By Jarrod Jones. When you first flip through Time Cheetah, you’re not immediately sure what to make of it. And when you talk with co-creator Carlos Guzman, that almost seems by design.
“‘Time Cheetah’ wears a lot of influences on its sleeves: animated TV shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Archer’, 80’s action movies like ‘Escape from New York’ and ‘Bloodsport’, James Bond movies and Spy-Fi fiction,” Guzman tells me. “[But] a very unexpected source led directly to the creation of ‘Time Cheetah.”
Before we get too deep into the wild fever dream that spawned Time Cheetah, it’s probably wise to orient ourselves: an action/comedy webseries that launched in the middle of last year, Time Cheetah follows the exploits of its titular character, a Time Corp agent that travels throughout time to stop temporal fugitives from altering our timeline. Also he has the head of a Cheetah. And the only word he says is “RAWR.” (You have to see this for yourself.)
The best part about this is that Guzman’s origin story for the Time Cheetah series is pretty golden. I’ll let Carlos tell it: “[There is] a fake internet trailer for a movie, and subsequent webseries, called ‘Italian Spiderman’. Created by Dario Russo and David Ashby (whose ‘Danger 5’ series is another direct influence on our webcomic), one of the many, many things that would make me laugh uncontrollably was that the main hero—Italian Spiderman—wears a mask and a red spider sweater no matter what he’s doing. And no one cares or comments on it. In fact, in the first episode of the web series, he hides his identity by just wearing a sports jacket over his red sweater. Still has his mask on. No one recognizes him.
“From there—once we came up with the very ridiculous idea of a time traveling dude with a cat head who doesn’t even talk, of course—we immediately established that no one notices and no one cares that anything’s different about Time Cheetah. To everyone else in the comic, he’s a normal dude and everyone understands what he’s saying. And once we set those bizarre parameters, the concept and the jokes snowballed from there.”
Guzman, an editor at IDW Publishing for over seven years, has long dreamed of publishing his own comic series. But he’s had a passion for unique projects well before Time Cheetah became his muse: there was Shadow Show, an anthology from IDW that translated published short story tributes to Ray Bradbury into sequential art, a project that the editor (and now writer/creator) has long held dear to his heart.
“I happily offered to help put the comic book version together,” he says. “I got a copy of the book and read through the likely candidates that we would adapt: Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Harlan Ellison. But it was the moment when I read Alice Hoffman’s story “Conjure” that I realized I had to do this project justice.”
There was something about Hoffman’s story — Guzman describes the short, illustrated by Chris Evenhuis, as “unique”, “eerie”, and “affecting by the end” — that he saw to it that “Conjure” took up the entirety of Shadow Show‘s final issue. “To this day it remains one of the high points in my comic career,” he tells me.
And now there’s Time Cheetah. Guzman, teamed with co-creator and co-writer Alejandro Verdugo, co-creator and artist Matt Cossin, and colorist Mikey Cossin, has used that passion to see the first story of the Time Cheetah webseries through. And now, after a successful Kickstarter campaign to put Time Cheetah into print for a wider audience, Carlos is looking at the final push that will make the experience for backers that much more exciting.
Guzman’s enthusiasm is contagious. “We have been astounded by the reception to the series,” he says. “It’s been fantastic watching our number of backers grow past our expectations and getting to hear from people on their favorite jokes and moments!”
Carlos Guzman’s experience working in the comics industry has afforded him the opportunity to turn labors of love into something attainable for larger audiences. It’s something he doesn’t take for granted. “The big lesson we’re taking from this is, once you have something you’re proud of and want to share, build a community around it. Find people who respond to it, engage them, get feedback, and give them something back.
“Once the Kickstarter wraps up, we’re gonna figure out the best ways to keep our community and continue to build it. We love our comic, our website looks good, and our Kickstarter was successful—so it’s time to focus on the folks who enjoy ‘Time Cheetah’ and connect with them as much as possible!”
Like Time Cheetah would say, “RAWR.”
Check out the ‘Time Cheetah’ Kickstarter page for more information about contributions. The campaign ends on March 9.