Writer Nick Ebeling remembers the first time he met his creative partner A.P. Menzies in the parking lot of Pasadena's Art Center College of Design in the early 2000s. Menzies was driving a station wagon with a bong in the back seat, blasting the Clash on his stereo and rolled up alongside Ebeling while he was walking. Somehow the two struck up a conversation and Ebeling, an LA native, learned Menzies was from Buena Park. The two almost immediately began discussing the absurdity of Orange County culture.
Flash forward 10 years: Ebeling and Menzies now co-own an irreverent studio, Dirt Bike Press, and the initial printings of Gunwolf: Get Ready To Get Killed – Issue One of the duo's first comic book series – have just been delivered, along with corresponding soundtrack cassettes. It's an east-meets-west manga-style comic revolving around a hit man named Gunwolf and dually based in Tokyo and, you guessed it, Orange County.
Sitting across from Ebeling at Broome Street General Store in Silverlake, the filmmaker/producer/writer tells me how Buckaroo Bonzai inspired Gunwolf; why he decided to base the comic in OC, and how the idea to incorporate a soundtrack came about.
OC Weekly (Katrina Nattress): You're a writer, but you're also a filmmaker and producer. What made you decide to start this comic series?
Nick Ebeling: A.P. Menzies, who I co-wrote it with, and I had started laying this project out as a film. We walked away from it for a bunch of years, then I called him one day and said, “This is a pretty fucking awesome concept. We need to go after it. I want to make this my first feature.” We started working on it and pitched it to Hollywood and it wasn't working, so we started [discussing] the idea of dabbling in other media. We decided to do some animatics to be able to show people in meetings, so they could see that this was fucking cool, and still we weren't having much luck. Then one day I was thinking about Buckaroo Bonzai and I thought we should just make the coolest fuckin' comic book that we would want to read…And now I don't even give a fuck if we make it into a movie.
What gave you the idea to set it in Orange County?
In high school, a friend and I went down to see this show at Irvine Meadows, and these kids in Orange County are genetically superior super people. They were all angry and wearing pot leaf shirts and chains and looked like they just got out of jail…I felt like an extra in Mad Max. When we left the venue, we took a girl home whose dad lived nearby, and within 10 minutes I was out of Mad Max and in this McMansion, Tommy Bahama world. Going from one side to the other had this impact on me, then flash forward to art school: In a parking lot I meet A.P. Menzies. He rolls up in a station wagon with a bong listening to The Clash. And I thought, that's why I went to art school. I asked him where he was from and he said Buena Park, so we started talking about Orange County. When I was working on my Japanese film [for art school]…I called him and was like, “Let's work on a Japanese script, but let's set it here.” And he goes, “LA?” And I'm like, “No, let's set it south of fuckin' San Pedro and just never address LA.”
How did the idea to release a corresponding soundtrack come about?
I met Coco Morier when she used to be part of Electrocute. She had a really great record collection, and that's where we connected. She knew about all of these obscure soundtracks and all kinds of stuff I hadn't heard of, and I thought I knew everything. We had sporadically worked on some stuff together over the last couple years, most recently we did a music video for “Hallucination.” So when we were putting [Gunwolf] together I called her up and said, “What do you think about a conceptual soundtrack for Gunwolf?” She thought it was really cool. She had been working with all these great musicians on the Charlotte Gainsbourg tour a couple years ago, and all of those people were really like-minded. So she started talking to those guys, and they banged out some score music. She sent it over to me, and I was pretty blown away…We met up again, and she had just joined the Ingrid collective. Dirt Bike Press and Ingrid are sort of at the same point where we just want to do what we want, so it just caught fire. We even recorded scenes, like it was an old Tarantino movie. It was like a soundtrack for a movie that never happened, and I love that.