After doing some time with one of Canada’s dailies Kagan Mcleod decided that his art skills would be put to better use showcasing zombies, blaxploitation, and kung fu rather than charts and graphs. He started a journey three years ago that has culminated in six issues of his epic Infinite Kung Fu. Now a full time artist Mcleod plans to continue his story and hopefully crank out issues at a faster rate.
Notable Works: Infinite Kung Fu
Do you still work at the newspaper in Toronto?
That’s a little outdated. I work for the National Post in Canada doing graphics but I’m mostly doing freelance now and it’s like I only go in there once a week now.
I been out to Toronto and the hiphop scene out there is pretty nice. Are you feeling any local acts out there?
Yea there is a crew called Monolith, and a group called IRS. I think their album just came out. I know you’ve heard of Kardinal Offishal, IRS are on a couple of his tracks. Kardinal is good too. There’s cool stuff coming from up here.
Comparing to what I was seeing in the independent scene in NYC at the time I went I felt Toronto was a little better. People went to the shows and actually had fun and were open to different types of music.
I’m twenty-five and all the shows I go to I feel really old because everyone is sixteen or seventeen. I just picked up some tickets for Saturday for Lyrics Born, Grouch and Eligh.
I heard you’re a big Aceyalone fan.
Yea! Where did you hear that?
I saw in one interview you said ‘Book of Human Language’ was your favorite album. People don’t just throw that out there like that so I kinda picked up that you’re a big fan. Give us a little background on the work you’ve done and tell us a little about the Infinite Kung Fu series.
I started working on it in 2000 and I just planned on doing a little comic book to see how it goes. I basically just got out of college and I wanted to do something to showcase my art. I wanted to have a kung fu theme because I was getting into that and it got bigger, people liked it and I got a great response from it. So I just kept going and making more. It’s been three years and I’m just finishing up issue six now but I’ve been doing it on the side the whole time just for fun. It’s pretty cool because I get feedback from all over. It’s distributed through Diamond comics and that kinda gets it across the world. People know about it from all over the place. I mailed some out to a bunch of magazines and I ended up getting some press in Wizard and even the Source did a little half page thing. There’s no obvious hiphop in it besides a little graffiti style sound effects but it’s popular with hiphop crowds. I used to do graffiti and that kinda shows through a bit here and there and the whole kung fu thing is popular among hiphop heads.
I’m really digging the style. It’s so different and I guess that’s why I like it and I think the reason it may attract hiphop heads is because the character Moog Joogular is a spin-off of the old George Clinton. It looks exactly like him when he was young.
That’s another thing I could never really find a comic that I was really really digging so I wanted to do something all my way.
Give us an overview of the story.
When I first started I just wanted it to be about the art and the story was just kinda like a backdrop thing because I didn’t consider myself to be a writer but it started to work out and the feedback I got from people was really cool so now I’m working more on the story. It takes place in the future and the only reason I did that was so I could put any cultures together. Something almost destroyed the world so everyone decided to abandon technology and go back to the period when the culture was the best. The east went back to kung fu days and you might get these funky George Clinton Parliament kinds of towns somewhere. I was gonna do more stuff but I figured I’d keep it less complicated and tell those tales. In a way I wanted to tell a story like the old school kung fu movies but at the same time not recreate something that’s already been done. That’s why I added the other flavors in.
You should take the time out and turn this into a video game have you thought about it?
I’ve had people contact me about that stuff but nothing has actually come up. I got all excited the first couple of times people called me up about movie options and things like that but I found out later that there are people whose job is to call everyone who do new comics and see if they can get there hands on the rights to it. I do have some guys that are trying to come up with a movie pitch for it. I really don’t have any part in that I’m just hoping I get some free money someday and put it towards more comics.
What can you tell us about some of the characters and the inspirations behind them?
The main character is Lei-Kung, a name I lifted from a old Shaw brother movie, and in all the Shaw Brothers movies there is a character who is bumbling and inexperienced in the beginning and by the end he is a kung fu master. He’s supposed to be the classic hero. There are the eight immortals, which are actual Chinese mythological characters, and they all have their own students and teach them kung fu. One of the students is Lei-Kung, the hero and another is Moog Joogular, the George Clinton type character. Basically the history of Moog Joogular is that he lost his funk and decided to go off to the mountains and figure out what everything is about. He ended up meeting his kung fu teacher and finding out the funk, the chi, and the force and all that stuff are the same thing and he applied that to learning kung fu. It’s a good mix.
Did you actually pitch this idea to publishers or did you always have it in your mind to self publish the series?
It was more for fun at the beginning. Partly into it, I thought it would be cool to have somebody else taking care of it but there’s something cool about not having to answer to anybody and doing it yourself. I’m gonna keep doing it like that. The only thing that would be better about having someone else do it is having a name publisher like DC Comics or Darkhorse that would increase the circulation. I make some money to print the comic books doing other stuff and take the money I get from the comics and put it towards the next one. I don’t lose money but I don’t make hardly any money either.
It’s a labor of love huh.
Yea. I do illustration work for newspaper its not hard and when its done its done but when I do the comic book I get people from all over the world calling and sending me emails and people drawing my characters and sending them to me so its really cool.
