I never thought I would say the phrase ‘I’m becoming a fan of Darby Pop’. Not because I don’t like the company, but because the name Darby Pop sounds kooky (say it ten times, I dare ya). The indie comic publishing company has a small but growing list of quality comics that will no doubt become a favorite of many comic readers. I got the rare opportunity to chat with Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia, the creatives behind Dead Squad, Darby Pop’s fifth ongoing series, at Comic-Con International.
UTF: How are you guys doing today?
Matthew Federman: We’re great!
Stephen Scaia: Really good!
UTF: For fans that just don’t know anything about Dead Squad, can you give a basic summary of what it’s about?
Federman: It’s a group of special forces guys, on a mission, realizing that their commanding officer has gone rogue, and that they have been fighting the wrong people for a while. They turn against him, and they are killed, and then they are brought back to life through the magic of nanotechnology.
UTF: Interesting. Did coming back to life change them in any way? I mean, of course, they are already dead, but did it change their mental state or emotions?
Federman: That’s a great question! That’s exactly what we love about it is that, we worked on a lot of action shows, and not many of them deal with sort of the existential crisis, that sort of thing.
Scaia: Because we have also worked with a lot of consultants who do this kind of thing for a living, and a lot of those guys have a surprising amount of thoughts about the afterlife, and what their choices might lead to. And we thought “We have never seen that in an action movie!” No one has ever thought “Oh, man, I just shot that guy … I wonder [where he’ll end up].”
Federman: Exactly. So, we wanted to have a bunch of guys have different afterlife experiences, and then come back, and it changes the way they view how they need to do their mission.
UTF: Are there going to be segments where they show their version of heaven and hell? Or are there going to be more total darkness and … ?
Federman: I think we want to put it up to discussion between them, because they are all going to have a different approach to how they do their jobs, but we don’t want to necessarily show their experiences as real because there is a part of them that is wondering “Oh, is this just how my brain [and] synapses are firing after I took a bullet and it didn’t really happen? [Or was it] just basically a hallucination…??” So we don’t take a stand on whether or not it is an objective reality, but what matters is, if you subjectively feel that a thing happened to you, you are going to act based on that, and that’s what matters.
Scaia: It’s a lot more interesting to us that one of our main characters thinks he saw hell, but did he see hell? It doesn’t matter, because he thinks he did, which means he regrets some of the things he has done, which means he is going to change the way he acts going forward.
UTF: Wow, very, very deep.
Scaia: Also, shit blows up!
UTF: Well, you can’t have a comic book where things don’t blow up. I’m waiting for Garfield or somebody to blow up, just one time (Laughs). Seriously though, can you describe your experiences with Darby Pop and, by extension, IDW?
Federman: It’s been great! We love the guys at Darby Pop because they have done such a great job of taking everything that we had, like script-wise, and they made it very visual. Even more so, they have been great collaborators too because they have let us really remain involved. This is our first comic book together, and we weren’t really sure how involved we would be.
Scaia: Usually as writers in Hollywood, you work your ass off to write a great script, and then at some point it gets sent, that script is no longer yours, and then you just kind of see results, and it’s great too. And then, someone is actually asking for your opinion, and they really care about your opinion, and you get to give notes each step of the way, and see the thing kind of develop over the course of an issue.
Federman: Yeah, and it’s great to be working people too who are great at solving problems, instead of just giving them. Sometimes, people we have worked with [made us think] “Maybe they are not helping as much as they are hurting.” So, it’s refreshing!
UTF: With that in mind, since you guys have written for TV shows, which do you feel is easier – Writing comic scripts or scripts for television?
Scaia: Well, I don’t know that anything is easier. I think everything has its own problems. Sometimes TV is all about limitations – you have your sets, you have your characters, you have to use … you have to do X number of pages tomorrow. And so, that’s really hard, but then the problem-solving of it sometimes eliminates certain choices. You say “We would love to make this thing blow up, but we have [a schedule] and this is the day where we shoot two people who are only talking. So, just make that as interesting as you can, because we have to shoot ten pages today”. Sometimes you want to do more and you can’t. In a comic book, you can do anything. And so, I think that the thing we like is that we are working in three mediums simultaneously, and so if you get bored, or frustrated in one thing, you can go do the other thing. You can take it all out on the page over there.
Federman: You can really have a bigger impact in comics, because it’s [just] like you’re saying. The limitations of film and TV are gone, where you cast an actor, and the actor will do what you write … or sometimes, but not always. But, with a comic, even if it’s like “I wish their nose was smaller, I wish their eyes were bigger, I wish they had this color hair and not that color hair” and you can literally change the actor, and that’s very exciting too.
UTF: Awesome. Okay, last question – Tell our fans why they should put Dead Squad on their comic lists?
Ferderman: Here’s as a lifelong comic reader – Awesome shit explodes! But it’s also the kind of comic where it is grounded enough in reality that isn’t science fiction. It’s an existential action comic, and has those kinds of things, where you’re with characters that are interesting and you are along for the ride, as opposed to watching them just do whatever they like.
Scaia: If we have done our jobs, it [will be] entertaining and funny. We like writing these kinds of guys because they banter a lot, and they are actually a lot funnier than anyone would ever think. Hopefully this sticks with you when you are done, and you actually think a little bit about what these guys went through and say “Okay, if I was going one place or another, how would that change what I would do tomorrow?”
Federman: It’s all the good wish of modern comics.
There you have it fanboys and fangirls! Dead Squad, Darby Pop Publishing’s newest series, comes out this October! Be sure to pick up a copy!!