BRYAN BAUGH INTERVIEW with BROKEN FRONTIER website
Interview Conducted by: JESSE VIGIL
JV: First, before we do anything else, why don't you give me the elevator pitch for the book?
BB: "Wulf and Batsy" chronicles the misadventures of a bad-tempered werewolf and a perky female vampire, as they aimlessly wander the earth over a period of about 250 years. You would think, with their supernatural powers, they would be invincible conquerors and plunderers. But being a monster is not that easy. Monsters might be above humans on the food chain, but they are painfully few in number. Werewolves and vampires, for all their individual power, are predators who are outnumbered in a world ruled by their prey. So they seek shelter, and hunt for food, and try not to be noticed. In some of the stories, Wulf and Batsy have run-ins with dangerous humans. In other stories, Wulf and Batsy meet up with other monsters, some of which are friendlier than others. That's the basic set up for the series, in a nutshell. By design, it's a very open-ended premise that I can do almost anything with.
JV: What do you think ultimately convinced Viper to publish the book?
BB: The thing that convinced Viper to publish my book was simply the tireless, outspoken support of Josh Howard. He was the one who bugged Jessie Garza and Jim Resnowski (the decision-makers at Viper) to print my book, and it took a while, almost two years - to convince them. Which was frustrating for me, but I can understand it, because I was unknown to them. After I worked on "The Expendable One" graphic novel, and the short story I did for Josh's "Sasquatch" anthology, I think Jessie and Jim started to get to know me and have more faith in me. There were other guys in the Viper family who were supportive also, but Josh Howard was the one who really went to bat for me. And I can't tell you how flattering that was, because I barely knew Josh when all this started.
JV: You have a LOT of WULF AND BATSY material that you've already generated even before the first issue goes to stands. You've stated in other interviews that you were continuing to write and draw the property during the entire two to three year period it took to get someone interested in publishing the book. Obviously, that's a lot of personal time and effort to invest in something that wasn't initially panning out. What made you keep working on it for all that time?
BB: Well, it's hard for me to answer that without giving you a little bit of Wulf and Batsy history, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I actually created Wulf and Batsy in December of 1999. I remember that very clearly because it was during the whole Y2K scare. So you could say Wulf and Batsy were born during a phase of widespread American fear. I really got going, writing and drawing the first stories in mid 2000. I had hopes and dreams, of course, but no contacts with publishers, and no reason to believe it would ever actually see print. It was just this fun hobby on the side of my day job. But between 2001 and 2004 there arose a series of major real life events - some bad, some good - that interrupted my progress and caused me to take several long, periodic breaks from Wulf and Batsy. That whole period of time was a real financial and emotional roller coaster ride, with a lot of extreme ups and downs - and Wulf and Batsy became a very on-and-off thing. I am happy to say that since 2004, things have smoothed out considerably. I managed to get back into the cartoon business, and have been enjoying a fairly steady animation career ever since. And being happily married has kept me sane. Those things have given me the peace of mind and the freedom to spend more time dreaming up my monster stories. But all of that stuff happened before I ever heard of Viper Comics. So keeping this project alive while Viper made up their minds whether or not to publish it, was sort of frustrating but not really that big a deal compared to all the other things that should have killed Wulf and Batsy years earlier. The point I'm trying to make is that there has never been any good reason for me to keep writing and drawing my comics, other than my own entertainment. I liken it to having an old, broken-down, antique car sitting in the garage, that you go out and tinker with every now and then. It's not something you do regularly, or on a schedule. You do it sporadically, as spare time allows. You never really believe you'll get it running, or that you'll ever be able to go anywhere with it, but that's not really important. You just do it for the fun of it. Writing and drawing stories about monsters is my equivalent to that. It's just what I like to do for fun.
JV: Let's talk about a trend in the industry. One-man books. One of the things that gets people excited about comics as an art form is that they're possible. They're inherently cool because they're the product of a single artist's unique vision, but a lot of them (including the preview for WULF AND BATSY that's circulating) have a different artist doing the covers. What are your thoughts on this?
BB: I prefer comics written and illustrated by one individual. They're just naturally more interesting and personal. I love reading a comic written and illustrated by one guy who is just boldly and fearlessly gushing all his favorite subject matter, all of his personal ideas and issues, all of his weird fetishes and hang ups onto the page and using them to tell a story. You might as well be reading a novel because the drawings in a one-man comic are as much a part of the author's voice as his handwriting. As far as having Josh Howard do my cover illustrations, well, I'm honored. I love Josh's artwork and I love seeing his renditions of my characters. And it's good for practical reasons because he is well known, and has a fan following, whereas I am basically unknown. So aside from the thrill of seeing his interpretations, it also encourages sales, which makes Viper happy. So it's a good thing all around.
