With so many varied series coming out of Image, it can sometimes be hard to know which new ones to check out. Limbo distinguished itself from the masses in its first issue with deft storytelling, a wry sense of humor, and plenty of intrigue. Just before issue 2 lands this week, Drew sat down with creators Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard to go through issue 1 page by page, so get your copy handy and join us on the Commentary Track.
Retcon-Punch: Let’s just jump right in with page 1. I’m wondering if you guys can comment on this opening image of a lizard on a stick.
Caspar Wijngaard: I think it would be best to mention that these first five pages were initially made as a pitch. As you would with any comic. So the structure of these first five pages we wanted to capture as much of the feel of the book in five pages as we could without it just being, like, it could have just been him in a bar monologuing to himself, in his head. And we could have shown that to the publisher and he would have been like, “we have no idea what this is about.” Within these first five pages, we really wanted to get as much as we could visually and story-wise — just kinda like the feel of the book. We want you to read more, cause we kinda left it on a “ooh what’s going to happen next” feel. I guess that’s fair to say, right Dan?
Dan Watters: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s also definitely worth mentioning that we Marvel method-ed these pages.
CW: That’s true.
DW: Because you had such a strong idea of what you wanted this opening to look like.
CW: That’s right. Yeah. So I pretty much drew five pages with speech bubbles. Not speech bubbles, but kinda pointed to where I wanted there to be text. I spoke with Dan about how I wanted — what he should be saying, I suppose. [laughs] As much as Dan already had an idea where the story was going in issue one, it was really important for me for this to be visually quite an impressive opening. Just for the look of the book — especially for the pitch.
DW: Yeah we Marvel method-ed the first five pages.
CW: This first page, I guess I wanted it to start on something really weird. So the lizard on a stick was an image that I thought would just be, you know, like, straight off the bat, you don’t eat lizards on a stick. As far as I can tell, not many places in America do this cuisine. I wanted to be like, just something odd, right at the beginning. And I also wanted it set in a bar because I wanted that kind of dark, neon, noir feel to it. Where there was vibrant colors behind him, and a really dingy bar to set the mood where this character was. For my part, that’s all I wanted to get across. That it was weird and it was slightly odd.
DW: It’s a quick sort of subtle way of me telling you the world’s slightly abnormal. If he was eating a cheeseburger, there’d be nothing unusual about this scene.
RP: Can you guys talk about the origin of the name Dedande City, or however you pronounce that?
CW: Not really.
DW: We better not give too much away.
CW: I guess it’s nothing too clever — and I’m sure some people have already worked it out — but if we went into the name and the other names in this book then we’d be giving far too much away. It’s nothing that people would go “Oh my god, what’s the name of this book? What’s the name of this city? Now I need to solve the mystery!” It’s nothing like that, but it definitely plays a role in the whole scheme of thing.
RP: It certainly resembles the Dead Hand Jams on the cover.
CW: Yeah that’s right. That’s just a play on words. There’s a lot of — I think in issue 3 — there’s a “dead end records” You know, there’s lots of weird things. Just a play on the name of the town. That anyone can do with the town.
DW: I do want to say that, because comics are so prime to adaptation now, I’m quite pleased that we picked a name that only sort of works on paper, because no one can actually pronounce it. Dedahnd? Dedanday? You get everything, it’s great — it just works on paper.
RP: Moving on to pages two and three, I’m wondering if you guys could take about pacing a little bit here. It feels like it really puts us in Clay’s position where we want to hear the rest of this phone call but we don’t get it.
CW: Yeah, we were being assholes there. [laughs] It was important, again, as a pitch. I don’t know how we really had to go back, but like in the pitch a lot of the dialogue is slightly different from what it was in the first issue because, obviously, in the pitch we were tying up a five page introduction. But in the actual comic book, some of the dialogue is different because it’s going to carry on. You know, it’s building the world that the rest of the issue is. But we needed the mystery so that was the importance of the phone call. But I also wanted some action in there and I really wanted to get this fist fight going so it was important that it —
DW: The fist fight is great because it’s got that ’50s or ’40s noir vibe to it.
CW: I also wanted to share the shifting colors, because to me in this book the colors are really important. I really wanted to do something different with each page so I wanted to show the change of mood with each. So when it gets more intense the colors change. Yeah, the introduction of the fight scene. You know the fishmen are a big part of the story overall as well. Their introduction at the beginning was something fun just to show you Clay and his interactions with people and just what a fumbling idiot he is, really.
