ken weaver experiences massive success with his new endeavor
Author Ken Weaver Brings Beer Industry Humor, and Truth,
to His Massive Potions Comic Strip
If you’ve been following the craft beer industry, the name Ken Weaver should be familiar to you. Formerly All About Beer’s main beer editor (as well as FSR), he’s also been part of RateBeer Weekly, valued contributor of ABV magazine, and also wrote the Northern California Craft Beer Guide. In other words, the guy knows his craft beer. But not that long ago, Ken decided to chuck most of his hop-related responsibilities and pursue what was for him a true passion: Massive Potions.
Massive Potions is, in Ken’s words, a “post-apocalyptic beer comic.” Written and self-illustrated by Ken, the strips are part inside beer jokes, part gentle jabs at the industry, and part old-style comic strip fun. The plot loosely follows a group of characters — Zo, human and head brewer; Whalefeather, Zo’s cat that can now talk; Owl, second human and forager; Far the soothsaying sword demon; Dennis, the talking cow as the bartender; and Disembodied Voice — who are trying to run a brewery after the world has ended. We chatted with Ken about how he went from writing beer reviews to illustrating comic strips.
What is Massive Potion’s mission statement?
Make great potions and survive.
What came first — the idea for Massive Potions the story, or the comic strip?
I’ve been kicking around parts of this world for a while. I’d tried this space as a short story (“Dr. Owl’s Nanobrewery and Tubeworks Emporium”...), then some sort of novel, then I tried to go down the road of writing a script for a graphic novel. I was teaching myself to draw to get a better sense of page flow, and the characters clicked as a webcomic.
You are an editor/beer writer by trade. Why delve into the world of illustration and comics?
I finished up an MFA in creative writing like 11 years ago, and since then I’ve been aggregating whatever pieces I’d need to try and make a living writing fiction. Beer writing presented an opportunity to figure out nonfiction while making a decent living and connect with a community I dug, but the goal has been to get back to this. I think the illustration part came into play late just because I was most scared to cross that bridge.
How did you delve into the world of comics and illustration?
My childhood, like a lot of folks, was filtered through strips like Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County … I think my family was often at its best when we were communicating through the humor in those strips. It was a shared language.
More recently, I’ve been digging the catalogs of Image and Panel Syndicate for some of the most impactful experiences with fiction I’ve had in any format. There’s just a ton of cool, deeply emotive, smart stuff happening in this space right now.
How long between inception of the idea and your first strip?
Some bits of characters have been around for ten-plus years. I realized this was a comic shortly before it launched.
Massive Potions seems to be targeted toward a specific group of people — those who follow the craft beer industry closely (craft beer nerds), and those in the industry.
There’s definitely some inside beer humor, but I’m also trying to keep my mother-in-law amused. My family and close friends are reading, editing, and engaging with me through the comic, and keeping them amused and interested is priority one. Massive Potions is ultimately about trying to make a brewery work in the middle of nowhere, with a less-than-ideal crew, while the world seems to just want to keep kicking the shit out of you. That seems vaguely relatable. Vaguely’s good.
You’re pretty honest in the strip about the beer industry. Is Massive Potions the Dr. Jeckyll to your Mr. Hyde?
I feel like it’s a reasonable mix of playful and painfully honest. My job as a beer writer and reviewer had me writing about what we were drinking more often than not. The comic’s a better way for me to get at topics like why we drink.
Which celebrity would do the best voice over for which character?
(Ken’s wife) Ali’s thinking Chris Hemsworth as Whalefeather. I’m in for Steve Buscemi as The Sand. Also James Earl Jones as Disembodied Voice.
Who would compose your theme music for the soon-to-come animated series, “Massive Potions”?
SZA. Something apocalyptic but cozy.