For nearly two decades, Patrick Meighan has been a writer on Family Guy. In that time, he’s written about Peter’s foray into the land of erotic fiction, Stewie and Brian’s trip to Nazi-occupied Germany, and that famed Simpson-crossover. Talk about range, folks.
Now, he’s taking his experiences in another direction with She Kills, a similarly weird and unabashedly risque comic. Drawn by Gabo (of Elephantmen fame), the series follows the titular Tongva Native American woman who has “one knife, one daughter, and zero yū-ah’s to give.” Though deeply irreverent, it’s a story about parenthood, personal growth, and the struggle for independence, all set in the backdrop of early Los Angeles. Because who says a running toilet joke can’t also make you feel things?
I recently touched base with Meighan to talk about the series, the overlap with Family Guy, the importance of L.A. to the story, how his wife and daughter influenced the story, and much, much more.
Part 1 of She Kills will be available for free April 8 on www.shekillscomic.com. Expect parts 2 and 3 to debut on May 13 and June 10, respectively.
AIPT: What’s your elevator pitch for She Kills? I get a strong mix of Young Guns and A Million Ways to Die in the West.
Patrick Meighan: Elevator pitches are really not my strong suit, but gun to the head, I’d say it’s like if The Ballad of Buster Scruggs had one more chapter, and it was the film Lady Bird.
AIPT: There’s a lot of “toilet-y” humor to this first issue (a compliment), which makes sense given your Family Guy background. As different as they are, do you see any overlap between the two projects, or anything you might have carried over?
PM: Well, of course toilet-stuff is kind of a historical universal, right? Kings and serfs, prophets and slaves… they all pooped. So, yeah. Beyond that, is there overlap between Family Guy and She Kills? I’ve asked myself that question a lot, and my best answer is: I really don’t know. Probably the biggest quality I’ve absorbed in my 16 years of writing for Family Guy is a general impatience with earnestness and sobriety (even when I’m dealing with subject matter that calls for it… which She Kills does!). I’ve definitely carried that quality with me into the writing of She Kills. So that’s some of the overlap. Outside of that, though: nah, not really. They’re just such different projects.
AIPT: I love how despicable She Kills comes off, and yet she’s got some slightly redeeming qualities. What’s it like to create such a nasty but nuanced character? Do you put a lot of thought into how much people should love or despise her?
PM: I honestly did not think too much about making She Kills (the character) likeable. I definitely want her to be interesting, and to feel real, but beyond that, I mean, she’s a homeless vagabond in a genocidal era and locale, with no friends or family (save her daughter, whom she’s in the process of losing). How nice and friendly should we really expect her to be?
AIPT: Per the press for the series, you’re doing this story in 3 parts. Is that challenging on your end, especially since some limited series have 5-6 issues.
PM: Volume 1 of She Kills consists of 3 parts, but there’s more to come. So yeah, we’re gonna be with these characters for quite a while, and are gonna put them through some truly effed up ess.
AIPT: How much did you pull from the dynamic of your own wife and daughter (not too much, I hope). Is it weird or stressful to reference something so familiar or important to you?
PM: I really should emphasize that She Kills is definitely not my wife, in that my wife isn’t spiteful or self-righteous, and she also doesn’t stab people. She’s very not-stabby! And I am too! But my wife and I have something in common with She Kills in that we’re living through the process of having a child whom we love more than anything on the planet slowly realize that she doesn’t need us anymore. It’s painful! And confusing and scary! And doubly more so for my wife (who feels everything so fully) than for me (who’s basically kinda dead inside). I wanted to write about that pain and confusion and fear, and how a parent might react to it if the thing that she’s losing (her child) is truly the only thing that she has in life.
AIPT: I get the sense this is a “love letter” to Los Angeles in a way. What do you want to say about the city, or what do you think people should understand about it, especially regarding some of its “origins”?