DW: Also the great thing about doing these pages Marvel method is, can you imagine if I had written the script where it was a one page, 10 panel fight scene? [laughs]
CW: Yeah. [laughs] Again one of those things, with, you know…every fight scene I’ve ever done in a comic book is usually two panels. I’ve spoken with other artists about this before. It’s like, “they get in a fight and he’s punching him, he’s punching him back.” And I’m thinking this needs more than just two panels. This needs, you know, I get really into it and I want it to feel like there’s some sort of pacing with the fight instead of just him simply getting knocked out and crawling out of the bar. I wanted it to be this kind of fun little sequence while you notice that the phone was still off the hook. And they couldn’t get through to their message. He missed something important, which is annoying for him and the reader.
RP: I mean, it’s remarkably effective. That pacing gives us a real sense of the duration of this fight. A two panel fight can give you a sense of chaos but you don’t feel every punch.
CW: Yeah, it was a good chance to show how much he’s a smart ass.
DW: And can’t quite back it up.
CW: Yeah, you know. He’s enough to knock one guy out but he’s continuously being a smart ass. Even when he’s out on the street he’s still being a smart ass. [laughs] Even when he’s being defeated he’s still just trying to make quips. Just like, what a dick. [laughs]
RP: I suppose that’s a good transition to the next pages here. This kind of Day of the Dead celebration introduces another part of your setting. I don’t think it’s inspired by any one place, but I’m wondering if you guys can talk about the inspirations for this setting.
CW: The Day of the Dead parade?
RP: The entire city, really.
DW: There’s a lot in there and I think it wears it on its sleeve. Like when we first started talking about this, we just made a Facebook group with just the two of us, and you were just throwing in loads of images of cities.
CW: Yeah, I was going on google just finding inspiration of things that I thought would fit the theme of this book. And I fell down a rabbit hole of Google image search. Just started pulling stuff out and throwing it onto this Facebook page that me and Dan had created and we would just go over it and look at these things and it just seemed like we could work this all together. There was never really anything like this is the type of town it’s going to be. It was always going to be this fictional version of New Orleans.
DW: Cause there’s a lot of, at least for me, a lot of Swamp Thing influence, like a lot of that early Vertigo stuff. It’s like a nice chance to have a little bit of a tribute to that with the swamps.
CW: Yeah, you know and I also wanted to choose a setting that was full of vibrant colors and rich in culture. Not just any old town in America. It had to be full of life, like music and street parties–
CW: Yeah, culture. Out on the streets, not just in its history. Just everything. Everything had to be vibrant and alive. Again, I’m not saying that this is a fictional version of New Orleans because it’s not. It’s just a fictional town in southern American where — the Day of the Dead thing, a lot of people keep thinking it’s in Mexico but I know for a fact, you know, my father lives in New Mexico and I’ve spent a lot of time there with him and they do have Day of the Dead festivals there in New Mexico. So I do know that they do celebrate Day of the Dead with street festivals. Well, as far as, I’m not going to vouch for every state in America…
DW: They have it in London, this year.
CW: I guess people may think it’s set in Mexico and that wasn’t the case. Again, it’s fictional. I’m not going to explain it like it’s founded in fact.
DW: It’s set somewhere at some point.
CW: It’s set somewhere at some point in some world. It could easily be Westeros for all I care. It was never going to be a case of me trying to put logic behind the way that this town really worked. It was just something I thought would be fun on paper. And be visually pleasing, and — you know, a living breathing world, again, with this whole thing. This city is a very important part of this book in the way that it’s almost alive. If it was just a dull city where nothing is going on, we’d be missing a massive bit of what we’re trying to do with the book.
RP: Speaking of where it’s set, I’m also curious about when it’s set. We’ve kind of moved on to the next pages here. This is the first hint of video tape — the kind of analog recording devices that we get. In addition to the neon colors, it has a very retro feel.
CW: Yeah, Ninteen-Fifty-Eighties is the term we’ve been using. Again, by looking here, it does have this high street New Orleans look within it, but at the same time it’s also like this shanty town. It’s not trying to be anything. It’s its own kind of living, breathing city. But, yeah: ’80s technology. We’re not going any further than that as far as the culture was based in the ’80s. We’re not saying it’s set in the ’80s. I don’t think at any point we’re ever going to say that it’s set in the ’80s and I don’t think we’re ever going to say it’s set in America. It’s not ever anything we ever really thought that we need to confirm. It doesn’t add anything to the story if we say that, so I don’t feel like it’s necessary to add it in the book. Visually, that’s what we were going for.
DW: There’s a lot of influence of ’80s films.
CW: Especially with this panel here, there’s a tiny bit of Blade Runner, but not really because it’s not the same thing. I guess Big Trouble in Little China here with the neon. I just always love that as a kid. I was fascinated with the neon, especially toward the end of the movie when you’ve got —
DW: “She survived the burning blade!”
CW: It just looks great and I really wanted to make the book look something along one of those movies.
RP: Looking at the second page of the spread, this definitely cools down after all the excitement of the bar brawl and the parade and the high street. Why put this scene here? What is this scene doing for you guys?
DW: You know, it’s funny because these pages used to run differently. We actually went back and added in [page 6].
CW: Yeah, that was an addition. It was just him running down the back alley and then suddenly he hit the swamps.
DW: But it didn’t open the world up enough.
CW: Yeah, it felt very quick. It felt like a quick transition from all this chaos. He didn’t really have the chance to explain why he was there, and I didn’t feel like the world had been realized enough before we moved on. So, after we’d already finished the book and sent it away and had it lettered, I sat down with Dan…I read over issues 2 and 3 and I felt like the world was built more in those issues and I thought we hadn’t done it justice.
DW: We needed a foundation.
CW: Yeah, we needed to build the foundation.
DW: Because it goes off in so many different directions that it needed a slightly more sensible foundation so you could have the chance to go off in all these directions. But the other thing with that page, of course, are the tentacles, which are actually very important to the plot.
CW: That was always there. That was always a thing that was going on. I don’t think we ever decided whether it was going to be a fish or a dog. I think at one point it was going to be a dog but I thought that might be a bit…I don’t want a dog getting drowned here. [laughs]
DW: Originally it was going to be a cigarette.
CW: Yeah, and then we thought that was just a bit silly. That doesn’t really work. He’s just tossing a cigarette in there. Why would a tentacle want a cigarette underwater?
But moving back to the page before, which was actually an addition. And some of the other pages in there. It was just — we finished it and I had said to Dan, “I”m going to draw these pages for pacing and it gives you a chance to go back and fit some more dialogue in if you feel like it.” It’s like, well, it’s up to you. It’s more work for you. The way this book works, the way with the Image model, you don’t get paid a page rate, you get paid on royalties. It wasn’t like I was doing more work for more money, it was more I was doing more work because I thought it was needed even though it was going to take more time. It felt justified to me and Dan. When I explained it to Dan he was like “Look, if you’re going to do this, do it.”
DW: And that page ended up being foreshadowing as well.
CW: Everything we added I’m glad we added because I feel like it helps build the world and continuity going on to issues 2 and 3. Issue 1 was always kind of almost finished before it got picked up by Image — like plotwise and thumbnails — but we pitched it before we found out we had it. I think it may have been three or four weeks after we continued to work on it. The idea was that we pitch it to these publishers and if no one picked it up we would Kickstart it, anyway, because it was always going to be a book that we wanted to make.
So, yeah, the first issue was done fairly quickly after we got picked up. It was released in November but at this point it was already almost a year old, so some of the artwork needed cleaning up as well. I found my footing with issues 2, 3 and 4. Moving on, by the time issue 1 had come I was like, I need to — not George Lucas it because that makes movies worse as far as I was concerned. I wanted to go back and kinda clean stuff up. I knew where I was with the book by Issue 4. I knew how the book was supposed to look. I was comfortable with the characters and I wanted to go back and make sure, you know — Clay didn’t really look like Clay. Especially in the first couple pages. I didn’t know who this character was. It was probably the first or second time I had ever really drawn him as a character. So I had to go back and, you know, fix his hair up. He definitely had a lot more spikes on his head. [laughs] It’s one of those things, just cleaning up the whole book. Like it was done as it was supposed to be done and not jolted like it has been. Because obviously production on this is in bits and pieces. Again, considering I’m doing it in and out of work.
RP: Next we get an introduction to Sandy. The colors on this are easily the most vibrant of anything we’ve seen thus far. Really full color, very little blacks. Especially with the music, most of the ’80s influence is really coming to the fore here. What was the goal in your introduction with Sandy?
CW: With the colors and her having fun was more the idea that she’s the heart — she’s the good element of this book. She’s the fun of this book. To introduce her in this dark and dingy world wouldn’t do her justice as a character, because she’s the type of character that’s aware of what’s going on but she’s still, you know, her nature’s still good.
DW: She’s in control. She knows how to function in this world that Clay absolutely doesn’t. And another thing that we really needed to get in here was to show that magic exists here and that it really works. That it’s not just sort of hinted that. We wanted to get that in. Which you get with her dancing cassette tape, which we get far more into in Issue 2.
CW: That’s a completely realized concept in Issue 2. Sandy and her ritual with the cassette tape — by the end of issue 2 you know what the deal is with that. But it was important to hint at it moving in because if we just dropped that in Issue 2 people would have just been like “what’s going on here?” We wanted to tease this idea, to introduce her having fun, but also doing something cool and magical. Her arc in this story is based around her belief with the magic and how it effects Clay in the story moving forward. She’s a cool character. She’s our breakout character.
