An interview with Simon Hanselmann & Josh Pettinger

An interview with Simon Hanselmann & Josh Pettinger

Here at Dead Ink we're huge fans Simon Hanselmann and his Megahex series - a collection of comic strips charting the adventures of Megg (a drug-addled witch), Mogg (her feline familiar and jealous, spurned, occasional lover), Werewolf Jones (a drug addicted, sex-crazed being of pure chaotic id) and Owl (the long-suffering voice of reason). Often billed as a stoner comedy, Hanselmann’s works do contain plenty of bong usage, comedic violence, surrealism and graphic sex; and reading them will lead to uncontrolled bursts of shocked laughter. However, this description fails to capture the full scope of Hanselmann’s vision, which delves into depression, childhood trauma, poverty, and the complex webs of resentment and co-dependence that develop amongst long-term housemates as youthful high-jinx curdle into bad habits. Beginning as a faux-naif parody of the Meg & Mog children's books, the Megahex series has bloomed over the last decade into a sprawling epic with multiple contradictory continuities.

The latest release in the megahex series is the Werewolf Jones & Sons Summer Fun Annual, a break with tradition that sees Hanselmann’s characters written and drawn by other comics creators for the first time - in this case Josh Pettinger, the UK-based creator of Warm Television and Power Wash; and Htmlflowers, known for his comics, poetry and tattoos. Focussing on the unhinged, sex-mad adventures of Werewolf Jones (“Close the door, you’re letting the stank out!") brings a breath of chaotic fun to a series that was leaning further towards Megg’s bleak outlook in recent years, although disturbing undercurrents remain as the authors process their own trauma of absent fathers and troubled childhoods in the most peurile of ways. While not for the faint of heart, these books do have a strong moral fibre buried beneath all the discarded dildos and suspiciously stained mattresses. Werewolf Jones’ constant pursuit of the next chemical or sexual high will both amuse and horrify you as he takes on his children's burgeoning sexuality, running out of alcohol in a recession and the ever-present infighting between his friends, including Dracula Jr. and Tim the drug dealing spider. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder if it's possible to call child protective services on a fictional werewolf.

We sat down with Hanselmann and Pettinger to discuss their works and new collaboration…




Q&A with Simon...

What amount of published Megahex material has yet to be collected in the annual Fantagraphics books - in other words, how much Megahex am I missing out on? Will it all be collected eventually?

I think the bulk of it is collected... There's a few loosies floating out there that will most likely stay floating. Sweet candy for hardcore ebay nerds to track down and covet. Hidden nuggets. The true seeds and stems.

Are you surprised by the longevity of these characters, or was it always your aim to write such a long-running strip?
Everything is proceeding according to plan! Plenty more witch and cat depression-based rimming cartoons still to come down the sluice! I won't stop until I'm dead!

Could you surmise where the new book sits within the various Megahex continuities?
Everything has become very chaotic post-splintering of timelines in 2020. The extended Megg and Mogg Multiverse is fluctuating wildly. I wouldn't trust any of the events in the new Werewolf Jones & Sons book... It is most likely the blurry memories of an adult Jaxon. Resurfacing trauma.

The recent Megahex books have had unique vibes - Below Ambition was focused and bleak, and this annual brings in fresh voices for the first time. Did the intensity of producing something as epic and dense as Crisis Zone in 2020 necessitate changing things up a bit?
Nah, I just had a kid and don't have as much time to work anymore so I've turned out a few shit books. I need to get my game up and get working on Megg's Coven and continue the rest of the story of Megg dealing with her mother back in her hometown and everything falling apart back in the house with Owl gone... I'm holding onto some good shit, some funny and brutal shit... Need to stop fucking about.

The combination of insightful character work and graphic sexual slapstick in your work remains as potent a mixture as ever - do you have any influences from the worlds of comics or beyond that inspired this?
Just life. The horror of living as a human and the things I have witnessed. I'm currently really into dusty old manga from the 70's, I find that stuff really inspiring, the work ethics, the clear joy at what they were making. Trying to up my background game, I have been doing a lot of big splashes in the thing I'm currently working on.

