Buzzkill, Dark Horse’s brilliantly noir new series has been rocking and rolling through its first few issues. I had the great pleasure of chatting with Donny Cates, the man responsible for this mind-blowing comic. This is a book with dark themes for sure, but does that mean that Donny is sullen and brooding?
Adventures in Poor Taste: The concept of your series has been praised in and out 100 times over. Hell, even Mark Waid wishes he would have thought of it. So I want to know where you were exactly when you came up with the idea of Buzzkill. Were you just picking up take-out, perhaps taking a shower, maybe depositing some money? Where in your life’s travels did the idea of Buzzkill pop into your mind?
Donny Cates: EXACTLY? Well, I was actually in the shower…it’s where i get most of my thinking done. Really the only place I don’t have a podcast in my ear or music blaring, so it’s kind of my meditation zone if you will. The germ of the idea came from my friend (and co-creator) Mark (Rez) Reznicek, he sent me an email with the core concept of the book “what if a superhero got his powers from drinking?” It was fairly bare boned and open for interpretation…I was going through a rough patch myself at the time (I had a friend who I was slowly losing to alcoholism), so the idea really struck me as one we could play with and really sink our teeth into. After we decided to build the framework of the story around the tenants of the 12-steps…things really came along pretty fast.
AiPT: How would you say this comic describes you as a person and where you are in your life?
Cates: Well, considering the subject matter of the book, I’d like to think not at all. As to where I am in my life….it’s been an uphill battle—making it in comics is one of the hardest things you can do—and to be given the chance like this to tell my story and share it with all of you….well, it’s stressful as hell! Hah, I guess in some ways the book is reflective of that…of trying to do something important with your life and trying desperately to become this thing you know you can be….it’s not the only story I want to ever tell, mind you….but it’s certainly the most honest and open book I’m capable of at this point in my career.
AiPT: You say it was extremely difficult to get into comics but yet here you are. Why didn’t you go a different route with Buzzkill in a different medium? Would Buzzkill be missing some essential element had it been told in a regular novel or as a movie?
Cates: It’s all I know. I wouldn’t even begin to understand how to write a novel or a film, it’s something I’d love to learn, of course…but I really have no interest in either. There have been some vague offers in my time as a creator to make movies or TV shows from stuff I’ve worked on and honestly…it’s just not very interesting to me. I’m in no way against it, it would be cool I suppose, but it’s just not something that’s attractive to me. Making comics is the best job in the world, why would anyone ever want to do anything else?
AiPT: Let’s try a hypothetical now. If you were somehow stripped of everything: your publisher, your creative team, everything that’s made Buzzkill become a reality, would you try again to get this story out there, or would you take everything you’ve learned from Buzzkill and start with something completely new?
Cates: Like…in this hypothetical, Buzzkill never came out?
AiPT: Buzzkill had been finished but hadn’t published and Dark Horse decided that they didn’t actually want to publish it.
Cates: Hmmmm okay. Well, that’s not as uncommon as you might think. I have a TON of other stories that have been gestating and/or outright rejected at other companies. The key I think is to know when and how to fight for something and when it’s time to move on. For example I’m working on a book right now that I started working on almost seven years ago. There have been times I’ve gone back to it and times I’ve let it go. I think it has some solid traction now, and I’m full go on it….but to answer your question…no, I think I would have fought for it, I believe in he story and the message too much to let it go. Buzzkill had a lot of problems at first…scheduling stuff mostly, but people didn’t realize I wrote that first issue in 2011, and I didn’t write the second issue until earlier this year…so things take time, you just have to want it, I guess.
AiPT: As a reviewer, I am constantly curious to what kind of audience I maintain. Do you read lots of reviews for Buzzkill? How do you deal with reading reviews with low scores?
Cates: I’d love to say I don’t read any of them, but I totally do. I read every single one of them. I have to say SO FAR people have been really sweet about the book. I haven’t really read anything that was bad or hurtful really. If people don’t dig it, that’s fine….I didn’t write it for them apparently. I like making comics that I would want to read. A work of art cannot and SHOULD not be everything to everyone…that’s how you end up with boring comics. I’m not interested in pleasing everyone, I’m interested in doing my job the best I can. If you don’t dig it, then I’ll catch you with something later. Just..y’know…don’t be a dick. I’m a sensitive artist type.
AiPT: I have another hypothetical for you, but this one is a little less hopeful than the first one. If you and your artist were both to die tomorrow, who would you want to keep Buzzkill going? Pick anyone.
Cates: Well….the book’s all done. Written and drawn and all done. So I wouldn’t really need anyone to do anything really. But I do have the great fortune of working with my best friend Eliot Rahal on our other Dark Horse book Hunter Quaid; if I die I know he’ll keep it going. While I have you here let me plug his upcoming book Catsronauts, it’s an incredible book similar to Mouse Guard or the Red Wall series and it’s probably going to be the biggest book ever made. Here’s some exclusive art from his artist Dave Acosta:
AiPT: Awesome! We’ll be sure to check it out. If you are in a comic book store with someone who can only buy two comics that week how would you sell them on Buzzkill and what would you recommend for the other book?
Cates: I imagine it would be pretty easy to sell them on Buzzkill with me standing there. Haha, I mean seriously, we go to the store together and you DON’T buy my book? What kind of animal am I dealing with here?! As far as he other book….anything by my friend Frank Barbiere or Jai Nitz or Joshua Williamson or Tradd Moore or Geoff Shaw…I tend to support my buddies. People I don’t know? It’s hard to go wrong with anything Dan Slott writes.
And of course I would recommend them pick up Dark Horse Presents #24 or #27 to read a badass story about this drunken time traveller named Hunter Quaid. 🙂
AiPT: One last question before we go our separate ways: if you were a food item what would you be?
AiPT: Thanks man, it’s been real.
Cates: Absolutely! This was one of the best interviews I’ve done. Thanks for not asking the same nine questions I always get!