Thursday, February 13, 2014

Original Ladykillers

We're running a new webcomic over at called The Original Ladykillers:  The Semi-fictional Autobiography of Preston Rocket.  This comic is a bit different than the usual stuff we do because it is an autobiographical comic.  It is written and drawn by Preston Rocket, a friend of mine who is a musician.  We both have a love for comics and he came to me one day with the idea of doing a comic about his experiences playing guitar in a band.  I figured there's always an audience for honest, soul searching comics about how much life sucks (his words, not mine), so we started talking about what kind of art style he wanted.  He shocked me when he said he was interested in drawing it himself.  Preston's not really an artist, but you don't grow up reading Spider-man comics without making some doodles at some point in your life.  Also, he said that since the comic is intensely personal, it just felt right for him to be the sole author of it (my editing notwithstanding).

So, without further ado, here is an official interview I conducted with Preston where we discuss the origins of the comic, the meaning of "semi-fictional", lady killing, and rock and roll.

AARON WALTHER:  So Preston, tell me about the title, The Original Ladykillers:  The Semi-fictional Autobiography of Preston Rocket.  Why such a long title?

PRESTON ROCKET:  The title comes from my old band called The Original Ladykillers.  The band broke up a few years ago, but you know, I really like the name so I've kind of hung on to it.  When I decided to do the comic, the name just seemed like the obvious choice.  As for the rest of it, well, I just wanted to be clear what the comic was about.  It's about me.

AW:  What does "semi-fictional" mean?

PR:  I had decided up front that I didn't want to do a straight autobiography for a few reasons.  Firstly, I changed all the names because I didn't want people I know to see themselves in this comic.  It's not always flattering and I don't want people to think I'm taking shots at them.  Secondly, and more importantly, my life is actually very boring.  (Laughs)  The only things of interest are the times when I'm playing music in various bands and even that's not always that entertaining.  So, it's really just kind of a story based on various personal experiences I've had.  It's all stuff that happened to me, but it's kind of out order with some people rearranged for better reading.  Really, it's a "based on the true story" kind of book.  Lots of movies, and even some documentaries, use that as a band-aid to cover up where they decide to change things to make it more exciting.  I hate when Hollywood uses that to trick people into thinking things happened a certain way even if the facts say otherwise.  Basically, I didn't want to Michael Moore this shit, so I'm being upfront, it's a fictionalized version of my life.  Plus, with the subtitle, the name was getting a little too long, so I figured I'd just stick "semi-fictional" in there to make it longer.  (Laughs)

AW:  So, how true is it?  You said it's not always flattering, are you trying to avoid hurting people's feelings?  Certainly your friends would recognize themselves in your comic even if the name was changed.

PR:  It's all fairly accurate.  Obviously, a lot of the dialog is just based on my memory of the events.  In some cases we're going back over ten years here.  It's not like I have recordings or anything, so it's pretty generalized and probably one sided.  (Laughs)  The band shown in the comic is actually an amalgam of various bands I've been in.  So, in reality, there are probably lots of people who will think they see themselves in the comic because you run into a lot of the same kinds of people when you play in bands.  It's just the way things are.

AW:  So, apart from being based on you, what is TOLK:TSFAOPR actually about?

PR:  I would say it's about relationships.  When you're in a band, working with other creative's a different kind of relationship than you have with other friends.  Especially if it's between two songwriters.  It's hard to explain.  It's more than friendship.  I know it sounds like a joke, and I am definitely going to joke about it the comic, but it's kind of like a romantic relationship.  Instead of romantic love, you are sharing creative respect and you're both working hard to create something great that can only come from the two of you.  So, the comic is a look at people who have this kind of relationship and, for various reasons, when the relationship falls apart, and even if you're still friends, it's not the same.

AW:  Speaking of romantic relationships.  The first chapter of the comic doesn't feature the band or any music.  It's just you and a girl.  Why is that?

PR:  Well, that's a prologue that I wanted to set up that will come back into play later in the comic.  But like I said, the comic is about relationships, not just between band mates, but also between girlfriends.  The fact of the matter is, girlfriends weigh heavily on the songwriting I was doing at the time, so love and relationships was kind of what my music was about.  So, I guess it's no surprise that that's what my comic would be about.  (Laughs)  When I started The Original Ladykillers (the original real life one), I was getting out of a really bad relationship, and suffice to say, it did a number on me.  So, when I stated writing all this terrible music about being lonely and so forth, I thought it would be funny if the "band persona" were of a bunch of lady killers, as in handsome guys that break women's hearts.  Maybe it was a bit of wish fulfillment, but I just thought it would some kind of interesting juxtaposition.  (Pause)  I don't know, that might be a bunch of BS rationalization.  I specifically remember talking with some band mates about possible names, and we were having a hard time coming up with something we all liked.  The conversation drifted and we started talking about movies and someone mentioned The Ladykillers by the Coen Brothers.  I love the movie, but insisted that everyone should watch the original Ladykillers with Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.  Then there was this moment where we all knew what the band name would be.  So, in reality, it's probably a mix of the two stories.  Basically, the name just sounded good.

AW:  So, speaking of music, will you be tying your music to the comic.  Any plans to release any songs to work as a soundtrack, like Brendan Small does with Metalocalypse?

PR:  Well, Metalocalypse has the advantage of being an animated series where the music is very important to how the story is digested.  Since I'm doing a comic, there's really no need to have a soundtrack.  Honestly though, I'm just not that interested in doing music right now.  I might do something in the future, if it feels right, but right now I just want to focus on the comic.  Drawing is hard.  (Laughs)  I know it doesn't look like it, but it takes me forever to finish a page.  Plus, I don't really have any music to release.  I mean, I have some crappy old demos that we recorded in a basement, but those tracks really aren't that great.

AW:  Being that we're friends, I do have a little bit of insider information.  Weren't The Original Ladykillers recording a full album before they broke up?

PR:  (Laughs)  Oh, I was afraid you were going to bring that up.  I don't want to talk too much about it because it might spoil some of the comic, but yes, we were signed with a local record label and were working on a full album.  Things happened and the band broke up.  We only had a few tracks fully finished, maybe 3 or 4, I forget exactly.  Obviously, the label guys were pissed off, and there was talk of bringing in some studio musicians and replacement band members to finish it, which is probably what I should have done, but...well, I just couldn't.  I was probably angrier than I should have been, but I just couldn't play music anymore.  Not at that time, anyway.  I'm still in talks with the label about the completed tracks but I can't really talk about it right now.

AW:  Okay, fair enough.  One last question about the comic update schedule.  You are releasing full chapters each month.  Any reason why you aren't going for a M-W-F schedule, or even a once a week schedule?

PR:  I don't read that many webcomics, so I don't really know what a standard release is.  I want to put it out in chapters because I think it just reads better that way.  That's really the only reason.  Also, I can't say for sure how long each chapter is.  So far, the chapters have all clocked in at 6 pages, but they might be longer or shorter, depending on how it goes.

AW:  Okay then, sounds good to me!

Well folks, there you have it.  We'll be updating new chapters of The Original Ladykillers:  The Semi-fictional Autobiography of Preston Rocket the first of every month, and it all starts right here.  Thanks for reading!

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