In the following email interview about his new graphic novel Glork Patrol Takes A Bath (hardcover, Kindle), writer and artist James Kochalka stopped for a moment while explaining the plot to admit, “The more I try to explain these books to you the less sense they make.” But as anyone who’s read any of Kochalka’s previous books will attest — be it Tiny Bubbles, Kissers, or Quit Your Job — esoteric plots are par for the course for this iconic indie comic book scribe and illustrator.
I’d like to start with some background, and with the story. If I’m not mistaken, the origins of Glork Patrol Takes A Bath go back to a mobile game you made called Glorkian Warrior: Trials Of Glork, as well as the comic book sequels to the game, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers A Pizza, The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie, and The Glorkian Warrior And The Mustache Of Destiny.
Actually, there’s a musical EP called Good Morning Glorkian Warrior with six songs about Glorkian Warrior, too. Also, I was working on the video game, the first graphic novel, and the EP all at the same time…so none of them are sequels of the other.
Ah, got it. So then what was the story you told in that game, the comics, and the EP?
They’re all more like side stories of each other. The basic premise of all three is that they’re about a very goofy alien whose job is to patrol a sector of space and keep it safe.
Next, for people who didn’t read it, what was the first Glork Patrol book, Glork Patrol On The Bad Planet, about, and how is it connected to the Glorkian Warrior stuff?
I guess Glork Patrol is like more like a tangent to Glorkian Warrior series than it is a sequel. In that 3-book series, the Glorkian Warrior defeats Gonk in battle, then adopts him, and then Gonk grows up and grows a mustache. I wanted to go back and tell more stories from when Gonk was a little kid, so I rebooted it as Glork Patrol. Gonk is just hilarious as a little kid.
So, in Glork Patrol On The Bad Planet, Gonk goes on a Glork Patrol with his dad, the Glorkian Warrior, and they discover a Quackaboodle egg. Quackaboodle The Space God was the villain from The Glorkian Warrior And The Mustache Of Destiny. I just thought it would be funny if baby quackaboodles were even more dangerous than full-grown ones, and then what if they accidentally hatched one and then had to adopt it and care for it?
And so then what is Glork Patrol Takes A Bath about, and how does it connect, chronologically and narratively, to Glork Patrol On The Bad Planet? I assume it’s not about them taking a bath in the stock market, right?
It’s about giving Baby Quackaboodle a bath. And Baby Quackaboodle does not want to take a bath. Also, Gonk makes a robot battle suit for his dad’s Super Backpack out of candy wrappers and gum. Super Backpack is the Glorkian Warrior’s side-kick…a sentient backpack.
The more I try to explain these books to you the less sense they make, I’m so sorry.
I’ve read your books before, this doesn’t surprise me.
They are all god-tier absurdist fantasies with their own internal logic. I feel like…when our own world doesn’t make sense, extravagantly absurd fiction is the only proper response.
But maybe I’m making it sound too complicated. In some ways it’s really simple. In the first Glork Patrol book they adopt the Baby Quackaboodle, in the second you see what effect that has on their lives.
Also you don’t need to have read any previous Glork books to enjoy any other one of them. You can jump in anywhere.
You’ve written dozens of comic books. Are there any writers, or stories, that had a big influence on Glork Patrol Takes A Bath but not on Glork Patrol On The Bad Planet or anything else you’ve written?
Something that influenced Glork Patrol Takes A Bath but didn’t influence anything else I’ve ever written? Huh… I don’t know, maybe Cat In The Hat? Does he take a bath in that one, or is it the sequel? Anyhow, probably the story where the Cat In The Hat takes a bath had some subliminal influence on this story even though I hadn’t thought it about at all until you asked.
What about non-literary influences; was Glork Patrol Takes A Bath influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
The most obvious non-literary influences are from my real life. My experience as a dad, and maybe even more importantly my memories from when I was a kid myself. With maybe a little Dennis The Menace or Home Alone thrown in, I don’t know.
Oh, and it’s influenced by candy and gum. I liked candy and gum a lot when I was a kid. And I liked candy wrappers… I used to flatten them out and save them, and occasionally use them in art projects and stuff.
Speaking of which, you have a unique art style, and Glork Patrol Takes A Bath certainly fits in with the other books you’ve drawn. But when it came to drawing specific items in Bath, did you take inspiration from any outside sources? Like, did you base a spaceship on the Enterprise from Star Trek or the bathtub from the one you had in your mom’s house?
I definitely based the bathtub loosely on the bathtub from the house I grew up in. It’s the kind of bathtub with feet…most modern ones aren’t like that any more.
Now, as we’ve been discussing, Glork Patrol Takes A Bath is the second Glork Patrol book. But you’ve already got a third in the works: Glork Patrol And The Magic Robot. What is that book about, and when will it be out
I don’t know when Glork Patrol And The Magic Robot will be out exactly… I think approximately one year from now. I’m digitally inking the book right now. I took a break from inking to do this interview.
In this one, they get a package in the mail containing the newest member of the Glork Patrol: Glorkbot. Glorkbot is a little pocket-sized robot copy of The Glorkian Warrior. Gonk and Baby Quackaboodle accidentally break him, so they take Glorkbot to the Magic Robot to try to get him to fix it. I guess it’s kind of like The Wizard Of Oz in that respect.
The Glorkian Warrior Delivers A Pizza was also influenced by The Wizard Of Oz.
Yes it is so safe to assume that it’s ridiculous that you even asked. Come on, man!
Magic Robot is a giant floating robot head He appeared in The Glorkian Warrior Delivers A Pizza, and he appeared on the Good Morning Glorkian Warrior EP. He’s kind of like Sinistar from the old ’80s arcade game. The self-titled song sung by The Magic Robot on the Good Morning Glorkian Warrior EP is awesome. Well, it’s really me singing but my voice is electronically altered.
Is it also safe to assume there will a fourth book, maybe called Glork Patrol Do Their Homework And Their Chores And Don’t Bother Dad When He’s Playing Xbox Jeez Can’t I Get A Moments Peace, Please?
It might be Glork Patrol And The Sword Of Frog, or I might use my Sword of Frog as an idea for a non-Glork related book. Because I always need another fresh franchise.
What is my Sword of Frog idea? Well, you will just have to wait and see. In the meantime buy all my books, just in case there’s some Sword of Frog clues or Easter eggs in there.
Having read a bunch of your books, I know you’ve written some that are for kids, some for adults, and some that are for adults who are just big kids. Where do the Glork Patrol books fall?
The Glork Patrol books are officially 100% for kids.
Does that mean adults who are just big kids won’t enjoy them, too?
Well, unofficially, they’re 100% for adults who like outrageously absurd adventures. I mean, I wrote them for myself first of all, and I’m an adult. Its like a symphony of absurdity. It takes a very sophisticated mind to fully appreciate the interlacing intricacies of absurdity. The more Glork books you read the more intricate the web of absurdity becomes.
Sorry, I’m just trying really hard to make my answer more pretentious. But it’s also true.
We talked earlier about how the Glork Patrol books go back to the game Glorkian Warrior: Trials Of Glork. Do you think Glork Patrol Takes A Bath could work as the basis for a video game, too? Or, while we’re on the subject, a movie or TV show?
Glork Patrol should be everything: book, game, TV show, movie, and Broadway musical. Best format might be serialized TV, because there’s room for so many stories, and their adventures could go on and on and on. And because TV might be the most lucrative for me. [laughs]
The great thing about games, TV, movies, or Broadway is that I could combine my love of storytelling and songwriting in any of those formats. Broadway is the only one that would leave my drawing skills off to the side, I guess, but I love musical theatre…mostly because of my kids. Both my boys have been in dozens of theatre productions.
The thing is, if they did make it into a movie, TV show, or game, they’ll need someone to voice the characters. Is there anyone in particular you’d like them to get as the voice of the Glorkian Warrior, or Baby Gonk?
I like to be surprised. I don’t know how the characters should sound, or I mean I don’t want to know ahead of time how they sound. The best voice actors surprise me by doing something I hadn’t thought of, or just by being themselves.
I like to listen to a lot of actors reading the lines and then pick out ones that will really play off each other.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Glork Patrol Takes A Bath?
I think it’s a great book for any Dad that ever had to give a kid a bath, or any kid that ever had to take a bath. Or for anybody who should take a bath.
Finally, if someone enjoys Glork Patrol Takes A Bath, they’ll undoubtedly go out and get Glork Patrol On The Bad Planet and The Glorkian Warrior books, games, and EP. But once they’ve done that, what book of yours would you suggest they get while they wait for Glork Patrol And The Magic Robot to come out?
Anyone who likes the Glork books will also love my Banana Fox series from Scholastic. It’s a series about a bright yellow fox who is a famous detective. Banana Fox And The Secret Sour Society is the first one, Banana Fox And The Book-Eating Robot is next, and Banana Fox And The Gummy Monster Mess comes out May 3rd.