DW: For us at least, yeah.
CW: I’ve had the most fun developing her as a character. We’ve even joked about killing Clay off in issue two and just focusing on Sandy because she has more as a character. [laughs] But it wouldn’t work like that. Their dynamic works well together.
DW: Yeah, they work together. She’s the only one who likes him as well. He needs her to navigate this world.
CW: Clay was never meant to be a nice character. He was never meant to be someone that you would want to drink in a bar with. He was always supposed to be that guy where you’re like “Ugh, who invited him?” You know, “how did he come here, no one had his number.” Not that I’ve ever done that. [laughs] But he’s that type of guy and you’ve always got that one friend that sympathizes. Like, “I can see the good in him” yada yada yada. She’s that character, she’s that one that found him — I don’t know we’ve gone that far in the book, but she’s —
DW: She’s been through stuff herself that means that she sympathizes with someone who’s got to start over. Wether we go into that remains to be seen.
CW: Exactly. Whether or not we get a chance to move on and do more volumes of this book. I guess it’s a mini at the moment. It was never intended to be — that’s what we have right now. Again, it’s just the first volume. Moving on if we can with Sandy would definitely gonna go further into her past. Because she is more linked to Clay than it would seem. There’s a history there that we’d really love to get into at some point. She’s got some awesome stories to tell. She does even in this miniseries, which is really cool.
DW: Should we mention “Golem in the Claymen”? We probably should. On the bottom of the page is the”Golem in the Claymen” poster, which is something we’ve never gone into it in your face, but because Clay’s found, he doesn’t have a name, he doesn’t have anything. He mentions here that Sandy gave him his name. The idea we had was just that there’s a band that Sandy really likes called”Golem in the Claymen,” and he looks a bit like the lead singer. And we just sort of put that in the background a couple of times. A few people picked up on it.
CW: Yeah, one guy in some review where they didn’t like the book put “Oh, they think they’re such smart asses.” And I was like, we weren’t trying to be super clever. We just thought it was a nice little nod. We’re not trying to trick you, we’re not trying to be malicious. It was just one of those things. That’s just her character, it’s just that’s what she would have done. She wouldn’t have sat there and thought “you don’t have a name, let’s try and think your name out.” She would just say “yeah, you’re Clay, let’s get on with this. That’s you now.” And he’s the type of character that’s just like “Cool, I dig it, let’s move on with it. Thank you.” There was never any deep meaning to that. If people were trying to find deep meaning behind his name then…it’s not. But there are aspects of his name that come into Issue 2. Again, with the band and moving forward as well, it’s just a fun nod, because this band just seems to follow him around in the worst ways possible. [laughs] He can’t even escape his namesake.
It’s also showing elements of the voodoo that are to come, just elements of her character. Her room is just full of everything that she loves. As a teenager growing up — I guess I would say she was in her early 20’s, I guess we’ve never really given her an age — but my room was always messy and full of things that inspired me creatively and, you know, you keep your keep your things. Possession in this is really important because every object in this world seems to have a living force behind it. Sandy’s the type of person that’s going to keep everything close and special to her in one room. How she kind of encapsulates that energy and magic. She’s not a hoarder. [laughs]
DW: A little bit of a hoarder. [laughs]
CW: A little bit of a hoarder, but in a good way. And even so there’s things in these pages, like, where you have shoes and the toys. It’s all relevant to things that are going to happen later down the line. It’s not just panning around a room while he’s talking. It’s also relevant.
RP: It also shows Sandy as a strong contrast to Clay, having all these things where he has nothing.
DW: She’s got her shit together and he doesn’t. That’s part of the appeal of their interactions.
CW: Even when you move on to Clay’s room in the next couple of panels and in the next pages, his room’s empty. He has a guitar, which I believe is Sandy’s anyway, it’s not even his. It’s just something he’s taken.
DW: He’s pinched it, yeah.
CW: He’s pinched it for himself. And he has masks, that’s all he has. And I”m guessing that they’re not even his unless he’s accumulated them since. We haven’t even gone into that.
DW: I wanted the masks in there. I liked the idea that he’d go around picking up these masks from market stores and things. He wouldn’t really even know why he’s doing it. It’s the idea that he doesn’t know what’s under his own face so he keeps picking up different faces.
CW: I agree. Maybe that’s something you know more about than I do with the character. [laughs] But I like the idea that his room is barren. There’s nothing in there, just these creepy masks. And a desk. That’s his possessions, he doesn’t have anything.
DW: And, of course, that’s also the stereotypical noir office.
