Four years ago, Ethan Nicolle and his wacky 5-year-old brother started writing comics for fun and, on a whim, posting them online. In no time at all they had gained an underground following and Axe Cop became so popular that Dark Horse comics started printing it. Most recently, Axe Cop has come to life as an animated show and part of Fox's Animation Domination High Def. We got to talk to Ethan Nicolle—who not only co-created the comic, but is a producer and writer on the show—about the comic, the show, the future, and his cray-cray little brother.
What were some early influences of your work?
I think that Calvin and Hobbes, the Far Side and Ninja Turtles were my trifecta of influence. I was inspired toward the imaginative, humorous, and mutated animals who know karate.
What are some of your favorite current comics?
I love Doug TenNapels graphic novels. I also keep up with The Walking Dead. I enjoy Che and Invincible from time to time as well.
Who do you look up to the most as an artist/writer?
Doug TenNapel. He is prolific, honest, imaginative and determined. I don't know of another graphic novelist who has created so many self contained worlds and stories.
How much longer do you see the Axe Cop comic lasting?
I have no idea. I feel like it will last in some incarnation for a long time, but I think it will go through changes. I always say I never could have predicted the rise of Axe Cop so I'm not going to try to predict its end.
Do you see you and Malachai teaming up together in the future?
I think it's definitely possible. I think that if we ever stop doing Axe Cop we will probably revisit it throughout life.
We can't, of course, talk about Axe Cop anymore without talking about ADHD on Fox. Tell us a little bit about the genesis of the show.
We were lucky to get a lot of people who were already fans involved in making the show. From the voice actors to the writers, artists, and producers, the show is in good hands.
Watching the first episode, what becomes immediately apparent is how much awesome voice talent Axe Cop on ADHD has, the most recognizable of which was sublime Nick Offerman (who fans will know as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation) as Axe Cop. How did you like the voice acting? Did the actors capture the characters the way you imagined them?
I love the voice actors. Most of them brought something new to the character and added a dimension that is impossible in comics. There is just no way characters like Dr. Doo, Gray Diamond, and Flute Cop could have the amount of personality they now do without the talented voiced behind them (Peter Serafinowicz, Rob Huebel, and Ken Marino respectively). The voice cast overall has been amazing. I think it is pretty rare for an animated series to have so many talented stars already asking to be cast as soon as the deal is signed. Offerman, Oswalt, Mullally, Marino, Serafnowicz... they were all ready to go from day one. We are really blessed to have that kind of talent in the recording booth. As to how I imagined the characters, I think some were very close and/or spot on (like Oswalt's Sockarang, Giancarlo Esposito's Army Chihuahua and of course Nick Offerman as Axe Cop). Others added a personality that I like even better than the comics, like those I mentioned above.
How did Malachai like it?
He loves it. He notices where we strayed from the structure of the comics, but I he likes a lot of the changes, and many of them we ran by him and got his input on so that the alternate path we took had his input as well.
How much creative input and knowledge did you have in the show?
I am a producer, so I got to have some input on designs, style etc. I also was in the writers' room and got to have a lot of input on many of the scripts. I was very involved in the first six episodes, and the second set of six I was fairly involved in about half. They let me be pretty involved and I really enjoy working on the show.
The first episode played out somewhat faithful to the comic arc "Bat Warthog Man Can't Find His Friend," but the second seemed to borrow elements from many episodes to create its own story. In the future, can we expect episodes to be fairly faithful to the comics or kind of do their own thing?
I think the main goal is to be faithful in spirit. To keep telling stories that feel like they were written by a kid, and even getting input from Malachai to keep it that way. Some of the stories are very close to the comics, as you pointed out. But we also have extracted stories out of larger story lines, and we have also written some episodes that we call "Frankenstein" episodes, where we take a bunch of elements from various Axe Cop comics and weave them into one storyline.
What do the comic fans think of the Axe Cop show?
So far a majority seem very happy with it. I think that you will always have purists, and that is fine. The TV show is not the comic and vice versa. They are different things, they have different audiences (with crossover), and they are in different formats. I am very happy with how the shows have turned out and I think I am probably the biggest fan of the comic out there.
Has the mass exposure ADHD has given Axe Cop drawn in new fans to the comics?
I've been pretty impressed. At SDCC they had a giant 57 foot Axe Cop balloon over the ADHD lot where they had a bunch of guys dressed like Axe Cop handing out aviators, mustaches, and comics. They advertised all over the place, on TV, Pandora, Hulu, Billboards. It's surreal when I come across that stuff on my own.
Do you ever foresee Axe Cop getting made into a movie?
I didn't foresee it turning into a TV show, especially on FOX! But now that it's happened I guess I can foresee most anything happening. I think a live action Axe Cop film would be a blast if done right.
Thanks again, Ethan!
If you had a comic book, what would it be about?