Chip Zdarsky steps into a writer’s role with ‘Howard the Duck’ and ‘Kaptara’

April 22, 2015 | 10:48 a.m.

Chip Zdarsky is evolving.

Originally created as a pseudonym for newspaper illustrator Steve Murray, the persona of Chip Zdarsky allowed Murray to create illustrations and comics that would have posed conflicts with his day job at Toronto’s National Post, but that veil of anonymity has been pulled away over the years as Zdarsky’s profile rose in the comic-book community.

Working with writer Matt Fraction as the artist of Image Comics’ “Sex Criminals,” Zdarsky won an Eisner Award for best new series last year, and in 2015, he takes on his first major projects as writer: a new “Howard the Duck” series for Marvel Comics with artist Joe Quinones, which debuted in March, and the creator-owned “Kaptara” for Image Comics with artist Kagan McLeod, which launches this week.

Chip Zdarksy's variant cover for "Howard the Duck" No. 1. (Marvel)

Chip Zdarksy’s variant cover for “Howard the Duck” No. 1. (Marvel)

“Back in the day, it was a lot of fun,” Zdarsky said. “I could do conventions and pretend to be somebody else. This also coincided with a divorce, which my therapist loves. The idea that I came up with an alter-ego to live out these other ideas of myself after my divorce. Probably going to write a book on it. But it was a secret for so long that we were one and the same, and I would get angry at people at shows if they tried to call me Steve.

“Eventually somebody wrote something in a newspaper that linked the two names, and it started to crumble at that point. I always tried to keep it separate, but then this year, when you start winning awards, which is not something I expected ever, all of a sudden the newspaper I worked at had to cover it because it’s a story. They don’t want to disassociate themselves anymore. This year was the first time that the newspaper I work for did an article about Chip, outing him as also Steve, which is weird. It was like the death of a secret.”

The death of a secret has coincided with the rapid growth of a comics career, and much of Zdarsky’s success can be attributed to the range of talents he honed during his time working for the National Post and other outlets.

“I basically spent 13 years working for the newspaper but also doing freelance, and I took on every job that I could,” Zdarsky said. “I learned how to do background painting for animation, I learned how to do oil painting, I learned to do graphic design. Just out of necessity. So all of that has culminated in comics, because comics demands that you actually understand a lot of disciplines, a lot of programs. Like ‘Sex Criminals,’ I use four or five different computer programs to do it. There’s a huge element of design involved and storytelling, and I wouldn’t be able to do this job right now if it weren’t for the years of freelance and working for the newspaper.”

Zdarsky’s work on “Sex Criminals” with writer Fraction exhibits his skills for nuanced character expression, immersive environmental design and hilarious background gags, making it a comic that rewards extra attention spent on the artwork. Given his sharp sense of humor, Zdarsky is an exciting choice of writer to revive Marvel’s satirical “Howard the Duck” series, which pokes fun at the Marvel Universe and larger pop culture by exploring it through the perspective of a talking duck private investigator. It’s an assignment that plays to Zdarsky’s strengths and brings him on board with the publisher that helped introduce him to the medium as a child.

“One of the first comics I can remember was ‘Secret Wars’ No. 7, which I later found out was a giant marketing ploy to sell toys, so it broke my heart a bit,” Zdarsky said. “It’s all about selling toys and selling comics, but it felt so fantastic when I was a kid. Just this big, epic story with all these characters. Then you read the stories later, and it’s heartbreaking. And now I’m a part of it! It’s great! I’m actually attempting to do a ‘Secret Wars’ crossover. Not with the upcoming ‘Secret Wars,’ but the ‘Secret Wars’ from 1984. I’m not really running anything by anyone, I’m just doing it. But we’ll see. Trick retailers into thinking it’s an actual ‘Secret Wars’ crossover.”

Page 8 of "Howard the Duck" No. 1, by Chip Zdarksy and Joe Quinones. (Marvel)

Page 8 of “Howard the Duck” No. 1, by Chip Zdarksy and Joe Quinones. (Marvel)

“Howard the Duck” is Zdarsky’s first ongoing series at a corporate publisher, but he’s had little trouble transitioning from the freedom of creator-owned comics to the more restrictive environment of a shared superhero universe.