While at the paper have you ever tried to slip some funny stuff into their charts or graphics just to entertain yourself?
I never did anything that would get me in trouble but I’ve managed to get a few characters from the comic into the paper here and there. Sometimes you have to do dummy text that has to be really small but look like text on a book and I might write a few sentences about myself. It’s cool for the money but when I go home I’m not thinking about it. I’m always thinking about the comic.
Do you see any difference being in Canada trying to publish a comic as opposed to being in the U.S for example?
I don’t think it’s any different because it’s the same distributor and most of the orders I get are from the states. The only difference is paying customs to get them over the border.
So the comic scene in Canada isn’t blowing up right now?
There are a lot of cool comic book artists and comic books that are Canadian that you might not know about. It doesn’t make a difference because they aren’t about Canada. I think the whole comic book industry isn’t doing that great. A couple guys at my studio put out a ninety page book and we all have a story in it. I have an Infinite Kung Fu story in it. Its ten bucks and we just got our orders from that today and they were not very good. I don’t know what the problem is but it could be a lot better as far as people buying stuff.
What drew you to the kung fu flicks and the blaxploitation movies that you use as an influence in your art?
Honestly, I really started getting into the kung fu stuff when the Wu Tang album came out. I think a lot of other people did too. It’s not even so much about the fighting it’s the ideas in kung fu movies are from a culture that are so far from ours in the west that its really fascinating to watch because they aren’t in any of the movies over here. With the blaxploitation stuff for me, it’s more the music than the movies. When I was younger, I was listening to a lot of hiphop and I still do now but most of the stuff I’m listening to is where hiphop came from and all of the stuff they sampled like the soundtracks to the movies, soul and jazz from the 70s.
I was looking on your message board today and you definitely have a good rapport with your fans. Do you ever take any suggestions from them and implement them into the comics?
Yea once and a while. It is cool to find out what people like. I have in my mind what I want to do but at the same time everyone does love the Moog Jugular character and I gotta give more of that kinda thing. The next thing I’m working on is a horror mini series that centers around him. I want it to be like they can ask a question and I can just answer it but it’s hard to keep up sometimes.
When fans finally meet you at one of the comic conventions after following your work what’s the first thing they say?
One of my most popular questions is what kind of kung fu do you do and I feel like a poser because I don’t do any kung fu. A lot of other people are like I thought you were black.
Do you get groupies?
Nah I’m married.
That’s been our running theme do comic artists get groupies.
There are a few girls that like my book but the core audience is probably young guys based on the people I’ve met at the conventions.
Is your wife a big comic book fan?
No not at all, she is a teacher. The cool thing is the kids like it although I have to check with the parents because there is a little bit of blood and guts in the comic. They just love comics and I think it’s cool to try and get them hooked on it while their young so when they grow up I’ll have someone buying my stuff.
What other types of themes are you thinking about trying to develop once you finish the Infinite Kung Fu series?
I did this poster of the history of rap and I just did it for a buddy of mine who owns a record store. Everyone flipped over it and I’ve been doing so good with those. A comic book audience is different than a hiphop audience. Most hiphop heads wouldn’t go into a comic book store because it seems like a club. You can only buy comics at a comic book store and it’s almost like if you don’t know what you want why would you go in. To a degree around Toronto I can sell Infinite Kung Fu at a record store and it doesn’t seem out of place. I think I’d like to do something that is a comic but can be in clothing and record stores to open it up to a whole new audience. I think comic book stores are for people who buy comics all the time. When I go into a comic book store I look around and then I walk out because I don’t know what’s out there and I don’t read a lot of comics myself. So much of it is bad and there is so much of it you don’t know what to look for.
Kinda like hiphop music.
Yea exactly. So I might do something that can crossover to different types of audiences to sell at shows or something like that.
I heard you compete in Halloween costume contests. Do you still dress up for Halloween? Haha
That was a couple years ago in college but I made a full samurai armor costume. It was pretty sweet but it didn’t win. I got second.
What was the prize?
The first prize was money and the second prize was a sweatshirt or something.
What was the first prizewinner wearing?
The person who won was a funny guy. He was supposed to be a man riding an ostrich.
Haha! Did you dress up for Halloween this year?
Yea, I was Freddy Krueger and my brother was Jason. They had a Halloween party at a comic book shop downtown. Everyone was dressed up so it was cool.
Time for the bullets section
If you had a choice to play professional Frisbee or Dodge Ball which would you pick?
I’m pretty weak. I like dodge ball but I’d probably pick Frisbee.
Who is more of a weirdo Marilyn Manson or Andre 3000 from Outkast?
Would go deep sea diving in shark infested waters or race Puffy Combs in a 26-mile marathon?
If you had a choice between a bald pet gorilla or a cow with no milk which would you choose?
A 3-legged goat or a hog with diarrhea?
Final Question ‘ If you could take anyone from the Wu Tang for a comic book which would you pick and what capabilities would you give them?
I think the RZA would be the coolest comic book character. I’d give him the Bobby Digital mask and laser darts. He’d be the most fun to draw and maybe Dirty would be his sidekick.