'Captain Ginger' Artist on the Origins of Her Space Cat Comic

"I have cats. A lot of cats," June Brigman says of the inspirations for the feline sci-fi series.
June Brigman/AHOY Comics
"I have cats. A lot of cats," June Brigman says of the inspirations for the feline sci-fi series.

Ahoy Comics’ Captain Ginger is a noteworthy comic — and not just because it features a cast of space-faring cats exploring the galaxy after the human race has become extinct. Written by former DC Vertigo editor Stuart Moore, the series features the return to comic books of June Brigman, co-creator of Marvel’s 1980s hit Power Pack, after years working in the field of newspaper strips.

Ahead of this week’s release of the first collected volume of Captain Ginger, Heat Vision talked to Brigman about the series, as well as how the series compares to her ongoing work on the iconic Mary Worth strip. For those still stuck on the idea of a ship full of cats traveling through space, keep reading; there’s also a preview of the collected edition to follow.

How did you come to be involved with Captain Ginger? You’ve been working intermittently on comic books again in the last few years — there have been some Marvel covers and shorts, and you worked on two of the Convergence series for DC in 2015 — but you’ve been predominantly a newspaper strip artist for a while now. What brought you back, and what made Captain Ginger the series to return with?

Stuart Moore and I had worked together on The 99, a [2007] comic book series published by Teshkeel Comics. In one of the stories, Stuart wrote a scene involving a cat rescue place. I guess Stuart liked the way I drew cats, because it wasn’t long afterward that he approached me with the idea for Captain Ginger. Of course, I thought it was great. I mean, who doesn’t love cats in space, especially when they’re wearing bubble helmets?

Plus, I have cats. A lot of cats.

OK, if you must know, I have 10 cats. Yes, 10. So the potential of writing off cat litter as a business expense was very appealing.

That might explain one of the things I love most about Captain Ginger: the character acting. The cat-people move both like cats and humans — how did you decide where the line was between feline and human? I can only imagine the amount of observational sketches done in terms of the cat movements, at least…

Well, to be honest, other than the character designs, I didn’t do any sketches in preparation for drawing Captain Ginger. I guess that’s because I’ve got reference material every where I look. I mean, seriously, I can hardly walk for all the cats. And trust me, I know exactly what a cat looks like when its horking up a hairball.

But I did decide to give the characters cat haunches. I didn’t want them to just be humans with a cat head. And tails, they all have tails. Though not everyone wears pants. Don’t ask me why. It’s a cat thing.

So, besides your real world inspiration, what kind of influences played into the series? Reading through, I kept thinking of Jack Kirby’s 1980s series Captain Victory — not just the similarities in terms of naming, but also the space setting and dynamism of the sequences. There’s a lot of classic sci-fi in there, as well; it’s a nice mix of science fiction and super heroics, as if Star Trek had the dynamism of early Marvel. Except, you know, with cats.

Stuart and I are both Star Trek: The Original Series fans. I hope that our characters have as much appeal as Kirk and Spock and Bones, but with fur. I even did an homage to “The Trouble With Tribbles” on the cover of Captain Ginger issue 2!

We both love science fiction; Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester, and Andre Norton are my favorite sci-fi authors. And if you look closely at some of the scenes in Captain Ginger, you might recognize Klaatu, from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

I also love drawing superheroes, so these kitties aren’t just little balls of fur. There’s a lot of power behind those whiskers!

You’re drawing some very unexpected stuff in this first Captain Ginger volume; after years on Mary Worth, was this particularly welcome, or were there moments of, “Wait, I’m supposed to draw WHAT now?” The fate of one of Ramscoop’s kittens, in particular, is on my mind when I ask this.

Stuart has such a wonderful visual sense that the imagery just pops into my head as I’m reading his words. I don’t even ask him what’s planned for the next issue because I want to be surprised. No spoilers!

Speaking of Mary Worth, I’m curious; what are the mechanics like on a comic page, versus the three-panel newspaper strip? Obviously, there are more opportunities to place with scale and pacing, but how do you approach the two disciplines? Are they so different as to be entirely separate in your mind?

The main challenge of a comic strip is the limited format and repetition. It requires a lot of artistic stamina to create interesting visuals for story arcs that can last for several months. Other than a specific page size, a comic book has no set format. This makes it more difficult, but also more fun. The artist can divide the page into as many panels as needed to tell the story. And the panels can be any shape and size. But both are about good, clear drawing and storytelling. I’m glad I get to play in both sandboxes.

What’s next for you? I know you’re returning to Power Pack for a new one-off issue with Louise Simonson for Marvel this August; does this suggest more comic book work from you, in addition to your Mary Worth gig? Can we dare hope for a second Captain Ginger series before too long…?

I hope I’ll be doing more comic book work! And as far as more Captain Ginger…well, he hasn’t used up his nine lives. He’ll be back on deck in early 2020.

Captain Ginger Vol. 1: Survival Instinct will be released digitally and in comic book stores June 18. Read on below for a sample from the book.