Todd Matthy is the writer of Robots vs Princesses, a 4-issue limited series published by Dynamite and the subject of a successful Kickstarter. Matthy, who is also an elementary school teacher, talked with Comics Bulletin about some of the motivations, goals and inspirations for his all-ages series.
Stephen Cook for Comics Bulletin: Robots vs Princesses, it’s a mash-up. And I think in mash-ups you’re always very concerned with generic lineage. I want to ask where you’re drawing that lineage from, what series have inspired you in this venture?
Matthy: The big ones are obviously Transformers and Disney. I’d be remiss to say if it was anything but that. You’ll notice a bit of Terminator sprinkled in there, you’ll notice some Voltron in there. You’ll notice some Miyazaki. You’re actually going to notice some Game of Thrones – in many ways Zara is the Disney version of Arya.
When I was conceiving it, I knew I wanted my lead princess not to be like Cinderella. And that because I’m a teacher, most of the young girls that I’ve met have a lot more in common with Arya than Cinderella. So I wanted her to be kind of a maverick. So there’s actually some Game of Thrones in there. And I might even throw a little Conan in there for good measure.
CB: Why bring them together? What makes 2018 the year of Robots vs Princesses?
Matthy: To tell you the truth, what made me bring them together was I was in a classroom, I was a substitute. I was subbing first grade and the teacher had left colouring pages for the kids. For the boys, there was robots, for the girls, there was princesses. And really from there that’s when the wheels starting turning. I began thinking about the characters and what was separating them.
I feel like it’s basically just a brother-sister type thing. Big brother – I’m a big brother so I can testify to that – likes robots, sisters like princesses. Yeah, there’s overlap, but I just feel like it’s a great way to bring the boys toys and the girls toys together and show that there’s something to both sides that’s fun. And you can have an adventure together rather than just staying in your own world.
CB: You talk about being an elementary teacher and the appeal to children. Now I know this is an all-ages comic book but when you’re writing it, who do you have in mind? And more to that, what do you want them to take away from the experience?
Matthy: What I really wanted to do was create an all-ages comic that a seven year old could read but it didn’t talk to down to them. I feel like a lot of children’s literature and kids shows kind of talk down to the kids, they don’t always respect their intelligence. I’m going to say this: I’ve had more kids ask me about Chuckie, as a teacher, than Steven Universe. I kid you not. So they definitely are watching and into things that maybe aren’t age appropriate.
So I figured I’m going to write something that has that kind of depth but my rules were no cursing, no slurs, no gratuitous violence and no sex – the things that would make a parent object. My focus was good storytelling, good characters, and a fun world and in creating a fun world for them to play in, for kids to want more of. I see nothing wrong with creating a detailed world like Middle Earth for a young audience. I think that’s actually something they’d enjoy a lot, then their imagination can run wild, more so than if you just gave them something generic.
CB: On that, what has early response been to the first issue?
Matthy: I’ve gotten some very good responses. I’ve gotten people tweeting me about how much their kids loved it, how much their daughter loved it. I’ve got people telling me, “Wow, this is a lot of fun, I thought I wouldn’t like this but it turns out I do.” The big one I like most is “I want to see what happens next.”
When issue two hits you’re going to like what happens next, I promise you. The first issue we really had to get everybody into place so that you knew who they were. The second issue the shots are fired and the rollercoaster begins and it doesn’t stop until issue four.
CB: I do want to shift gears for a moment. You’ve self-published work before, but how did the Kickstarter come together?
Matthy: Kickstarter came together because really it was the only viable way for me to have the money to do this at the time and also to gauge interest. I had met Rich Johnson (of Bleeding Cool) at MoCCA and I told him about the project and he wanted to write an article about it. And he put it up, just from my pitch, and Dynamite saw it and contacted me that they wanted to put it out.
Basically I realized Kickstarter was the best way to build the audience and also just to help me get the funds without putting myself into financial ruin. Because getting a comic made is very expensive. And it’s like you got to have a job in order really to do it because it costs a lot to get an artist and pay them fairly to get good quality work. They’re putting in a lot of time and living with this and they should be compensated for their efforts.
So to do that, I just decided a Kickstarter was the way to go plus doing the Kickstarter really caused me to come out of my shell a bit and have to do things that were necessary but you kind of sometimes hesitated to do. Like you had to ask friends, had to ask people to sign up for your mailing list so people would know so you could build your crowd in order to crowd fund. And you had to, honestly, sort of put money in the game – because you had to show, “Hey, we’ve got a lot of this done and we just need your help to complete it or just raise the minimal amount where I can finish this with this amount of money. I can do this, this is just what I need to start up.”
Because Kickstarter, I learned after the first campaign failed, was not really fund your whole thing but to get startup money for your crowdfunding campaign, for your book.
CB: And so you reconvened and the second Kickstarter was more… not smaller but focused, as you said.
Matthy: Smaller, it was more focused – it was for a smaller amount. It was successful, we raised enough and got funded and I realized people are willing to put money into this, if a publisher wants this, this is worth doing. And ultimately it was something I wanted to do. This story I had written it out before, all four issues scripted and were being revised in a comics experience workshop before the first issue was complete.
All three check boxes came: this story I couldn’t stop working on, a publisher wanted it and people wanted it, enough of a sample of people were interested that it was like, “This is worth doing, this is a risk worth taking.”
CB: Final question: when is issue two out and you started teasing a bit but what can readers expect?
Matthy: Issue two is out September 19th and here’s what you can expect in issue two: you can expect the last scene from issue one to have been received by Tyrannus, you can expect a lot of princess songs and then you can expect a full-on giant robot invasion. I like to say in this one: there won’t be any Prince Charmings coming. Because Prince Charmings make their move to stop the Decimators and it doesn’t end well. So they’re out of the way – it’s up to the princesses this time.
Robots vs Princesses #2 will be available Sept. 19 and will include a backup feature illustrated by Kristen Gudsnuck (Henchgirl). The main comic has art by Nicholas Chapuis and letters by Sean Rinehart.