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Talking the unhinged 'Vinyl' with creators Daniel Hillyard and Doug Wagner

Comic Books

Talking the unhinged ‘Vinyl’ with creators Daniel Hillyard and Doug Wagner

For fans of romance and serial killers.

Image Comics has a new series on their hands they’re describe as Dexter meets Nailbiter, and it’s called Vinyl. Written by Daniel Hillyard and drawn by Doug Wagner — the same who brought us the dark comedy horror Plastic — it’s a series that Hillyard calls “the sickest, most messed up, beautiful thing Doug and I have worked on to date.” Now, that’s say something.

But what is Vinyl about exactly? It’s best to let Image handle that feat:

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

Plastic creators Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard return with Eisner Award winner Dave Stewart for an unsettling tale of psychopaths, sweet love, and a serial killer named Walter. When Walter’s best friend, the FBI agent charged with his capture, is kidnapped by a death cult of all-female sunflower farmers, Walter finds himself deep within an underground labyrinth filled with secrets and monsters…but are their monsters more horrific than his?

We touched base with both creators to discuss the series, including the likeability of serial killers, their overall collaborative process, and how the first issue unfolds, among other topics.

Vinyl #1 hits shelves on June 23. 

AIPT: David Brooke here from AIPT, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, Doug and Daniel! I wanted to start by saying I found the first issue intriguing because it seems to mix so many elements, from serial killers to cultish communes. What made all these elements come together for you when crafting this story?

Daniel Hillyard: Hi, David, nice to meet you. Funny enough, Doug and I were talking about this last night. From my memory, the serial killer stuff was there first, and the cultish commune parts came about from Doug’s fascination with a perfume advert with Charlize Theron and a documentary of the Manson family.

Doug Wagner: David, thanks for having us, and very nice to meet you as well. Daniel’s telling the truth, but I swear I don’t just sit around watching TV all day coming up with crazy ideas. The initial idea of a “Justice League of serial killers” simply popped in my head one day during a walk and started to stew. After a few months, I pitched it to Daniel, he enthusiastically wanted in, so we started fleshing it out from there. We were stumped at first by who this team of sickos might be paired up against. I mean, the antagonists HAD to be just as insane and horrendous, right? We went through corporate baddies, cartels, gangs, and the like, but they all felt too normal for us. I believe Daniel was the one that mentioned a cult. Admittedly at first, I wasn’t sold, but as we started diving into creating something unusual, I started to fall in love. The Charlize Theron commercial, the Manson family doc, all mixed with sunflowers started to make some sort of intoxicating sense to us. We decided if we were going to do crazy, let’s go all in. Man, I hope it works!

Vinyl #1 Image Comics

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AIPT: Given there’s a serial killer as the main character, what goes into making a character who does despicable things relatable or likable?

DH: Doug will be better at answering this than me, for sure. Personally, I feel that our serial killer characters are never mean. Just because they’re a bad person doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. (How’s that for confusing?)

DW: I think it comes down to the character’s current motivation and intentions, their personalities, and their emotional flaws. John Wick, Deadpool, and even Wolverine all have horrific pasts, but we all cheer for them in their current day lives. We identify with them trying to do the right thing at this moment in time. Of course, it’s always a big help if the character has a unique personality and interesting emotional flaws as well. In the case of our serial killers, we tried to incorporate all of those aspects in each one.

AIPT: The first issue has a story that jumps around a bit, was it always flashing forward, or did you write the narrative linearly?

DW: The initial summary was very linear as you might expect, but we decided we wanted to purposefully jump around a bit in the beginning of this first issue. The intent was to give the reader a bit of a psychedelic ride in the beginning to create the experience of what it’s like to be in our serial killer’s head. We knew we were taking a big chance, but we felt this story called for it.

Vinyl #1 Image Comics

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AIPT: I don’t believe a date is given as far as when this story takes place, but from the sunflowers to the use of vinyl, the story seems to be harkening to another time, similar to Bad Times at the El Royale being set in the late ’50s. Is that a stylistic choice tapping into something for the reader?

DH: It does take place in a modern-day setting, which is why this question makes me so happy because it means that we may have succeeded in hitting a goal that we weren’t sure we could achieve. The main character, Walter’s focus is memories. Keeping them and making them, and if that feeling of nostalgia comes through in the story, then I’m a happy guy.

DW: I mean, Daniel kinda said it all. The fact that you felt it harkened back to another time even though it’s set in today’s world means everything to us. That’s a huge win in our book.

AIPT: Daniel, I love your art, it’s so very clean and detailed which suits the gore and emotionality of the characters. What has been your favorite thing to draw in the series so far?

DH: Thanks so much. I love drawing stylized gore, and some scenes in this story are pretty crazy. In particular, a double-page spread of someone getting skewered by a blood-soaked she-devil was loads of fun to draw. That and the covers were a blast to do. And Dave Stewart’s phenomenal skills made it even better.


Courtesy of Image Comics.

AIPT: Daniel, with Dave Stewart coloring, can you talk a little about his work over your art?

DH: It was a dream to work with Dave. He really elevated the story to a whole other level. All the extra texture and detail that he was able to bring was incredible! I remember one time I got an email from Dave politely asking if he could adjust a spot black on a cover because he had an idea for something cool he wanted to try out. And after he was finished, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

AIPT: Do either of you listen to music on vinyl and is it truly the superior format?

DH: I haven’t listened to anything vinyl since Jive Bunny at the local club as a kid. I’m of the cassette generation [laughs]

DW: I love listening to vinyl. However, I don’t see it as necessarily a superior format so much as a unique, musical experience. To me, it would be like debating whether film, TV, or comics were the superior format. I love them all. Sometimes I need a day of vinyl, the next I need some high-res beats, and the next it’s watching Charlize Theron perfume adverts on YouTube.

AIPT: If you were to describe Vinyl with one word what would it be?

DH: Thinking about Walter, “memorable” seems apt [smiles.]

DW: Unhinged.

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