Inside the Cave with Tony McMillen: Attaboy Q&A

Boy robots. Fallen fathers. Evil motherboards. Do we ever stop playing the games we played as children? Coming in May 2024 is the newest original graphic novel from Mad Cave Studios, ATTABOY, written and illustrated by cartoonist Tony McMillen (Serious Creatures, Lumen).

Mad Cave Studios’ marketing manager, Maya Lopez, sat down with Attaboy creator Tony McMillen to chat about his inspirations behind the video game-inspired graphic novel, his creative process, the making of Attaboy, and more! Read on for the full interview!

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions today, Tony! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

TM: I’ve been making comics for about 9 years and I have other creative passions but I find comics to be the most satisfying and expressive of all the things I do. I write, draw, color and letter my comics and I’ve fallen in love with the process as well as the end product. Which is a good thing because I spend a lot of time making these things!

Q: In Attaboy, we follow an unnamed narrator recounting a videogame from their childhood, through the guise of the game’s instructional booklet. What was your biggest inspiration in writing this story?

TM: I have a very distinct memory of looking at the illustrated instructional booklet for the original Legend of Zelda and being struck at a young age by how impressive of a storytelling device it was. Even apart from being just a compliment to the game; the booklet on its own told a story and it told it in an immersive way. I always wanted to do a comic book using the video game manual format itself as a framing device. I just didn’t have a story yet.

Q: Can you please tell us a bit about your personal connection to Attaboy?

TM: The personal parts of the story, the autobiographical details, the feelings I have about my parents divorce and the escapism I sought in video games as a kid; that was the missing element I had needed all these years to make my gimmick of a comic book that was disguised as a video game instructional booklet work as a real story.

Once I realized I could tell my own story through the allegory of Attaboy and use the narrative trellis of someone recreating a video game manual from their youth; I knew I had an actual story worth telling. Something that could be exciting, unexpected and potentially impactful.

Q: What initially got you into comics?

TM: Weirdly enough it was probably a movie! I had read some comics before but seeing Tim Burton’s first Batman movie in 1989 at the age of 9 sealed my fate: I was a comics kid after that. The Summer of Batman saw Batman merch flooding the streets including Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns trade paperback being sold at respectable bookstores. My aunt bought me that and then there was really no turning back.

Q: In Attaboy, you’re credited as both the writer and illustrator of the tale! Can you please tell us a bit about your creative process?

TM: I draw everything with ink on dead trees still and use a Pilot Parallel Pen for the inking. The Parallel is a chisel tip calligraphy pen and using it has really helped me develop my art style. I feel like with the way the ink flows from this thing it’s akin to playing a guitar with heavy distortion. If drawing with a pencil is like playing an acoustic guitar this pen is like plugging into a loud as hell amp and getting reaaaaaaal sludgy. Which means it’s a different instrument; so you play it differently.

I also color and letter my own work. For coloring, while I use digital color, I strive for a more analog look and use a lot of watercolor and crayon brushes. With lettering I hand letter my comics but I do that digitally with my stylus on my iPad. Hopefully it’s the best of both worlds.

With writing I should add that I’m a published prose novelist and have published novels before any of my comic work. I think having a few books under my belt helped me feel confident embarking on making my first comics.

Q: Is there a character in Attaboy which you personally connect with most?

TM: Skrapper is my dude! What can I say, I like them bad boys? The truth is he and Atta are so close I feel connected to them both. But I feel like storytelling is all about revealing myself to myself which means every single character in this book including the mother and the father figure really represent a different aspect of myself.

Q: What do you hope for readers to take away from Attaboy?

TM: If I’m doing a really good job then maybe a part of the reader’s own self will be revealed to them while they read. But if they just hear what I’m dealing with, that’s cool at least.

Q: Okay, we have to ask. What was your favorite video game growing up?

TM: Oooh, the serious stuff. Super Mario 2 is my fave of the original Mario Trilogy (yeah, I said it) but my true favorite game growing up was probably Mega Man 2 (love those deuces?)

Q: Who/what are your biggest influences as a creator?

TM: Frank Miller, Michel Fiffe, Ashley Wood, Lynn Varley, Basil Gogos, The Doors, Queens of the Stone Age, Tarantino, John Carpenter

Q: What are your favorite stories/artists/genres?

TM: The Dark Knight Returns, Note From the Shadowed City, Jaws, In the Mouth of Madness, Pulp Fiction, Pom Poko, Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy and No Code.

Q: Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to share with readers?

TM: The 2nd and final collection of my comic Serious Creatures will be on Kickstarter soon. This collects issues 7-12 and finishes the story of Bobby Feckle, a teenage special fx artist working in the Hollywood of the 1970s,80s and 90s. Think Goodfellas but about the people who make monster movies.

I’m also working on Destroying Angel Lumen, a sequel to my original comic Lumen. This is an action-packed science fantasy about a world of endless night and a masked hero with a lantern. This sequel will work as a stand alone story in case you’ve never read the original. I’m looking to make the Road Warrior to my original Lumen’s Mad Max.

Q: Where can we find you next?

TM: I will be at HeroesCon (North Carolina) in June! And I might be able to finagle the people at MICE (Massachusetts) into giving me a table again in December.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

TM: Look deep inside yourself, you know Super Mario 2 was the best one! Seriously, search your feelings; you know it to be true.

ABOUT Tony McMillen

Writer/Artist, Tony McMillen (He/Him)
Tony McMillen makes comic books as well as some books without pictures too.
Even though those usually also contain a few pictures.

He can’t help himself.

Besides Attaboy, he’s the creator of the sci-fi fantasy comic Lumen and Serious Creatures; his comic series about a teenage special fx artist working in Hollywood through the 70s, 80s and 90s. His prose novels include the heavy metal horror novel An Augmented Fourth published by Word Horde, and folk rock dystopian epic The Bleeding Tree Trilogy. He thinks Alien is a better xenomorph movie but Aliens is a better Ripley movie. His go-to karaoke song is “On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band.


Start game? We’ve got your first look inside the pages of our upcoming original graphic novel, Attaboy! Click through to check it out below!

ATTABOY is now available for pre-order on the official Mad Cave Studios website, and will be available at your favorite bookstore, local comic shop, and digital comic reader on May 29th, 2024!


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