This September it’s high school stoners vs. aliens in Image Comics’ Burnouts, a brand new series co-created by writer Dennis Culver and artist Geoffo. Dennis took some time to sit in a quick session with us at Monkeys Fighting Robots and pass around some dense nuggets of info on the upcoming book. Puff, puff, give readers and enjoy!
MFR: For those ‘virgin lungs’ can you pack us up with what Burnouts is about?
Dennis: The Burnouts are the worst kids at your school that your parents told you not to hang out with. They’re [the] ones skipping class, smoking in the bathroom and generally causing trouble. What no one knows about them is that they’re the only defense against aliens that only they can see. BUT they can only see them when they smoke weed. When the nerdiest kid in school tries marijuana for the first time, he sees the aliens too and is thrown headlong into the world of the Burnouts. It’s They Live meets Freaks and Geeks.
I’m going to come right out and ask. Did getting/being high have anything to do with coming up with the idea?
I certainly partake from time to time but I’m more like our main character Andy than one of the Burnouts. Total lightweight! The idea of a group fighting an enemy only they could see had been bouncing around in my head for a while but it wasn’t clicking until I framed it around some of my own high school experiences.
You don’t have to be high to enjoy Burnouts but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
What made you think comics was the medium to tell this story in? Did you get inspired by any other specific comics?
I love comics and it’s my preferred medium to tell stories. I’ve been reading them my whole life so the references are everywhere. Everything from New Mutants to The Invisibles.
What’s your scripting approach?
I do an outline in a notebook, doodle thumbnails, take walks and sometimes start over from scratch. Once I’m finished I deliver a full complete script for Geoffo to execute.
Artist Geoffo has such a distinct style. What about his style made him the right person to draw Burnouts?
Geoffo and I had worked together on a project for Marvel. He does layouts for some of Marvel’s Infinite Comics. He reached out to me because he enjoyed my script and mentioned he’d like to work together. He has some Archie samples in his portfolio that are pretty sharp an once I saw those I knew he was perfect for the book.
I sent him the pitch and he loved it. The book couldn’t exist without him.
You have some great comedic beats and moments that land so well. How do you write that kind of timing and tone with sequential art?
I’ve spent a lot of time studying and making comics. I’ve done every job down the line from editing to art to lettering. I love the medium and I’ve worked hard to figure out the best ways to tell a story. That said, Geoffo is the co-author of this work and without his artistic skill the jokes wouldn’t land as well as they do
All the characters seemed to have a genuine voice. How do you go about writing such a crew of misfits and outcasts?
Geoffo gets a lot of credit here too as his distinct designs for each of the characters helps define their voice. They help me visualize them talking in my head too plus I pull in a lot of my own observations and experiences with people.
Did you have a favorite character to write? I can tell you Manny was my favorite to read!
Manny is a lot of fun. I like Andy’s friend Seth too as he gets to play wet blanket and conscience a lot of times. It’s fun to write the bummer!
Who from your cast do you identify with the most?
There’s a little bit of me in all the characters but as I said above probably our main character Andy.
So which character came first?
Definitely Andy. I had a vague notion of the Burnouts but Andy was mine and the reader’s way in.
Can you tell/tease us where the story is going?
The thing that gives the Burnouts their power to see and fight the aliens is also their greatest weakness. Getting wasted is just the price you pay to save the world.
What do you hope Burnouts provides for readers?
A dose of enjoyment that will leave you wanting more.
Can you list off a Burnouts dream soundtrack?
The music that I enjoy probably wouldn’t have much overlap with these teenage dirtbags. However, I can promise you a Taylor Swift reference at some point.
What’s next for you? Are you planning on sticking with creator-owned work?
I have a couple more creator-owned projects up my sleeve as well as some freelance gigs in the pipeline. More info soon
Do you have a favorite character or series from the ‘Big Two’ you would like to write?
I’ve always loved Batman and the X-Men. I got the chance to play with the X-Men characters during the Secret Wars crossover and it was a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of DC in general so I have a lot of ideas there but who wouldn’t want to write Batman? He’s the greatest.
BURNOUTS #1 (Diamond Code JUL180118) hits stores on Wednesday, September 19th. The final order cutoff for retailers is Monday, August 27th.