Reading Oni Press’ Labor Days is a great way to start off the fall. We had a chance to speak with the creators about the project, and what the future holds for more Labor Days. Hit the jump for our conversation with Philip Gelatt and Rick Lacy.
First, for those who don’t already know, can you tell us a bit about what Labor Days is about?
Phil: It’s really all about our main character, a 20 something slacker named Benton “Bags” Bagswell. He’s a lay-about and a ne’er-do-well and he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a cross-continental adventure
with some very serious, and very strange, folks. It’s a bit like putting Jeffrey Lebowski in the middle of a bizarre Die Hard movie. I’ve called it a “kitchen sink” book before too, there’s a bit of everything in there. Super spies, slackers, explosions, punches, knife fights, a touch of romance, a whole lot of drinking… uh… what else is in there Rick?
Rick: Chicks and guns! And a hodge-podge of adventure. Its certainly an enthralling book, Labor Days is. It pulls you in right from the start with its everyman sensibilities, but it doesn’t wait to toss Bags headfirst into a nutty world of bizarre characters and outlandish circumstances. Bags wakes up one morning from an all night drink-a-thon at his local watering hole to find he’s been dumped by his long term girlfriend. On his doorstep is a mysterious videotape that someone has paid him to look after until that evening.
Phil: Yeah that tape is really Bags’s own rabbit-hole.
Rick: And it’s the MacGuffin that sends Bags spiraling into a world he never knew as the poor guy reluctantly takes up the quest to get to the bottom of the tape and why it’s so important to revolutionaries, government liaisons and private sector madmen the world over.
I’ve read the book, and I have to admit it’s pretty damn cool. Where did the concept come from?
Phil: Rick and I have been talking about doing a book for a little while and one day he was just kinda like “Let’s do a book about a guy who’s looking for a mysterious videotape.” And I shrugged and was like “yeah, okay.” And Labor Days was built around that one simple idea. I’ve always been very into movies that have unmotivated heroes; y’know they’re not really out there to get the bad guy, frankly they don’t even really want to be out there at all. Slacker heroes in weird situations; things like Repo Man and The Big Lebowski and even this old Elliot Gould movie, The Long Goodbye. Downbeaten losers on oddball quests. So I really wanted it to be like that. A slacker every-man, in way over his head, just trying to get by.
Rick: I think it was right out of college. We were both looking for a side project to do and we both wanted that project to be a comic book. Phil and I hadn’t worked in the comics industry at that time. Phil was doing script reading for the film biz and I was working in TV animation. The initial concept of Labor Days was really quite fantastical. We wrote in so many weird concepts and plot lines that included anything from dragon herding zombie rock bands to street tough crime scenes. We boiled this story for a few years until Oni Press noticed it and signed us up. At this point we were both much more mature in our craft and spent the last year or so putting together the final draft that’s in stores now. A weird world traveling romp right on
the doorstep of ol’ Benton Bagswell!
Philip, Labor Days is your first creator owned book to be published. How did that all come about?
Phil: Well, it’s really both Rick and my book through and through. We had taken it out as a pitch to some publishers who had turned us down and we were thinking about trying to self-publish it, actually. And then we managed to get a little bit of a connection to the good lads at Oni who said they’d be interested in taking a look at it. But before sending it in, I gave the script and the concept a really intense re-write and Rick put some art together and boom. Done and done. Oni really took a chance on us, frankly, and I can’t thank them enough for it.
So Rick was on board before you brought the book to Oni?
Phil: Oh like I say, this is just as much Rick’s book as it is mine.
Rick: Oh dear, everyone thinks I’m the hire-on artist, huh. Phil and I have been collaborating now for while and Labor Days was our first-born. The initial art and script that we actually pitched to Oni has been rewritten and drawn as well. The whole Project: Labor Days is a constant evolution, right up to the day before it went to print.
Rick, the pages are pretty kinetic. What sort of influences were you looking at when drawing the book?
Rick: Probably the same ones that most other people are looking at. Like Will Eisner, Alex Toth, and Joe Kubert. Those guys have great story telling skills and amazing brush work. So of course I was studying them. Everyone should be. Paul Pope is another favorite artist of mine. Because, as you mention, the very kinetic feel of his art is captivating. Everything is moving and trying to jump off the page in his art. I also study a lot of French artists. The French have a great cinematic feel to their comics and it’s something I want to become much more pertinent in my own work. Artists like Moebius, Bodart, Pierre Alary and Thierry Martin are masters of comic-crafting. I also come from an animation background and I think that shows up a lot in my work. Acting and page movement are very important to me.
The book is billed as Labor Days Volume 1. What does the future hold for Bags?
Phil: The future for our hapless Bagzilla will be filled with an ever escalating series of unfortunate situations. The end of volume one sees a pretty severe shift in Bags’s attitude towards life, so volume two will have him trying to really embrace his new role. Basically, he thinks he’s a hero. Of course, he’s Bags, so embracing that role will be a perilous process and lead to some hopefully sublimely ridiculous moments. I want the second book to be bigger, more epic and chock full of amusing tangents. I think one of the goals with Labor Days was to have the story really feel like it could go anywhere, volume 2 will really be exploring that.
Rick: Hell yeah it will! We’ve already got the initial plot (roughly) outlined for the second volume and it’s really going to push the limits of our own absurd creativity. One of our main concerns with producing Labor Days is to keep it grounded in reality, but to constantly pound on it with the sledgehammer of bizarre. I’ve just received the first chapter script for volume 2 from Phil and have already started penciling. It won’t be long before Bags hits the stands again!
Labor Days is available now from Oni Press. If you want to know more about the making of the book, be sure to check out www.labordayscomic.blogspot.com. Thanks again to Philip and Rick for taking the time to do this interview.