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Exclusive: Kevin Eastman draws variant cover for Scratch9

Scratch9 is back!

Rob Worley’s tale of a cat who gets to actually meet his previous eight incarnations first came out in 2010 (and we included it in our list of the best comics of the year). He followed up with some short stories, Cat Tails, and now he’s launching a new series, Cat of Nine Worlds. Joshua Buchanan is handling the art, but Worley has lined up an impressive array of artists to do variant covers, and he gave us an exclusive look at the first one, by comics superstar Kevin Eastman (creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

We asked Worley to talk a bit about his plans for Cat of Nine Worlds, including who the other variant cover artists will be, and there’s a preview of the comic (with the regular cover) below the interview. Enjoy!

We are big Scratch9 fans here at GC4K, but for those who are new to the story, can you give us a quick intro?

Scratch9 is about an ordinary housecat who has the ability to summon any of his nine lives to get him out of a jam. He got the ability while being cat-napped by a mad scientist named Dr. Schrodinger who runs the C.R.U.E.L. corporation. Scratch’s main concern in life is playing games with his best girl Penelope, but he often finds himself called into action to save other animals from C.R.U.E.L.

Getting Kevin Eastman to draw the variant cover is quite a coup! How did that come about?

I’ve known Kevin since back when he was working on the “Heavy Metal 2000” movie and I was reporting on it through my Comics2Film website.

Kevin is such an inspiration. There’s no question that anyone who creates hopes that their work is going to have a lasting influence. Kevin’s contribution to popular culture is staggering. The phenomenon that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has become is just amazing. Even if you removed the heroes on a half-shell from the picture, there’s still the fact that Kevin founded Tundra Press, which gave us Mike Allred’s Madman and Dave McKean’s Cages to name a few. And then he resuscitated Heavy Metal so that that cultural icon can endure.

Then you meet and talk to Kevin in person and find out that this amazingly accomplished guy is just a truly nice person as well.

So, when I started thinking about launching the new Scratch9: Cat of Nine Worlds series and wondering how I could launch it with something special, I thought who better than Kevin, whose Ninja Turtles turn 30 this year, to put his spin on my dream?

I asked him last year if he could do it and he agreed to do it, but was already very busy with Ninja Turtles and The Other Dead and his other projects. So the plan was just for him to do a very simple rendering of two characters in an attitude pose.

I was blown away when he sent me the artwork, and it was seven of the characters perched on a rooftop like contemporaries of the Ninja Turtles. He just went above and beyond and turned in a really cool piece of artwork, which I’m happy to say is being seen first here on Good Comics For Kids.

Who are the other artists that are creating covers for the series?

Cat of Nine Worlds is a maxi-series and we’re lining up some really cool names to do covers for the book. Issue #2 features another inspiration and all-around good guy, Mr. Mike Kunkel. Mike created Herobear & the Kid, which is thankfully back on the shelves again!

Issue #3’s cover is going to be drawn by Jay Fosgitt, who is currently reaping all manner of accolades and acclaim for his terrific all-ages book, Bodie Troll.

Cat of Nine Worlds #4 features Jenny Parks, who I recently became aware of because of her awesome Marvel covers. If you haven’t seen them, she does renderings of the Marvel characters as anatomically realistic cats! Her covers are so much fun. So her artwork will show us what Scratch and his ancient Egyptian aspect Bektah would looks like if they were real, live cats.

For #5 we have Afterlife with Archie artist Francesco Francavilla. He and I actually worked on a Friday the 13th comic for Wildstorm (the comic sunk when Wildstorm lost the license) and I’ve been a huge, huge fan of his ever since. The guy has produced an amazing body of artwork that just keeps getting better.

Those are the ones I can announce today, but there will be more announcements coming as the series progresses.

I understand you have a very special comic planned for Free Comic Book Day. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Our publisher Hermes Press loves Scratch9. They’ve been really great at trying to grow it through FCBD outreach. This is our second year as a free selection. Last year’s book was a reprint of the original first issue, but this year’s book is a triple-feature of all new material.

The primary story is our intro to Cat of Nine Worlds. It kicks off the adventure and reveals Strick, an all-new villain that’s going to cause major tail-aches for our hero. I won’t say anything more about Strick because I want fans to experience the excitement of discovering the character on FCBD.