CW: It’s very juxtopositioned to Sandy’s room especially. Her introduction is supposed to be this big vibrant scene and it goes straight back to the dull, noir kind of dark and dingy look. You can see a taste of her vibrant side and then snatches it away again. With these scenes it was building up her relationship. You can talk here, Dan, this is your forte. With Sandy and Clay. Their introduction as characters and their dynamic together.
DW: Clay walks in and she sort of scolds him because he’s being a bit loutish and a bit of an asshole, but she’s utterly unwilling to put up with any of his stuff. One page, hopefully quite quickly, gives you an idea of their dynamic, where he’s giving her a lot of lip but they actually really care about each other. He is very grateful for her because he’d be dead otherwise.
CW: Definitely. I was going to add something but I think you pretty much summed it up there. I was maybe going to talk about some of the visuals again, just kinda keeping it warm. There’s a lot of warm yellows there in the background. I wanted to make it feel like there was a bit of tension there, but I wanted it in the back there’s still heart.
DW: It’s the closest thing to a safe place in the entire city, Sandy’s room.
CW: Yeah, I agree.
RP: Moving on to Clay’s room, as you guys mentioned, the design is obviously very different. Dan, you mentioned that it’s clearly inspired by classic private eye scenes from noir films.
DW: Yeah, absolutely. Reading a lot of Raymond Chandler in the build up to writing this, a lot of Dashiell Hammett, and watching a lot of those old films. And then, of course, we brought in Brigette, who’s our classic femme fatale character. She shows up here and does what the femme fatale is prone to do, throws Clay for a loop and into a case. She really starts the main drive of the plot.
CW: With Clay’s room, I just wanted it to look like a classic PI’s black and white movie, but I just had it drenched in neon. It was really important that there was neon encapsulating the whole room. Flooding in. Especially when you meet her, as well, it’s almost like she’s stood up in the window which obviously she’s not. But I just thought those two things matched together would be quite cool — not to say there wasn’t neon in the ’50s. [laughs] To me, I just thought that was a cool way of having is look. I think it always looks like that — every time we’ve done this room in the later issues it’s always been night time.
DW: That neon street sign across the road, coming in.
CW: You find that in Issue 4. I eventually do an outside shot and you can see where that light’s coming from.
DW: And then the next page, of course you’ve got the thumb coming in.
CW: Yeah, and there’s that whole thing with the masks on the wall. It’s almost like she’s talking and it’s a transition into her — he has these masks, then you have the Thumb. Almost mirroring, you’ve got his right hand man, letting him know what’s up. And he’s not even looking at him. This is the type of guy he is. He’s still watching Bridgette, regardless of what’s going on around him.
DW: Watching is a really big theme throughout all of Limbo. Hence he’s got the eye on the forehead of his mask. He’s always watching everyone. People just watching each other. In the last scene we had Clay watching Sandy before actually coming into her room. And as you go in through the issue everyone’s just watching everyone else.
RP: Actually, looking at the next spread. I was really struck by the voyerism in this issue. It’s all kind of about seeing and being seen.
DW: Absolutely, it’s all about the visual. The Thumb has a really aesthetic vibe. He has really aesthetic philosophy. Like the way he runs his business is all based on image and visual things which is something we’ll get into way later on in the book.
CW: There was going to be a point where the Thumb never actually spoke, but as the character progressed — I think we accidentally gave him a voice, or maybe the letterer put a speech bubble?
DW: That was in issue 2, yeah.
CW: That was in issue 2. But there was a point where the Telly Shaman — the character on the next page — had a line of dialogue and Jim the letterer (we hadn’t explained where the dialogue was supposed to be coming from) so he put the bubble coming from the Thumb’s mouth, but it worked that way. And we were really happy with it, so we were glad we gave him a voice. Well this is even better that he’s saying it!
DW: The problem with having the Thumb silent is it makes him look stupid. So the way we’ve gone is, we only had him speak when absolutely necessary. He conserves energy as much as possible, he doesn’t speak unless he needs to. But whenever he does speak he’s well spoke without being a cackling, English, mastermind villain. He’s always watching and he won’t speak unless he needs to.
CW: In his room there you’ve got this all seeing eye on his head, and you just have them painted around the walls.
DW: And then of course the first introduction of the TV. TVs pop up all the way through the plot.
CW: We get more into the whole idea, the way he operates is basically with TV’s. There’s hints of it back in the first pages, you can see it out in the streets, but you don’t really realize what’s going on there the time. But if you go back a second time, you’ll pick up that it’s noticeable back then.
RP: As this scene plays out, it become increasingly clear that all the magic in this world is based around analog technology. It talked about Sandy possessing his answering machine and she was using a tape earlier. Obviously there are similarities to things like Poltergeist or The Ring or something like that. Were you inspired at all by those?
