Today marks the release of the Crisis Zone graphic novel from Fantagraphics. The graphic novel is a collection of the Eisner Award-winning webcomic from Simon Hanselmann. Simon is best know for his Megg, Mogg, & Owl series. We are so delighted to be joined by the artist and writer Simon Hanselmann.
For any of our readers who may not be familiar with the Megg, Mogg, & Owl series, what can you tell us about the series?
“My elevator pitch is that it’s like the Simpsons, back when the Simpsons was actually relevant and well written but with more drug abuse and rimming.
It’s a comedy sitcom, on paper, that can also get horribly, brutally depressing at times.
My aim is to make entertaining comics that read well and keep the reader satisfied and coming back for more.
It’s not for everybody though. It’s not for p***ies.”
Can you talk us through the origins of Crisis Zone?
“When the pandemic hit I was about to start a book called Megg’s Coven, the follow up to my 2019 book Bad Gateway, but everything was falling to shit and I figured now was a good time to actually do a “webcomic”. Free entertainment for the confined masses! I just wanted to entertain people, and myself. We all set out on a journey together, not knowing what the end would look like.
I threw out all of my established canon and just put these characters into the current situation and went with it.”
Was the primary reason for creating Crisis Zone to create a webcomic, and did creating a webcomic present any additional challenges for you?
“Yeah, I’d never done a “proper” webcomic before. I’m a zine guy, I like physical sh**. I’m generally not a fan of webcomics on the whole.
Covid presented the perfect opportunity to finally plunge into that world.
It’s not really a standard webcomic though. It was drawn on stolen printer paper, with colored pencils and photographed with my phone and put onto instagram.
It’s hilarious to me that it won the Eisner for best webcomic.”
As a creative person, do you think that the pandemic challenged your creativity?
“Nah, not really. I’m an insane workaholic, I’d been putting in 12hour days for years, the pandemic was kind of a blessing to me because it meant that I could leave the house and my studio even less than I did before. No visitors! No weddings or events I felt obligated to attend. Yes, please!
I could just work all day without any bullsh**. I f***ing LOVED it. I THRIVED.”
Do you think the pandemic changed you as a person, and if so, how?
“Everything kind of felt the same for me, just staring at a sheet of paper everyday, losing myself in fantasy, “suburban Dungeons & Dragons”.
My wife and I had our first kid during all this crazy sh**, that’s the only thing that’s really different for me, I’m a dad now.
It’s weird to not be insanely focused on comics but I’m really enjoying being insanely focused on my kid. I’m a very hands-on father, unlike my own dad.
I’m trying to be as good at being a dad as I am at making comics (make of that what you will, critical detractors!)”
Did your real-world experience of the pandemic; change aspects of Crisis Zone?
“Not especially, I was pretty well set-up to weather the pandemic, I’d been working my ass off for years and had some savings and a good stock of toilet paper. I spent the summer grilling and playing Animal Crossing in and around the Covid panic. I guess stuff did seep in, the selfishness of being concerned about video games being delayed, the whole TV show within the comic was somewhat a commentary on the public popularity of the Crisis Zone comic and a TV show I was working on in real life… I think most writers can’t help putting parts of themselves into what they produce…”
What was the feedback like when you were posting it as a webcomic?
“It was all over the place, mostly people were appreciative for the daily distraction and loved it and certain factions f***ing hated it… There were often a lot of ideological battles in the comments which I absolutely loved, it was fun seeing people do battle! Engagement is good, even if it’s bad!
At one point I was being harassed by both right wing and left wing extremists which was very funny to me. The left wing kids were the scariest ones, they go beyond just telling you you’re a horrible loser, they seem to actually actively want to destroy your career and your livelihood.
I ignored ALL of these ding dongs.
I just make the art I want to make, no apologies.”
Do you have a favourite scene from Crisis Zone?
“Too many to count. I laugh at my own work way too much, although often I’ll also go into a place of deep critical hatred for my shit (which I think is very healthy).
If I had to pick some favourite moments it’d most likely be the whole “Carrot Bottom” thing or the way in which Werewolf Jones gets his Netflix series cancelled (and I can’t believe I got away with that…)”
Do the events of Crisis Zone change Megg, Mogg, & Owl moving forward?
“It exists in a different continuity, it’s kind of its own thing. The Megg and Mogg series now exists as a confusing multiverse.
It will be kind of difficult in a way, going back to the old canon, I kind of pushed things a bit far in Crisis Zone by revealing a certain character that was intended to debut in the “normal” books and also the relationship between Owl and Werewolf Jones’s kids progressed a lot… I kinda blew my load on some of that stuff.
I figured I’d just go for it though, I had a captive audience and a kid on the way and I’m unsure if I’ll ever have this kind of attention again in the future.”
The Crisis Zone graphic novel from Fantagraphics features additional panels and a director’s commentary; is it important to you that readers can access this extra content?
“Nah, it’s just some bonus sh** to make the book a bit more special, trick people into giving me money.
I gave it all out for free, no patreon bullsh** or donate buttons, just free if you had a phone and internet access.
I’m counting on people who enjoyed it to pony up 30 bucks for a cumbersome book 8 months after the thing ended and people have probably moved on with their lives.
I hope the 500 extra panels in between all the episodes and the little epilogue will bring in some financial supporters. The commentary isn’t even really designed to be read, it’s kind of just supposed to exist as an insane block of unreadable handwritten text. I guess if anybody actually has a big chunk of time on their hands they could try and read it. Good luck!”
We would like to say a big thank you to Simon for taking the the time to chat with us.