Interview: Fred Gallagher

by Chris Fey, May 14th 2004
Fred Gallagher was kind enough to sit down for a press panel at Sakuracon. We immediately noticed a small change he made. This was group interview, so questions are not individually credited.


I: So what is the real story behind the beard?

F: Sera [His wife Seraphim] likes beards. I had one years ago. Really, it's Japan's fault. With all the traveling I did I didn't get around to shaving until after the fourth day back. I thought I should shave, but Sera said I should grow a goatee. I have been asking fans and they mostly say that I should keep it. I drew a small piece of art of Piro with a goatee. He looks positively evil.


I: How is full time work on Megatokyo changing it?

F: Even last year when I was still working, I thought I had to go to work just so I could go home and work on what needs to be done.


I: How about getting an assistant to help out?

F: It could help, but even then the stuff I do in cleaning up would be difficult. It is nice to have the control. Even if I tell them what to do, they will have their own style. I joke about Akamatsu's Moogie, who can draw better Akamatsu better than Akamatsu.


I: Were you able to talk to him while in Japan?

F: Yes and no. Language made it hard to talk even with a translator. It's a real flip flop from here with the Japanese guests using the translator, and there with me using the translator. It's hard to do conversational Japanese. I would give a lot to speak it. Last year Abe, who can speak some English, talk mostly by using sketches. You would think that after 9-10 years in Manga and Anime, that I would pick it up, but I spend the time learning the art and how to draw it. At another con, a fellow comic artist asked me how I do the manga style just like the Japanese. I said, “Oh, it is?” I never noticed because I was just doing what I read. I never did it because, “Oh, manga is popular.”


I: What do you think of fellow Americans picking up the manga style?

F: There is a lot that they miss. Manga is not about extremes, but about the subtle backgrounds. They go for the extreme elements and miss the subtlety.


I: Megatokyo Volumes One and Two are out now, correct?

F: Two has been out a while, One was rereleased just last month [previous release was through I.C. Entertainment/IronCat. —Ed] and is just filtering thru the distros. Darkhorse has been great. We added more to book one since we knew some people would rebuy it and we wanted to make it worth it.


I: Speaking of publishing, what are your feelings about publishing a webcomic?

F: Books are nothing but a distribution method. Webcomics can reach a lot of people. You can't reach that often with just print, it's too expensive. I didn't think the books would be so big, but the books are like dvds to movies. You still want a physical copy. It is another distribution method. Also since the three-a-week schedule it is different reading it all at once rather than just a page at a time. People ask me when they will go home, or when Largo will hook up with Erika. I think resolving anything will just ruin the story. Hollywood wants always have something new. Having something new continuously is hard. Most of it doesn't work out. I like that Megatokyo is free, if you want to buy it, it's voluntary. It's nice to have a philosophy and make money on it.


I: Do you see any changes from Japan in Anime and Manga over the past five years?

F: What people really like is the daily life. Mahou Shoujo, I love it, but I hate the transformation and fight scenes. Some would say that is the point. The in-between is what I watch. The in-between is what Megatokyo is. How many people have big things happen everyday? Too many early manga-style comics took the big noticeables. Like Dirty Pair, yeah they get the big points, but when they were concentrating on the big stuff, they missed the background.


I: Any progress on Warmth?

F: It was announced too soon. It is not ready, and I got into a lot of troubles last year. My first goal is to get Megatokyo going well. I am not going to sacrifice Megatokyo for Warmth. Also, I want to work out Warmth before hand, unlike Megatokyo. In Japan I spent 2 days and when to Sendai for research. I waited at the train station there for 45 minutes for a train. I got a can of hot coffee from a vending machine there. I stuck it in my pocket and it's now on my desk. It fell off yesterday. When I start it, it's got to go. I want to focus on it and do it at once. I will launch when it is ready, but I am only one person.


I: Any more Grand Theft Colo?

F: What I want to do now is based on Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. I want to do Johnny the Homicidal Webcomic.


I: What do you think about other webcomics copying your Style, for instance Real Life doing a comic called “Sad Greg in Snow”.

F: *Laughs* Webcomics are a funny group. We don't really read each other. A lotta people get ticked off on Megatokyo knockoffs. In the US we think everything needs to be original. But in Japan they don't. Some of the knocksoffs can be better, like Kanon. There was a controversy where I was accused of ripping off Chi from Chobits when I created Ping. I think it is because Chobits is the first title many ever saw in the robotic girl genre. I was exposed to a lot more earlier titles and did Ping before I ever saw Chobits. There are older titles that might be more fair to accuse us both of ripping off, but neither of us did.


I: Who would direct a Megatokyo Movie?

F: I will never do live action. Either it would be great, or it would be the worst anime ever. The studio would change things. Sometimes when I think about these thinks I ask: What would Gainax do? Who would do it? What would change the story? I don't want people to say the movie destroyed it. Besides no one has approached me. Maramalde Boy, for example, has notes in the manga where the artist is saying how they are making an anime and it is good. The artist is often not involved in the creation.


I: Final question, any more color coming up?

F: Coloring? I am working on it. It's hard because often the fans do it better.

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