for June? Do you have a detailed layout of how a page or a dramatic moment should play out, or does she simply… go for it? [Laughs]
I don’t specify layouts. I do write full scripts, indicating “big panel” and that sort of thing, but usually it’s obvious which moments need the most space. June is a very careful artist with a flawless eye for storytelling. I try to focus on (a) the emotions to be conveyed and (b) any details that make the cat (and dog) jokes work. Like the little cat peeing in the air system back in the first volume, or the dogs’ ritual where they lap up water messily.
6. To me, ‘Captain Ginger’ reads like both an exploration of strange new worlds and an exploration of identity. It’s incredibly thoughtful sci-fi, even serene in places. Then a really smart cat barfs up a hairball and it all screams “Steve Gerber” to me. [Laughs] In your mind, what style of science-fiction does ‘Captain Ginger’ evoke? Is this the kind of sci-fi you like to read?
Gerber is one of my biggest influences in comics, and I’d say his work was always fairly serious even when it was slapstick or absurd. I don’t consider this book rigorous science fiction. The workings of the ship are pretty haphazard—Heinlein or Asimov would have laughed me out of the room. But they’re gone and I’m still here, so who cares what they think?
Seriously, though, I am more interested in questions of identity and behavior than in how a hyperspace drive would work. The sci-fi trappings are part of the thrill ride, and a way of getting inside the heads of characters who—again—are both human and not-human.
7. You’re also the editor of ‘Captain Ginger’, so I suppose you’re also partially responsible for wrangling the patented AHOY back matter for each issue? Short stories, comic strips, irreverent illustrations—what do you look for when you’re hunting down the perfect back-ups for AHOY books? What elements need to be there in order for a submission to make the AHOY cut?
I like the funny stories, particularly for Ginger. The stories are acquired by Tom Peyer, Hart Seely, and Sarah Litt, so I get the easy part: I just read through a big document and choose the ones I like. I have chosen several animal-themed stories for this book.
8. I feel like I’ve been asking around this the entire time: Can you just tell me a bit about your cats, Stuart? Names, temperament, preferred scratching apparatus? I’ll go first: I have an orange cat named Cooper, and he’s a monster who screams with the anguish of the truly damned and knocks important things off of tables. He’s also very well groomed, I don’t get him.
Rocko is a big ginger—overbearing, sweet, friendly. Yowls for no reason; fascinated with repairmen, or anyone with tools. Right now he’s taken over my office chair and the blanket I stupidly left on it, so I’m sitting in a hard folding chair writing out these answers.
Bebe is Rocko’s brother. She’s skittish, little, quiet, doesn’t like strangers. Curls up next to me every night and helps me sleep, especially in these tricky times.
Cooper sounds awesome. I think we all feel like knocking things off tables, these days. Give him an extra treat for me.
Check out this 3-page preview of ‘Captain Ginger Volume 2: Dogworld’, courtesy of AHOY Comics!
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