“I’m so used to working for a company, a corporation, that it’s helped me both with Image and with Marvel,” Zdarsky said. “With Image, it’s great because everything seems so easy. We don’t really have bosses in a traditional sense. But even working with Marvel seems super easy, because I totally understand protecting a brand and in-house decisions as to what you can and can’t do. And I don’t get upset about it. I don’t flip a table and go, ‘What?! You won’t let me have Spider-Man murder five people?! How dare you!’ I totally get it. I spent 13 years working for a company; it was essentially work-for-hire. I don’t own anything I did at the newspaper, so working for Marvel, I understand all these rules because I’ve already been working by them.”

However, there are no rules with Zdarsky’s science-fiction fantasy “Kaptara,” which follows a gay astronaut who finds himself stranded on a planet full of aliens, heavily inspired by the designs of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” action figures, which some fans view as homoerotic. It’s a series that takes advantage of the strong creative relationship that Zdarsky and artist Kagan McLeod developed as members of the same studio, offering a captivating, genre-bending narrative with lush, wildly imaginative visuals. It’s a very different book than “Howard the Duck,” but the two titles share a cheeky wit that reads as distinctly Zdarsky, establishing a writing voice that is as strong and confident as his work as an artist.

Hero Complex readers can view covers and pages from “Howard the Duck,” “Kaptara” and “Sex Criminals” in the gallery above or in larger versions via the links below.

In a recent telephone conversation, Zdarsky spoke about the challenges of stepping into the role of writer, the value of his artistic collaborators, and the future of “Sex Criminals,” which is currently in development as a TV series.

“Howard the Duck” is your first big writing project in terms of ongoing comics. What’s the most challenging thing you’ve found about being in the writer’s seat? Is there anything that has been surprisingly easy?

Page 12 of "Howard the Duck" No. 1, by Chip Zdarksy and Joe Quinones. (Marvel)

Page 12 of “Howard the Duck” No. 1, by Chip Zdarksy and Joe Quinones. (Marvel)

The surprisingly easy part is the fact that they haven’t cut my jokes. There hasn’t been anything that I’ve put forward that they’ve outright said, “No.” They’ll work with me on stuff and I’ll get great suggestions, which I wasn’t expecting because I’ve never worked directly with an editor on a comic project before like this. But the editors have value. Wil [Moss] at Marvel has been fantastic. The one thing that has been weird, but also part of the draw, is you’re working with these characters that all exist in this continuity, so you have to run things by people there.

Using Spider-Man in issue No. 1, I had to run that by the Spider-office, which is not usually something you really have to do with any creative endeavor. And I think some people would probably respond poorly to having to deal with those restrictions, but my memory and my love of Marvel Comics as a kid was the continuity of it all and the interconnectedness, so if I have to change a costume or I can’t use a character because of something, I get it. That’s part of the fun. I’m probably painting it to be a bit too positive of an experience. You should probably talk to me again in five months when I’m a broken man and shaking my fist at editorial.

‘HOWARD THE DUCK’: Issue No. 1 Joe Quinones cover | No. 1 Chip Zdarsky variant | No. 1 Paul Pope variant | No. 1, page 8 | Page 10 | Page 12 | Page 14 | No. 2 Quinones cover | No. 2 Zdarsky variant | No. 2 Chris Samnee variant | No. 2, page 6 | Page 12 | Page 15 | Page 25 | No. 3 Quinones cover | No. 3 Jason Latour variant | No. 4 Quinones cover | No. 5 Quinones cover | No. 5 Howard Chaykin variant

When you actually are writing a “Secret Wars” crossover, but you don’t want to be doing it.

