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Monster Slaying Plumbers and Biblical Corporate Takeovers: Interview with Rafael Nieves and Dan Dougherty
Writer Rafael Nieves and artist Dan Dougherty have been working in the alternative comic market since well before they met each other.
Nieves co-wrote the 1993 Eisner-nominated underground hit “Tales from the Heart,” pulp mystery titles like “Mr. Moto” and “The Phantom,” and the dystopian sci-fi, “Orlock.”
Dan Dougherty came on the scene swinging as the writer/artist on “Cyclone Bill and the Tall Tales,” and now lends his art prowess to the Zombie/Western mash-up “Rotten,” and his syndicated comic “Beardo.”
As a team they co-created and delivered “The Apocalypse Plan” through Transfuzion Publishing. Think of it as Biblical Revelations seen through the eyes of corporate espionage. They now self-publish their monster/horror/slapstick comedy “Bob Howard: Plumber of the Unknown.”
At this year’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con in Rosemont, Il, they shot the breeze with me on Bob’s character, audience participation in comics and the future of the Apocalypse.
David Lanzafame: Bob Howard’s been a plumber, a party clown and a bouncer and yet keeps finding himself throwing down monsters. What’s next for him?
Dan: It seems we have more ideas than there’s time to even do them. Between limited brainstorming sessions, and when I say limited I mean the brains which are storming, we’ve already come up with enough for ten issues. We have a ton of ideas for Bob because he’s just one of those characters where you can put him in a situation and let the fun fly.
Rafael: We’re trying hard to keep it close to the vest. The only thing I can promise you is that Dan and I are gonna rock out in the next issue. There’ll be monsters galore and Bob Howard is going to be wielding Big Daddy, vanquishing monsters where ever he goes.
I’m noticing that Bob Howard doesn’t say a lot, is that a conscious choice?
Rafael: It is a conscious choice. One of the things working with Dan Dougherty allows me is I can have a character that doesn’t say anything and I know that Dan is going to bring all the emotion and all the drama into the character with facial expressions and body language, that’s the stuff Dan excels at.
Dan: Yeah. When Raf first pitched this idea in its embryonic form, he referred to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. They’re characters who rely on a lot of physical humor and don’t say much. I thought it was a great idea to have a character who relies on facial expressions and actions. It was a great challenge for me. And there is a reason why Bob doesn’t talk when we get to his origin story. Raf, the mastermind that he is, says we’ll see why he doesn’t say much. It’s a nice pay-off for the readers.
How old is Bob?
Rafael: Bob is as old as he needs to be.
Dan: He’s Homer Simpson’s age. He’s an every-man. He’s not a young man and he’s not an old man.
Issue 2 of Bob Howard had this massive monster mosaic on a 2 page spread. Now in the issue 3 you’ve got an even bigger spread. How did that come about?
Rafael: With issue 2 of Bob Howard, because Dan and I self-publish the book, we were looking for ways to pay for the costs of publishing and printing. So we advertised a “This space for rent,” and interested parties could donate and Dan would draw them as characters or monsters in the comic. It worked out so well with issue two, we had about 24 donors, AKA creatures, so we decided to do it again for issue 3. Little did we know we were going to get 64 donors. It actually takes up 4 pages of the comic.
Dan: The hardest thing was making sure the perspective was right. From blank page to completed work was I’d say about six days. More then half of the people (donors) already had an idea on what they wanted to be. Some of the people said “Do whatever,” and I had a lot of fun with those. Especially if I knew them. If I knew them I was kind of like, “Well they wouldn’t like this so I’m gonna do it.” It was a lot of fun, it was daunting. I haven’t working on something this size in a while.
Bob’s fought sewer monsters, ghosts, party clowns, etc., etc., etc. The monsters have a very classic “MGM Movie Monster” meets “Saturday Night Creature Feature” quality. Where do you get the ideas from?
Rafael: On the “Face for Rent” campaign we had people request what monster they wanted to be. Some didn’t really care, so Dan just got to go nuts with it. Now in the comic, in some instances I’d have a very specific idea of what kind of monster I want. In others I’ll look at Dan and say, “Draw what you want and make it scary.”
Dan: Raf doesn’t really give me character designs, he usually just gives me ideas. The one where I got free reign was when Bob became a bouncer and Raf said we just need a monster, not too big but where Bob fights more then one at a time. So I’m looking at a peach pit and I thought “Gee that’d be a cool monster.” So I gave it arms and a mouth. So they’re like my little peach pit monsters. Y’know you’re sitting at home, you haven’t had human contact in a while, you’re mind is wandering, you look at a peach pit and think, “Yeah, that’d make good monster.”
Did you plan to make Bob Howard a horror comedy?
Rafael: A lot of people mentioned the humor in a previous comic Dan and I did called The Apocalypse Plan. People commented on the humor and I was a little surprised, I didn’t realize I had written that much humor. So when we started Bob Howard, I decided to do it consciously. The humor cuts through with making Bob as human a character as possible, with all the human foibles. So you can laugh and be horrified at the same time.
Speaking of The Apocalypse Plan, how’s the comic selling?
Rafael: Well, it had a big flurry when it was first published. One of the things the publisher Transfuzion promised is they would keep The Apocalypse Plan in print as long as people wanted to buy it. As long a people are buying it and reading it we’ll keep doing it. I can’t confirm this, but there is a rumor there may be a sequel to The Apocalypse Plan some time next year.
Interested in a sequel, Dan?
Dan: We did talk about it. I wanted to do it immediately, but we had to figure out how to physically do it. With Bob you can knock out 24 pages and you can do it here and there. But I want to do Apocalypse Plan big like we did before. We had an 84 page book, I thought we could go further. Right now I’m at the starting line and waiting for the pistol, the pistol that will give me money so I don’t go broke. And when that money gets shot at me, the hoarder that I am, I will draw the hell out of it. Because we really loved that first book and it’s one of those things I was really proud of because I had a hand as co-creator. Raf has always respected my opinion on the visual side. If we could get that thing going, I would love to do it. I know what the title is, but I don’t think I’m going to tell you that. It’s The Apocalypse Plan, but it’s got a subtitle.
It’s not The Apocalypse Plan 2 or something?
Dan: Apocalypse Plan: Die Harder or something…,
Dan: It’s actually a really cool title and very appropriate to what happened at the end of the first book. And I don’t know if Raf told you, but he wanted to do a third book. There’s a nice trilogy if we have the stamina and the backing to do it.