CW: I’d say more Videodrome.
DW: I’d also say this idea of magic and technology is not a new concept, but I think we’ve driven at it in a slightly different way. Also, the sort of magic that’s used by characters come from these old traditions that these characters have been thrust into this new world; this slightly more modern ’80s world, and they’ve just adapted their magics to suit it. In Dedande City, they’ve absolutely flourished and the technology is made available to them so it’s amplified what they can do. Magic and technology, William Burroughs did a lot of stuff with cassette tapes and cut-ups and thing like that. Which, according to him, could actually change the world through magic. Through cutting up tapes and sticking them back together. That was something I really wanted to play with.
CW: Then there’s that whole things of taking tropes from each genre and playing with them. And having fun with them, and I guess one of the tropes of the ’80s was getting sucked into your own TV, apparently. Woaaah! [laughs] Spiraling down the portal. And we get into that in some ways.
DW: That’s the mains of the thrust of issue 2.
CW: There’s a movie called TerrorVision, this awful movie from the ’80s that knew it was awful. There’s elements of that in issue 2 and 3. Visually the way that book looks reminds me of this odd kind of ’50s, weird, weird, weird, worlds based around this Vincent Price kind of science.
DW: I like to think if Limbo was a film it would end up on Mystery Science Theater. [laughs]
CW: Yeah, definitely. [laughs] It would definitely be one of those really weird things that never took off.
RP: And as Bridgette finishes her story we the last scene between her and Clay. How important is their relationship to the story?
DW: She’s always got to stay the femme fatale’s, she’s always got to stay elusive, but obviously she’s a massive force within the book. I don’t want to go too much into it, really. But she’s one of the most important figures in the book.
CW: She takes the back seat for a little bit.
DW: But she comes back in a big way.
CW: Yeah, definitely. And not in the way you probably expect that femme fatales will. We set out with a trope in the beginning, but —
DW: A lot of the tropes now are quite problematic the way they always play out.
CW: You know, when this book came out, it was “Oh, it’s another noir book from Image. We’ve already got two of them.” But it’s like, just wait. It’s not. It may start out like that, but that was the idea. Do it as one thing…
DW: …as the foundation.
CW: It was the foundation we built it up from. We wanted to do something fun with it. We want to tackle a few more genres with this book. Definitely. It’s more important to me to have fun making this book than it is to try and justify why I’m doing it. If I’m going to continue to make this book — again, I don’t get paid upfront to work on this book. I’ve worked on books where I get paid upfront and I’ve had less fun than I’m having now making this book. This is a book I want to make. And I know Dan feels exactly the same way.
CW: We sit down and get excited about the ideas. I remember when we pitched the book. We were in the hotel room the night before getting ready to go out and we had had a few drinks, and we were getting excited about where we wanted to take Volume 5 of the book.
DW: Yeah, we’ve got massive plans for this work.
CW: Yeah! Where we were going to go with that. Getting really excited and we were like “Dude, we’re literally 10 pages in.” When we were pitching the book, we were coming up with ideas. We were just getting really into it and that continues to be the case. We’re just constantly coming up with ways we want to take it. And again, it’s our first book and it is with Image. It’s amazing and a blessing, but it’s also put a lot of eyes on the book. Where people are expecting the book to be…
DW: When you’ve got a Brian K. Vaughn poster suddenly in the back of your book, you’re like, “oh wow, that’s something to live up to right there.”
CW: Everyone’s trying to put us in the same light. We don’t have an editor on this book. It’s me doing all of it. It’s not a team of six people sitting down with a Marvel or DC book where there’s loads and loads of insight and publicity behind their book. It’s two guys who never really done this before making a book, and making a book that they want to like. So when people read it and they’re like, “I don’t get it, what are they trying to do? They’re not trying to make a smart book that I want to read?” or “Why are they trying to be silly?” That was never the intention. It wasn’t our intention to have an Image book. We were always making this book, regardless. A book we wanted to have fun with it. We wanted to pay homage to all the things that we love. That was the case with this book. I don’t want to suddenly start thinking, well now we have to make this an Image book.
DW: We don’t want to push in certain directions for anyone but us.
CW: Again, the people that have said these things — there’s only a few. The response I’ve gotten is a bit more positive. That’s great, I’m glad that people get it and are on board with it. Which is awesome. That’s more than we could ever ask for.
RP: These next two pages are striking, two rather large images on both pages. What was the goal with these two pages?
CW: Again, these were two new pages, weren’t they? These weren’t in the original. The two panels at the top where he’s walking down the street definitely were, but it cut straight into the bar where he was sat down.
DW: We wanted to open the world up rather than close it.