Yeah. Part of the fun of this is that I don’t necessarily need to do it. It wasn’t my end goal. “Sex Criminals” is completely satisfying, takes up all my time, and pays the bills. And I own it. So “Howard” is just, like, “Oh, my god, that would be so much fun.” I’m doing it for fun, so if at some point Marvel is, like, “We need you on ‘Punisher’ now,” I’ll be like, “That’s not really my thing. So … no?” I don’t know if that happens often. Maybe it does and I’m kind of kidding myself here. But because it’s so fun, I’ll do it until it stops being fun. Which is actually Matt [Fraction]’s advice to me working on it. I was slightly stressed because it was my first big writing gig, and he was, like, “Do you enjoy what you made?” I’m, like, “Yeah.” He’s, like, “Are you having fun? As long as those two things continue, you keep doing it.” It’s a super simple philosophy, but it totally works.

How is writing “Howard the Duck” comparing to writing “Kaptara”?

Kagan Mcleod's cover for "Kaptara" No. 2. (Image Comics)

Kagan Mcleod’s cover for “Kaptara” No. 2. (Image Comics)

It’s kind of a similar answer. You’re dealing with an existing character, so you have a voice already set up for you. I know what Howard, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, what they sound like. I follow the template. And I also know that you have such a familiarity for the audience with those kinds of characters that you can rely on that a bit more. You can get more sympathy for a character that’s been around for a while than you can for a character you’ve just introduced, so with “Kaptara,” when you’re writing, you always have to think, “Well, they don’t care that this character has suffered so much by Page 4 because there’s not 40 years of back story to the character.” You’re not inheriting the legacy of the character. You kill off Aunt May, then you’ve done something big and emotional. But if I kill off Aunt Stacy, nobody cares. The difference in writing “Kaptara” is the fact that you have to work harder to build the character and build empathy from the reader for the character.

Which do you prefer at the moment?

They’re both sort of scary in their own way, because a misstep with a Marvel character can be picked apart, because people can say that’s not how that character should be. Which is terrifying writing “Howard,” because Steve Gerber created and wrote the majority of the stories and his voice is linked intricately and intrinsically with the character. That’s terrifying, but it’s also terrifying creating something new because if everyone rejects it, then it’s entirely on me. I can’t just say, “Oh, you know, it’s a shitty character.” No, it’s my character. I made it. If it doesn’t work, then people just don’t like the thing that I’ve done. I know I should have probably answered that question with more positive differences, but I’m so focused these days on terror and the terror of these jobs that it seems to be my default.

Did you revisit any of Steve Gerber’s “Howard the Duck” when you got the job?

Yeah, all of it. One of the nice things about doing “Howard” instead of, say, “Spider-Man” is the back catalog for “Howard” is tight. You can spend a weekend and catch up on it. Whereas “Spider-Man,” I can’t read all 40,000 issues of “Spider-Man.” So, yeah, it was fantastic going through them again, because the majority of them I hadn’t read since I was a kid, and so you catch a bit more of the deeper things going on in the story as an adult. They’re fascinating. It still shocks me that Marvel published them back in the day.

Joe Quinones' cover for "Howard the Duck" No. 4. (Marvel)

Joe Quinones’ cover for “Howard the Duck” No. 4. (Marvel)

How do you think Howard views the world?

The nice thing about Howard is he’s probably the most ordinary character there is in the Marvel Universe. He’s the guy that represents everyone else even though he physically is the most different character in the Marvel Universe. He shouldn’t belong there. So it’s easy to get into it because he’s lonely and he’s angry, but he also has common sense on his side and he sees the world the way most of us see the world. He’s the kind of guy that would look at Captain America running around and be, like, “Why is that guy wearing bright blue and red and white? What’s wrong with him?” But he’s also a talking duck. It’s funny because the original series satirized pop culture; it would have “Star Wars” parodies, a “Kung Fu” parody, but now popular culture is Marvel and DC. There are superhero movies and TV shows everywhere. So by being able to put Howard in New York during a time when there’s so many characters floating, flying around, you’re able to make commentary on the abundance of the properties within one of the properties. As weird as that sounds.

How did Joe Quinones get involved?

