It’s not every day that we get to enjoy seeing writer Stu Perrins chime in on WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ARCHETYPE?, and all things indie comics, so let’s do this, with relish.
Q: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ARCHETYPE? looks like great fun. What can you tell us about this tale, without giving too much away?
SP: What I’ve tried to do is use the concept of an aging superhero to discuss the way society looks at the elderly. As much as the comic is heavily influenced by things like Flash Gordon, The Rocketeer and the Superman books from the 1930s, it’s still very much a human story. It’s been compared to Watchmen, which is immensely flattering, but I see it as more of a melancholy tale than a gritty fable. Which is not to say that it’s not a fun book, because it is fun. My eleven-year-old nephew read the first issue recently and he’s eager to see what happens next.
Q: What is this tale’s target demographic?
SP: Judging by the people who have read and enjoyed it, I wouldn’t say there is a target demographic as such. The only thing I would say is that I wouldn’t want young kids reading it, not because the content or language is too graphic or anything, but because there’s a tinge of melancholy throughout the story that younger children don’t need to know about for a few years yet.
Q: Christopher Quin seems like a protagonist we can all root for. What was the inspiration for this particular character?
SP: My grandfather. It was only after he died after literally decades of illness a few years ago that I discovered that amongst other things he’d been part of a motorcycle stunt team in his youth. I don’t think I’ve ever been more stunned by something in my life to be honest, which I shouldn’t be really. I know he was my Grandad, but he probably did all the crazy stuff I did decades before I was even thought of. This was the seed of the story really, not that I thought he was a superhero or anything, but the fact that in his only little way he’d given Evel Knievel a run for his money and I had no idea!
Q: Your grandfather gave Evel Knievel a run for his money? How so?
SP: Well, he was part of this motorcycle team, so I’ve got this imagined memory of him jumping through flamed hoops and rows of double decker buses with his flat cap blowing on the wind.
Q: How does your creative process usually flow?
SP: There is really no set pattern on how I do things. I tend to get my best ideas when I’m not really thinking about it. I might have a germ of an idea when I’m doing something normal like shopping or taking the kids to school. The idea will grow and grow. By the time I get home, it’s no longer an idea; it’s now a concept with characters, worlds, and all sorts of crazy weirdness. I wish that I could bottle that moment, because it’s just the best feeling ever!
Q: What future projects of yours should we be on the lookout for?
SP: Something I’m VERY excited about is a project called The Girl, which I’m working on with Pat O’Donell, who is an amazing artist. The character sketches and penciled pages he’s been sending me are just amazing. Genuine *wow* stuff. Why this guy isn’t a world-renowned artist is beyond me. Just wait and see what he’s created. Minds will be blown!
Q: How did you and Pat O’Donell get together?
SP: He posted a sketch that he’d done of Wolverine on Facebook and I was just floored by it, to be honest. I sent him a message saying that I’d love to work with him on a project sometime, not thinking I had a hope in hell of that happening. But we soon after that we worked together on a short strip called ‘The Power of Three’ which was part of an anthology I’d put together called The Human Zoo and it was while we were working on that that I pitched The Girl to him, and I think it’s fair to say he was hooked by the insanity of it all.
The comic itself is being published by the ever-awesome Insane Comics and is a sci-fi/crime noir/superhero/murder mystery ultraviolent epic. It’s by far the craziest thing I’ve ever created. I read it back and even I’m confused as to where some of this stuff has come from. I was raised a good Catholic boy! If I was to compare it to anything, I’d rather arrogantly describe it as a cross between Turbo Kid, Terminator, and mid-80’s Judge Dredd turned up to eleven!
Q: It’s a sci-fi/crime noir/superhero/murder mystery ultraviolent epic? What a wild fusion of different genres that is. Tell us a bit more about the crime noir element of it?
SP: Well without giving too much away, within the comic there are four different storylines happening at the same time. As the story goes on, the reader learns how each of the four stories are connected, and how they influence each other. The crime noir element is something I’ve really enjoyed wiring because I’ve never really written anything that could be described as ‘police procedural’ before. The central character to that particular narrative is probably one of my favorite characters that I’ve created. His name is Detective Oswald Cleaver and he’s this grizzled seen-it-all cop; it is probably best to describe him as a pipe-smoking futuristic Columbo. A good guy, but you wouldn’t want him babysitting your kids.
