Ryan North got into Alaska Robotics’ Mini-Con on the ground floor.
The Canadian and Eisner Award-winning writer behind the upcoming “Midas,” “Dinosaur Comics,” “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” series and “Adventure Time” comics among many other things has been coming to Juneau since the annual comic convention started four years ago.
“I love it,” North said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “Normally, the convention experience in a big city is the people who come are there because they’re fans of either you or someone else. What I love about coming to Juneau is people come out just ‘cause they’re curious. There are people at this comic con who have never read a comic book before, so you get to show them the medium. You get to be someone’s first comic, that’s amazing.”
North took time to talk with the Capital City Weekly after a presentation at the Downtown Public Library about his recent book “How to Invent Everything” ahead of the full day of Mini-Con’s loaded days of activities.
He explained the differences between writing Jake the Dog and an original character, talked about why “Back to the Future” is his favorite time travel movie, and made the case for Squirrel Girl finding an Avengers roster spot.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get involved with Mini-Con?
That was all Pat (Alaska Robotics co-owner Pat Race). What he’s done with this is something really special. He’s taken a bunch of cartoonists from very disparate backgrounds and work focuses and aesthetics and brought them together to this cross section. It would be like a music festival that has everybody from not just rock, but everything from rock to outsider noise art.
What do people most identify with you? I think of “Dinosaur Comics” but that might be because I was on the internet in 2003.
That’s the thing. It’s weird. I used to be the “Dinosaur Comics” guy, then doing Squirrel Girl for Marvel, sometimes I’m the Squirrel Girl guy. People don’t realize they’re the same guy. The fun part of that is I used to get a lot of dinosaurs as gifts. There’s some dinosaur stuff, but there is a ton of squirrel stuff. Now there’s two animals people can default to for me.
How have you liked writing Squirrel Girl?
When I first started writing her, no one really knew who she was. There was a blank slate there. Because of that, I got to take her in my own direction. That has the advantage of doing what I want with her. If I want Spider-Man to show up, I can kind of just have Spider-Man show up. I mean, I have to call the Spider-Man office, which I just imagine is Spider-Man sitting in an office.
Like the ’60s Spider-Man image macro?
Exactly. It’s funny, once we had a comic where Squirrel Girl beat up the Avengers, and my editor said, “Oh, well, just so you know Captain America has had the super soldier serum sucked out of him in continuity, so he’s an old man with no powers.” So I was like, Squirrel Girl beating up an old man with no powers seems kind of mean, so let’s not do that. Then my editor’s editor hopped in, and said, “Steve Rogers is a trained military man in peak physical condition, and even at 80 years old…” and I was like fine, she beat him up.
It seems like in recent years Squirrel Girl has really captured a segment of the online consciousness.
The thing that makes Squirrel Girl unique is at least in super hero comics, it is a medium in which people solve their disputes by punching each other, and it’s awesome. Where Squirrel Girl is different is she will first try to talk about it and see if they can resolve it first. In real life, that’s not a revelation; in a super hero context it feels different. It makes her feel like a real, rational person.
With “Dinosaur Comics” and Squirrel Girl, it seems like you get to write a lot in your voice, how does that work for “Adventure Time?” It seems like three totally separate approaches.
I was a huge fan of both the YouTube pilot and the show itself. I read Star Trek novels as a kid, and they would have errors, and as an adult I was like, ‘Oh, it’s because it was written in Season 2 and they’re in Season 7.’ But at the time, it was like why would they hire these people who can’t even get the facts right. When it came to “Adventure Time” comics, I had seen every episode, and I knew I could get the facts right. Plus, Finn and Jake and Princess Bubblegum and all the rest, they have such clearly defined personalities.
Do you have a favorite time travel movie?
Oh, “Back to the Future.” The amazing thing about that as a movie is that if you look at how that’s set up as a movie, in your mind the movie begins, Marty goes back in time, and the movie starts. Actually, there’s a huge amount of time before Marty goes back in time, and there’s a huge amount of set up and all the set up pays off.
I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s premiering tonight, assuming some of the Avengers killed off in “Avengers: Endgame” this weekend, is Squirrel Girl getting the call up?
I sure hope so. They cast a woman, Milana Vayntrub, for a TV show that was going to happen and might still happen. She does the voice on the cartoon show. She’s really good. I would love to see Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl’s secret identity) step up like that. I feel like there’s room for a hero that’s good at talking and punching.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.