Joe just weaseled his way in. No, when Wil [Moss] and I started talking about the story, he threw out a bunch of names of artists and Joe was the top of the list. He was our first go-to guy, and we’re insanely lucky he said yes. It’s only been two issues, but I can’t imagine the book without him. The funny thing is, when they hired me, they wanted me to draw it as well and that would be impossible with “Sex Criminals.” So they asked me to do redesigns of Howard. I did these drawings, I thought they were pretty good, and I sent them in. And then when they hired Joe, they got him to do his redesigns, and they were so much better than mine that it hurt my soul as an artist. I’m, like, “This is great; this is exactly what we need!” I’m not exactly what we need. I’m no good. His characterization, his body language and emotional range of the characters is fantastic. He’s great. Love him.

‘KAPTARA’: Issue No. 1 cover | No. 1, page 17 | Page 18 | Page 19 | Page 20 | Page 21 | Page 22 | No. 2 cover | No. 3 cover | No. 4 cover

Page 20 of "Kaptara" No. 1, by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan Mcleod. (Image Comics)

Page 20 of “Kaptara” No. 1, by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan Mcleod. (Image Comics)

At Image Expo, you described “Kaptara” as a gay “Saga.” Can you elaborate on that?

One: I know how to sell a book. “Saga” is pretty popular. No matter what the book was going to be, I would say it was “blank ‘Saga.’” Why? I had the idea for a long time of this planet of action figures, kind of like “He-Man” meets “My Little Pony” meets “Sectaurs” meets “Transformers.” Looking to “Saga,” it’s one of my favorite books on the stands. They’ve created a whole world and let loose and it’s so much fun. It’s like comic-book candy. So I love the tone of that, and while I’m not trying to emulate it, I would like to capture that spirit. And our main character is gay, and He-Man figures tend to be a little homoerotic, so it felt a bit more like a gay “Saga.” I wanted romance in it and action and a sci-fi bent to it, but less straight, essentially.

When I started working on it, a gay friend of mine made note that he was tired of seeing in pop culture surprise gay people. Like you watch an entire series of something, and at the end of the series it turns out they’re gay and they’re in love with the other character. He wants a story that starts out with gay leads and deals with the romance instead of having it be this weird twist. Being gay shouldn’t be a twist to a story. And I wanted to do this romance and make it rich and real, but also set on a crazy planet. And the crazy planet helped me avoid pitfalls of a straight writer writing a gay character because I can change the rules on the planet. I don’t necessarily have to tackle things head-on without having the firsthand experience of it because I’m creating a scenario that is so wild and out there with different social rules that it becomes more accessible to me to make my lead somebody that I’m not.

How did Kagan McLeod join the project?

Kagan got involved before I even thought of the book, really. We shared a studio years ago; it was myself, Kagan, Cameron Stewart, Ben Shannon. All great artists, except for me. We used to have a studio sketchbook that we would pass around just to make each other laugh. We’d add to this narrative, this dumb story, and Kagan was probably funniest out of all of us. It was the funniest drawings and most creative, and we grew up together post-secondary [education]. We both did comic conventions at the same time, got the studio together, and I just miss him making comics. He did “Infinite Kung-Fu,” it’s been a few years since that.

That’s a gorgeous book.

It’s so gorgeous, and he’s gotten so much better too. Not that it’s wasted, but doing all the illustration work he does, it pays the bills, it’s satisfying, but it’s not the same type of satisfying as comics. I recognize it because I’ve done it for years, so I wanted Kagan to experience what I get to experience now. And he’s just great. I want people to see his work.

Kagan Mcleod's cover for "Kaptara" No. 4. (Image Comics)

Kagan Mcleod’s cover for “Kaptara” No. 4. (Image Comics)

What do you think he brings to the story specifically?

