If you've been on the internet in the last 365 days, chances are you've run into Axe Cop, the surrealist action webcomic drawn by 30-year-old Ethan Nicolle and written by his 6-year-old brother Malachi.
This Wednesday, the brothers Nicolle publish their first full-length original comic book Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth with Dark Horse Comics. We asked Ethan about the chop-happy hero's new adventure and what it's like to script a comic book with his younger brother.
How's Bad Guy Earth different from the regular Axe Cop webcomic series?
Bad Guy Earth is unique because the first five episodes of Axe Cop were written with Malachi in person at Christmas, and we were converting playtime into stories. Most of the Axe Cop we've written since then has been over the phone (we live in two different states), so we have conversations and I ask him questions and he fills in the blanks. For Bad Guy Earth, I spent a whole month with him and wrote the whole story in person.
It was all playtime — toys everywhere, we had sunglasses on, toy axes, just running around, drawing maps, and going crazy for a whole month. It's what Axe Cop has been building up to — I took the idea behind the first Axe Cop episodes and applied it to a three-issue miniseries. In Bad Guy Earth, a lot of the characters are based on toys he owns, like wrestlers. We paint them different than they were, give them different weapons.
How do you and Malachi normally come up with your ideas?
Even though Malachi has the writing credit in Axe Cop, his credit really should be "playing." He doesn't write anything or sit there and ponder the plot outline; we just play and I record what we do.
To what extent is Malachi aware that Axe Cop is a bit of a phenomenon right now?
He's aware, but as much as a six-year-old can be. He doesn't really understand the concept of success — it's not exciting to him that Dark Horse Comic is publishing a comic based on his stories. He likes signing his name on people's books (he thinks it's fun), but he's not really sure why people want him to. To him, Axe Cop is this fun thing he does with his older brother. He's learning more about it each day, but hopefully it doesn't go to his head too soon.
How does your brother come up with borderline poetic phrases like "My Job Is Always" and "We Should Put These Heads On A Stick And Hide Bombs In Them?"
We'll generally have a conversation. I'll ask him what Axe Cop's hours are, and he'll answer, "It's always." I'll then ask him, "Well day shift or night shift?" And he'll respond, "He works always shift." A great example of this just went up recently. This character Greystone is quizzing Axe Cop about dinosaurs, and I'm injecting myself in as Greystone to see where the dinosaurs came from.
Another thing I do is sit there and listen to him play video games. When he plays, he'll yell all these lines at bad guys and I'll write them down for Axe Cop to say, like "Happy Die Day!" One of the new ones he's been using is "I'm the officer of the law! Kill you in the face!"
In one of my favorite strips, you and Malachi switched art and writing duties. The result was a short comic in which two of Axe Cop's stalwart characters, the Moon Warriors, abruptly die when they're eaten by "The God Of All Bears." Will we ever see the doomed Moon Warriors again?
At that moment, Malachi got tired of drawing them, so he just killed them off. He knows he can resurrect anyone he wants whenever he wants.
The Axe Cop fan movie made a splash a couple weeks back. Are we going to see Axe Cop on the big screen anytime soon?
There's some stuff coming up I can't really announce yet, but there's a lot of interest in TV, film, and video games — there are more comics in the works.
Is Axe Cop your sole project now, or are you working on anything else?
I'm returning to a comic I was working on before Axe Cop took over my life. It's called Bearmageddon, about bears taking over the world. I'm going to attempt to work on both comics at once, put up a couple page of it per week, particularly when Malachi's not feeling up to coming up with stuff.