Step one: plan comic mocking Westboro Baptist and create a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production.
Step two: watch as they take the bait and promote yet more publicity for them.
Step three: reveal that the comic’s main characters include a lesbian couple and a bisexual guy.
Step four: (hopefully) profit!
As creator Matt Miner explained, they suspected that “Westboro’s knee-jerk and arrogant response would be to champion the project with ‘we love the attention’ type posts, [so]we decided to see where their hubris and impetuousness would take them before releasing the information that two of the lead characters are, in fact, a lesbian couple—and another is bisexual.
“Westboro didn’t let us down.”
According to the campaign page, “Toe Tag Riot” is about “ a struggling streetpunk band of the early 2000s who’re cursed with temporary, recurring zombification that transforms them whenever they perform their music! Meant to destroy their career, the woman who cursed them clearly understands nothing because Toe Tag Riot’s new monster-punk look only propels the band into punk rock stardom.
“Ethical sometimes-zombies that they are, our brave decomposing undead musicians resist their urges to snack on NORMAL human flesh and only make meals of the scummiest, grossest, and vilest scum that litters this Earth!
“Finding that the transformation back into regular, filthy, punk rockers is taking longer and longer each time, the band goes on one last cross-country tour, chasing the cure to what ails ‘em and hilariously/brutally slaughtering the worst of humanity along the way to an explosive showdown with The Westboro Baptist Church.”
Curious to learn more, 429Magazine reached out to the team for an interview.
429Magazine: Racist skinheads are an obvious choice for “this mindset needs to die,” but what inspired the rampage on “sexist dudebros”? The UCSB shooting proved that such viewpoints, when taken to their logical extreme, are VERY DANGEROUS—but a lot of people have a hard time seeing that.
Matt Miner: Well, I feel that any time one group of people tries to oppress another group of people, it’s a bad scene that I don’t want any part of. Once I opened my eyes to how everyday sexism goes largely unchecked, I just couldn’t close my eyes to it again.
[The UCSB shooting] was the extreme of that crazy men’s rights “movement,” and holy smokes is that tragic and super scary. That shooting should be a loud wakeup call that we have to take a stand against this kind of behavior when we see it start to materialize—luckily, as a comic book creator, I’m in a position where I can make more inclusive books like “Toe Tag Riot” that point out the real-life awfulness in a funny “sic zombies on ‘em” kind of way.
Sean Von Gorman: In comics there are fixes in place to rectify or protect against the broader troubles facing society: muggings, bank heists, alien invasions. We felt it was time for a group to exist outside of the traditional laws of society to help take out the scumbags that plague us and lower us as a species. “Toe Tag Riot” is just that group to sort out these characters but presented in a fun punk rock zombie package that’s fun to read!
So, scumbags of the world, you are on notice! (I’m looking at you Putin!)
429Mag: Did you notice on your own how scary some of these entitled “nice” guys are, or a female friend/relative filled you in?
MM: A little of both—I’ve known a couple guys in my life who, looking back, I understand now why they made me feel so creeped out back in the day. I listen to women when they talk about these issues of misogyny and institutionalized sexism and I really try to think about this stuff and improve myself and the way I treat others. I think, as a man, it’s important for me to listen without getting defensive and to have the courage to call out the bad behavior of other men when I see it. A simple “hey, that’s not cool” can shut someone down really fast.
SVG: It’s hard not to grow up and not be exposed to the shittiness that lurks under the surface. All too often people turn a blind eye or make judgments based on sex or orientation, and that allows the behavior to thrive unchecked. Hopefully “Toe Tag Riot” can be an example as to what we need to do to make the world a better place to stand up for what’s right…not necessarily killing and eating people you don’t agree with.
429Mag: When zombified, what kind of hunting grounds does the band make use of? For dudebros, bars are the obvious choice…but I’d love to see a convention of some kind. (A comics convention would totally not be biting the hand that feeds you!)
MM: The band are cursed to become zombies whenever they perform their music, but every time after they transform, the switch back into being regular old dirty punks is taking longer and longer. So they’re crafty and book their gigs with this in mind—choosing to play a club near the local douchebag sports bar, or booking in Topeka, Kansas, so a run-in with Westboro Baptist would be inevitable…that kind of thing.
As far as sexist dudebro comic fans at a convention getting the Toe Tag Riot treatment, I’m all for it. The kinds of guys that our heroes would eviscerate wouldn’t be reading my books anyways, so maybe we’ll have the band book a convention afterparty! That’s actually a great idea, considering sexual harassment, assault and casual sexism are such rampant and ugly issues within some areas of fandom at the moment.
429Mag: What inspired you to make the comic so inclusive?
MM: I’ve been an activist for people and animals for a really long time. It’s just a part of who I am, and if I’m not standing up for what I believe in then I don’t feel like myself. I care a lot about all types of people, and I just want the world to be a little nicer.
429Mag: What other media inspired this project?
MM: “Toe Tag Riot” is kind of like if you took classic zombie horror like “Night of the Living Dead” and mixed it with the tongue-in-cheek comedy of the original “Evil Dead” series and then threw it into the pit at a GWAR show with over the top comedy-gore theatrics. All told with a smile and a wink.
SVG: And I think a little “Scooby Doo” for good measure. Teenagers traveling in a van, righting wrongs.
429Mag: Anything else you’d like to add?
MM: We really need the pledges on Kickstarter in order to make the comics happen, and in exchange for your pledges we have some amazing rewards available ranging from copies of the comics, all the way up to being a recurring character in the books. Kickstarter is all-or-nothing funding, so if we don’t hit 100% of the target goal then we don’t get any of it and the project will be scrapped because making comics is an expensive undertaking.
Even if the people reading this article aren’t comic readers, the idea of putting more inclusive comics into the hands of people who might not normally think twice about calling someone a “fag” or a “slut” should appeal. I’m not saying “Toe Tag Riot” is going to change the world, but if it helps change the way comics fandom treats women, minorities, and LGBT folks even a tiny little bit then I consider it a huge win.
SVG: Kids, every pledge to Toe Tag Riot is a slap to the face to the scumbags of the world! Tell your friends!