Are you familiar with the UK comic Viz at all? At it’s peak in the 1980s I think Viz was operating in a similar register to Megahex...
Of course! I was reading Viz as a kid in Tasmania in the 80's. I was a voracious comics fan as a child, I was after anything I could get my hands on, always hitting up the second hand bookstores and the import stores. I love British comedy, it's my favorite of all the comedies.

Your books are aesthetically very appealing to children (eg. my nieces and nephews rummaging through bookshelf) while full of x-rated content - has this ever got you into any scrapes?
Not yet, but I would welcome such an event occurring. Controversy sells!

What amount of autobiography factors into the strip at this stage in its life?
Still a lot. The new Jones book is pretty over the top and ridiculous but there's a lot of autobio jumping off points in there. Me and a bunch of friends blowing each other as kids, my Mum chasing down and threatening bullies with really brutal threats, being stranded at terrifying drug dens, being abandoned etc. I'm enjoying all the reviews by offended readers, scolding me for writing this shit. Fuck you, I lived this shit, you absolute softcocks. It's not really supposed to be "funny funny"...

What kind of future do you foresee for Megg, Mogg and the gang?
One lined with cash. Big lit-up Hollywood billboards. It's SELLING OUT TIME. Nah, nah... I'm half joking. Lots of quality comics. Some hardcore shit. Life on paper, hopefully. I'm always cooking away.

Are there any other comics artists you would recommend, or you think deserve wider attention?
Just my crew. Josh Pettinger, Nate Garcia, Alex Graham, Nathan Cowdry, Anna Haifisch etc... The news Clowes book is insane. Schrauwen is a magician. I love J Webster Sharp. Ethan Llewellyn is a young contender. Jasper Jubenvil is nuts. Bubbles is the best zine about comics and the scene ever. New Liam Cobb book probably be a hot one. All sorts of shit... I'm still digging...

What kind of setup are you using for your drawings - any particular favoured brands of pen, pencil, paper, watercolour etc?
Currently pounding out pages on cheap computer paper. Same old Uni-pin pens I've used for like 30 years. sitting cross legged at my IKEA coffee table. Keeping it simple. All you need is the energy and the stamina.

Q&A with Josh...

How did you and Simon meet and begin working together?
We became online friends during the pandemic over a shared love of Mike skinner (The Streets) and the comedy of Chris Morris. We started hanging out IRL when he moved to Los Angeles which turned into drawing together in his studio weekly. I think we both just decided it'd be fun to be working on the same thing at some point.
Was it intimidating to step into such an established strip and bring your own voice to it?
In the beginning, yes. His fans aren't just comic fans, they're die hard Megg and Mogg fans, a lot of them with an encyclopedic knowledge of the series. So there was some anxiety that they would reject it.  That goes away pretty fast though when your ideas get laughs during the writing process though. Drawing those comics together was so much fun and that's usually a good indicator that you're making something decent. If we're laughing, the audience will too.
Tell us a little about your works such as Goiter, Warm Television and Power Wash...
Goiter was really just me figuring out how to make comics. There were eight issues compromised of short stories, mostly me trying to figure out my voice. The last year or so I've been working with this character 'Tedward'. He's an old fashioned guy but also an Everyman. With him I get to explore really absurd situations. A kind of heightened reality that reflects real feelings about my place in the world. The most important thing is that the books are funny, but I try to get to something deeper, that feeling that something is slightly wrong under the surface. People seem to be really resonating with that.
What kind of drawing setup do you use - analog or digital, pen or brush...?
Everything Analog except colors. I use a Joseph Gilott 1068a nib on 11x17 300 series Strathmore bristol.  
What’s next for you as a solo cartoonist?
Ici Meme are putting out a french collection of Goiter. Fantagraphics are collecting all of the Tedward stories. I'm just gonna keep making weird stuff.


Read if you enjoyed: Robert Crumb, early South Park, Joan Cornella, Peter Bagge, Nathan Cowdry, Jonny Ryan, Viz, UK TV Comedy of the 80s and 90s


You can pick up a cope of Werewolf Jones & Sons Deluxe Summer Fun Annual from us here. 

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