Interview: Carlos Guzman-Verdugo & Alejandro Verdugo on IDW’s Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite #1 Sara Richard cover

Napoleon Dynamite #1 Sara Richard cover

Brothers Carlos Guzman-Verdugo and Alejandro Verdugo are best known for their online comic, Time Cheetah. Now they’re working on their writing skills with the Napoleon Dynamite comic from IDW. They took time out from eating tots to talk with Westfield’s Roger Ash about this awesome new comic. Gosh!

Westfield: How did you become involved with the Napoleon Dynamite comic?

Carlos Guzman-Verdugo: While working in the editorial department at IDW Publishing, my brother and I co-wrote an action-comedy webcomic called Time Cheetah. We must have made a good impression because when our editor, Tom Waltz, began searching for writers to work on Napoleon Dynamite, we were the top of the list! After a short conversation discussing initial ideas, we agreed to give it a shot.

Alejandro Verdugo: Lots of people at IDW were incredibly supportive of our webcomic and even backed both of our Kickstarters. Tom must have really liked our dumb jokes because, soon enough, he asked us if we’d be interested. As big fans of the movie, we couldn’t say “yes” fast enough!

Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Carlos: When we first discussed the project with Tom, he suggested a few pitches, but one seemed like the clear winner: Impeach Pedro! From that idea, the full story took shape: it’s Napoleon’s senior year, Pedro is accused of stealing the election, and a mysterious death in town might actually be a murder. It was a chance to mix in some whodunit suspense with the offbeat slice-of-life comedy fans want to see.

Alejandro: We watched both the movie and the animated TV series and wanted to combine the best of both: the great characterization of the movie with the more heightened scenarios of the show. Hopefully with some new catchphrases, too!

Westfield: Will you be introducing any new characters?

Carlos: There’s the owner of a new dojo, Brock Montana, who wants to give Rex (of Rex Kwon Do fame) a run for his money. There’s also Joana Gato, a student detective who wants to get to the bottom of Pedro’s alleged election stealing, and some visiting murder podcast hosts.

Westfield: How do you two work together? Who does what?

Alejandro: We always outline the plot together but, since I write fast, I hammer out the first draft ASAP. We take turns revising the full script after that, and this is where my brother’s experiences as a comic book editor and a comedy improviser really shine. If a line of dialogue gives you a belly laugh, it’s probably his doing.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Jorge Monlongo on the series. What can you say about your collaboration?

Carlos: I’ve been a fan of Jorge’s work since I first saw him on the Peabody and Sherman series at IDW. When Tom was initially reaching out to artists, I suggested Jorge for his completely unconventional style and solid storytelling sense. I’m happy to say it worked out and Jorge’s artwork on the covers and interior pages has been everything I wanted!

Westfield: These characters are closely associated with the actors who played them. Was it challenging getting the character’s voices right?

Alejandro: Yeah, it was a challenge for sure. It was strange to rewatch the movie closely, with the intent of studying the tone and characters, but we had to do it. With a character like Deb, for example, Tina Majorino brings a strong earnestness that’s really important to bring that character to life. We had to get that right!

Carlos: We’re also lucky Jon Heder, who portrayed Napoleon, and director Jared Hess have talked about the making of the film at length. Without that, we may never have peeked into the mysterious mind of Napoleon Dynamite.

Westfield: Is there any character you’re especially enjoying writing?

Carlos: Honestly, Napoleon Dynamite is the lead and super fun to write… but Uncle Rico might be my favorite so far. He’s just the right amount of goofy and self-serious. And he can throw a pigskin a quarter-mile!

Alejandro: Writing Pedro and his cousins is a joy, we never struggle with them. Grandma is a ton of fun, too. It’s great to have someone that can boss everyone around.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Alejandro: I’m honestly very curious to see how people react to it. Napoleon Dynamite is a movie with a super strong cult following and I just want to know that we did the movie justice.

Carlos: If you pick up Napoleon Dynamite #1 in September, all of your wildest dreams will come true. Also, you’ll get some good laughs out of it!


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