New York Comic Con: Robot Chicken's Kevin Shinick Talks Spider-Man and MAD

Kevin Shinick is a writer and actor whose work has taken him to all corners of the comics industry [...]

Kevin Shinick is a writer and actor whose work has taken him to all corners of the comics industry lately; as a performer on Robot Chicken, he's found himself both writing and acting in a series that deals often and well with comics and other geek culture. He's also just finished a run on The Avenging Spider-Man and created MAD, an animated series inspired by the DC-owned Mad Magazine for Cartoon Network. Shinick took time out of his schedule at New York Comic Con to talk with about his full docket, the perks and restrictions of the 15-minute animated format and more. What made you want to do a second Halloween special for MAD? We were nominated for an Emmy Award for our last Halloween special, so we did this one up twice as much. That's kind of a thing, isn't it? A bit like Community's paintball episode. Exactly. Suddenly, you have to do it again, you can't just go back to work. Exactly, it's true! We like to think we bring that kind of attention to all of our episodes but the Halloween episode looked really great, so we figured, "Yeah, let's try to do this up even more." ...Because that schedule of ours is fast and furious. We're one of the few shows where I'll write something today and it'll be on television in two months, so it's a fast, fast turnaround. More and more shows are going to that format, aren't they? It's more cost-effective and it prevents things like spoilers. Right, exactly, but you do kill your writers and animators so you burn through them fast. This whole fifteen-minute format is great, like Robot Chicken or MAD or Adventure Time, any of those. There's so many of them out there, more than you realize are out there. And it really plays to what's going on in pop culture right now, where more and more people are seeing comedy differently. The first great thing they see this week might be on College Humor and be eight minutes long. Yeah, you're right. People say, "What's your biggest competition on MAD?" and the truth is just the Internet in general. People see something they like, they make a joke, they stick it on YouTube or wherever. If it's funny, it's funny--doesn't matter where it came from. And if someone goes on YouTube to see one of your pieces, then immediately your competition pops up as similar and suggested. Right, that's true. And you recently had an opportunity to try something new working on an Avenging Spider-Man arc with Aaron Kuder, no? What made this book so great, I think, is the fact that it was my first Spider-Man comic and it was Aaron's first Spider-Man comic and we wanted to do it justice so we just came out guns a-blazing. And that kind of episodic, non-continuity-intensive title really lends itself to the same kind of writing you do on Robot Chicken. Single issues, just make a good one and don't worry about what the other writers are up to. Yeah, totally. And it's difficult from a writer's point of view, as in any soap opera-type story, you've just got to pick a spot and jump off. Because by the time you start writing, by the time you finish, eight things have changed in that universe. There's just no keeping up with it. All you can do is keep it in that world. When you come from primarily not working in comics, do they make that easier for you? I would think that bringing in someone with a reputation and an audience brings in new eyes. Yeah, I would guess so. I didn't stop and think to ask them about that. i did a couple of signings when these came out and it was a good crowd who also brought their MAD DVDs and their Robot Chicken DVDs, so I'm sure that helped it. It seems like one of those things--if comics can speak to a slightly different audience, that's enormous. Absolutely. And you know, the great thing about it is that it is all those same worlds. MAD definitely caters to what's happening in pop culture at the moment. So the first season of MAD you could have called "The Twilight Show" because there was so much Twilight out there. This year, you look at season three and it's the superhero show, because between The Avengers and Thor and Captain America and Batman, it's all that's out there right now.  So it's a good gauge to find out what's happening in the world. You've got to get a Dredd thing going! Well, at MAD--I was at Robot Chicken and they wanted to come up with a show kind of like Robot Chicken but for a younger audience, like a prime time audience and so there are certain rules that I'm up against for that, and one of them is that you can't really reference R movies. So that, unfortunately, we had a whole list of them until it turned R and we were like "ahh! Shucks!" That's when you've got to try and find a way to convert it to Robot Chicken. I know. That's why we have so much fun on Robot Chicken--there are hardly any standards, you know what I mean? You can do a lot more than you can do on MAD but the fun thing was going back to my original comedy roots and "What can I do that's funny and clean?" I think the ratings and the Emmy nominations at least said we're doing a good job.