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I sorta look like this, but different...
Merrell "Root" Hamer is the head of his own "design and media group" the Root Studio and works as a cartoonist, video producer, and experimental musician... Recently the Kamishibai Post had chance to sit down with this esoteric Kamishibai author and discuss his work. Is he (as he likes to call himself) a "Freakin' Genius" or is he (as he also likes to call himself) an Egomaniacal Doofus!? You be the judge as we engage in an...
Interview With Root!
KamiPost: What do you think about when making a Kamishibai story?

Root: The thing I concentrate on primarily is writing out the whole story, that way I don't get hung up during production. It's sort of a throwback to the days when I self-published my own comic books, thinking in that print-based way even though I'm working on a computer :P

What the hardest part (for you) about making a Kamishibai story?

I'd have to say the hardest part is putting together the animation... Drawing single still images is no big deal, but the tough part is sitting down and spending an hour making an animation, making sure it runs smoothly, and synchs up with the existing sound.

Kikaidaaaaa~!
Be sure to feed it every day...
What's your favorite part of making a Kamishibai story?

Finishing the whole thing! When I say that, I don't mean it in a "Whew~! I'm glad that's done with..." way. I mean it's very satisfying to work hard on something and view the finished product. And of course it's really great when somebody emails you or sends a message to you on the Kami Board saying, "Hey! Loved yer story!"

Which one will you get?
Who are some of your favorite Kamishibai artists?

Hmmmm.... That's a toughie.... To be honest I like many different artists for different reasons. You've got guys like Dave 13 who can put together a hilarious story. Shin KazeNeko blew me away with his story that showed how you could use Kamishibai to make a game. Newcomers like Ribby and Quova-Hime are bursting with talent and enthusiasm. Chibi Alex-Chan had the first Kami to feature a vocal cast. Firefly has put together an epic series of stories... I could go on and on ya know... I think ALL Kamishibai authors deserve special recognition, it takes a lot of work and dedication to make a story!

Bwa Ha Haaaa!  I am the AntiChrist!!!
What about the thing that influenced the The Heroic Legend of Mad Monkey Kung-Fu?

Well... THLOMMKF is based upon a comic strip I drew several months ago... You see I used to hang out at this club because I had a crush on the girl who was working there as a bartender. We'd sit around and talk, and one night I brought up the fact that I was a cartoonist. She was kinda impressed, "Wow! Cool! Couldja draw me something?" So I grabbed a pen and some paper and the Heroic Legend of Mad Monkey Kung-Fu was born! She kept the comic but never went out with me... groan...

The Dynamic Duo, Rasputin and Monkey!
Buddha makes his entrance... The chicks dig him...
So how every did you think of teaming up a monkey with Rasputin?

I always wanted to do a comic featuring a monkey. My two favorite types of animals are monkeys and barnyard fodder (cows, chickens, etc...) As for Rasputin, lemme sum it up by saying I LOVE iconic characters! I've done TONS of comics featuring famous people and historical figures; Abraham Lincoln, The Pope, Buddha, Ron Jeremy, the list goes on... The main reason I chose Rasputin is because when I was a kid I saw this really cheesy, old B-movie about him called Rasputin, The Mad Monk (or as the announcer said it, "RASPUTIN!!!! The Maaaaaaad Moooooooonk!!!"), hence my obsession was born.

That would explain a lot...
What were some of the things that influenced the The Exterminator?

One of my main influences has been Dadaist art. In a nutshell, Dada was created by a group of artists who said (to paraphrase) "This is an absurd world, we will destroy it using absurd art!" The name of the movement, "Dada", means Rocking Horse and was chosen by pulling random words out of a hat. Dada art was important for paving the way for virtually ALL of the modern art movements (Cubism, Surrealism, Modernism, Pop Art) One of the most prominent figures of the Dada movement was a man who is one of my heroes, Max Ernst. He was a genius and a prolific painter, sculptor, and author. In addition to this he invented various artistic techniques like Frottage and Collage.

Max Ernst - The greatest artist of the 20th century...
Left to Right, Burroughs and Gysin...
Also, The Exterminator was influenced by the works of Beat authors William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) and Brion Gysin (The Process) who took Ernst's method of Collaging images and applied it to prose works. Burroughs used his "cut-up" method on everything from his own writings to audio recordings. This ties directly to my love of Experimental/Avant Garde music and my decision to have the experimental group ObipsO do all of the music for that Kami.

The fact that the poem was titled The Exterminator was something of a happy accident... The idea to do the poem was inspired mainly by Burroughs' work. And Burroughs used to work as a Bug Exterminator...

Where did you get the idea for such an artistic thing like a Cut-up poem?

The Dadaists and Surrealists used a variety of games and exercises to create art and stimulate their own creativity. The Surrealists especially believe that True Creativity comes from the subconscious and manifests itself through dreams and "chance opperations"... One of my most treasured books is titled Surrealist Games, it's a collection of these activities that the Surrealists used to create art. The one I used to create The Exterminator is called a "Surrealist Poem." Basically you take a piece of text (I used a newspaper) and cut it up, toss the cutting into a bag, and then pull the clippings out and arrange them. I enjoy composing poems this way because it helps me avoid the pretentiousness found in poetry and lets the words just be themselves...

