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Interview with Brawl in the Family’s Matthew Taranto

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Last week I sat for an interview down with Matthew Taranto, author of the popular web comic Brawl in the Family. Sometimes charming, sometimes heartwarming and always funny, Brawl in the Family showcases the life and antics of several Nintendo characters, most prominently Kirby & friends, as they mingle and interact in and out of the Smash Bros universe. Matthew recently announced that his comic will be ending soon, and so we here are Wii U Daily thought now would be a good time to ask his thoughts on the experience, the upcoming Smash Bros games, and a few other things:

So, Matthew, you’ve been doing this comic for quite a long time now, what’s been your favorite part of the experience?

It might have to be the whole “fan interaction” thing. It’s been a lot of fun coming to the realization that there’re so many Nintendo fans out there that share my love of these worlds and my sense of humor; it kind of feels like its own little underground community brought together by a shared enjoyment of Nintendo games. It’s also always fun to be reading gaming message boards and suddenly see someone using an avatar from the comic, or re-posting one of the strips. It always catches me off-guard for a split second, like, “Wait, where am I again…?”

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Your comic tends to be quite a bit more family friendly than most other video gaming webcomics, such as Penny Arcade or VG Cats. Why did you decide to go this route when making the comic?

This actually wasn’t really a conscious choice, in fact. I think that BitF’s general “content” is simply a reflection on me as a person, and since I tend to have a Ned Flanders-esque level of prudishness, the comic simply naturally was family-friendly as a result. I think it’s also a by-product of keeping the characters in-character (for the most part), which means since blood and swearing don’t exist in Kirby’s world, they wouldn’t in BitF. I imagine future products I’m in charge of will be similarly accessible.

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I know you’ve talked about it before, but why are you choosing to end the comic now? What do you think you’ll do once it’s over, will you continue to stay involved with the community?

BitF has been a great experience, but I just feel like I’ve pushed it about as far as it can go by this point. It’s gotten more difficult to come up with unique concepts for strips that I haven’t already covered at some point, and I’m ready to dive into projects that involve non-existing IPs. I’m certainly fortunate to have been a part of it, though, and to have been able to share it with everyone.

As long as I have an interest in Nintendo games (and I think that’ll be for a long while), I’ll always enjoy conversing and interacting with fans online. I’m also hoping people who enjoy what I do with BitF will continue to keep an eye on my future projects, such as Tadpole Treble, the music game I’m doing. www.bitfinitygames.com is our company’s website, and it’s where people can keep an eye on my future projects.

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Do you think you’ll comic for long enough that you’ll be able to put out a strip about the new Smash Brothers games after they come out?

As it turns out, Brawl in the Family is planned to end right when SSB for 3DS releases! I didn’t initially plan it like this, but that’s how the numbers worked out, and I think it’s actually very fitting (as BitF started around the time Smash Bros Brawl was released). However, I have been making comics over the past year or so about the new characters and such released in Smash Bros…and I’m still doing strips for NF Magazine, which means there’ll almost certainly be a new Smash-related comic or two in the future!

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Of all the comics you’ve created so far, does one particular comic or story arc stand out in your mind as your favorite? Why?

This is a little bit hard to pick, but some of my favorites have been some of the most ambitious ones. Comic 260 (“The Captive Princess“) is one that immediately comes to mind as being a massive, fun adventure with a rather sweet ending. I was also proud of “A Mushroom Kingdom Carol,” an 8-part story arc I made in Christmas 2009. And as far as videos go, I think my all-time favorite is #400, The History of Nintendo, which is pretty much an enormous love letter to the company through song. As for the regular comics, for some reason Comic 483 has popped into my head. I was just very proud of the fact that I made a joke that is composed of only three lines.

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You do comics for an online publication known as NF Magazine, which is often described as a successor to Nintendo Power, as well correct? Could you tell us about that? How did you get involved in that? How is it different than creating comics for Brawl in the Family?

Lucas Thomas, who writes for IGN, was sort of the Nick Fury of this organization, and he got in contact with a bunch of folks in the online Nintendo fan community. He was a fan of mine (and vice versa) so I quickly agreed to be a part of it. NF Magazine is a professional collective work that I’m very proud to be a part of, and I’ve also enjoyed stretching my legs a bit and writing articles in it in addition to comics.

