Troy Nixey is a maestro of the weird. Just look at his fantastic work on Jenny Finn and you’ll instantly be smitten with the wild and weird world he’s created. He’s back at it with Vinegar Teeth, which is being collected by Dark Horse Comics this week. It’s a buddy cop movie and more following a human detective who works with an extra-dimensional being who has a kind soul even if he’s bloated and tentacled. I spoke to Nixey about this new series, his approach to world-building, and a whole lot more.
AiPT!: Hi Troy, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. I was a big fan of your work on Jenny Finn by the way (we actually spoke about it last year!). The design of the world in Vinegar Teeth is quite impressive. It’s unique (like the giant hats) but also reminiscent of an earlier time in American history. Can you talk a bit about your inspirations for this world?
Troy Nixey: Hello David, nice to chat with you again. Thanks for the kind words. I tend to pick from a specific era for all my work but try and give each new book its own feel and energy. I didn’t want a huge city feel for Brick City so I researched a lot of smaller cities like Buffalo, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the 20s and 30s. I wanted Brick City to feel lived in and slightly isolated from more major centers. I also didn’t want it to feel completely real, there should be a sense of whimsy and fantasy within the rough brick buildings, gruff cops and criminal eating aliens. Things like giant hats add that easily. They’re ridiculous and 100% impractical but the people of Brick City wear them because it’s the fashion. I try and create a unique history and sense of culture within the construct of every story I tell. In this case, Damon Gentry, who co-wrote Vinegar Teeth with me, was fully on board with the level of nonsense I wanted to include in the book.
AiPT!: How much time was spent doing the world building? It’s so robust!
TN: I consider the setting of a story to be a character and give it as much love as the people/creatures that inhabit it. Brick City is just that, brick, lots and lots of brick. There’s also a ridiculous amount of advertising on top of the brick buildings. I love history and a big part of what I do is finding new inspiration for my work.
AiPT!: Myself and some other staff recently wrote all about our favorite buddy cop films; what are some of your favorites? Was there any inspiration from buddy cop films when making this?
TN: Early on in our conversations, Damon and I hit on how much we love buddy cop movies. Personally, I consumed them like candy in my youth. I believe they’re a continuation of the antagonistic comedy teams I loved as a kid. Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges and Abbot and Costello made a huge impression on me when I was little. The most influential buddy cop movie in regards to Vinegar Teeth is obviously Alien Nation. It blew my mind when I saw it in the theaters. The Lethal Weapon series, Turner & Hooch, Red Heat, Running Scared, 48 Hrs, Tango & Cash, Stakeout, Training Day, The Heat…the list goes on. It’s a genre Damon and I both have a lot of fondness for.
AiPT!: The word balloons for the extra-dimensional being are unique, almost like a cloud, and the way it speaks is interesting too. How do you envision it sounding? I imagine it’s quite strange and also specific?
TN: The various balloon designs including different colors are meant to inform the reader of how the character sounds but I like to leave it to the individual’s imagination as to what it would actually sound like. The various designs and colors also allowed more freedom with the storytelling. Artie and VT could be off-panel but the reader immediately knows who’s speaking because of the design and color of their balloons. I’m trying to implement a few cinematic tricks into comics. Some of it works, some doesn’t. Trial and error is always a good thing.
AiPT!: This might have the heaviest use of sound effects I’ve ever seen in a comic. What goes into the art, design, and placement of sound effects?
TN: It’s Don Martin’s fault! Hahaha. It’s fair to say there’s a lot of love for Mad Magazine in Vinegar Teeth. Also having to direct a movie I learned how vital sound and score is to the experience of a moviegoer and I wanted to replicate that as best I could in comics. One of the main reasons I started hand-lettering was so I could think of the dialogue, SFX and art as one. I think the fourth issue of the series is a good example of this: A few people suggested there was too much going on in the panels including the SFX. That was my intention, the world was under siege and I wanted as best I could to create a cacophony of absurdity on the page to capture that energy. The use of SFX also offers up an opportunity to change the tone of a scene. Add a ridiculous SFX to a serious scene and it completely changes the intent. I add a lot of ridiculous SFX on a page but it’s taken very seriously. Haha.
AiPT!: Let’s say a studio is adapting Vinegar Teeth for the moving pictures. Who do you want to direct and in what format will we see it in (live action, animation, TV)?
TN: Hypothetically speaking of course unless you know something I don’t…hahaha. Vinegar Teeth would make a terrific TV series and of course I’d like to direct the pilot as I have some directing experience. I imagine the character of Vinegar Teeth would be an actor in a suit with an animatronic head and tentacles and puppet legs with the actors’ legs painted out. There are a lot of great character actors who could bring Artie to glorious blustery life.
AiPT!: I read in the back matter that you work very big these days. What are the pros and cons of drawing in a larger format (and how large are we talking)?
TN: I have been working larger for a few years now and wish I had started even earlier than that. The live area is 13.25 inches by 19.75 inches. I trim the page in half or thirds along the gutters depending on the layout, for ease of inking and scanning. A few European cartoonists employ this method and I really enjoy it! It’s all pros for me, I really appreciate the extra storytelling elbowroom the larger format provides. If I had to rack my brain for a con… this method wouldn’t work with full bleeds but as I prefer the traditional grid layout approach I don’t feel restricted by what I can and can’t do.
AiPT!: Where will fans of yours find your next work? Can you give us any details on what that might be?
TN: I have a lot coming up. I’m currently working on a new four-issue Trout mini-series from Dark Horse with Dave Stewart on colors. The plan is to collect the previous Trout material in a trade and have the new mini start a month after the trade’s release. It should be late winter or early spring. I also have an on-going two-page strip in the newly relaunched Fangoria magazine called GUS, STAN AND THE END OF BLOODY EVERYTHING. Michelle Madsen is on colors for that. Michelle and I also teamed up for a Patton Oswalt scripted a story appearing in the first issue of COMICS COMICS from Starburns Industries, the Kickstarter is currently underway. We all had a lot of fun with it. Lastly, I have two other scripts in development. Lots of comics on the horizon and I’m really excited about getting cracking on all of it.
AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time!
TN: You’re welcome and thank you! Damon and I really enjoyed creating this book and are proud of the results. I hope folks give it a try. I think they’ll have a blast.
You can purchase Vinegar Teeth today via Amazon.