Q: What do you suppose might take most readers by surprise, when they read WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ARCHETYPE?
SP: Its different in almost every sense. The tone, the language, the violent nature of some of the characters. Where Whatever Happened To The Archetype? was very much a human story, The Girl is balls-to-the-wall craziness. I am really interested to see what people think of it. I’m hoping it turns heads, as well as a few stomachs.
Q: Which indie comics of the past ten years have your found to be the most enjoyable?
SP: Jeez, there are so many. I must say that you can’t go wrong with pretty much anything that Insane Comics are putting out. There’s genuinely no bias involved here either, because I’d be reading stuff like Hollow Girl and Dragon Trio regardless of who was publishing my own work. There’s an awesome one-shot by Rees Finlay called Damnation that came out a little while ago which is stunning. Also, have a look at Double D by Eddie Argos and Steven Horry; it’s one of those books that felt like it had been written just for me.
Q: When you say if feels like DOUBLE D was written just for you, what do you mean by that?
SP: In a lot of ways it reminded me of the Scott Pilgrim books, in that it referenced so many things I loved, and the protagonist was a slightly nerdish awkward kid rather than some strapping, muscle bound God. Underdog characters are far more interesting to me. What’s so interesting about the good looking guy who always gets the girl?
Q: What do you suppose brick-and-mortar comic book shops could do more of, to remain relevant in these digital times?
SP: Oh man, I dunno. I do read some digital comics, but at heart I’m an ink and paper man. So, that’s a tough question. What I would like to see is more of everything in comic stores. More kids’ books, more non-mainstream books, more everything. The wider the variety of books, the wider the variety of people coming into stores.
Q: Speaking of kids’ books, which of those might you recommend for the younger readers?
SP: The Teen Titans Go! books are great. Really self-deprecating with a lot of heart.
Q: How might you go about explaining the craft of writing to an attentive class of college freshmen?
SP: Always go with your gut. Your ideas are no less valid than anyone else’s. As soon as you start writing what you think other people what to read, you’ll start losing the heart and soul of your characters and your story. And, more importantly, you’ll allow yourself to make mistakes.
Q: Five dinner guests. Which five living writers (of indie comics or otherwise) would you invite to a dinner party?
SP: Terry Gilliam, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Pat Mills. But if only Gilliam turned up I’d be more than happy, that man is an absolute hero of mine. Actually could I cram Brian Blessed in at the table somewhere? His autobiography is amazing!
Q: Brian Blessed is always welcome at any table, as far as we’re concerned! It’s tremendous that you singled out Terry Gilliam. Which three of his works had the most profound impact on you?
SP: That’s a tough question because he’s been involved with so many things I love. But if I had to pick three, and I’m excluding Monty Python because that’s a given, they would have to be – 1) Time Bandits, which is without doubt my favorite film of all time. I can’t decide whether it’s a kid’s film for adults or an adult film for kids, but it just fills me with joy every time I watch it. 2) Brazil, I just love the bleakness of it, and the idea of retreating into your imagination is something I can strongly identify with, and finally 3) Gilliam-esque. It’s part autobiography and part art book. Wonderfully inspirational.
Q: What hasn’t happened yet, in indie comics, that you would love to see happen next?
SP: There’s a certain snobbery within some indie comic circles, a bit of a them-and-us war with the big publishers. Which is silly really, because for those not into comics, there isn’t mainstream and indie, there’s just ‘comics’ and the reason most people are into comics in the first place is because of characters like Spiderman and The Flash. So, I’d like to see more people open to different types of comics, regardless of the publisher.
Q: [Role play] You’re on a ship at sea. It is a dark and stormy night. The captain is nowhere to be found. What do you do?
SP: Pinch myself ‘cause this is a dream, right? RIGHT?
Q: [Role play continues] After pinching yourself, you wake up and find yourself sitting in a comfy chair. Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones are standing nearby, dressed in red flowing robes and such. Luckily, you see them before they see you. What do you do?
SP: I have no idea, because nobody would expect that!