An Interview with the Writer of Robots vs. Princesses @ToddCMatthy from @kleffnotes

From writer Todd Matthy and artist Nicolas Chapuis comes Robots vs. Princesses. It begins with Princess Zara looking for a dragon, but instead she finds a robot named Wheeler. The two of them find themselves working together to stop a robot invasion. Robots vs. Princesses recently launched their Kickstarter and I had the chance to discuss the series with Todd Matthy.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I am an Elementary School Teacher. I love professional wrestling (My mom made me a Macho Man cape when I was six) and hard rock. I do a good impression of any Simpsons character and apparently do a fierce performance of “Welcome to the Jungle” at karaoke night.

You had mentioned that you got the idea for Robots vs. Princesses while helping at an elementary school, could you expand on how that moment led to this story?

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was helping a first grade teacher, Ms. Z, with grading and she had coloring pages for her students. Princesses for the girls, robots for the boys. Suddenly the idea came into my head and it didn’t go away. For the rest of the day I was brainstorming: Who are the Princesses? Who are the robots? Why do they not know each other exist? How do they meet? How do the Princesses get into the Robots weight class? What is the emotional hook? Once I answered these questions, I knew I had a story and began outlining it.

Robots vs. Princesses is described as an all ages comic that will appeal to both Disney Princess and Transformers fans, what sort of inspiration did you draw from these two sources?

They served as templates. I knew the Princesses had to act a certain way in the beginning and I knew the Robots had to be a certain way in the beginning. This allowed them to be recognizable but also grow as the story progresses. Then I started thinking about how I could do things differently so my characters were unique, not straight analogues to the Disney Princesses and Transformers.

I thought, “What if Arya Stark was a Disney Princess?” And that became Zara. From there it was “What if Bumblebee was a Decepticon defector?” and that became Wheeler. Then I thought about what would happen if they met, what kept them apart, etc.

I did the same for all of the characters and found myself in some unique places. The heart of the story is Zara and Wheeler but Artelia really opened up during the telling, as did Tyrannis. He’s not just an evil robot overlord for the sake of being an evil robot overlord. He has a motivation.

The hardest part was getting the Princesses into the Robots weight class so they could fight. You’ll have to read it to find out but it’s really cool and leads to some fun and dramatic moments.

What can we expect to see as the human and robot worlds come together within the story?

When Zara meets Wheeler things will be whimsical and funny. They’re friendship is the heart of the book.

When Tyrannis and his Decimator army arrive, mayhem! The humans are not prepared for a threat like this and they’re defeated quickly. There are no Princes to rescue the Princesses. (I wrote a scene where a Gaston-ish Prince tries to fight the Decimators head on. It doesn’t end well.)

Wheeler needs to get them to the Centurions, who can help them defeat the Decimators. But, the Centurions need the Princesses help. I don’t want to give away too much but these Princesses are not the “my prince will come” type of Princess. They are problem solvers.

Had you always wanted to create comics or was the idea for Robots vs. Princesses what inspired you to start?

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to create comics. When I was in pre-school a writing teacher showed us how to make books and it was my favorite activity. I wrote and drew my own comics in my spare time and did an internship at Marvel Comics during my senior year of high school. I’ve always wanted to work in comics. However, breaking into comics is not a guarantee and I found that teaching children was something I enjoyed doing. So, I got my Masters and my certifications. When I was a substitute I got a reputation as the sub who told stories, stories that the kids loved. I would get cheers when I walked into a classroom. I knew I had to write something for those kids. I didn’t know what at the time but then I saw those coloring pages and it all came together.

What are some of your favorite comics and did any of them influence how you created this story?

That’s a tough one because there are so many so I’m going to focus the direct influences of this story. Marvel and IDW’s Transformers are certainly influences on the Robot side. But I also looked at classic giant robot shows like Voltron and Robotech.

The biggest influence for the Princesses (outside of Disney movies) was Meridian from CrossGen.  It is the perfect example of a young girl’s journey into adult hood and is so well written by Barbara Kesel. It helps that the book had a great art team in a young Steve McNiven. That book made me realize that you could tell mature stories while not talking down to a young audience. When figuring out the tone, I looked to Meridian.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there’s a little Leia in all of the Princesses.

Ultimately, this book is my love letter to everything I love about Sci-Fi/Fantasy fiction and 80’s cartoons.

What has it been like working on putting this comic together?

A lot of fun. Getting art from my artist/co-creator Nicolas Chapuis is like opening presents on Christmas morning. Nic has such a lively style that the pages look like they’re straight out of animated movie. It’s beautiful work. And I can’t talk about the book without mentioning my letterer Sean Rinehart who adds additional personality to the characters through his letters.

The Comics Experience Creators Workshop helped me smooth some of the edges of my writing and I am grateful to Heather Antos and Janelle Asselin for taking the time to look at it. They really helped me focus on what’s essential.

What do you hope people take away from Robots vs. Princesses when they read it?

To end the war between brother and sister when comes to what parents read at bedtime. Seriously, I hope the book is enjoyed by young and old and that it stands up to re-reads. I hope it inspires my younger readers to start making comics of their own. We need art and I know there is a new generation that is waiting to tell their stories. I want them to know that there are people waiting to read it.

Lastly, I want my students to know that their kooky teacher wasn’t blowing smoke when he told them to follow their dreams.  

You are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund your project, could you share some details about that?

Our goal is to fund the first issue and our rewards with additional funds going toward future issues. We have a lot of fun rewards including variant covers, paper dolls, and a map of the world.

Can you explain the details for your Fan Art Contest?

Sure. It’s open to all ages. To enter you can either print out and color one of the coloring pages on our website or draw your favorite Robot or Princess. Send your drawing to robotsvsprincessescomic@gmail.com and we’ll publish it on our site. The best drawings we’ll put in the book.

Where can people find additional information about you and your work?

Sure, they can check out robotsvsprincesses.com and my site toddmatthy.com. You can also follow me @ToddCMatthy on Twitter.

Thank you to Mr. Matthy for sharing more about Robots vs Princesses and I wish him and his team the best of luck with their Kickstarter.

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