According to Julie Andrews, a very good place to start is at the very beginning, so let’s start there. 35 years ago, I was 5. Reagan was in the White House, New Coke was making its way to market, and late one moonless night, Dark Horse Comics was born. That brings us to today. Now that we’re caught up, let’s talk The Worst Dudes.
Are The Worst Dudes really, “the worst?” Nah. Are The Worst Dudes really that wrong? Well, folks, what is “wrong?” Perhaps that’s to be determined by the strength of your moral fiber, your sense of decency, and how well you can take a joke that ends in “…getting the blood stains out of the clown suit.” Is it that kind of wrong? Is it that “so absurdly over the top and offensive that it overflows the toilet bowl of depravity, trickling down the side of the rim to the lowest degenerate dregs of society, starved of vicious visual sustenance by a Puritanical Renaissance, ravished for fresh filth and decadence to feast their eyes on” kind of wrong? Yep, that kind of wrong.
You ever beat the living hell out of a foul-mouthed Care Bear Cousin-looking seal for pushing dope? Who hasn’t? Page one, full page. The juxtaposition of image and dialogue sets the tone for the next 20-odd pages, most of which contain some kind of pop culture reference, profanity, and more violence than Nicholas Cage can shake a bunny at. The story unfolds as dirty cop Sam Sugar, stylishly dressed in an outfit that looks like what Aquaman would wear to a stake out, is beckoned to the speak with Her Majesty, The Eternal Empress. Instructed to track down her unfaithful husband’s bastard half-breed daughter (pop star Zephyr Monsoon) and saddled with Her Highness’ brooding Tim Drake-looking son of a god, Bang, Sugar takes his cold heart off to space to find the sleazy ex-backup dancer and ex-husband of Zephyr, one big, fat pink pussycat, Caligula Monomacho! It is now in the hands of these three knuckle heads to find her before she besmirches the Divine name. Simple enough.
The Worst Dudes brings back feelings of other titles that pushed limits or were “out there,” books like Milk & Cheese, Ralph Snart Adventures, even some R. Crumb tidbits. These weren’t the books that you were finding on everyday newsstands; these were the ones you had to go to the comic book store near the college to find. The kind of books that aren’t E for Everybody.
I got to speak with illustrator Tony Gregori about the series, its influences, and what’s shaking all around. It’s pretty cool, but like LeVar says, “You don’t have to take my word for it!”
J.C. Ciesielski: There are a lot of inside pop culture references in the series. How much did older pop culture influence your work?
Tony Gregori: I’m a child of the ’80s/early ’90s, so most of my influences can be found in that era. I’d say there’s a little bit of that in everything I make!
JC: How much did you and Aubrey [Sitterson] collaborate on character design?
TG: It was a total collaboration: Some ideas were mine, some were Aubrey’s and in the script or something he mentioned to me in private. I do remember the first thing I drew for the project was Cal; the thought of a giant, heathenous, pink lion made me happy!
JC: Were the background pop culture references all Aubrey’s or did you have the bulk of influence there?
TG: Felix the Cat was definitely Aubrey’s idea, but throughout the book, it’s a mix. We’d get on the phone or just start texting each other our goofiest premises for characters. For example, I was at the laundromat one day doodling in my sketchbook, and Schubert the Schnozz came to me while in some sort of fugue state.
JC: Do you think series like these are going to fall under the curse of “cancel culture” or were they inspired by it?
TG: We started developing this in early 2018 out of our urge to make something crass yet with subtle intelligence. The thought of being “cancelled” or “cancel culture” never came up; we were just making each other laugh as we went about creating it. As the story progresses, we show their backstories and motivations, explaining to some extent why they are the way they are. I feel like folks will relate to them even if they don’t want to admit it. That being said, we don’t have any control over how the book is received or talked about, that’s up to the readers! I’m not going to tell someone their feelings or thoughts about the book are wrong. We all bring our experiences to the art we consume, and they shape our “takes” on said art.
JC: What makes something worthy of being “cancelled?” Is it an artistic detriment or a catalyst to push the limits even more?
TG: I don’t watch Woody Allen movies anymore, if that’s what you’re asking. I don’t support predators or assaulters. I draw the line at actual monsters! I do think artists should make whatever they want, if it’s hurtful or mean-spirited, the public will let them know. I don’t feel that TWD falls into that category. We went in with the intent to not punch down and represent these dudes as honestly as possible, and I think we accomplished that, but I’m biased. I actually tend to look at our book as proof that people like Joe Rogan are way off based when they say their freedom of speech is limited. It’s not, they just don’t like being told their opinions suck.
JC: How much filth and raunchy can we expect in coming issues?
TG: Oh, it gets waaaaay more explicit and weird starting off in issue #2. It’s all a build up to a knock-down, drag-out finale!
The Worst Dudes is out June 2, 2021. If you’re my kind of scum, you’ll appreciate it.
You Can Thank Me Later…