Well he’s a voracious nonfiction reader. I’m not as much, and so he’s bringing more of the science elements to things. There’s certain kinds of biology elements he wants to introduce. He’s really good on the science side of things, in terms of the story. But also, he’s just so inventive. I can ask for one thing, but the thing I’m going to get back is that plus so much more. All these weird background characters that I want to explore more. You’ve read the first issue, so at the end where they’re all standing in the hall and there’s all these weird background characters, I love them so much. There’s that one dog-man that Kagan told me his name is “Dober-man.” That’s not in the script. It’s a similar dynamic to myself and Matt on “Sex Criminals,” because Matt gives a very full script, but he also lets me go crazy on background details and jokes. And that’s the kind of dynamic I have with Kagan too. He’s so good, he’s so creative, and fast.

We’ve got stories planned out, but depending on the kind of characters that Kagan introduces, I can definitely see paths changing to include them more. I think Fiona [Staples] and Brian [K. Vaughan] are the same thing [on “Saga”]. I’ve got it loosely planned where we could probably do 60 issues of it. I’ve got major plot beats that I want to hit, but we also have various endings in mind in case nobody buys the book or Kagan and I end up hating each other. I want people to be able to read the first collection and be satisfied. Read the second collection and be satisfied. So that’s our goal. If it does well enough that Kagan can afford to work on the book as a full-time venture, we could go for a long, long time.

How collaborative is the design process on this book? How much input do you have?

I try to have as little input as possible, because I just want to see what Kagan does. We had lunch yesterday and he was talking about this kingdom and this castle, and he was like, “What are you thinking for it?” I’m, like, “Oh, man, I don’t know. Whatever you want to do.” And he’s like, “Can we incorporate fur?” And I just started laughing. The idea of a castle with fur elements is so funny to me, and we just kept going back and forth. Just draw it. You know exactly what you’re doing. There are very few times when I’ll come back to Kagan and go, “That’s good, but can you add this?” I’ll have a couple notes in the script, but whatever he delivers is going to be above and beyond anything that I could ever do.

And Kagan is coloring as well? How much of a role does color assistant Becka Kinzie have in the process?

Becka is the color flatter for “Sex Criminals.” [Color flatting is the process of filling a black-and-white page with solid colors that the colorist can then easily change.] Kagan also works with her, she flats his illustrations, so we got her to do flats for the book, but with this one, we didn’t feel comfortable labeling her as just a color flatter. Because she’s actually making some choices in the flatting stage. Kagan is saying, “Oh, this scene is kind of like blues and yellow,” and she’ll just color it like that. And while Kagan still does a lot of changes and he designs the characters’ color schemes, we didn’t just want to say she’s doing flats. Because she’s making choices. So we want to give her some credit beyond that. But, yeah, Kagan’s colors are amazing. We’ll probably switch it up back and forth; if he’s in a deadline crunch, I can jump in and do some coloring too. I love coloring, it’s one of my favorite steps of the process. But Kagan is so good with effects and textures that I can’t really replicate that feel.

What is production designer Drew Gill’s part in the team? He’s another person you work with on “Sex Criminals.”

With “Sex Criminals,” he’s the person that sees the book before it goes to the printer. He’s been there to answer my questions in terms of production, because this is an entirely new process for me. So he’s saved my ass many, many times. He’s the guy that when we complete the book, we send it along to him, and he makes sure that it’s all printable, it’s all going to work. He helps us out with little bits of design that I may have dropped the ball on. He’s put in far too many late nights because of me. I feel nothing but extreme Canadian guilt over it.

Page 22 of "Kaptara" No. 1, by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan Mcleod. (Image Comics)

Page 22 of “Kaptara” No. 1, by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan Mcleod. (Image Comics)

I’m fascinated by the credits on Image books and seeing who gets what credit where, because it’s different across the board.

It’s funny because Declan [Shalvey, artist of Marvel’s “Moon Knight” and Image’s upcoming “Injection”] started tweeting about creator credits and whose name should go above whose. I’m super lucky the fact that “Sex Criminals” was my first big thing with somebody, because Matt and I don’t delineate our roles in the book. The credits are always just Matt and Chip. It’s an unspoken thing; obviously he’s writing and I’m doing the art, but breaking it down doesn’t feel right when it’s co-created to the degree we’ve co-created the book. He’s helped me with elements of design, and I’ve helped him with elements of both the jokes and story points.

