Comic Creator Garrett Gunn Talks New Manga-Inspired Projects


We always love seeing new talented creators rising in the world of anime, graphic novels, and comics. One such creator who is making a name for himself is Garrett Gunn. Garrett has released six titles this year, was featured at the New York Comic Con, and has even more projects on the horizon. Two such projects are tied up in the world of anime: one is a Pokémon-inspired animated comic entitled Familiars, with voice actors from Pokémon, My Hero Academia, and more, and the other is a manga-style graphic novel coming out soon, entitled Postmasters. The Kickstarter for Postmasters will go live this month, so in the meantime, we wanted to tell you guys all about it.

We sat down and interviewed Garrett about Postmasters and Familiars. The following is an approved abridged version of that interview, for the sake of time and clarity.

Elise: Can you tell us a little about Postmasters?

Garrett:  It’s this story about a post-pandemic [America]—basically, we’re kind of mirroring COVID, so it’s a post-pandemic America where this insane virus hit the US. We didn’t respond in time and it basically ravaged the whole country. And what happened was there were people that didn’t believe it was real and didn’t trust the government with a vaccine or whatever. So, what happened is that it sort of started mutating the DNA of these people into these sort of crazy monsters that the government sort of herded into these places called “Freedom Zones,” which is like, you didn’t have to get the vaccine [but now you’re mutated and have to be there].

So the story follows these people called “postmasters,” which are literally mail carriers because, like, even though the world stopped, the mail didn’t. So what happened was that as the virus killed off letter carriers, they refused to not deliver any mail. So, as less and less people were delivering mail, the routes got bigger. And there was this big fallout, so there are no vehicles and stuff anymore, so everything is carried on foot, and they sort of militarized the post office to deliver the mail because you have to cross these Freedom Zones and stuff.Postmasters

The story follows 32, who has taken the oath of the postmaster, and he’s one of the last remaining postmasters at this distribution center on the West Coast. One day a letter comes in that doesn’t look like anything they’ve ever seen before. Everything is so awful in this world that when this letter shows up that’s very ornate and beautiful and, like, crazy, and it’s on this fancy paper and is shiny, everyone obsesses over what this letter is. But because they respect the mail process so much, they obviously won’t open it.

So, it comes down to 32. It’s on his route, and he heads out to try to deliver this letter. It’s, like, across the country. He’s delivering it to Montana, and he’s like in California, like southern Oregon/northern California, at this big distribution center. So, he heads out to deliver this letter, and it follows his journey to deliver it.

The art is done very anime/manga-inspired. The postal service gives them weapons—government-issued swords they carry to be quiet and stealthy to get through these areas and fight these monsters. And he ends up going through one of these Freedom Zones and getting attacked. He gets his bag stolen and letter stolen, and he gets saved by another postmaster from Idaho, from another distribution center. When you take this oath of the postmaster, you give up your identity, so you have nothing to lose, basically. You have no kids, you have no family, you have no anything. You get a sword and a bag to carry the mail. But you also lose your name and your identity.

Our main character comes from a distribution center where everyone’s a number—you all just get assigned a number. He’s 32, there’s 13, there’s 4. The distribution center that this female character [the one who saves him] is from, they’re all named after citrus fruit. So, her division is all fruit, so there’s Clementine, and her name is Peach. She’s not citrus, but she’s like the last person that’s from another fruit department. So, Peach is a Japanese immigrant who came here, and in order to get her citizenship, signed up to be a postmaster. She saves his ass and helps him go on this journey to deliver this letter.

Postmasters garrett gunnBut when you see the art, it doesn’t look like any other comic. It’s all black and white. It’s very heavily manga-inspired art, which is cool because we’re doing it as like a magazine format, so it’s like a bigger book. The inside is printed on newsprint paper, so it feels very like a magazine—it feels like a manga. You know, so like in a manga, it’s printed on newsprint paper. So, it just doesn’t feel like a comic. It feels like a unique thing.

I’m always trying to find a different way to make something because everything can be so boring. When I made this, I was like, “Oh, I want this to feel like it’s something you’d find in this post-pandemic [world].” It’s not really a dystopian world; it’s just more that like nature is starting to reclaim the world because there’s not as many people. It’s becoming more tribal and less focused on technology.

