Interview With Todd Dezago on Perhapanauts
(This interview was originally published in PiQ #2, May 2008.)
The Perhapanauts are a group of investigators of the weird who are themselves paranormal. The team’s made up of Big, a sasquatch; Molly, a ghost; MG, a smart guy with a secret; Arisa, the telepathic team leader; and Choopie, short for Chupacabras, a partially evolved goat vampire (and comic relief). With its blend of adventure, humor, characters, horror, and astounding abilities, the series is an entertaining, high-adrenaline read great for fans of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I talked with writer Todd Dezago about the book’s recent move to Image Comics and how the series is put together.
JDC: The Perhapanauts puts a unique twist on the classic comic concept of the team of outsiders protecting the society that they don’t fit into. Why this group?
Todd: I have always been fascinated with the unexplained, the paranormal, the cryptozoological. When Craig [Rousseau, the artist] and I decided to do a book together, I remembered an idea I had for a team of agents comprised of these strange creatures. I had pretty much devoured everything I could find on Bigfoot, Mothman, and El Chupacabras, so they were in. I felt that the team needed some leveler heads so I added the girls–a ghost and a psychic. And MG is that enigmatic character with the mysterious past–but it won’t stay a mystery for long.
It wasn’t until Craig said that he was ready to go into it with me that I really started working on the first story. It definitely didn’t really start to take form until Craig started shooting me all of his character and conceptual designs… they were AMAZING! That’s when it really started to come alive for me! That was back in 2000 or 2001.
JDC: How do you and Craig work together?
Todd: With any good collaboration, the end result should be a true amalgam of its creators, something unique that came of that specific pairing. The Perhapanauts wouldn’t be The Perhapanauts without Craig. What the book–and these characters–have become is a real testament to collaboration and the two of us being open to allowing the characters and concepts to grow organically.
When I first pitched The Perhapanauts to Craig, I think I told him that it would be part X-Files, part Mission: Impossible, and part Archie comic. (I had imagined that it would be a Saturday morning cartoon of a comic book; a spooky Scooby Doo-type adventure, and then a few pages of Archie-like jokes and gags.) As the first issues unfolded, however, with our concept still fairly ambiguous, we found that it was developing its own voice, its own “flavor”, and, like parents with a young child, we let it go and discover its own identity.
We work in a very organic way, as well. Craig and I are great friends, and so we talk on the phone once or twice a day anyway. In conversations, we’re always talking about SOME aspect of the book, either production or how we’re doing on our deadlines or ancillary stuff like t-shirts and postcards and, of course, the story. I’m usually in charge of that, both the various character arcs and bits and the big picture. I bounce these off of Craig in our conversations so that he’ll have an idea of what’s coming and where we’re going, and then I’ll write up the plot so that he can start drawing. This is where Craig brings it all to life and brings so much more to the scene and the characters and the feel of the story. As he (we) have become more comfortable with the characters, Craig has been able to be so much more expressive with them, facial expressions and body language, and it makes it so much easier for me to then script in the dialogue–they’re already saying so much!
JDC: What prompted the move to Image?
Todd: Craig and I were feeling zero love from Dark Horse. They did nothing at all to promote our second series, Second Chances, when it came out and were very slow at getting back to us with any sales or financial information. People would come up to our table and claim that they had never even heard of the book. Craig and I would go to shows/conventions and find that Dark Horse didn’t even have our book at their booth!
When I was talking to Image about some Tellos ideas, I mentioned our frustration, and they offered to show us how promotion SHOULD be done! Joe Keatinge, Image’s PR and Marketing Coordinator, is a smart and savvy guy. He has done at least three times as much for us in six months than Dark Horse did for us in three years. With coverage on all the comic-related websites, podcasts, posters at shows, and extra pages in Previews, people definitely know about the Perhapanauts now! (Thanks, Joe!)
The Perhapanauts is now a monthly series, and we’ve got story planned and plotted well into 2010. The great thing about a creator-owned book is that anything can happen… and anything WILL! We have plans to really mix things up in the world of the Perhapanauts, and I think it’s gonna be a really fun ride!
JDC: Many readers these days are “waiting for the trade”, buying collected editions. Yet adventure stories fit better in a serialized, more frequent format. What’s your take?
Todd: The current market is just so hard to read. I grew up reading monthlies and having to find the patience to wait 30 days to find out what happened was part of the thrill! It gave me and my friends time to speculate and fight and dream up OUR OWN stories to save Spidey from the Rhino! I’m trying to write stories like that, that capture your imagination so that you as the reader will wonder from month to month, what’s gonna happen? But we’ve all gotten used to this culture of instant gratification and we don’t wanna wait. The problem with the comics industry right now is that the reality is, if you don’t pick up the monthlies, there may not BE a trade…
JDC: Was writing the relaunch Annual different from the other issues?
Todd: That took a little time for me to get my head around. We had asked Image if we could do an Annual so that we could tie up the loose ends and sub-plots from the first two series, and they said yes. But as time went on, Craig and I realized what a great opportunity this would be to tell an all-new, stand alone tale that could introduce the characters and the concept to a whole new readership.
We were already a ways into the old story when we went back to square one and started all over. Those sub-plots and loose ends now get tied up in the first five issues of the new series in a whole new way! I did approach the Annual differently mostly because we wanted to introduce the characters in individually defining moments. I also wanted to try to pay a bit of homage to the great Marvel Annuals I’d read as a kid. I aimed for that kind of format, where the conclusion always seemed to rush up at you over the last two or three pages. I’ve heard from a lot of people that that was their only complaint, that it ended abruptly and left them wanting more. I’m kinda happy with that.
My approach to writing The Perhapanauts definitely changed when we were about to begin Second Chances, our second series at Dark Horse. As I was writing the first few pages, I realized that I was bored, so I just sat back a bit and listened to the (characters’) voices in my head–and they told me where they wanted to go! I’ve now learned to let myself go and try to surprise myself with what happens in the story and to the characters and I think it’s been some of my best work. I DO have plans and outlines for the overall plot–we know the basic beats of the storylines–but I’m also ready for it all to take on a life of its own!
The best way to try the series is to just read it and see whatcha think. The first issue is available for free on the website, perhapanauts.com. Check it out–and check out the Annual–and you’ll find that The Perhapanauts is a lot of fun!