In Conversation With Doug Wagner & Daniel Hillyard On Their PLASTIC And NARCO Kickstarter

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The brilliantly deranged minds of writer Doug Wagner and artist Daniel Hillyard from 12 Gauge Comics have an especially grotesque Kickstarter live as we speak. Plastic, the duo’s acclaimed over-the-top serial killer mini-series, is up for grabs as a special edition hardcover! This expanded edition of the 2017 Image cult classic incudes a new 6-page backup story revolving around Edwyn, a former serial killer who goes on a vengeful murder spree to reunite with his blow-up doll girlfriend. Yes. You read that right. The second book is the brand new OGN Narco, also from the same creative team and set within the same Plastic universe (as is the currently-releasing Image series Vinyl). This book assumes a more Hitchcockian suspense as a young man with narcolepsy witnesses a murder and pursues the killer, despite the fact that stress and violence triggers his condition.

I got to sit down and  talk to Wagner and Hillyard about their decision to move to Kickstarter from Image for this release, their cause to return to this twisted universe, and what they may have in store for the future.

“MARCUS WESPHAL suffers from severe narcolepsy. His condition is peculiar—if he gets overly excited or stressed, he passes out.”

“However, he’s adapted well. He has all his groceries delivered; he’s got good friends, he’s developed quite a following as an online sleuth, and he admires the girl of his dreams, JESSICA WRIGHT, through his front door peephole (he’s working up the courage to ask her out, OK?!). Marcus has crafted the perfect bubble for himself. But when he watches Jessica get murdered right before his eyes, helpless to do anything about it before passing out, that bubble bursts.

Marcus is now the prime suspect in Jessica’s murder. If he’s going to prove his innocence, he will have to leave the safety of his apartment and track down the real killer. Or, could he possibly be the killer and not even know it?

MFR: You guys seem to have entirely too much fun making stories in this universe. What keeps you coming back for more?

DANIEL: I’m glad it shows—it really is so much fun. I just can’t get enough of this type of stuff. Horror comedy and slapstick horror is where my gear shifter has gotten stuck, and I couldn’t be happier.

DOUG: As oversimplified as this may sound, we love it. Daniel and I constantly talk about how much we love mixing horror and comedy and sprinkling as much insanity into it as we can come up with. I know for me, I can admit I have this weird sense of humor. I find it so fascinating that people can be offended by the mere suggestion of a blow-up doll or the fact that a person can be sexually attractive wearing something like a unicorn onesie. I love incorporating that into our Plastic-verse stories. It makes it weird, uncomfortable, and disturbing… three of my favorite things.

MFR: Both Plastic and your current ongoing Vinyl have been published by Image Comics. What made you decide to go the Kickstarter route, and how has that experience been different?

DOUG:  For me, I thought NARCO was best suited for a Kickstarter from the beginning. NARCO isn’t your typical comic, and I didn’t think it would read well broken up over several issues. Add to that, original graphic novels don’t typically sell quickly enough for us to pay everyone involved as soon as I’d prefer. The obvious answer to me was Kickstarter. Kickstarter allows us to finance the book quickly, and more importantly, sell it directly to the readers who would be interested.

DANIEL: This is my first venture into the world of Kickstarter, so I don’t really know much about how everything works, but the idea of being able to release NARCO as a complete story and right into the hands of readers is something that I can totally get behind. And I never knew how much I wanted a PLASTIC hardcover edition, until now.

DOUG:  And as far as the experience of it, I could probably write a book about the differences between traditional publishing and Kickstarter. I think I can speak for both of us when I say the two are drastically different. Typically, we finish a book, send it off to the publisher, and it magically appears in stores. When it’s on the shelves, Daniel and I don’t get to interact with many of the folks buying the book. Sure, we interact as much as we can with the readers online, but it’s such a small fraction of the people buying it. Kickstarter is kinda the exact opposite. We’re interacting daily for several straight weeks with everyone that backs the project. It’s solely up to the team to promote the book (that’s Daniel, Keven Gardner, Sean Edgar, and myself). If you know Daniel and I, we are NOT fans of selling ourselves. We’re the typical creatives that want to sit in our caves and create. With a Kickstarter, we have to step out of that safe zone and do our best to sell people on our book. Fingers crossed that works out.

MFR: I gotta know, was the backup story in the new Plastic Hardcover one that had been stewing for a while, or did it strike suddenly?

DOUG:  It has been stewing since 2017. Daniel and I had started tinkering with a follow-up to the original Plastic mini-series and had planned a deep dive into Edwyn’s unusual childhood, his fascination with removing heads, and what prompted his first kill. This little backup story is a glimpse into what we have planned.

DANIEL: Exactly that. Really, you can think of the PLASTIC backup story as a glimpse of things to come.

MFR: Despite how similar they all are, every story you’ve come up with in this twisted world you guys have created still feels fresh and surprising. Where does a non-serial killer character like Marcus in Narco fit in as a protagonist in this overall narrative?

DOUG:  Marcus is kind of our quirky and odd “normal” person, or audience cipher, that’s about to get a small taste of this crazy world of serial killers, blow-up dolls, and sunflower cults. He doesn’t have the resume of Edwyn or Walter, but he knows just enough about all of this serial killing stuff to be a danger… mostly to himself. Personally, I think one of the more enjoyable aspects of adding him to the mix is that he’s almost the polar opposite of our protagonists in PLASTIC and VINYL. Where VINYL’s Walter is this seemingly unshakable, calm, calculated monstrosity, Marcus is a guy who has a narcoleptic condition that has him passing out at the first sign of anything exciting. How does a guy like that handle being hunted by a serial killer? Well… he passes out of course.

DANIEL: [Laughs]

MFR: What were some of your biggest influences, in any medium, going into the creation of Narco, and into all of these comics overall?

DANIEL: Usually we all start by throwing out some names of media, films, books, art, shows or music that sums up the feeling we’re all aiming for on a particular story. Doug threw out some suggestions at the beginning, which were awesome, and we went from there building the look and feel of the book.

DOUG:  In regards to NARCO, my primary influence there is clearly Alfred Hitchcock. When Keven pitched the idea to us, my very first thought (that I blurted out loud) was this should be like REAR WINDOW meets PSYCHO. Daniel and Keven liked that idea and we were off. We admittedly knew it was risky to create a Hitchcock-inspired comic book in this day and age, but once we had that direction, we were compelled to finish it.

As far as PLASTIC and VINYL, the influences for both are far and wide. For me, those were inspired by this crazy amalgamation of everything I love. Alien, The Evil Dead, Dale and Tucker versus Evil, Seven Psychopaths, Zombieland, Memento, Predator—top all of that off with rom-coms and buddy movies. If I loved it, I tossed it in the insanity story blender.

MFR: If you can divulge, what can we expect next from the world of Plastic/Vinyl/Narco?

DOUG: Daniel and I should be done with NARCO by the end of 2021. Next, we’re diving straight into the third installment of our “Material” trilogy. There was PLASTIC, then VINYL, and finally… as you guessed, we’re not allowed to say just yet. But we are expecting the third installment to come out in 2022. After that, we have this long list of Plastic-verse stories we need to get to. As long as people seem to like what we’re doing, we’ll keep doing it.

DANIEL: The next story is going to be awesome! That’s all I can say. And that I bet no one can guess the title [laughs].

Back the Kickstarter today to grab these absurdly fun and hilariously macabre collections, along with some fantastic extras!

 

Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.

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