It’s like the Pony Express, right? It’s like back to hand-delivering the mail, or like people who’d deliver milk in bottles. So that kind of thing, you know? A less industrialized nation. But when you see the art, the art is very crazy. They all wear these really big trench coats that are all wool. It reminds me of Siberia. It’s very Soviet-esque—you know, big heavy green wool jackets.

It doesn’t look like a comic book, which was intentional because I love anime and I love manga. So, it’s my way of making something that’s closer to those things.

E: What would you say is your biggest inspiration in the field of anime?

G: The biggest anime inspiration for me is Pokémon. Pokémon has been the largest part of my life for 30 years. I mean, I have Pokémon tattoos, I own a massively huge Pokémon collection, and I watch it all the time. That was my childhood, and it followed me into adulthood. I think that the core of what Pokémon is, as far as storytelling, is I think in a lot of things that I make. I tend to always lean into the aspiring hero with no friends trope.

You know, a lot of the same themes of, like, meeting people—it’s the journey that makes the hero. That sort of thing is something that I obviously got from Pokémon; it embedded in my brain very early on. That’s in a lot of the stuff I make, so that’s probably the most influential thing from anime that’s in all my stuff.

E: We know that your motion comic Familiars was inspired by Pokémon. Can you tell us a little about that?Familiars

G: [Yeah, so] I was always like, “I don’t know why they don’t make a version of [Pokémon] that is more realistic,” and Familiars for me was a way to be like, “Oh, I’m going to do my own version of Pokémon., where it’s not about catching all the Pokémon you want.” We sort of brought in elements of Japanese culture and Norse culture and sort of this idea of a more spiritual connection to animals and having this thing where there’s one animal on Earth that imprints on you at birth. And when you come of age, you’re destined to find each other and become great champions.

We worked in a lot of religious aspects, too, like the path of Kami’s Chosen, which is what everyone wants to follow because it’s this legend about the greatest warriors that will ever come to be. So, Familiars for me was like, “Oh, this is real.” You know, for the lore we’ve written for Familiars, if I beat you in battle, it’s my blood right to kill your Familiar, which means you can’t ever fight again. Like, you can never come back here. As their society evolves, though, they kind of get away from [people being] that brutal anymore, so everyone just kind of submits, like, “You’re done. You’re not welcome back here anymore.”

We created this evil organization that wants to—it’s the Jessie, James, Team Rocket thing—they want to create synthetic Familiars because they feel like organic equals weakness. There’s weakness in DNA structure; we can make it perfect, we can make it better. They sort of enlist this kid who has never been. He’s been sort of in the shadow of the hero. They’re like, “Look, you need to re-claim this blood right to kill people’s Familiars. We’re going to give you a synthetic Familiar; you’re going to have to give up your wolf Familiar. We’ll give you a better one, and you’ll be able to beat everybody, and you’ll be the best there ever was.”

He is going up against our hero constantly. They’re from the same town. He doesn’t want her to be better than him. Like, he can’t live with himself knowing that she’s better. She is truly destined for the path of Kami’s chosen in our story, and it’s all about him trying to stop her from doing that, because he’s really just jealous. He really hates himself that he gave up his Familiar for power.

So, Familiars to me was just the way I could take the thing that I love and make it what I thought it should be. Like, if Pokémon was real, how would people be in that world? Literally everyone would be Gary or [Damian], the one who left his Charmander in the rain, like, “You’re f***ing weak!”

People are sh**. There’s no way everyone would be like, “All right! We’re best friends! We’re gonna catch Pokémon and have a great time!” Everyone would be F***ing awful. And that’s the world we’ve created. That there are these champions that are almost like celebrities. They have sponsors; they’re professional athletes that are going out there and fighting for endorsements and money and fame, and all these things.

And our main character, Ayse Katsu—“katsu” literally means “to catch”—all she wants is to honor her father who passed away and find out how to do what she has to do to, like help people and do all this stuff. But the fame and the money comes along with the fact that she’s good at what she does, but she’s very grounded and not into any of that. Hanzo is quite literally the opposite. He just wants everyone to adore him, and he just wants to be the greatest fighter that’s ever lived.

