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Karl Kesel interview (JUL 2008)

 height=(WoW JUL 08)

Karl Kesel has worked as both an inker on such books as Superman and Suicide Squad, and as a writer on books including Harley Quinn and Fantastic Four. This month he's writing Marvel Apes, and Westfield's Roger Ash spoke with him about this new mini-series.

 height=Westfiled: How did you become involved with Marvel Apes?

Karl Kesel: Steve Wacker phoned me and asked me if I wanted to write it. Actually, it was a little before that. Steve and I ran into each other and he said, "Give me a call next week. I've got good news for you." I called him and that's when he offered me Marvel Apes. I have to say, if you asked me to list 100 different projects Marvel would have asked me to work on, Marvel Apes would not have been on that list. It was totally out of the blue. [laughter]

Westfiled: What can you tell us about the story?

 height=Kesel: It takes place in an alternate reality where everyone is an ape or monkey of some sort. Our hero is Marty Blank, the Gibbon, who gets accidentally transported to this world. I'm sure there are maybe three people out there who have been clamoring for his return. [laughter] This is their opportunity. I remember reading that original Spider-Man story with the Gibbon and for some reason I really liked him. Even as a young fan, I thought up a few Gibbon stories - I hate to say it, but I did! He was such a great loveable loser as far as I was concerned. I wanted someone who could pass in the monkey world, and of course the first character I thought of was Gorilla Man in Agents of Atlas- but he's Jeff Parker's pride and joy. Who knows what Jeff has planned for him? And at that point, I didn't have any idea of what might happen to any of the characters in Marvel Apes. The Gibbon was wide open. I knew I was not going to have trouble using him. Let's face it, the hero in this case is not necessarily the selling point. The selling point is this world of apes where Captain America's a gorilla, Spider-Man's a spider monkey, and Iron Man is Iron Mandrill. That's what everyone wants to see, and we see a lot of it.

 height=Westfiled: Any hints as to what happens in the story?

Kesel: There is a deep, dark secret to the ape world that gets revealed, I believe, in the second issue. This is a two month thing and at the end of the first month, we have a pretty good cliffhanger leading into the second half of the mini-series. The fate of the universe is on the Gibbon's shoulders-God help us! [laughter]

Westfiled: When I first heard about this book, I thought it could be done in a very goofy tone or it could be done straight. What approach are you taking to this series?

Kesel: A little of both. There are a lot of great jokes you can make, and you don't want to miss those. At the same time, if all it is is a cocktail party joke, there's not really a lot of reason to keep reading it. You're going to get the joke in the first issue and, if there's not a real story there, there's no reason to come back. So we do both- serious and silly- and I like to think we do both pretty well. There's something at stake in the story- a real life-and-death situation- and there are some characters you'll really care about. Me, I really like the Gibbon. He narrates the story and always, always hopes things will go his way, but fully expects that they won't- face it, that's how his life's always been. Still, he never gives up. You've gotta admire that about the guy. I think we've got some great, engaging characters, some real nail-biting situations, and some really good jokes about 500-pound gorillas.

 height=Westfiled: Aside from the Gibbon, who are some other characters you're enjoying writing?

Kesel: There's a new character that we introduce that I hope maybe we can do something with later on. His name is Ape X. Ape X is a hero in the monkey universe. He is a small, spindly monkey - I'm not sure what kind of monkey or ape he is when he isn't Ape X - but he's got a magical Mexican wrestling mask. When he puts it on, he transforms into this big gorilla monstrosity in a magical Mexican wrestling mask called Ape X. I really enjoy that character a lot. He's a real Kirby character. He's big. He's a brawler. He knocks people through walls. He can blast energy bolts from his hand. He's a lot of fun. Plus, his ape alter ego's named after my brother-in-law, Roy Reyna, who was an Oregon state wrestling champ back in the day, so one day I told him "I'm going to make a monkey out of you!"

 height=Westfiled: Are Marvel Apes going to be the new Marvel Zombies?

Kesel: They're really quite different, aren't they? [laughter] As I understand it, Marvel Zombies kind of paved the way for Marvel Apes, but they're apples and oranges, aren't they? I love the Marvel Apes, but if they had to go face-to-face with zombies, I wouldn't put my money on the apes- sorry, guys! I certainly hope they are as successful as the Marvel Zombies have been!

Westfiled: You're working with artist Ramon Bachs on this. What does he bring to the book?

Kesel: He brings a lot of great character moments and a real understanding of this universe. He's added so much to it. His body language is amazing. These characters move like apes. When they sit in chairs, they sit in chairs the way apes do. He's done great little things like there are desks where they have bowls of bananas, and he has banana peels on the floor. I thought that was really funny. He brings a lot of emotion to the characters. He really makes the world come alive. I look forward to every page I get from him.

 height=Westfiled: Do you have any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Kesel: I am drawing, penciling and inking, a fill-in issue of X-Men: First Class right now, which Jeff Parker has written. I believe it's issue #15. It guest stars Madame Medusa. I'm having a ton of fun with that. That and Marvel Apes are the only two current things I'm working on. Everything else is down the road a ways.

Westfiled: Any closing comments?

Kesel: I hope people read and enjoy the Marvel Apes book. I think if they give it a chance, they're not going to be disappointed. As I understand it, going into this, Joe Quesada saw Marvel Apes as a one-shot. I outlined a four-issue mini-series and Joe said, "You've convinced me this story is worth four issues." So, Joe likes it! [laughter] Hopefully, everyone else agrees with Joe.

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