Given the pandemic’s many effects on daily life, a lot of us escaped to our imaginations over the last year-plus. That’s not unlike the reaction of the lead character of the brand-new series Slow City Blues. In it, detective John Loris is literally trapped in his imagination following an especially horrible accident. Now locked away in a bizarre construct of his mind, Loris interacts with humanoid animals, must dance around homages and references to pop culture, and also try his best not to die.
It’s what you’d likely expect from creators John Livesay (Avengers, Spiderman, Batman, The Flash) and writer/creator Samuel Haine. (The series also features pencils from Shawn Moll — of Venom fame — and colors by Green Arrow contributor David Baron.) And if you haven’t guessed by, Slow City Blues is an action-comedy comics series that readily embraces its own idiosyncrasies. There’s a distinct sense of edginess permeating the series, with an attitude and style that’s anything but slow — not unlike last year’s Space Bastards (complete with similarly-detailed art style).
Originally set for an Image Comics release, the series is now available to purchase via ZOOP. Need some help deciding if this book is pull list-worthy? Check out our interview with Haine and Livesay below, where we talk about the series’ origins, the collective sense of humor, and crafting great fight scenes, among several other topics.
AIPT: Where did you find the inspiration, or bud of the idea, for Slow City Blues?
Sam Haine: The inspiration was talk from my dad, who read to me every night until I was FAR too old to be read to, but made my imagination far too large for my own good. And the other half, the actual inspection of the idea, was getting turned down for a job as a video game writer for the adaptation of Bill Willingham’s Fables—Bigby Wolf is one of my favorite fiction characters. I was in my early 20s and wanted to prove to the world that I could tell an awesome adventure noir, like Jim Butcher does with the Dresden Files. One day my brain kind of blossomed and out plopped this very roughshod idea about a detective trapped inside his own imagination.
AIPT: I love the sense of humor and editor’s notes in the first issue. Were those something that comes to you on a second pass of the script, or right away?
SH: Depends really. That first editor’s note came at the eleventh hour, because John didn’t want us to get sued, which was totally valid! I didn’t think the joke was funny enough to get served for, but we committed to the bit on the page, so it ended up being a joke on top of a joke. I love how it ended up, because I think that caption box ends up being funnier than the actual gag. The second one, the music cue, actually came before I even wrote the scene that it goes with. A great needle drop can really amp up an awesome scene, so I think it was me wanting an excuse to use that song and turn a fight scene up to 11! Also, I spent about 50+ hours listening to that song as I wrote and rewrote that scene, and I think that by the end it was more about “If I have to suffer through this damn song, so do you!”
John Livesay: The song does make the scene cooler.
JL: Not a compliment, just a fact.
SH: I’ll take it.
AIPT: I get the faint impression there may be nods to pop culture at work here some obvious and some not so much. Do you have a favorite that might take fans a while to find?
SH: Just faint, huh? (Laughs) The world is very referential, but that’s by design. Since we’re in this guy’s imagination chock-full of things he’s read and watched and seen over the course of his life, it only makes sense that there will be familiar things floating around. I think it also helps ground the reader in this wild world by giving them something they can immediately identify. And yes, I do have a favorite! There’s nod to Salvador Dali’s The Temptation of St. Anthony in that first issue in the BG of a panel.
JL: My favorite reference is in that double-page spread on page two and three of issue one, where Sam had Shawn sneak in Where’s Waldo.
SH: But our version is spelled “Whaldo”, ya know…for legal reasons.
AIPT: There’s a fairly long fight sequence in the first issue. How do you approach writing and drawing a fight scene so it pops in a comic book (as it does here)?
JL: From an artistic standpoint, Sam didn’t give Shawn and I much of a choice. He was dead set on having this big fight scene happen for a big portion of that first issue. He wanted us to show the readers who our hero was and what he was made of. So we had to make sure that every panel popped.
SH: The entire art team is so amazing that it would’ve been a disservice to everyone if I tried to shove my words in there. Shawn is so good at expression and action that I figured, “Why not let our fists do the talkin’?” I had all the words for the set-up and the aftermath, but I wanted to really hammer home that Indiana Jones, John McClane, skin-of-your-teeth feel to our hero. I knew we couldn’t do that if he was flappin’ his gums the entire time.
AIPT: There are elements in this work that reminded me of film, like Man Bites Dog for instance. Were there any cinematic influences on the work?
SH: Absolutely! Like I said, I wanted Loris to have Indy/McClane luck when he threw down, and those needle drops are definitely because of my love for Edgar Wright and Tarantino flicks, but I think the themes and the overall story are definitely inspired from pages rather than celluloid. Though, to be honest, that may just be a lie I’m telling myself to make myself feel smarter than I am.
AIPT: What are you hoping readers get from this series the most?
JL: Their money’s worth.
SH: A good time, and then maybe a deeper empathy for others and sympathy for self.
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