MST3K: Featured

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 has been experiencing a bit of a comeback as of late. After officially ending in 1999 — although kept available by various syndication deals — the show returned last year with MST3K: THE RETURN also referred to as the eleventh season. Met with raves from critics and new and old fans alike, the new season proved the ability of the concept to survive an almost entirely new cast and a new era.

Dark Horse Comics found a way to feed the hunger of fans anxiously waiting for Season 12 with MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000: THE COMIC. The limited series from MST3K creator and first host Joel Hodgson and superfan artist Todd Nauck is set to hit stands on September 12.

Given our love for the show around the hallowed halls of ComicsVerse, we just had to talk about it. Thankfully, Todd Nauck is one of the kindest guys in comics and he gladly took the time to answer our queries.

MST3K: Cover to #1
Todd Nauck’s cover to MYSTERY SCIENCE 3000: THE COMIC #1. (Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

ComicsVerse: I know you were already a huge MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 fan back in the day, before the reboot and before this project was offered. So on a purely emotional basis, how was it to get the offer? Any moments of hesitation or were you all in right away?

Todd Nauck: I’ve been wanting to be involved this comic since the rumors and rumblings in the 1990s. When the new Netflix season of the show was weeks away from debuting, I saw Dark Horse Comics post something about the possibility of the comic really happening.

I was curious who to contact at Dark Horse to express my interest in working on the series. So I sent a blind email to them via their Contact page on their website.

About six weeks later, I received a private message on Twitter from Dark Horse’s Randy Stradley, editor of the MST3K comic, asking me if I’d like to work on the series! It was an instant “YES!” No hesitation whatsoever.

I’ve been a mega fan of the show since discovering it in 1992. I have every episode on digital, DVD, and even VHS. Yes. I still have VHS tapes of the show. I have a great love and knowledge of the show so I’m thrilled to be a part of this comic.

Interestingly enough, my email to Dark Horse didn’t get me noticed for this job. It was the fan art I did and posted on Twitter when the new series debuted on Netflix last year. It got shared and retweeted with the MST3K creators/staff/actors. Show creator Joel Robinson asked Dark Horse if they could get me to draw the comic. It’s the first time I’m aware of I’ve gotten a gig based on my fan art. My many years as a professional comic artist might’ve helped as well!

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CV: Capturing likenesses is always an interesting thing when adapting existing works into comics. How do you thread that needle between making Jonah look like Jonah, say, but still making the art feel alive?

Todd: Capturing likenesses can be a very tricky thing in comics. This is not an unusual task for me, though. I had the honor of being chosen by Marvel to draw President Obama, Senator John McCain, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in historic Spider-Man comics as well as NFL athletes like Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Tebow, and Lance Briggs for ESPN. Recently, I got to draw comedian Brian Quinn from the show Impractical Jokers in SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL #12. So drawing real people into comics isn’t anything too new for me.

My approach is to make the MST3K characters look recognizable to their real-life counterparts. I’m not necessarily going for photo-realistic portraits. I use a lot of photo reference to try to capture the likenesses as best I can. But there are a lot of expressions and angles that I need to convey that there are not photos of. I have to extrapolate what Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, and Patton Oswalt might look like at certain angles and conveying certain exaggerated expressions.

So I’m shooting for instant comic book recognizability by putting these people/characters through the Todd Nauck-style filter.

CV: I know Dark Horse wants to keep how the riffing is going to work close to the vest so we’ll leave that be for now. However, as best as you can without spoiling that aspect, how do you as an artist introduce dynamism into the story while not making the comic not feel like MST3K? In other words, how do you make sure has the kind of energy your work is known for without losing the flavor of what makes MST3K so beloved?

Todd: Now that the first issue’s five-page preview has been released as well as the free ashcan preview debuting at the Dark Horse booth at San Diego Comic Con, we basically now see how the riffing will work in a comic. Joel Hodgson has put a lot of thought and creativity into this comic book and how to riff public domain comics. This comic series captures the spirit of what they do in the show but makes it its own unique experience.

I’m drawing the “host segments.” Like when we see Jonah and the Bots on the deck of the Satellite of Love or the Mads in their Moon 13 underground lair.

Dark Horse has a couple of artists — who haven’t been revealed yet — to contribute art to the public domain comics where Jonah and the Bots have been inserted. From what I’ve seen, it looks seamless!

This comic expands the world and, more importantly, the experiments of MST3K.

MST3K: From Moon 13
Max does not care for giraffes in the pages of MST3K: THE COMIC (Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

CV: Given your love of MST3K, what is it like to receive scripts from Joel Hodgson? How is working with him the same or different than working with other writers you have collaborated with in the past?

Todd: Working with Joel has been the coolest! Especially as a longtime fan of the show!  The experience has been great!

I met Joel and the cast at SDCC 2017. They were all very complimentary of the work I had done so far, which was just the first issue’s cover. Joel and I exchanged phone numbers and have communicated via phone calls, texts, and emails. Joel has always been kind and affirming of the work I’m doing on this series. His writing staff at Alternaversal has been awesome as well.

The scripts have been a lot of fun to work with and I have been able to bring my experience as a visual storyteller to the project. And our editor, Randy Stradley, has been awesome at keeping the machine running smoothly.

I love that we’re continuing the show’s story into the comic. But the comic can stand on its own for those who may not have seen the show.

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CV: Have any characters risen to the top as favorites for you to capture on the page? Any particularly challenging?

Todd: I love all the characters. Each has their own unique personality. I love having a variation of things to draw in any given comic. But Crow is super challenging to draw with his odd shaped head.

I got the Build-A-Bot replicas of Crow and Tom Servo so I could be more accurate in illustrating them. Now that I have these life-size replicas, I can study Crow at any angle I need to draw him in.

CV: If you could pick one movie and/or comic to have the residents of the Satellite riff on, what would you choose?

Todd: [Laughs] I would love to see the show riff one of my favorite 80s cheesy sci-fi movies, The Eliminators.

As for a comic to get riffed, I couldn’t throw any other comic creator under that bus. So I’d have to fall on my sword and say I’d like to see my creator-owned series WILDGUARD be riffed by MST3K: The Comic. [Laughs]

MST3K: Bubbles Internal Page
Jonah and the robots got themselves in dire bubbly circumstances in a page from MST3K: THE COMIC. (Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

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