In Conversation with Doug Wagner on PLASTIC: DEATH & DOLLS

After 7 years, writer Doug Wagner and artist Daniel Hillyard return to the story that started their hit “Material” universe with Plastic: Death & Dolls. Published as always by Image Comics, the first issue of this 5-part mini-series is set to hit shelves on June 12 and promises to bring all the twisted humor and over-the-top gore readers have come to expect from this creative duo.

I got to sit down once again with Wagner to talk about why he and Daniel decided to come back to these characters and where they might be headed in the future.

MFR: Yours and artist Daniel Hillyard’s “Material” series always seems to offer something fresh and new every time you come back to it. What about Edwyn’s character made you want to come back to tell more of his story?



DOUG:  Oh, man. A couple of things. First and foremost, Daniel and I tend to fall in love with every character we create. Edwyn holds a special place there. He was our first serial killer, and Edwyn proved to us that there are people out there that love the same sort of weird, over-the-top, comedic horror Daniel and I love to create. Without Edwyn, we wouldn’t have created VINYL or PLUSH or what is yet to come. So, as you can probably imagine, both of us couldn’t wait to get back to this character that means so much to us. And, without admitting to too much, Edwyn encapsulates traits from both Daniel and I that we find horrifying, hilarious, and endearing all at the same time. He’s awkward, he struggles to fit in, he has odd ticks and tastes, and he has a side of himself that will not stand for injustice. Injustices we wish we had the courage to act on but can’t… you know, for legal reasons.


MFR: One of the most impressive aspects of all of your work in this twisted little world you’ve made is that there’s a surprising amount of heart in every story. How do you maintain that spark every time, and can we expect that here with Plastic: Death & Dolls?


DOUG:  First, thank you for saying that. It means a lot to hear you see and feel what we try really, really… REALLY hard to find each time. We strive to find that mix between horror and heart that makes you squirm on one page and tear up on the next. I’d never presume we’re always successful at it, but we give it our best. I think our secret is that we’re both pretty sensitive guys, and we love to have our heart strings tugged. BUT we don’t want to get the feels for too long so we jump to ridiculous mayhem as quickly as possible.

Plastic: Death & Dolls will hopefully bring that same surprising amount of heart too. There’s a particular scene between Edwyn and his mom that makes me choke up a bit every time I try to tell someone about it. Let’s hope you and some others are just as big of a crybaby as I am.


MFR: Your lead partner in crime across all of these books – Plastic, Vinyland Plush – has been the ridiculously talented Daniel Hillyard. What about your collaborative style do you think makes these comics work so well every time?


DOUG:  Egoless collaboration. That and we both share the same dark sense of humor. Honestly, Daniel and I learned early on that we both prioritize the story and its delivery over all else. What I mean by that is we don’t get caught up or concerned with who’s idea this or that was. The story comes first. Add to that, we can criticize each other’s work without worrying about offending each other. I’ve found that’s really rare. Daniel can tell me a certain scene or a line of dialogue aren’t resonating with him without worrying about how I’ll take it. If anything, he knows my next statement is going to be, “How do we fix it?” I’ve done the same with him about a layout or panel, and he’s ALWAYS had no problem redrawing another take. Sure, it can slow down the process, but story always, always comes first.


MFR: Has Daniel had any “WTF am I drawing?” moments that you can recall over the years in reaction to the scripts?


DOUG:  LOL. That’s happened a few times now. My favorite was the first time it happened. In Plastic #2 when we’re cutting off the guy’s head in the car, I kept asking for more blood. He sent me like three takes, and I kept pushing for more. On the fourth take, he said, “That’s more blood than I think the human body can store.” I said, “NOW you’re getting it.” Almost every time we bump into a “WTF” moment, it has to do with science versus story. Is it possible to rip a human in half with your bare hands? Can you make a furry suit that can separate a man from head to toe? We always answer with the same response… does it make us giggle when we see it?


MFR: How stoked – or disturbed – was the team at Image to hear that you were coming back with more Plastic?


DOUG:  I would have never guessed this, but surprisingly the folks at Image seem to love our weirdness. That probably explains why we’ve been so successful as a team. We get each other. The entire crew at Image have always been so supportive to us. When we meet up at cons and the like, I always apologize for the work I can only assume offends them, but to a person, they’ve all admitted they adore Daniel and I’s work. It’s always wonderful working with like-minded weirdos.


MFR: Do you think we’ll see any more work in the “Material” world in the future, with or without Edwyn?


DOUG:  Absolutely. Daniel and I are having a blast, and as long as there are people wanting more, we’ll keep delivering. Stay tuned.

Hit up your local comic shop to order your copy of Plastic: Death & Dolls #1 before it hits shelves on June 12th!


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