The following is an interview with Rob Williams (The Ten-Seconders, Asylum) and Pye Parr (Intestinauts, Realm of The Damned) regarding the upcoming release of their new comic book series, Petrol Head, through Image Comics. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Williams and Parr about their shared creative process in bring the fast-paced series to life, why the series’ protagonists may connect with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming launch of Petrol Head! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise?
Rob Williams: Thanks! Petrol Head is the story of a smart 12-year-old girl called Lupa in a future domed city who might just have a means to save the human race from the Climate Emergency that’s killing the planet. But to do that, she’s going to have to team up with an old, obsolete, cigar-smoking hotrod racing robot called Petrol Head. Together, they’re going to have to outrace all the city’s chasing drones and robo-cops – but driving’s the one thing that Petrol Head is really good at.
BD: This story deftly weaves together so many fast-paced and high-intensity elements – narratively and visually – that it’s truly engaging for the reader from start to finish. How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story and its characters to life, all within a world that has been ravaged by climate crisis?
RW: Petrol Head came about because Pye Parr was drawing these incredible robots and futuristic hotrod racers in posters and prints. I asked Pye if he’d thought about doing a creator-owned comic based around this kind of thing. Then, it was a case of both of us coming up with a memorable lead and cast that readers could care about, a world for our characters, a strong narrative drive (sic) so there’s real stakes and tension. But at its heart, this book is a classic case of draw what you love most, and, for Pye, it’s robots and fast cars.
Pye Parr: Ha, yeah, cars and robots are definitely my thing, but what Rob’s brought to this is a real reason for the reader to care about why these big lumps of metal are smashing into each other. As far as process goes, he would come up with a few lines or even just a few words describing what the characters needed to do or generally look like and we’d go from there. Most of them came together quite quickly, although Petrol Head himself took a while to get right. What’s fun about robots is you can build them for purpose. The O, our “villain,” is essentially a big brother-style supercomputer who watches over the city, so we gave him too many eyes and a massive brain casing – all very literal. Petrol Head is made from spare parts, so if you look carefully at him, you can find lots of his bits and bobs spread around amongst the other robot characters. Likewise, all the O’s subordinates – police robots, drones, etc. – share elements with him, like everything came out the same factory.
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 Lupa’s story may connect with and impact readers?
RW: Well, Lupa’s parents were both leading scientists in The O-Zone (our Domed city), so, as you’d expect, she’s a very smart 12-year-old, and without giving too much away, her family is going to sacrifice a lot for what they know is right. I love Lupa. For a kid, she’s incredibly driven by a sense of right and wrong; she gets quite angry at injustice. She’s determined to get her father’s invention to the edge of the city, no matter what it costs. When she meets Petrol Head, he’s in a bit of a funk and has given up really. Lupa’s inspiring. To him and to the readers, I hope.
BD: What makes Image Comics the perfect home for Petrol Head?
RW: We only wanted to do Petrol Head creator-owned, and Image is really the only truly creator-owned comic deal out there, as most other companies who say they’re doing creator-owned book will do some kind of 50/50 split somewhere down the line. I think we both realise that these characters have a lot of potential going forward. And books like Saga and Deadly Class and many more have paved the way for creators to really create their own engaging worlds. It’s exciting for us to be publishing a new Image series. It has that label of quality about it.
PP: I have a graphic design background (and frankly am something of a control freak), so what’s great about Image is I can really get stuck in on developing everything, not just the art, to make it one cohesive whole. I really wanted the design-led pages in the issues to match the feel of the art, so they’re as much part of the world building as the story itself – like in-world artefacts from Petrol Head’s past that the reader has found. It’s all very satisfying to do!
BD: How many issues do you have planned for the series’ first story arc?
RW: Five issues in the opening arc, but our issue one is a double-sized, 48-page monster, so it’s six issues really.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
RW: I have a few new Judge Dredd stories on the way that has me working with some incredible artists. The 8-part murder-mystery Poison is launching first, with art by PJ Holden. “A Better World’ is a 9-parter co-written by Arthur Wyatt with Henry Flint, and Henry might just be delivering some of the best work of his career on it. And Rend and Tear with Tooth & Claw is a six-parter by me and RM Guera of Scalped fame, with Giulia Brusco joining us on colours. That’s pretty much Dredd does Jaws. Just without a shark. You’ll have to wait a little while for that one.
PP: I recently finished work on a board game called Joyride: Survival of the Fastest, for which I drew all the boards, tokens, and game pieces and art stuff. It’s kind of like a top-down version of Mario Kart but with a Mad Max aesthetic, and the game is really good fun. Whilst it’s completely separate from Petrol Head, I did work on it simultaneously, and it’s full of brightly coloured, crazy-looking cars, so if you like the way the comic looks, check it out!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about Petrol Head?
RW: We have a Petrol Head website at http://petrolheadcomic.coming [with an] animated trailer for our first issue. And you can follow us on twitter and instagram for Petrol Head updates at: