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Meet THE ODD SQUAD

This interview first appeared in the August 8, 2008 edition of the email newsletter SCOOP.
Writers Nick Capetanakis and Todd Livingston teamed up previously with twin artists Brendon and Brian Fraim on the daily web comic
America Jr. This time they’re working on a comic book project, The ODD Squad, from Devil’s Due Publishing. The first issue of this three issue series is due out in September 2008 and will be colored by Matt Webb.

The story goes like this: As the new head of the Office of Dimensional Defense (O.D.D.), Charlotte Springs fails to get her first pick among the department’s new recruits. When the best she can get turns out to be a geeky blogger, a flaky psychic, and her air-headed sister, she faces some stiff odds—namely a competing agency who doesn’t want the truth exposed.

Scoop: How did your involvement in The ODD Squad come about?

Nick Capetanakis (NC): I was hitchhiking. These guys picked me up and forced me to put my name on the series. I still don't know why.

Todd Livingston (TL): Nick and I originally conceived it years ago as a television pilot and then kind of got distracted by other things like America Jr., our movie, colorful tropical fish, sandwiches, stuff like that. It didn’t even occur to me to do it as a comic until I was in a meeting with Invisible Hand Studios but it so nicely fits into the format!

Brendon & Brian Fraim (BBF): Having completed America Jr. with Todd and Nick, we were looking for our next project to work on. As much as we enjoyed illustrating America Jr. and Antiques: The Comic Strip, we wanted to try something different. Todd had mentioned to us that he and Nick had a new series in development about a group of supernatural investigators and he was looking for artists. We thought it sounded cool and would give us the opportunity we were looking for so we said, “Hey, Todd! What about us?” And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Scoop: What’s the basic story of the mini-series?

TL: A community college teacher gets put in charge of a government agency that investigates supernatural phenomena. So she makes a list of the top paranormal experts in the world to recruit. But they’re not available. She gets stuck with essentially the B and C team, plus her younger sister who needs a summer job.

NC: It's an old fashioned tale. Girl-meets-boy, girl-meets-President, girl-meets-boy-who-changes-into-wild-beast, girl-forms-team-that-saves-the-planet. We're not messing with a formula that works.

Scoop: What type of stories or characters does it compare to?

TL: It’s like Raiders of the Lost Ark, only instead of Nazis there are people turning into animals, and instead of one central character who is afraid of snakes, there are five who are afraid of snakes.

NC: It's the exact same storyline as a movie that, for legal reasons, I will call "S-Wars." I understand they are very litigious, though, so please don't publish that part.

BBF: We like to think of it as a comedy X-Files. It has the expected believer and skeptic characters in the cast going at it, but what makes it interesting are the other cast members thrown into the mix who make up the Squad. That’s where the character dynamics and interactions become appealing. We can tell working from the scripts that Todd and Nick’s favorite characters are Cindy Springs and Christopher Apollo. Cindy, the sister of the lead character Charlotte and a twenty something “celebutant,” and Christopher, supposedly the world’s greatest mental medium - when he’s sober - offer a freshness and uniqueness not found in this genre. They, along with the other characters, give us plenty to work with when dealing with facial expressions, character interactions and body language. It’s been a whole lot of fun working out the storytelling on this series. Todd and Nick have an uncanny gift for giving us interesting characters to draw.

Scoop: How many issues will it run, when does it star and how did it end up at Devil’s Due?

TL: It is a three-issue mini-series that begins in September 2008 and running through November. Each issue will have a cover by the Fraims and a variant cover by either David Michael Beck or Michael Avon Oeming. I felt it was very important that our variant covers be illustrated by men with three names. Devils Due published my original graphic novel Chopper Zombie, and after that they were eager to put out a book of mine that had less beheadings and drowning in experimental fuel, and The ODD Squad fit the bill. It also helped that we have the same agent.

Scoop: The four of you had worked together previously on America, Jr. How is your approach to the work different in the comic book format as opposed to a comic strip?

TL: When we began America Jr., we thought “How are we going to tell a story in only four panels?” But now we think “When is the check arriving?” That’s the main difference as I still only write four panels and let the other guys do the rest of the work.

NC: You know, I was going to say ODD Squad is more complicated. We've devoted a lot of effort to character development, timelines, back stories, etc. But then I realized we've put that effort into America Jr., too. The main difference, I guess, is that Todd and I can focus on set-up and punch line with the strip, while Brendan and Brian, as always, get stuck with the hard part.

BBF: We can get the obvious differences out of the way what with the page size and number of panels, etc. The pacing of the series is totally different for web comic strips as opposed to comic books. The ODD Squad is a bit more traditional in its approach and we have a bit more room to breathe, so to speak, with regard to comedy storytelling and pacing. America Jr. was written in the format of every strip ending with a joke, so it was more focused or, you could say, condensed. We only had room to get the necessary information into the art to showcase the joke in the funniest way possible. The real difference is the presence of the financial backer for the project, the Hollywood production company Vin Di Bona. Suddenly, we have people we need to answer to!

Scoop: Is it different because this is less open-ended?

TL: Well, honestly, The ODD Squad isn’t any less open-ended than AJ. Though we resolve the main mystery in these three issues, there is much more that can be explored in both the characters and the mythology of the series. Comic books are pretty much soap operas for geeks.

NC: The ODD Squad series definitely has a conclusion that we're working towards, so we have to be more focused than we are for America Jr., which is completely open-ended. And although they are different, we love them both equally - like chocolate and vanilla. Although I like chocolate more. So I guess that doesn't help answer the question. But I could go for some ice cream right now.

BBF: Yes. And The ODD Squad is the property of Vin Di Bona, while the four of us still own America Jr. So it’ll be VDB’s decision if the series will continue whether in comics or other media.

Scoop: Is there any difference for you in this preparing for it to be in color, since your other projects together have been B&W?

BBF: We’ve definitely been thinking about color when working on these pages. We haven't necessarily changed how we approach each page because it’s color, but we do think about light sources more than we would in black and white. We should point out that we got the amazing Matt Webb to color this series and we could not be more thrilled. We’ve been trying to work with Matt on a published project for a while now and the stuff he’s doing for The ODD Squad is incredible! Our clean line work and his color rendering are a perfect match, in our humble opinions. The greatest thrill we have from working on this series is checking our email to see new colored pages.

For more about the ODD Squad and Devils Due Publishing, check out – www.devilsdue.net

The ODD Squad is also on MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/theoddsquadcomic