Fight to the Death!

Six Point Har­ness goes all-in­die to adapt Johnny Ryan’s ul­tra­vi­o­lent un­der­ground comic to an­i­ma­tion. By Tom McLean.

Animation Magazine - - Frame- By- Frame -

It takes a cer­tain kind of reader to tackle the comics of Johnny Ryan, and it takes a cer­tain type of an­i­ma­tor to want to bring it to life.

Ryan has long been a mod­ern un­der­ground comics icon, pro­duc­ing such crude, vi­o­lent, gross and, of course, hi­lar­i­ous comics as Angry Youth Comix, Yucky Bleckarella and Comic Book Holo­caust. But Ryan takes the crazy to a new level with Prison Pit, a five-book se­ries pub­lished by Fan­ta­graph­ics in which monsters and men beat the crap out of each other with ex­treme ul­tra­vi­o­lence in a bar­ren neg­a­tive zone.

It’s the last thing you’d ex­pect to be adapted into an­i­ma­tion, but Greg Franklin and the folks at Six Point Har­ness de­cided to do it any­way.

“This is the kind of thing that, as an­i­ma­tion fans, we want to see, and this kind of stuff just re­ally isn’t out there,” says Franklin, su­per­vis­ing di­rec­tor on the project.

The re­sult is an an­i­mated adap­ta­tion of the first book in the se­ries, avail­able with a doc­u­men­tary on its mak­ing as a dig­i­tal down­load at www. pris­on­pit.com for $6.99 or on DVD for $9.99. Pro­ceeds from the sale of those items, plus ad­di­tional good­ies like T-shirts, will fund more Prison Pit an­i­ma­tion.

The project be­gan years ago when Ryan and Aaron Lee, an ex­ec­u­tive story ed­i­tor work­ing on Seth MacFar­lane’s an­i­mated Fox shows, wrote a script for an Angry Youth Comix car­toon that Franklin says they didn’t think at the time was vi­able. But as the In­ter­net evolved, Franklin says they even­tu­ally thought they could do some­thing based on Ryan’s work. He says they were drawn to Prison Pit, which has an ac­tion quo­tient that is quite dif­fer­ent from Ryan’s more prom­i­nent hu­mor work.

But fig­ur­ing out how to get it out there was not easy. “This was one of those things were you can’t do a Kick­s­tarter,” he says. “You’ve got to make it, show what this thing is go­ing to be and what it’s about.”

An an­i­matic of a few scenes was shown at Comic-Con in 2013, with work pro­ceed­ing from there on a largely part-time ba­sis un­til near the end of pro­duc­tion. With about Com­bat­ants pre­pare to fight in Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit. 40 peo­ple work­ing on the project, Prison Pit fea­tures the voices of co­me­di­ans James Ado­mian ( Com­edy Bang Bang), Blake An­der­son ( Worka­holics) as Jiz­zra, Kyle Ki­nane ( Com­edy Cen­tral Presents) as Ra­bies Blood­bath and Rot­tweiler Her­pes, and Rick Shapiro (FX’s Louie) as the Prison Guards.

Tak­ing this ma­te­rial into an­i­ma­tion took it into a new level of crazy, which Franklin de­scribes as akin to an Ital­ian hor­ror film. Six Point Har­ness started off con­vert­ing the ac­tual pan­els from the comic, adding at­mos­phere and a sense of place, as well as ar­ti­facts like film grain and vin­tage dirty sound.

“We started off want­ing to just very safely recre­ate the comic,” says Franklin. “It be­came ob­vi­ous that once we started adding color and con­vert­ing to widescreen, this is a medium that can go fur­ther than a comic book.”

Ryan him­self en­cour­aged them to go for it, Franklin says. “He wanted more gore, more chunks, more pain in gen­eral,” he says. “I was re­ally ex­cited he saw the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the medium and wanted to take ad­van­tage of them.”

Cen­sored in­stall­ments of Prison Pit have been avail­able for free on YouTube to help pro­mote the paid, un­cen­sored ver­sion. With the first book com­plete, Franklin says Six Point is wait­ing to see how well it does be­fore pro­ceed­ing to make more Prison Pit.

“It’s a po­lar­iz­ing work, it’s not ex­actly for ev­ery­one,” Franklin says. “But the fans have re­ally re­sponded well to it.”

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