It’s not uncommon to think your boss is a monster.
It is uncommon to know your boss is a monster
and have to slay him …
the premise of Freelance Blues.
The six part comic series by Ian Daffern and Mike Leone follows a working stiff’s journey job to job across America to see his dying grandfather. And yes, his every boss is revealed to be a rampaging monster.
Dalton Sharp spoke with Ian about monsters, family, and life on the indie comic circuit.
Where did you get the idea for Freelance Blues?
Let me turn the question around, and ask you why you want to interview me about the book.
1) Twenty years ago I was doing similar zine format comics … I just sorta like the idea of checking out how it’s going for younger cartoonists on the business side and the actual job of getting the books out.
2) I also like the idea of … I’m just curious … I see monsters all over the place … I’m a fan of the canceled show Reaper. Do you know Reaper?
3) And just the idea of the family dynamics of the characters in the story.
So the supernatural thing, how we’re doing it as a business, and how the family dynamic works with it too … ?
Great. I’m really glad that all works. That’s all the things we kinda baked into it, if you know what I mean. While I was in university Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on the air and I watched the Hell out of it y’know …
So I was right picking up on that!
Definitely. I loved the metaphors they were playing with. I loved the smarts behind it. Buffy was all about the monsters of growing up, the monsters of high school.
So when me and Mike were coming up with ideas we were influenced by all that stuff. This was a story we wanted to tell that was drawing on our own experiences, and a way to tell that in a fantastic way.
We started with a mini-comic where [protagonist] Lance goes to work in a frozen food grocery store and it’s revealed very quickly that there are freezer monsters on the loose and someone has to do something about it. It was a little bit Clerks, a little bit Buffy, some monster action thrown in, some jokes.
One regular guy who goes into situations where his bosses are evil, and how does he deal with that? But it wasn’t enough just to have that. He needed a reason to keep going back, and the basic idea of why he keeps going back is his … family.
So the plot is powered by the need to protect family rather than “how many monsters can you kill”?
His parents are missing and he’s looking after his sisters. He quit school to work full-time. Otherwise they would lose the house, his twin sisters would have to move away and they wouldn’t be able to get the right education. That was the motivation.
Both Mike and I are pretty tight with our families so it was fun to come up with a family dynamic for a character.
Have you held all the crap jobs you write about?
Some of them are. The frozen food grocery store is actually a place where Mike and I both worked. It seemed like the right place to start. It was each of our first jobs, so it was kinda funny to pour those kind of experiences into a comic.
You’re those two assholes who are always yelling at each other in coffee shops!
You and Mike have been friends since childhood. Is co-writing Heaven or Hell?
Ha! I won’t print anything incriminating …
It’s okay, co-writing is a dynamic, I mean it’s a lot of fun. What you’re doing is getting two people, when it’s working, they’re both bringing something to the table.
We spend so much time writing in coffee shops, Mike lives in Scarborough and I live downtown, so we’ll get together wherever we can.
A typical writing session will be me drawing frantically and throwing around ideas, and him saying “okay stop!”, until we get down to the thing that’s good. But also … y’know there’s moments when we’re trying to kill each other too … literally, nearly coming to blows.
Tensions yes. But I don’t think any other co-writers I’ve spoken with have ever come close to blows …
Yeah, well we’re both a little bit thick. Sometimes it takes a while to see that the other person has a point.
We were [at a show] in the middle of our pitch, with this guy sorta half listening to it, and then he stops. “Hey! I know you guys! You’re those two assholes who are always yelling at each other in coffee shops!” We’re like “what the …?” “Yeah! You guys are always doing that!”
Well, y’know, you get passionate right? So yeah, that’s what it’s like writing with other people.
You’ve done a lot of comic shows on the circuit now.
Yeah, I feel like we’ve done everything.
Is it worth the time and effort?
I think so. It is always good.
When Mike and I are writing you don’t get to see how people react to the book. When we pitch the thing in person you get to see what they think of it and you get to see them react to it.Not every show is worth going to, but you don’t find out unless you go. And when you go you figure out which shows you want to keep going back to. We went to maybe a dozen shows over the last year.
The last show was Expozine in Montreal and that was incredible because I was able to meet people who hadn’t seen the book at all before.
We don’t fall asleep on sacks of money, but you’re doing the thing you want to do. You’ve made something, and you’re getting it out to people and that’s been great.
It’s interesting to see an artist today being … so much in the physical world – putting out the books, going to the shows, meeting the flesh and blood readers versus the online … it’s almost a provocation.
Right and we’re not a web comic. We kinda thought we might be at first, but we weren’t producing pages fast enough to keep up with that.
Ha ha! Join the club.
We’re making physical things. It’s not a web comic, it’s not a book right now, we make comics. We write it as a 22 page comic. It’s meant to be a physical object. I think there’s nothing really like that. The book, if you pick it up you will get a full story, you’ll get the art, you get the experience of the bookness of the book, the deepness of the blacks, the starkness of the whites, you’ll have this thing you’re holding in your hand that I think that still counts for something for people.
It’s not even in the Toronto comic shops?
It’s just at shows and online. It’s been enough for us to keep doing it, so it’s been fine.
The Freelance Blues crew will be at the Toronto Small Press Book Fair this Saturday, December 11th, 2010, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. W.
Issues available for reading and buying at the Freelance Blues site.