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Interview with Junkboy: Demaking It Great

Interview with Junkboy: Demaking It Great (photo)

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After being fascinated by the pixel-centric demake art of Junkboy, I tracked down a bit more of his work and was surprised that he does a lot more than 8-bit pastiches of modern games. Giving his first name as Markus, the Swedish artist answered my question about his origins, process and thoughts on retro vs. modern games. Read on to learn about the Stockholm resident whose art fuses the video game medium’s past and present.

Can you walk us through your CV? School, how your artistic career got started etc.?

I’m self-taught, never had any formal art training. I’ve had this vague idea of wanting to work with video game graphics ever since I was a kid. I remember being especially blown away by the animated cut-scenes in “Full Throttle” back in middle school. I think everything I drew or did since then was somehow to facilitate this dream of becoming the guy who drew all those awesome 2D graphics I’d seen, not only in Full Throttle, but in games like “Metal Slug” and “King of Fighters”.

Of course, once I grew up 2D games barely existed anymore, so what to do with a 12-year-old skillset? Just pretend like it’s 1993 all over again.

How did you start drawing for Level Magazine?

Thomas Wiborgh, one of the editors and founders of Level, stumbled upon me somewhere online a couple of years back and asked if I wanted to draw some stuff for them. Having been an avid reader of theirs for years, it didn’t take much convincing.

08092010_premake_l4d.pngWhat’s your process like? Do you get assignments requesting specific games or can you choose which game you feel like de-making?

We usually have a theme outlined for each issue, based on current trends or the type of games that are being released that month. So with that in mind me and the chief editor pick a game we think would make sense to “demake” in that context, or “premake” as we actually call it in the mag. After that I’m overcome by the magnitude of the task at hand, after which I wallow in self-pity and procrastinate up until a few hours before deadline.

Do you start with a screenshot for inspiration? Do you play a bit of every game you create a de-make of?

I try to sample a bit of everything. Playing the game is of course essential just to figure out what the key mechanics are and the core gameplay is, so you can try to work that into the piece somehow. Screenshots, especially promotional ones, are interesting because they usually highlight the things the developer or publisher wants to show off.

What kind of hardware are you using?

Nothing fancy really. An old PC with one foot in the grave, a couple of 24″ monitors and a Wacom tablet. To actually make the graphics, I tend to fiddle around in Photoshop and a program called GraphicsGale. I used to make pixel graphics with a mouse, but after much ridicule by some former colleagues of mine I switched to the Wacom and now I can’t imagine ever going back.

08092010_Cakes_are_overrated_anyway_by_jnkboy.jpgWhat do you think is behind the love that retro games have been experiencing? Do you agree with the belief that people had more fun with old-school games than they do with new ones?

I don’t necessarily believe that old-school games are objectively more fun than modern ones, but I do believe that gamers who grew up with the games that had three continues, relentless difficulty and a complete lack of casual social gaming elements, yearn for more of the stuff that made them fall in love with games to begin with. It’s a good thing that developers and publishers have started to figure that out; I just hope gamers put their money where their mouths are.

What element of each game did you focus on to create the demakes?

The single most important thing for me, mainly for my own amusement to be honest, is to try and put the game in a certain historic context. When I did the “Resident Evil 5” one for example, it seemed to me that the characters, setting and strong focus on action and gunplay directly paralleled the late 80s, early 90s trend of sweaty, muscle-bound top-down shoot ’em ups. Capcom had of course their own excellent entry in that genre, “MERCS”, so I based the demake on that.

Are the pieces intentionally kind of opaque? Are you building them as puzzles for the players’ eye to figure out?

I have to admit that there’s very little conscious thought that go into the compositions and such. Usually, I’ll just arrange the image elements until they look alright to me, going by my gut and that questionable experience which comes from having played video games for the majority of one’s life, which coincidentally is directly related to the size of one’s gut.

I showed your work to an acquaintance and the first thing he wanted to know was whether they were playable. Which of the demakes would you want turned into a game? And why?

I love explosions, hot pink bullets and racking up a big score, so my answer would have to be “Bayonetta”. In fact, if SEGA gives me a big bag of money I would happily make the demake a reality. An autographed copy of “Outrun 2” would also do. Or a bag of Cheetos.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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