Planning to do any more poems?

Probably not... Not to say I don't like poetry, it's just that I try to keep a certain degree of variety in my work. I want to do as many different things as possible!

Why hello there children...
So what are some of the Kamishibai you're considering for the future?

Right now I'm working on the first chapter of A-Mazing SaGa. It's an RPG Kami that will prbably be about 7-9 chapters long. Ever since I saw Grand Slayber I wanted to do a "game" Kami and now I am! It's sort of an homage to all of the classic 16-bit RPG's that I've played... But I'm also going to try an introduce a new level of interactivity to Kami. For example, the first chapter of the game takes place in a castle. Rather than having the player go from Point-A to Point-B to Point-C, I'm going to fix it so you can actually explore the castle! In addition to this I've FINALLY figured out a decent battle-system which I call the Real-Fencing System (a little nod to Square there...)

Felix prepares to enter the tower...
Real Fencing in Action!!!
Also, I'd like to do another comdey Kami. I'm thinking of adapting a comic I produced titled, "Bean Boy" It's about this guy who gets his powers from a can of baked beans...and he smells like barbecue... Either that or I'll FINALLY get around to doing that Kung-Fu Robot Posse story (Remember them from the end of THLOMMKF!?) And then after that I'd like to do a really intense and serious Evangelion styled Kami series. I've got that one already planned and written out but I don't want to say anything because I'm afraid I might jinx it!

NES Nostalgia Bay-bee!!!
It's tough because in addtion to Kami, there are so many other things I want to work on! For example, I'm working on a new comic strip called Pee Drinkers Union. The musical group ObipsO wants me to do some collaborating with them and maybe release a CD next year. King Bongo wants me to assist him in his telephonic pranksterism. And I'm considering hacking a SubGenius version of Super Mario Bros...

Is it true what I hear about you doing a magic girl story?

Right now it's in the planning stages... But it's got potential so you never know... It's called The Kawaii Girly Hero Squad, the basic premise is that at this Japanese High School there's several clubs that are so esoteric that they each have only one member (The Gun-crazy Club, The "My brother's in the Yakuza" Club, The "Lovely Transvestite" Club) The school board decides to take all these characters and smoosh 'em together into one club. Then this magical creature comes and claims he can give the girls magical powers but in reality he's just a perverted little scrub who wants to make their clothes dissapear... The whole thing will basically be a parody of the genre...

So do you have any additional comments, concerns, or thoughts for us?

I love the fact that there are so many people doing so many different types of Kamishibai stories... The good people of Otaku World have done such a wonderful thing in creating this program and making it available, free, gratis to the world... It's a fantastic outlet for people to exercise their artistic side. I'm kinda curious to see how many artists, animators, game designers come out of working with Kamishibai.

And for those of you out there thinking about trying your hand at making a Kami story, I say give it a try... You'll get hooked...

In closing, here's some of my favorite links to let you know where my head's at...

Favorite Links


Word - My favorite internet-based magazine of all time... Excellent writing seemlessly welded to cutting edge technology... I command you to check this out NOW!(note: page is no longer available).

The Nexus - Ever wanted to make your own RPG? Then check out The Nexus which has the tools to make your own Role Playing Game (as well as make a Shining Force styled game, and even a shooter!!!)(note: page is no longer available).

RE:Tokyo - An ezine based in Japan covering games, toys, anime... You know, that sweet otaku stuff we love so much!

Soleilmoon - An experimental/progressive music distributor based in Oregon. Has an EXCELLENT selection of stuff to buy as well as a TON of fascinating links...

The Wire - An excellent music magazine covering everything from electronica to experimentalism...

MDOS - The music distributing branch of the Austria-based techno label, Mego. The reason I love this site so much is because they have virtually EVERYTHING they carry set up with the RealPlayer system so you can listen to all of this cool stuff for free!

Cool Japanese Toys - Just what the title says... Information for the serious collector on everything from Medicom to Jumbo Machinders!

- Underground Comics Laboratory - A series of articles published by Viz in association with the manga anthology Pulp. A good introduction to Garo and the underground manga I love so much!(note: page is no longer available).

Shift - An ezine covering independent music and club culture in Japan.

The Gaming Intelligence Agency - THE source for all the latest news related to the best videogames!

Takara Toys - Homepage of the makers of Henshin Cyborg and the NEW Micronauts!!! Very Cool....

Action Ace - My favorite place to go to stock up on BOMBERMAN TOYS!!!

Project A-Kon - The biggest and best anime convention in Texas!!! Regretably due to time and money constraints I couldn't go this year... But when I went last year I won Ippongi Bang's schoolboy jacket in an auction!!!

FringeWare Inc. - This Austin-based company carries merchandise and data which will help you survive in the future... You need this...(note: page is no longer available).

That's All Folks...
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