PM: A love letter to Los Angeles is exactly what this project started out as, and that’s what it’s remained. But it’s also an acknowledgement that this city I love was birthed out of theft and genocide. For example, most people don’t know that slavery used to be legal in Los Angeles. They think of that as a Deep South thing. But here in L.A., natives were regularly rounded up on Monday mornings for public drunkenness, or for property crimes, or just general loitering, and then they’d be sold off to the highest bidder as temporary slaves. They’d be worked like goddamn animals, and then at the end of the week they’d all be released and given booze as “payment”, and the cycle would repeat. These people didn’t live very long lives because they were trapped in that slavery cycle. This was a tool of genocide. But it’s also how the first irrigation ditches were dug in Los Angeles. The first roads, and the first sewers. I’d love it if readers came away from She Kills knowing just a bit more about this stuff.
AIPT: I have a step-daughter, and it’s interesting to be a male “observer” during interactions between her and my fiancee. Is there some of that in this book, that sense of being a man in a home of women or just how men perceive the mother-daughter dynamic?
PM: I don’t know if it’s the case that the mother-daughter dynamic is stronger (in all ways) than anything the father can bring to the table, or if that’s just a stereotype or what. All I can say is that the bond between my wife and my daughter is incredibly profound, and that it’s been a truly awesome thing to watch and to experience vicariously. But the flip side of it is that when they fight, they fight, and it gets real. And that’s been its own vicarious experience for me. But I’m so grateful for it! Because without that vicarious emotional experience, I’d have no emotional experience at all (as mentioned earlier: dead inside).
AIPT: What books do you think fit in the same “family” as She Kills? What’s your “Read If You Like..” choices/selections?
PM: That’s a good question. There really isn’t much out there that’s like She Kills. That’s why I wrote it! I can say that I was very inspired by the work of non-fiction cartoonist Joe Sacco (check out Footnotes in Gaza, or Safe Area Goražde). For the time and place in which She Kills is set, you might want to read Eternity Street by John Mack Faragher or Reminiscences of a Ranger by Horace Bell. But those are, like, regular books. In the comics world, She Kills may be a bit of a loner, but that’s what makes it interesting for readers to pick up.
AIPT: There’s a lot of darkness made silly, and a lot of silliness made really serious. Do you want to play with people’s perceptions, and is it ultimately OK to laugh at, say, handless orphans or negligent parenting?
PM: Well, it’s kind of all I know how to do. It gets me into trouble sometimes. Or a lot of the time. But I think it’s a universal human impulse: to look for levity, even (especially) in dark places. That said, it’s definitely a very tricky and dangerous line to walk. I walked it as best I could with She Kills, and if I messed up at any point, my only hope is that it didn’t come off as flip or cavalier, because that’s not what I want She Kills to be. Maybe some of the characters might be at times, sure, but not the book as a whole. At least I don’t think so.
AIPT: Without spoiling too much, where are the next two parts headed? What can we expect from She Kills as a series?
PM: Volume 1 of She Kills is all about Joaquin Dos trying to break away from her mother. Volume 2 is all about She Kills trying to drag her daughter back, at any cost. And then all hell really breaks loose (and links up with actual, historical events from the period) moving forward.
AIPT: What does Gabo’s art bring to the series in general? What’s the collaboration like between you two?
PM: Oh my god, Gabo’s amazing, and he’s brought an incredible amount of beauty and heart to what could’ve been a pretty unforgiving world. Honestly, almost the only time I ever find myself giving Gabo a note, it’s when he’s being merciful to our characters, and the story is calling for the opposite. It’s like Gabo just naturally wants to protect these people, and I gotta urge him to really lay the hurt on. To really bring the violence. I’m afraid that by now Gabo might think I’m a freakin’ psychopath. I’m not, I swear!
AIPT: You’ve worked in animation before obviously, but does moving into or working in comics prove challenging at all? Does it feel familiar in a way?
PM: It’s definitely similar in that (for both Family Guy and She Kills) my job has been to think of a scene or a story and just commit it to script without having any real notion of how (or even whether) it’s possible to execute the damn thing. All I can do is hand it off and trust that the genius with the pencil will figure out a way. And so far, Gabo is absolutely undefeated. Better than undefeated, really… he consistently finds ways to bring the story to places I’d never be able to conceptualize on my own. I’m so lucky to get to collaborate with him.