If you've ever taken heavy doses of peyote, or have friend who's a psychotic, then you're pretty likely on the same wavelength as "The Auteur." Rick Spears and James Callahan are currently producing a mind-altering, description-defying creator-owned through Oni Press. That's right, they've convinced the same publishing house that's produced wholesome stories like "Sharknife" and "Scott Pilgrim" into distributing a story about Nathan T. Rex, a producer who's just suffered the biggest box-office bomb in Hollywood, and is doing everything in his power to save his next movie -- even if that means huffing glue and hiring a serial killer as a consultant.
An a discussion with CBR News, Spears and Callahan spill the goods on what their collaboration is like, what it's like stalking one another, and, oh yes, how this absolutely depraved book is for everyone, including the Westboro Baptist Church. Sassy and smarmy, Spears and Callahan are a trip, a slap in the face -- basically, these two are "The Auteur." The first issue goes on sale in print and digital this Wednesday, March 5, and no one who reads it will be the same after.
CBR News: Rick, I've seen the first issue, but I'd like to hear in your words: What's "The Auteur" about?
Rick Spears: Just explain it. Uh -- no. "The Auteur" will be lovingly explained in 22-page chunks and collected periodically in larger kind of like book type things.
If you mean a plot synopsis: Coming off a disastrous mega-flop, disgraced and desperate Hollywood producer Nathan T. Rex enters a downward spiral of drugs and depravity in a quest to resurrect his career and save his soul. Over budget and behind schedule on the latest installment of the horror franchise "Presidents Day," T. Rex tries to punch up the publicity and gore by hiring a real life serial killer as a "consultant." What could go wrong?
There is so much psychedelic warfare in this book. Where's the main character, Nathan T. Rex, coming from, and where's he going?
Spears: First of all, I abhor violence in all its forms, so your use of the term "psychedelic warfare" is very upsetting. I think you might be projecting a bit. As to where Rex comes from, Rex was born between piss and shit like anyone else. (Well, except test-tube babies and cesareans, but I digress.) He was birthed whole cloth from the vagina of my mind. Where he goes from there is entirely up to him. I hope it's somewhere interesting.
James, how did you get talked into this insanity?
James Callahan: Umm -- mostly we're holding up a mirror to society, I think? I'm not sure. This thing started as a homage to "Marmaduke" with the working title "Gaffydap." George Lopez was attached to a film adaptation. But then Rick kept changing it over and over. Once he wrote the wacky dog out of the story, we couldn't justify a sassy parrot anymore. Needless to say, Mr. Lopez's representation is pretty displeased at the moment. But this is a different book now, and that's definitely different.
How do you tackle any one page in the book? Can you talk us through your process?
Callahan: Well, as I mentioned, this originally followed the construct of the classic "Marmaduke" one-panel gags. But was soon re-imagined into pages, and some of these pages had as many as 37 rounds of revisions. We got to a point where I was just drawing empty scenes and several versions of characters separately. Then we would cut them out and Rick would stand over my shoulder telling me where to paste which characters. It was pretty tedious. But Rick does everything 100%, even when he has a hobby or new side interest. A few months ago, he became obsessed with this touring band of Peloponnesian musicians, and he said he just had to go travel with them and film their story. It was OK, though; I actually got a lot of pages drawn for "The Auteur" that month.
What's your collaboration like?
Spears: Collaboration is a bit misleading. It's more sadomasochistic master/slave dynamic. I am very bossy and constantly email, and text, and call, and mentally project myself at Jim with script and artist proof instructions. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I like to break into his house, slide under the sheets and whisper new ideas and art corrections into his subconscious while he sleeps. Jim is very lucky to have been selected to work with me. Jim, you may answer now, but keep it brief. Thank you.
Callahan: Yeah it's -- it's a lot like that. Even though we live within a few miles of each other, Rick is often reluctant to plan meetings. When he does, he rarely shows up. He does do a lot of uninvited entering of my house, both when we are home and when we aren't, usually to give detailed direction and visual descriptions. Although, some of these instructions can be cryptic. The other day, I came home and found a small bag of hair, the last piece of a small, wrapped wedge of havarti, and a button in an envelope labeled "aromatic references". My girlfriend -- is patient.
Wow. So tell me, who's your audience? "The Auteur" isn't for everyone.
Spears: How dare you! "The Auteur" certainly is for everyone! Anyone with testicles, or ovaries, or both, or neither will enjoy "The Auteur." We have worked overtime to ensure that there is something for everyone's organs!
Callahan: I'm just hoping someone will pick up the film rights, so it can be their problem. Asset. It can be their asset.
With a book like this, what's your end goal? To tell a good story? To shock people with images of Abe Lincoln smashing someone's eyes out with an axe?
Spears: Goal is something you aim to achieve in the future. We are already telling a good story here in the present. And I have no idea why you are talking about Lincoln. I'm pretty sure that's not in the book, but I could be wrong. I've forgotten more than most people will ever know. Personally, I would love to get to the point where I can refuse to do these kinds of silly interviews and finish my fully authorized sequel to the "Catcher in the Rye." As Bill Murray once famously said, "Never let the urgent crowd out the important."
Callahan: Bill Murray would be great for this picture. Can we do that? Can someone call Bill Murray?
Spears: I heard he has an answering machine you call. We'll have to Google it. END TRANSMISSION.