It’s a natural collaboration, and it’s the same with Kagan. There’s no way I would ever say, “I’m the writer.” We have to do it in “Previews” when we solicit, which feels very weird. I should probably try to get that to stop. I was under no illusion with “Sex Criminals” that I was the selling point of the book, so the fact that Matt gets top billing never offended me, upset me on any level. Because it was his name that sold the book. It was his name that got us into Image. And he’s why people picked up issue No. 1. And after that, it’s up to both of us to maintain those readers and grow the readership.

I’d noticed in the most recent arc of “Saga,” Fiona Staples’ name is above Brian K. Vaughan now. It was surprising, but the artist is so important. I can’t even imagine the debate because there’s no comic books without them.

But the natural tendency, and I totally get it, is to focus on the writer because they’re the ones that if you don’t like something that’s happening in your comic, it’s because of the writer usually. The writer has done something to the character that you don’t like. People often say about reviewing comics, “Why don’t people give more time to the artwork in a review?” But on a monthly book, there’s not a lot that’s actually shifting and changing from month to month. If I pick up a book and Stuart Immonen is on art, I can say every single month, “Dynamic panel composition from Stuart. His gestural work is fantastic. The emotional range of his characters is outstanding. He’s the best superhero artist in the business.” But I’m going to say that in the next issue too. When people review these stories, they’re generally reviewing the stories themselves. You can pull out instances where he really sold this panel with these expressions, but it’s hard.

I’m an artist, and even I understand why the focus is on writers. Writers can do more in a month as well, in terms of diversity. A writer can write three or four titles; they can build their name more than an artist can. An artist will be attached to a book for a long time because they can only do the one book. So there’s that problem too. And it’s funny, at conventions I see people bring books up to Matt and it’s stacks and stacks because he’s written so much. Whereas myself, I can put out a book every two months, so it’s going to take me years to get anywhere near that level. I understand the frustration of artists and I love that Fiona’s getting top billing because she’s clearly doing more work. Labor-wise, she’s doing more work for sure. The amount of hours put in. So it does make sense, and at this point, it’s not their names that are selling the book. The book is selling itself because of the quality of work that they’re putting out. They could mix up the names, they could create new names at this point and the book would sell exactly the same.

‘SEX CRIMINALS’: Issue No. 11 cover | No. 12 cover

Chip Zdarsky's cover for "Sex Criminals" No. 11. (Image Comics)

Chip Zdarsky’s cover for “Sex Criminals” No. 11. (Image Comics)

Are you surprised by the popularity of “Sex Criminals”?

Both Matt and I are ridiculously surprised by this. After we finished issue No. 1, before it came out, we had a phone call where Matt said to me, “You know this is only going to last three issues, right?” I was, like, “Yeah, yeah, this totally isn’t going to last past three, maybe four.” And Matt had a whole plan where we would have to convince Image to allow us the funds up to issue No. 5 and print the trade so we’d have at least one trade. So we could say we worked on this together. Those were our expectations. Our expectations were “done at three.” To say that we’re surprised is — there’s no word for how it feels. It’s life-changing. It really is. It’s crazy.

What do you think has made it so popular?

I think because we like doing it. Matt writes the scripts for me. He writes them because he wants to make me laugh. He wants to make me feel things. I’m, in a lot of ways, his main audience. And when I do the art, it’s the same thing toward Matt. I’m trying to make him laugh. I’m trying to make him happy with what we’re doing. There’s that kind of appeal of “just do what you love and maybe other people will love it too,” which obviously doesn’t hold true all the time, but I think in this case, people were interested in something slightly different.

There’s the danger of the slightly different that people won’t buy because it’s not what they expect, but the rewards can be like this, where they eat it up because they’re, like, “Oh wow, I’ve been waiting for a book like this.” A book that is frank and open and it’s for adults but it’s not dour. Because sometimes there’s that one or the other. You can have your kiddie fare, your superheroes or your “Archie” or whatever, and then on the other end you can have your serious books. You can have your art-house books that can be studied. But Matt set out to make a book that was like a sex comedy movie, but in comics, and that’s made the difference right there.