The comic approach in NFM is a bit different from BitF; typically, all the artists for that month will try to match the comics together with a consistent theme of the mag (like in our Father’s Day issue, all the comics were about game dads). I try to make the NFM comics slightly more accessible than BitF (which lets me do some in-jokes, for instance), and in some cases, more Nintendo Power-y (such as my very first NFM comic where I doled out gameplay tips for NSMBU).

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What’s your opinion on the upcoming Smash Brothers games? Is there a character you’re most excited to play as or a new feature that you’re particularly excited about? Are there are characters you’re still hoping will get included at this point?

My opinion is that I can’t get enough! Looking forward to newcomers in Smash Bros. has become a hype-generating event to me (and millions of other fans, I’m sure), and it’s always exciting when Mr. Sakurai’s got some new big surprise to show. From the moment he was revealed, Mega Man has been my go-to guy, and at E3, he was the newcomer that brought me to victory! I’m also excited for Wii Fit Trainer, Palutena, Little Mac, Villager, and plenty of the returning veterans. As for characters I’m hoping for, whether he’s a secret or DLC, it’s high time Ridley squeezed his way into this game!

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You actually have a game coming out on the Wii U called Tadpole Treble, correct? Would you like to tell our readers a bit about that? What the game is like? What inspired you to create it? What was it like to make?

It hasn’t been officially confirmed yet for Wii U, but we’re working hard to hopefully make it so! Tadpole Treble is an action music game where players control a tadpole–Baton–just trying to find her way back home. The hook is that the stages take place on a musical staff, with the notes of the background music constantly scrolling towards Baton, so it’s up to the player to dodge the music and make their way to the exit. I’m making it with my brother Michael, and I provide most of the art and all of the music of the game, while he’s working on programming and stage design. We’re very proud of what we’ve done with it and can’t wait for it to be finished!

The concept came to me quite awhile ago when watching my dad compose and playback music in the Finale computer program. Seeing the line scroll past the notes reminded me of platformers, and it made me wonder if a game could be made using the actual notes of a song. Since Tadpole Treble is our first game, it’s been a huge learning process for us while working on it. It’s definitely a lot more time-consuming than making comics, but the end result–controlling a character that you created–is quite special and worth the effort. We’ll do our best to make sure Tadpole Treble is the strongest game possible when it releases in a few months!

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You’re also doing work on another game as well that’s on Kickstarter, Nefarious. Could you tell our readers a bit about that project as well? What’s your role in the project? What is the game like and how did you get involved with it?

Sure! Unlike Tadpole Treble, Nefarious isn’t actually my game, but one conceptualized by a buddy of mine, Josh Hano. I’m the main composer for the game. Nefarious reverses the old gaming trope of rescuing princesses to put you in the diabolical shoes of a princess-napping villain himself. Of course, it’s no cakewalk for the bad guys to do this type of work either, especially when your princesses are as eclectic as this bunch!

It’s a great concept and the game has a lovely look to it and some neat surprises in store. Josh actually was a BitF fan and wanted to use Ode to Minions in the game, but once we hired him to help us with Tadpole Treble’s art, he ended up liking Tadpole’s music enough to ask me to work on Nefarious’s soundtrack!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions today. Is there anything else you’d talk about for our readers? Anything else you’d like to say?

Keep an eye on Brawl in the Family over the next few weeks–the final storyline will be happening and everything will be wrapping up! I’ve also just begun a Kickstarter for Volume Two and Three, so that people can have the full collection in book form…but if you want those books, you should get them through the Kickstarter since I won’t be ordering much more than the preorders. If you’re sad about BitF ending, don’t forget to keep an eye out for Tadpole Treble, Nefarious, and NF Magazine to see more of my art and hear more of my music.

And of course, thank you all very much for your support over these years. As I said before, the fanbase is my favorite part of doing this, and I consider myself very lucky for all I was able to experience through BitF.

Thank you again for answering my questions Matthew, I’ve always thought of myself as a big fan of your work and I think all of us fans consider ourselves lucky to have been able to experience this with you. For those of you who are interested but haven’t already had the chance to read it, you can find the comic at http://brawlinthefamily.keenspot.com/. Let us know what you thought of this interview in the comments. If you have any thoughts on the comic, we’d love to hear them as well.

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