In comics, truly dark humor is often hard to come by — and Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard aim to solve that problem. They’ve produced two “materials” series for Image Comics so far — that’d Plastic and Vinyl — that bring the gallows humor and then some. Now, they have a third title on the way in Plush.
Out on November 30 via Image Comics, Plush introduces a beleaguered everyman, Devin, whose buddy attempts to offer some relief at a furry convention — and then cannibalism ensues. When shows like Dahmer are all the rage, why not add another narrative about serial killers (only this time as decidedly empathetic serial killers) to the pop culture pile?
To gain some insight into what Wagner and Hillyard are trying to do with Plush, we asked them a few questions via email. That includes what research is required to tell a story about a furry conventions and whether or not there are more “material” series in the planning phase. Plus, check out three exclusive pages and Tula Latoy’s newly-revealed cover art for the series!
AIPT: What’s the mission statement for this series?
Daniel Hillyard: Doug, I feel like this one is best suited for you. Why do these questions have to be so cryptic? Can’t they ask me what pizza I like or something?
Doug Wagner: To be fair, you’re an Englishman who lives in Spain. Can we really trust your opinion on pizza?
As far as a mission statement for Plush is concerned, my dream is to make the reader giggle quietly in the dark at things that make them uncomfortable… and maybe wince once or twice. I consider myself an “escapism” writer, so I can only hope our story provides some sort of reprieve for the reader from everyday life.
AIPT: The third series in the “material” line, can I ask, was a third book always planned or in your back pocket to produce?
DH: When Doug and I started Plastic, I don’t remember there being a plan to continue a theme. But I remember feeling like we’d found our gear as far as genres go. The blend of horror, comedy, and relationships was where we decided to break the shifter off.
DW: Daniel’s right. No plan whatsoever. When Daniel and I first did Plastic (the first book in the “Material” trilogy), we had no aspirations past finishing that particular story. We honestly didn’t know how readers would respond to it. Good news for us, apparently there are quite a few folks out there just as sick and disturbed as we are. Who knew?
Since Plastic was so successful, Eric Stephenson suggested we create a trilogy based on different materials. Once he mentioned it, we both fell in love with the idea and everything evolved from there. As Daniel said, once the world gave us permission to chase the kind of stories we wanted to see, we decided to break the shifter off.
AIPT: What kind of research goes into a series about furries?
DW: Luckily for me, I have quite a few friends in our the furry community, so it was easy for me to get on the phone and chat them up. Plus, I have my own fascination with the culture. I’ve even been to a few furry conventions myself. The tougher part was all the research into the different fursuits and fursonas. Besides spending 80-plus hours combing around on the interwebs, I watched quite a few movies and documentaries. It’s not a big deal when it’s a subject you’re actually interested in.
DH: For me, it’s a lot of internet image searches for reference materials and a splash of a documentary or two.
AIPT: Murder and gore seem to be in all the work that you do, what makes these elements work for your kind of storytelling?
DW: For me, I like the visceral reaction murder and gore triggers. I know it’s an unusual storytelling element to incorporate, but what can I say? It fits Daniel and me’s style. I love how we can go from a loving, touching moment and then to something that should feel like the exact opposite, but not quite. It’s our version of the theatrical mask.
DH: Horror has always been one of my favorite genres. When I think of storytelling, it’s usually through that lens, so building these stories with that visualization clicks for me. And I love drawing all that stuff too—that over-the-top slapstick gore.
AIPT: Since it’s nearly Halloween when I asked these questions, what is your go-to Halloween movie?
DH: The pressure is on with this question! I feel I need to have some witty pick to let my fellow horror fans know I’m one of them. But The Thing always scares the pants off me…. and Hotel Transylvania. I’m a big kid at heart.
DW: It’s Alien for me. Yep, the original. It was the first horror movie I was allowed to watch as a kid. I was terrified to even start the movie. But once I was in, I couldn’t get enough. I loved every second of it. That movie has influenced me to this very day.
AIPT: I know our culture is addicted to the trilogy, but might you have more “materials” ideas coming in the future?
DH: The short answer is yes.
DW: In my mind, we’re just getting started.
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