The second story is a goofy little episode involving a certain dog named Bo Obama, and his master, President Barack Obama. President Obama stops on a speaking tour and makes the surprise declaration that he’s banning cats from America. Penelope, who lives nearby, is aghast and she’s not one to sit by and let bad things happen without getting involved. So she exercises her civic duty to inform her president of the wrongheadedness of his decision. Along the way Scratch meets Bo and they uncover an insidious plot, which Scratch needs to use his summoning ability to thwart. That one is illustrated by Justin Castaneda, who worked on Scratch9: Cat Tails.

The book is also a flip-book with a new comic that Joshua Buchanan and I created called Run & Amuk. That one is about a boy and his giant monster, romping through time, visiting key moments in history and punching the giant monsters that are the secret cause behind these events. In this episode we meet Moo-Ferno, the giant, flaming cow that cause the great Chicago fire.

What will Cat of Nine Worlds be about?

I had tremendous fun working on short stories with a variety of artists in last year’s Scratch9: Cat Tails, but Cat of Nine Worlds returns us to a true, long-form Scratch9 adventure.

Joshua Buchanan, the amazing artist who anchored Cat Tails and recently published his own graphic novel The Rocket, is drawing it.

Cat of Nine Worlds #1 once again puts Scratch into conflict with Dr. Schrodinger. Now, Schrodinger has been presumed dead in an explosion since the end of the first series, although he returned in his L.O.S.E.R. android body in Cat Tails. Now he’s back and allied with a character called Strick. Together they manage to reverse Scratch’s powers.

So now, when Scratch tries to summon one of his others for help, instead he ends up traveling back (or forward) through time and space to where his other is. In the first issue he ends up going back in time to the Ice Age, which is the time of his first aspect Garogga (the tiger). It’s not a great place for a pampered house cat. Scratch’s anxiety is compounded by the fact that he knows Penelope is in the clutches of Dr. Schrodinger and he wants nothing more than to be there to protect her.

Scratch is going to have a lot of fish out of water adventures in the other time periods with his other aspects. And Penelope is going to have a lot more to do in this adventure, and her fans are going to learn just house smart and resourceful this girl is.

You have been working on this series for a couple of years now. How has your storytelling evolved? Are the new comics going to be noticeably different from the first ones?

I definitely have a lot more confidence this time around. Scratch9 was the first all-ages comic title that I’d ever written.

With this one, I know people like Scratch, but I want to keep challenging him. The thing I love about Scratch is, he’s not a ready-made hero. He’s not made of the right stuff. He’s not cool and confident. He’s constantly having to figure things out and just do his best.

When Cat of Nine Worlds starts, he’s more confident then he was the first time around, and more sure that his duty is to protect Penelope. But the villains have gotten more powerful too, so just when the cat thinks he knows what to do, they really throw him into the deep end, and he has to learn new skills to survive and grow and prevail.

To me, that’s more like life than the square-jaw tough guy who can wade into danger and kick butt.

You are publishing Scratch9 as single-issue comics and then gathering them into a graphic novel. How does that affect the way you write it?

It’s a tremendous difference. You have to pace each 23-page issue such that it has a clear opening that brings the reader into each portion of the story, and a clear ending that concludes that leg of the journey, while coaxing them on to the next issue. If I did the entire thing as a 160 page graphic novel, there would be similar rises and falls, but the structure would be a little more flexible.

I actually start with the complete story and then its a process of breaking it down into continuously smaller pieces, until I have single issue scripts.

Do you want to talk about the Kickstarter as well?

Yes! Though I wish we could provide a link for you.

We want to re-release the original four-issue Scratch9 mini-series (The Pet Project), along with the two-issue anthology (Cat Tails), all in one low-priced, hardcover edition. The entire volume, which is over 140 pages, would cost just $12.99, which is a bargain.

However, its a risky proposition, since Scratch9 is still working to find its audience. The book is intended for comic shops, bookstores and libraries, but awareness for Scratch9 isn’t on par with Marvel Adventures or Tiny Titans or My Little Pony or Adventure Time.

So we’re looking to Kickstarter for a vote of confidence that will allow us to publish the book and get it into the hands of kids everywhere.

We’ve got some great rewards planned for backers, including the book itself, stickers, T-Shirts, original sketches by Josh Buchanan, and pages of art from the first series by Jason T. Kruse.

We’re hoping to launch very soon and will send you a link when its ready!

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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