The following is an interview with writer/artist Brian Kelly regarding the recent launch of his graphic novel, Francis & The Vegas Tramps, on Kickstarter. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Kelly about his creative process in bringing the world and characters to life, future plans for the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Francis & The Vegas Tramps! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the story’s premise?
Brian Kelly: Thank you! Francis & The Vegas Tramps is a rock & roll, sci-fi, noir, murder mystery mash-up. The band, Francis & The Vegas Tramps, broke up 20 years ago. The story unfolds with a shocking murder that thrusts the band’s former members into a journey of discovery and investigation. In the wake of the untimely demise of one of them, the former members of Francis & The Vegas Tramps find themselves plunged into a world of shock and disbelief. The band, which had once burned bright and electrified audiences with their music, disbanded two decades ago, each member following their own diverging paths. Now, their lives intersect once more as they grapple with the loss of their former bandmate. Who would want to kill one of them? Molly, the bassist, found success as a solo musician, Ray, the loyal drummer, turned radio DJ, and Francis, the band’s frontman, turned Elvis impersonator. The Vegas Tramps are forced to confront their own pasts, buried grievances, and unfulfilled dreams. With a mixture of nostalgia and determination, the Vegas Tramps must revisit old haunts, reconnect with figures from the past, and dive deep into the memories and relationships that shaped their lives.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing the world and characters to life on the page?
BK: This story is a return to comics for me, after 20 years. Tattooing is my day job. I published a collection of tattoo flash, The Cut-Ups: Tattoo Flash from the Third Mind, and had painted enough flash for the second volume. Not sure what to do, I decided to make another comic book. Since it had been 20 years since my last book about Francis & The Vegas Tramps, I decided to set the story 20 years from where the last one left off. Crime stories are currently my favorite genre in comics, so I adapted my rather cartoony, cheeky comic idea into a crime/murder mystery. I was blessed with COVID, and given the time to lie in bed and write my script, while binge watching Josie and The Pussycats in Outer Space. It had been so long since I drew a comic, I had to relearn a little of what I used to know. The comic was all produced traditionally with ink on paper, and the word balloons on the art page, all by myself.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that this story may connect with and impact readers?
BK: This is a character-driven story, with relatable human characters in a futuristic setting, and a compelling mystery. Francis & The Vegas Tramps will connect with readers who enjoy black-and-white, noir comics, such as Sin City, mixed with the formerly bright idea of the future from cartoons such as The Jetsons. It features a female lead, who is not an overly sexualized character, as is common in comic books. Francis & The Vegas Tramps strikes a balance between its sci-fi elements, the complicated relationships between the bands members, and mystery. This balance makes the story accessible and relatable to a wide range of readers, keeping them engaged and wanting to find the answer to this whodunit.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the graphic novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment media, if given the opportunity?
BK: I’m currently brainstorming for the next story of the Vegas Tramps. I want to transport the characters into a new genre with somewhat different art. I am considering a fully painted comic, but may settle on black and grey wash. The story is still very much in development. I would expand Francis & The Vegas Tramps into other entertainment media, but as of now, there have been no offers!
BD: Are there any additional projects that you are working on that you are able to share with readers?
BK: My second volume of tattoo flash, The Cut-Ups 2: More Tattoo Flash from the Third Mind has been handed off to Schiffer Books and will see print sometime in the future.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Francis & The Vegas Tramps?
BK: Francis & The Vegas Tramps is live on Kickstarter until September 2nd. It hit its modest funding goal after 15 days, which made me quite happy. After Kickstarter, it will be available in my online store, possibly on Amazon, and hopefully in other places, too!