But Familiars has a lot of other influences, like from Dragon Ball and stuff. We sort of built a power structure, where you can sort of reach this god tier of fighter called “rekorr kai.” Rekorr kai is like a mash-up of the Norse word “rekkor,” which means “to bond,” and “kai,” which is like a spiritual bond. So you reach a higher state of being and you sort of unlock these god-tier powers.

So, Familiars is my homage to Pokémon but with real-life consequences, in my opinion.

E: Yeah, that’s really cool! When is that coming out?

G: So, the teaser for it came out already. We had a retailer that we partnered with for the release, which is called Izzy’s Comics. They released a print run of the book, and we’ve got a motion comic of it made. There’s already a cast. So, what’s funny is Veronica Taylor is voicing Ayse Katsu, which is great because if people know about Pokémon, there was a lot of drama around the fact that the new company that got the Pokémon licence from 4kids laid off the entire cast after they’d been—she is Ash Ketchum, and she always will be to me. I don’t have a problem with the new chick that does it, but it’s not the same.

FamiliarsAnd the same for all the people, like Rachel Lillis as Jessie—everybody was so good on that show. So, when we made Familiars, we were like, “We’re going to cast this, and we’re going to perform this motion comic and stuff.” We were like, “This is our chance to bring Veronica back and give her the chance to be Ash Ketchum again, but to be this more real version, this more intense version of that character. And obviously older.”

She gets to be like—Veronica’s not a kid anymore. When she was doing Ash Ketchum, she was so young and little and sweet, and now she’s this experienced bad mother***er, who’s done all these incredible things. And that’s sort of what Ayse is to Ash. It’s like the more aggressive, more intense, more determined Ash Ketchum.

It seems so awesome to bring her into this thing and be like, “We want you to be this character who’s literally based on your fame. This character that you’re known for but with the experience that you have in real life now.”

E: So, did you guys reach out to her specifically?

G: She was already doing Franklin and Ghost, and when we decided to do Familiars and sort of pursue it as animation and stuff, I was like, “I feel like . . . one, I feel like it’s disrespectful if we don’t at least have her audition because it’s clear that this is an homage to Ash Ketchum and obviously we know her.” And we read a ton of people for it, and what was weird was when we were going through the process and auditioning people for that role, there were people that we loved their audition. Like it was so, so, so good. And we were so close to casting them, but what was weird was we kept coming back to Veronica.

Our initial hesitation with Veronica was that she didn’t sound young enough, which is no slight to her. Her voice is f***ing incredible, but she sounded too wise. Ayse is like nineteen years old, eighteen years old, and Veronica sounded like she had too much life experience, which was great. But we just kept coming back to her being like “none of that matters. There’s something here.”

It felt so powerful to have her in that role regardless that I was like, “I will change the story, I will do whatever we have to do.” Because when we sat down in the room and she read for Ayse, I had goosebumps, my heart was racing, I was having like an emotional response to her reading for that character. And even though there were other people that auditioned that I was like, “this is a really f***ing good audition. This sounds incredible,” I never got that feeling with anybody else, and Sean [Schemmel] was like, “Then let’s just use Veronica.”

We knew that’s what we needed to do, but we kept trying to dance around it because we didn’t want to appear biased because we knew her. We were so worried that people would just be like, “You’re just putting her on this because you’re friends and she was Ash Ketchum.” But when she sat in that room and read her lines, I was like tearing up. It was so powerful. I was like, “She’s it. There’s no one else who can play this.”

E: That’s so awesome. Thanks so much. I’m sure we at Jotaku can all agree that we can’t wait to experience the motion comic and your new anime-style comic for ourselves.

We want to give a big “THANK YOU!” to Garrett for talking with us about Postmasters and Familiars! We are so excited to check them out and to see what comes next in his career.

If you want to stay up to date on Garrett Gunn and all his projects via social media, follow him on Instagram at @somewriterguy.

Which title are you most looking forward to experiencing? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!