S.M. Vidaurri Sings the Blues with Marshall Lee in Adventure Time One-Shot

Comics Features Shane-Michael Vidaurri
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S.M. Vidaurri Sings the Blues with Marshall Lee in Adventure Time One-Shot

S.M. Vidaurri has proven himself a master of both pen and ink as well as string and song, weaving rich, atmospheric narratives that cross media through graphic novels including Iron: Or, the War After, Iscariot and album The Cat Man Is Sad. Also: amazing musical comics. That acumen makes him the perfect cartoonist to tackle Cartoon Network’s vibrant odyssey, Adventure Time, and its offshoot comics from BOOM! Studios. Tomorrow will see the release of Adventure Time: Marshall Lee Spectacular, a standalone collection of stories featuring Marceline the Vampire Queen’s male fan-fiction counterpart. Vidaurri has teamed with artists Asia Kendrick-Horton and Laura Langston in “Disqualified,” a short that thrusts Marshall into the Semi Bi-Annual Biennial Great Villain Off—an event that forces him and Prince Gumball to unleash their inner baddies. Vidaurri’s also crafted an original tune for the story, with sheet music included in the comic.


Paste exchanged some emails with Viduarri to discover how he approached the music and personality of Adventure Time favorite gender-inverted bloodsucker. Adventure Time: Marshall Lee Spectacular is available exclusively through comiXology as part of the service’s new original comics initiative.


Paste: This is the perfect project for you—much like Marshall Lee, you’re a guitarist and singer/songwriter with an affinity for button-down shirts. Are there other ways you relate to the character?

Shane-Michael Vidaurri: I’d like to say so, but I think i’d be flattering myself a bit too much if I said I was as cool as a demon vampire voiced by Donald Glover. I do still dream of having a super-cool vampire bassist alter ego though, but, that’s not really up to me. Not sure who it would be up to, though. My button-down shirts are usually a bit different from Marshall Lee’s though, he tends to go for the flannel. I don’t wear too much flannel, I am more attracted to a nice linen shirt. I need something that breathes! But I guess if you’re a vampire you’re probably not too worried about sweating. Do vampires even sweat?

Paste: Looking back on your previous graphic novels—Iron: Or, the War After and Iscariot—the world of Adventure Time seems a few standard deviations more whimsical and less melancholic. What do you think the common ground between the two aesthetics is?

Vidaurri: Adventure Time is definitely more whimsical, but it has its share of melancholy! Maybe not so heavy handed as I may be. But there are many touching, sad moments. I love fantastical things, and Adventure Time is made up of them 100%. It’s something I wish to incorporate more into my work. Having songs, having fun, exploring a tertiary character for a few episodes because you want to find out what makes them tick. I think I get a bit distracted sometimes in the pattern that leaf litter can make on the floor—that’s not really something Adventure Time would spend a long time on, but maybe Over The Garden Wall would. Lots of shows have their own strength and Adventure Time is that no one really realized at first that it was building up this rich mythology, until it was so strong that they could start messing around with it, a la Marshall Lee. That’s something I definitely think I have in common with the show. That’s something I think is super cool!

Adventure Time: Marshall Lee Spectacular #1 Interior Art by Asia Kendrick-Horton and Laura Langston

Paste: And that whimsy is taken a step further for Marshall Lee, as he’s the fan-fiction version of Marceline, as written by the Ice King. Do the character differences between he and Marceline boil down to perceived gender constructs? Or do they exist at all? Does the fact that this comes from the imagination of the hilariously depraved Ice King give you more leeway to flavor Marshall Lee’s personality?

Vidaurri: I think Marshall Lee is his own man, so to speak. Marceline isn’t really as thin-skinned, she’s a bit more…aloof. She gets caught up in things, but she’s not really as interested in proving to people that she’s evil—or really, in being around them, other than Princess Bubblegum. Marshall Lee definitely wants some street cred. The fact that the Ice King would think of a character who doesn’t have a ton of self awareness is pretty rich, though.

Paste: The Semi Bi-Annual Biennial Great Villain Off featured in your story is a nice complement to the Biennial Gumball Ball that introduced the character in the show. Are there any corners of the Adventure Time cosmos you’d like to explore, whether they be characters or places? What resonates with you the most or are your favorite episodes?

Vidaurri: My favorite storyline is probably the Marceline flashback episodes when the Ice King is more Simon and Marceline is just a kid. Marceline has always been my favorite, mostly because she sang the most songs. So any episode with a good song usually had her in it, and those were my favorites. I mean, Rebecca Sugar’s songwriting is legendary, so when I wrote Marshall Lee’s song I tried my best to do what she would have done.

Adventure Time: Marshall Lee Spectacular #1 Interior Art by Asia Kendrick-Horton and Laura Langston

Paste: Asia Kendrick-Horton and Laura Langston hit a nice balance between Pen Ward’s style and a more lush, rounded look. How would you describe the process of working with them? Were there any characters you had an especially memorable time designing?

Vidaurri: Sadly, I didn’t have much of a chance to connect with them before the art was already done! I did get to see it finished and man, it looked so great! There’s nothing I could have said other than “Oh dang!” so, it’s probably for the best that they were left to their own devices. The story was a really fast turnaround, which is nice because there’s not a lot of time to second guess yourself. Writing a five-to-seven-page comic is its own art. It’s long enough to need a real story, but short enough that it could easily spiral into fifteen pages. The trick is to keep what you need and keep moving. The art turned out so great, I was super pleased to get to work with them and I hope I can again in the future!

Paste: You wrote music to accompany Marshall Lee’s in-comic song, “It’s Not Hard To Be Bad.” I love how there are copious minor seven chords—you balance the doom with a nice bluesy bent. Can you describe the song-writing process? Will you be playing it live at any of your future gigs?

Vidaurri: I went back and listened to all the Marceline songs, and the Marshall Lee song, and the one difference was that Marceline is usually playing a much more straight-ahead pop style, whereas “Bad Little Boy” is definitely more jazzy. I tried to incorporate that into my chord choice to get those moments in the melody that Sugar always had, where you didn’t think the melody was going to go in that direction, but also, have that jazziness of Marshall Lee. I mean, probably being a bit too cerebral here, but I wanted to write a song that felt like if you ran “Fry Song through a Chet Baker studio session.

Paste: Are there any more Adventure Time songs or comics from you in the near future? In general, what are you developing?

Vidaurri: I hope so! Nothing right now on the docket, but making these comics has been a real pleasure and I hope I’m fortunate enough to jump into this world again. I’d love to do a story where Marceline and Marshall Lee meet, a la [ the Star Trek episode] “Mirror, Mirror” (Spock and Evil Spock), except they’re both evil. That’d be fun! Other than that, I’m currently writing a book that I hope will be out next year, but I can’t say too much about it at the moment because it’s in early stages, but I am very excited about it! I’m not doing the artwork, just the writing, so it’s a new experience. Hopefully I’ll have more to report once it’s announced, sadly, all I have right now are vague premonitions. But you can check my twitter, @smvidaurri, for any news and updates, and also pictures of my cats.