Hungry Hungry Hippo, Part 1 -

Comic Book Interview

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Hungry Hungry Hippo, Part 1

Comicraft's new comic book series introduces us to a strange new hero - a trenchcoat-wearing hippo named Hip Flask

By Arnold T. Blumberg     June 15, 2002

The origin of HIP FLASK is just the beginning of the saga.
© 2002 Comicraft
Comicraft has made a name for itself over the years as the premiere source of lettering and post-production design in the comic book industry. With a plethora of fonts available for order and the loyalty of the major comic book publishers, Comicraft has transformed the business of making comics and enabled many lesser studios to compete reasonably well with the big boys by providing superb lettering options to the masses.

Now they're stepping up to the plate as publishers themselves, releasing an all-new series titled HIP FLASK, which is already garnering quite a bit of positive press. Illustrated by Ladronn and written by Richard Starkings and Joe Casey, HIP FLASH: UNNATURAL SELECTION introduces Comicraft's tragic hero - an anthropomorphic hippo in a BLADE RUNNER-esque sci-fi setting. Given the fact that American comic book readers are notoriously resistant to both anthropomorphic animal comics and science fiction titles, what exactly would possess the folks at Comicraft to make this their debut comic book project?

In the world of HIP FLASK, anthropomorphized animals are armed and ready to battle it out.

"I do know where my towel is," assures Starkings - and for those who don't get the HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY reference, well then...shame on you. "I'm constantly on the lookout for nouns or phrases that sound like they might make interesting names. I knew that Hip Flask would be a good name for some kind of hard-boiled hard-ass, and when I realized he should be a hippopotamus, that's when he really came to life. Hippos are incredibly charismatic characters even when they're up to their ears in water, and most artists, after some initial struggle, have found Hip to be very interesting to draw. Once readers get past their reservations regarding anthropomorphism, it'll be easy for them to see Hip as just as ever-lovin' as The Thing or as incredible as the Hulk."

Starkings has been harboring thoughts of Hip Flask for some time, sharing them with friends who have now joined forces to bring the character to the page.

"Richard had been talking to me about Hip Flask off and on just as a sounding board," says Casey. "I always had a feeling this would be a groundbreaking project, even when it was just a faint twinkle in Richard's eye. Besides, it gives me another chance to work with two of my best friends in the business... how could I go wrong?"

Ladronn shares the sentiment.

The Elephantmen are just part of the landscape in the new comic book series, HIP FLASK.

"I was very lucky to be introduced to Richard by Joe some years ago," says Ladronn. "Richard is a British gentleman and has a very broad taste, not only in comics, but in movies and music as well. In the course of many conversations over the phone, we discovered that our interests were very similar indeed. Furthermore, Richard is a very perceptive man who knows and understands the subconscious needs of the artist and the creative process. I was just about finished with Marvel's INHUMANS when Richard invited me to do something with Hip Flask. It was really nice for me because I was so tired of struggling with Marvel and their suicidal way of working, and I was at the point where I needed to start doing things in my own way."

Starkings admits that Ladronn was the only person who understood where he was going with Hip Flask, which naturally made the choice of artist a foregone conclusion.

"Ladronn was the first artist I spoke to in regard to my concept of Hip Flask who just got it straight away," says Starkings. "He took an instant liking to the character and, like me, saw him as much more of a science fiction hard-ass than a funny animal lard-ass."

Ladronn also came onto the project with a mission. According to Starkings, he didn't want to illustrate just any old Hip Flask tale.

"Ladronn wasn't interested in telling 'A Hip Flask Story,'" says Starkings. "He wanted to tell 'THE Hip Flask story.' He had started work on a #0 issue which we intended to publish as a prologue to the HIP FLASK mini-series, and every other day he would ask me who Flask was and how he came to be. He was intrigued by Hip's origin and wanted to know why we weren't telling that story as well. I created a short three-page story outlining Hip's origin and encouraged Ladronn to visualize Hip's world in the style that best suited him."

Ain't he pretty? It's HIP FLASK!

"Ladronn was born and raised in Mexico," adds Starkings, "and recently told me that he first watched the movie ALIEN at the tender age of twelve. His aunt was supposed to be taking him to see another more age-appropriate movie, but they entered the wrong screening room and Ladronn sat mesmerized by a movie he would later describe as 'made for me!' Not surprisingly, Ladronn proposed that we present the origin of Hip Flask in a manner which can best be described as chestburst!"

Ladronn confirms that the work of H.R. Giger - whose artwork provided the foundation for the original ALIEN's creature and set designs - has been a strong influence on him, but he also writes as well.

"I have been writing since I was 15, I think," says Ladronn. "I consider writing to be one of my other abilities, but I don't write super-hero stuff, I write more in the style of science fiction. My attraction to the story of Hip Flask was a matter of personal taste. Richard allowed Hip to evolve and grow around my involvement. The bigger story is an extraordinary portrait of Man's need to explore beyond the many variables of our existence, whether they be the limitations of the physical body, or those of space and time. HIP FLASK: UNNATURAL SELECTION is a book to help us remember that we are now the most fragile and most easily manipulated species on Earth. In Hip Flask's world, Man is dealing with the new dilemmas and consequences presented by advances in the uninhibited - and perhaps senseless - restructuring of genetic material."

Drawing from today's news stories about cloning and genetic research, Starkings and company have crafted a tale that takes our own scientific achievements - and resulting fears - and embodies them in one hard-ass hippo.

"I've been following the developments in human and animal cloning technology for the last four or five years, and I have to tell you that it hasn't been about cloning sheep or cattle at all," says Starkings. "Cloning scientists have successfully spliced the DNA of a monkey with that of a jellyfish, and produced a monkey with the ability to produce a phosphorescent glow. Don't ask me why this is useful, or why someone would want to impregnate the ovum of a cow with human sperm for that matter. Nevertheless, it's been done. Unfortunately, it's in Man's nature to look for physical and external solutions to the problems presented by the human condition. Hip Flask and the "Unhumans" are the consequences of the actions of a genetic engineer by the name of Nikken. A man who sees life as a commodity."

Next time, we delve deeper into the series and find out what lies ahead for Hip and his creators.


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