Which is a good niche to fill as R-rated sex comedies become less of a fixture at the movies.

Yeah, every few years there’s another low budget, R-rated comedy that makes back its budget by 100 times. You get a “Bridesmaids” and that’ll spark another resurgence in the R-rated comedy. “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Superbad” and “Knocked Up.” They should be cheap to make, there’s no exploding spaceships or anything. There’s no crazy time-stopping sex effects. It’s weird.

What can readers expect when “Sex Criminals” comes back in June?

I just finished drawing that issue. It’s essentially like the “Ocean’s 11” of sex. Matt’s got it so we’ve got [Jon and Suzie] on the road, trying to collect people to battle the Sex Police. Some of the characters — Matt’s been sending me pictures of what he’s thinking, and I’m just, like, “I don’t want to draw that. It’s terrifying.” It’s fun, and it’s weird, and I hope people stick around for it. It’s going to be an interesting week when the new “Sex Criminals” comes out because they’re all poly-bagged. So you can’t see what’s inside, because Matt and I are going to the printing press to do 1,000 sketch covers and then have them all poly-bagged with the regular ones. So you don’t know which one you’re getting. Because we’re idiots. They announced it in solicitations, but because it’s never been done, people are just, like, “What?”

And we’re doing variants as well that are poly-bagged, that are XXX Bryan Lee O’Malley variants. Nobody sees the cover until they open the poly-bag. We don’t send the image out to anyone. We’re doing five months of those. We’ve got five different artists lined up. Because we haven’t done variants. We did multiple printings and we had fun with those, but variants, we really haven’t delved into that. And we don’t want to make it where you order 100 and you get two exclusive variants. We hate that stuff. So we’re making it that you can just order it if you want it.

Chip Zdarsky's cover for "Sex Criminals" No. 12. (Image Comics)

Chip Zdarsky’s cover for “Sex Criminals” No. 12. (Image Comics)

When did you find out the plan to adapt “Sex Criminals” for TV?

Wait, what? (Laughs.) Well it’s one of those things where since the book came out we had a lot of inquiries into it as a property. And weren’t really thinking about it too much. So I don’t think Matt or myself were paying very much attention to it, because we’re too busy on the books. But I’d say around September or October maybe when Matt told me about all the rumblings and the stuff he and Kelly Sue [DeConnick, comic writer and Fraction’s wife] and their agent were working on. He revealed to me that the deal was about closed around New York City Comic-Con, which feels like forever ago, and we were both stunned. It was amazing and crazy and I just forgot about it. And then the deal closed in December, and, like, “Oh, that’s crazy.” Checks came out in December, and then I just forget about it again. I didn’t even know they were announcing it until my girlfriend texted me, “Oh, I didn’t know they were announcing that today.” What? It’s hard to put things into context. For me it’s, like, “Oh, that’s fun, that might be something. That’s cool.” But then you start getting calls from long-lost relatives being, like, “Oh my god, a TV show! You finally made it!” Oh, yeah, people see this differently than I do.

Are you involved at all in the development or is this mostly Matt?

The deal is basically just Matt. Matt’s slated to write a pilot for it, which is fantastic. There’s at least a level of creator control. It’s awesome. I don’t think we could have expected a better deal. I’m not officially involved in any sort of official capacity. Frankly, I don’t have time to do anything between “Sex Criminals” and “Kaptara” and “Howard.” My days are pretty much spoken for. If they called me in for consulting on background jokes or Matt wanted to run stuff by me, I’m there, but I’ve already had weird Hollywood experiences, so I don’t really crave it. It will be its own thing; I look forward to seeing it, and if it’s good, that’s great. If it’s bad, then I didn’t work on it. (Laughs.) I’ll take full credit if it’s great. Full credit.

— Oliver Sava | @LATHeroComplex

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