CW: It felt weird to me that you didn’t see the bar from the outside. You have him walking down the street and then suddenly he’s sat in a chair. And Bridgette’s on stage, and that really bothered me that we’re introducing her as a character again singing, and it was important to me — you know, when you see the flashback of Bridgette telling the story, but you don’t know if that’s the way Clay’s imagining it in his head or if that’s the way it is. A side flash back. This it’s actually what it was when it happened, or is this the way Clay’s thinking that it happened in his head right now. So when he’s imagining her onstage, does it looks like this? So that was the idea with it. She’s telling him the story and in his head he’s imaging this is the way things pan out. When he finally goes there and sees her, she’s onstage and she’s not on a small, dingy part of the stage. She’s on this huge stage with a band and she’s singing and she’s got the crowd eating out of her hand. He’s slightly surprised this time, this isn’t what he was expecting. And you see the bar outside and it’s bigger than he expected.
RP: It’s a pretty big crowd for an open mic night [laughs]
DW: Yeah. Everyone knows what the deal is with Thumb and his bar. You need to be seen. And the guy pretty much has the whole town under his thumb.
CW: Whoah! [laughs]
RP: As this scene plays out, we get more of this seeing and being seen interplay with all these little panels, the insets of the eyes.
CW: I was thinking maybe at some point we could have the Predator lasers come down on someone. “I see you!” Maybe that would be a bit silly. [laughs] But this whole thing needed to be silent.
DW: To be quiet.
CW: There’s that moment when you suddenly realize Bridgette’s looking at him, he’s looking at Bridgette, Thumb’s looking at him, these two guys are looking at him. You just go, hey what? And Clay’s like “Say what now?” Again, there’s stuff behind all of this as well. You don’t know what the relationship between Clay and the Thumb is, you don’t know if the Thumb knows who Clay is. There’s a mystery around that. Clay is aware who Thumb is, everyone knows who Thumb is. But why is the Thumb so interested in Clay. There’s so many people in that bar. Why is he so interested in our PI?
RP: As the action moves outside we get more of this old analog technology. I’m wondering how significant it is that Clay caught this on tape. Is that tape going to —
DW: Oh yeah, that tape is going to bite him so hard in the ass.
CW: It’s the big set up. The tape is the thing he should never have made. Ever.
DW: This is what puts him right in the crosshairs. It’s a stupid thing to do. If it was this easy, than the Thumb would’ve been taken down a long time ago.
CW: [laughs] It was like this thing, do I have him on the roof or do I have a shot of him looking like “I don’t give shit. I’ve got my guitar case. They don’t know I’m up here.” You have no idea. Again, it’s this whole thing that we wanted to do this El Mariachi thing where he’s coming over with his guitar case to an open mic night. We don’t ever really want to use guns in this, so we wanted to be smarter than that.
DW: There’s reason no one uses guns, and we’re going to get into that by the end of the arc.
CW: the whole idea was that he was going to get this impressive kit out, but it wasn’t, it’s detective equipment. It’s Sandy’s, it’s got her name written on it in sellotape. He’s just stolen her shit once again. Poor girl. He really is this DIY detective. That’s the way he operates.
DW: He think he’s Philip Marlowe, but he’s absolutely not. He catches this on tape. By the end of the issue he thinks he’s got everything locked down. That’s it, case done, easy money.
CW: He thinks he’s a 1950s detective. He thinks everything still works in that same kind of “I’m going to catch it, see?” I’m going to go up on this roof and film him, and that’s it. (Though obviously, they didn’t have VCRs back then.) It’s simple, just catch it and give it to the cops. Not in this world.
DW: A lot of the fun of the book, for me at least, is Clay constantly acting that way. Constantly acting like a detective when this world doesn’t operate on any sort of strict logic, so that’s never going to work. It’s just going to get him into more and more trouble, and it does, but he keeps doing it because that’s the only thing he knows how to do.
RP: Moving ahead to the actual murder that he catches on film. I was really struck by the inset panel of the Thumb’s eyes here. The seeing and being seen theme coming back. For some reason it was really evocative of Rear Window for me. Was that something you were thinking about at all when you were working on this?
CW: You know, this whole seeing and being seen thing is new to me. I didn’t even realize that was something that was being picked up on. No, it was more that I was using these long shot of him and I wanted to show that he was looking up at where Clay was, but at the same time he was so small that I really wanted to show his dead eyes as well. So it was like, I could do a panel of a close up of his face, or I could do these cool little inset panels each time of him just constantly on Clay. He’s constactly watching him. And his eyes are so dead as well. He’s just barely looking out of them, and you couldn’t show them from the shots that I had before. So it was important that you see a close up of his face each time without doing an extra panel and wrecking the mood. I wanted to do it in a cool little way that was — again, this is before he was even talking. We did go back and add dialogue because we didn’t want him to be stupid, but the whole idea was that his speech bubbles were going to be his eyes. It was going to be the looks on his face, but you always can’t get that right considering he’s wearing a mask. [laughs] They’re almost like his speech bubbles. For example, the one before doesn’t have red, but the second has red behind it. You can tell instantly he’s slightly angrier than he was in the one before. And the one in the top right corner, in the back corner he’s like, “This guy. This guy down here. Why is he whistling?”
RP: Moving on to the last page here. We get two twist reveals at the end. Do these have equal importance? Are they both going to play out immediately?
CW: I don’t want to spoil it too much, but one of them will play out immediately — within seconds of the second issue. The other one is a slow burn. I’m not going to tell you which is which, but you’ll find out next week.
DW: The tape is quite an anonymous threat. It’s intended that way, but you’re not quite certain what that is and what it’s going to do, but obviously it’s quite significant.
CW: Everything but the chicken’s significant. [laughs] Everyone’s like, “there’s a chicken.” I was like, yeah I’m going to do this whole thing where I want it to be like a TV Show. I was listening to this podcast which was a review of the book and they were like, “Hey I love the ending of the book man, it was like a TV show where people were just going over their lives” and I was like “hey, someone got it!” Whereas other people said, “It kinda just ended.” It was this whole kinda, he got the case and it cuts away and it show you all the stuff building up. It’s not going his way.
But, you know, we had this scene where it was kinda going down the hallway towards the room that was mentioned, and you see a chicken behind the door. I just thought that was interesting. A way to tie the two pages together instead of just having the door open and the next panel be him in a room. He goes through the door and there’s a chicken there to kind of tie the two things together. He could be putting it in the TV for all you know. It’s just one of those little bits of continuity.
And now people think this chicken’s going to be on the loose in the next issue killing people, so keep an eye out for him. It’s just building up. Again, Clay joking refers to these guys as fishmen and then they actually are some sort of fishmen. Other people say they’re zombies. I don’t know where they got that, because you can’t transform into zombies but I think people got the zombie bug at the moment so they just assume that anything that looks like this is a zombie.
DW: It’s very much an Innsmouth kind of thing, and we’ll get into it slightly more. Lovecraftian tone and influence later on in the book.
CW: Yeah, the swamps are a big part of this book as well. There’s different elements of the city. You’ve got city that’s its own living, breathing thing and you’ve got the swamps surrounding it that have their own agenda. And, again, like I said the city’s a really big part of this book, it’s its own character. So if we ever get a chance to move on and do more volumes, the city’s going to expand and you’re going to see different districts. The Thumb only runs one district. There’s more than one district. They’re all really important. They’re all interconnected. And they’re all connected to Clay’s past as the book goes on. So, yeah, I’m just looking forward to doing that.
RP: Any final thoughts on the issue?
CW: Eh. [laugh] There’s not really much I would take away or add to it. It’s out there now and the reception’s been given and it’s been good, so I’m happy that we did everything we could. I wouldn’t go back and change any of it again because I’m not one of those people who, like, if I just kept taking all the criticism and having to fix it, then it wouldn’t be my book again. I think we purposely didn’t put an editor on this book.
DW: We said because we wanted it to be our book and not anyone else’s.
CW: Yeah, we’ve done the editor thing before and our vision got obscured and the product in the end wasn’t something that we were particularly — it wasn’t to say that we weren’t happy with it, but there were things we wished we could have done that we weren’t allowed to do. So with this one, again, we could have just rejected all of the criticisms, but it was more in case then like — if we had an editor they would have to be involved in the book some way, creatively, rather than just telling us what didn’t work or what should work. It was more of a…
DW: More of a…
CW: We’re all in sync. Instead of finishing it and sending it off to a third party and them looking at it and saying “Yeah, this doesn’t make sense. Fix this, fix this, fix this, fix this.” and then sending it back to us and we’re like, “ummm, nah.”
DW: Especially as it presses more into the surrealistic direction. It wouldn’t be particularly helpful to have someone telling us what did and didn’t–
CW: Because again, that’s just one person’s opinion. Even if it was a professionally really good opinion that’s going to help the book, again, we weren’t making this book to be this amazing, best-edited serial comic seller. We were creating a book that we really wanted to make, and having anyone else come in and telling us to change stuff — it would be come work, then, it wouldn’t become fun, and I don’t think I would enjoy doing it. Especially for free, spending all these hours on it, making the book I wanted to. The same with Dan. I think the driving force behind this book is we get to do what we want to do. And Image is letting us do, which is fantastic.
DW: Amazing, yeah.
CW: It really is.