JV: You're a self-professed horror fan and a lot of your personal work involves a LOT of gore, women-in-peril, and combinations of the two. Obviously you're a big fan of some of the big underground pioneers in this area, but how much of this aesthetic is going to come into play in WULF AND BATSY?
BB: That aesthetic plays heavily into Wulf and Batsy. The only ambition I've ever had, as an artist, is to create the comic book equivalent of exploitation horror movies. The sort of movies that used to only play at drive-ins, or at cheap, run down theaters in the bad part of town at two in the morning. Some people say those kinds of movies are just trash. Well then, I say my comics are the flies that live off that trash. I love stories about monsters, and adventures in creepy, exotic environments, and cruel, ugly men causing trouble, and sexy, scantily clad women in need of rescue. I am very old-fashioned that way. But I don't take it too seriously, either. Part of the fun of exploitation horror is not just how violent and gratuitous it is, but also how goofy it can be. A lot of the most "extreme" exploitation horrors try so hard to be scary or sexy or shocking, but they just come across as the overblown fantasies of naughty little boys. When I watch a movie like "Zombie Holocaust", or "Tombs of the Blind Dead", or "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror", I am giggling like a little kid the whole way through. Because you can tell the filmmakers intended it to be this big, important, scary, epic adventure - but it's just sooo over the top with all its exaggerated violence and overindulgent eroticism, that it's just ridiculous. But it's great, you know? It's pure, shameless, unselfconscious, unapologetic, unpretentious, exhibitionistic showmanship. These people are out to entertain you, darn it, and they're not holding anything back! Have you ever seen "Black Sabbath" by Mario Bava? I've been really into Mario Bava movies lately. That guy was a true artist who just happened to indulge in excessive horror. But he had a great sense of humor about it. He would make these really intense, brutal horror movies, and play them totally straight, and then out of nowhere he'd give you a laugh. You can tell that he was having fun. I'm in that same mindset when I write and draw my comics. Even when I draw something really nasty, like a zombie sheering somebody's legs off with a chainsaw, I just find it funny. Not because I get any sort of malicious thrill out of it, but because I'm thinking about how bad it will gross people out when they see it. The same goes for this "women in peril" stuff. Whenever you see anything bad happen to a girl in my comics or illustrations, it's done with about as much evil intent as a ten-year-old boy throwing a rubber spider at Little Suzy Ponytails on the playground. I'm not out to hurt or offend anybody. I'm just a guy who never outgrew the urge to put on a monster mask and throw rubber spiders at girls, that's all.
JV: What's your opinion on horror in comics? What's your take on the state of the industry?
BB: We're in a new phase of popularity for horror comics, but from what I've seen, the results have been very hit and miss. There's been some good stuff, for certain. I recently read "City of Others" by Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson, and thought it was great. "Thicker Than Blood", by Simon Reed and Mike Ploog was another truly great horror comic that came out very recently. But those are rare exceptions if you ask me. Most so-called horror comics I've seen in the last few years have a lackluster feel to them, like they were drawn by artists who wished they were drawing something else, but it's a job for them, another credit on their resume that will hopefully get them one step closer to their superhero dream project. I don't mean to sound like a bitter know-it-all, but when you've been eating, drinking, and breathing one particular genre your whole life, you can always recognize the work of somebody who was really into it and that of somebody who wasn't. There's just a certain intangible weirdness that seeps out of a person's artwork when they've spent their whole life primarily focused on horror. And true horror fans know the difference, just like junkies know the difference between heroin and methadone.
JV: Brilliant simile. Okay, so what would you like to see?
BB: I just wish they would stop making those Marvel Zombies books. I see that as two completely inappropriate blasphemies rolled into one. It's like putting a scoop of ice cream on a pizza. Both are great on their own but mix them and you ruin both. I like my superheroes to just be superheroes and my zombies to just be zombies.
JV: I really appreciate your candor. Now that we've slung some stuff around about the rest of the industry, let's talk about your contribution again. What do you like most about what you've made?
BB: Well, obviously I like a lot of things about my own comic! But one of the things I particularly like about Wulf and Batsy, is just how terribly un-cool they are. Most comics these days seem obsessed with making all the characters so hip and cool. They have great hairdos and excellent fashion sense and look like models and when they talk they use the latest slang and make cute references to popular TV shows. Well, I don't know, I just don't find characters like that very relatable. I much prefer goofy, quirky, weird characters who might possess extraordinary abilities but remain awkward, slightly inept, social outcasts. You know what I mean? I like characters who are sort of culturally disconnected and out-of-it. I'm a big reader of crime fiction authors like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and James Ellroy, who specialize in characters who are very sloppy emotionally and morally. So I tend to write stories about characters like that. All these hyper slick, hyper sexy characters I keep seeing in most other comics are way too cool for me.