Just ahead of this summer's Comic-Con International, fans of Joe Kelly and Diego Greco's hilariously twisted "Bad Dog" were treated to the release of the long awaited trade paperback collecting the first arc of the raunchy Image Comics series. Although there was a delay between many of the issues, Kelly's writing and Greco's expressive art work kept the series feeling fresh, unique and grossly lovable in spite of the wait. Kelly flexes his humor muscles in full force for each moment of "Bad Dog," creating a dark, cringe-worthy comedy worth waiting for.
"Bad Dog" follows Lou, a moody werewolf who stays in his lupine form due to his general distaste for humanity, and Wendell, a former preacher turned deviant, as they bounty hunt across America -- but, honestly, they mostly drink, fight and get into trouble. The nasty, foul-mouthed pair isn't without heart, and it's clear that both Kelly and Greco are deeply invested in their story. CBR News spoke with Kelly about his return to "Bad Dog," how he stayed inspired while other projects vied for his attention and how a couple of drunk bastards like Lou and Wendell are the perfect outlet for the writer.
CBR News: Joe, I'm sure fans are rejoicing that "Bad Dog" is finally being collected in a trade -- what has this journey been like for you?
Joe Kelly: It's sort of like driving down a crowded Texas highway at 120 miles per hour on a chopper with no brakes and a headful of questionable chemicals -- only with a few extremely long bathroom breaks along the way! In all honesty, I love this book, and despite the amount of time that it took us to get it out, I think that fans are really going to dig it -- providing they have a sense of humor. And are perhaps not well in the melon. Working with Diego is a complete pleasure. Working on a dark and comedic book is right up my alley. "Bad Dog" is as much a return home to me as it is breaking new ground, and this trade is just the beginning.
Is there any new content in the trade?
We have some "behind-the-scenes" stuff that's cool, a few back matter bits by myself and Diego. Also for the masochists out there, you can look at art I drew while in college -- the secret origin of "Bad Dog," sort of. To be honest, for most people the whole trade is "new stuff" since they probably missed it the first time around. Oh, and there is one panel in the book that's been coated with the slime of that Peruvian frog so when you lick it you see things. I won't say which panel, so you gotta lick them all!
For people who haven't read "Bad Dog" yet, how would you describe it to them?
It's a dark comedy about two of the worst bounty hunters in the world. One is a devilish and degenerate ex-preacher and the other is a misanthropic Werewolf who hates humanity so much he never transforms out of his wolfish form. These idiots chase bail jumpers through the desert, but most often just wind up getting drunk and screwing things up very, very badly. Lou (the werewolf) knows instinctively that he's throwing his life away, but doesn't much care to do anything about it -- until he starts to get "signs" from the universe that suggest, maybe, he's meant for a higher purpose.
There's also his awful boss who sexually harasses him in vile ways, a talking head in a refrigerator, white supremacists, a demonic bull, and scariest of all, Las Vegas!
Can you talk a little bit about the staggered release schedule of the original issues? It seemed like you were working on lots of other projects at the same time, so I'm wondering what kept bringing you back to the series.
Yeah, I felt awful about that, and I know Diego does too. "Bad Dog" fell prey to something I'm always warning new writers about: Even when you have paying gigs, always write for yourself first. When I started putting out my creator-owned books again I was stoked, but shortly after we got a lot of work at Man of Action and so instead of prioritizing, I put baby in the corner. As we know from history, this is a bad thing. Completing the arc and digging into the second series has been great for me, and I feel back on track with "Bad Dog" as well as "Four Eyes," which suffered the same fate.
I kept coming back to Lou's story because I love it! I love the rated-R comedy, I love the broken anti-heroes, I love these characters. "Bad Dog" is a book tailor-made for the dark recesses of my brain, so I'll always come back. The trick now is not to wait too long between chapters and keep baby where he belongs.
It seems like this is a great series to lose yourself in and really unleash pent up aggression and depravity -- what kind of outlet was this book for you?
You nailed it -- I get to have a blast poking a sharp stick at the world through the lens of a character who doesn't seem to give a rat's ass -- except that he does. As much fun as I have with all of the nastiness and comedy and darkness, it's meaningless to me if the main character doesn't have a true story. Lou's journey through this awful world is one of redemption and a search for purpose -- a werewolf having an existential crisis. I can get behind that story big time.
You've worked both in creator-owned and mainstream comics, and it always seems like you give a lot of yourself to whatever you're writing. Are the creator-owned books more personal for you?
I think so, primarily because I do so little mainstream comic work these days. "I Kill Giants," for example, was intensely personal. But even when I was on Superman or Spidey, I found it critical to keep the stories as personal as possible or I just got bored. Eddie Berganza used to joke that he knew how things were going between my wife and I based on how Lois and Clark were getting along in "Action Comics." I like that style of writing. As intellectual as the process can be, for me its nature is extremely personal and I'm always proud when those elements make it onto the page.
Do you intend to continue with "Bad Dog," or was issue #6 the final one?
Just finished issue #8! Having learned from our past mistakes (mostly my past mistakes), Diego and I are committed to keeping the book under wraps until we're very sure we'll be shipping on a predictable schedule. So while that means you may not see the next issue of "Bad Dog" until 2015, when it does come out, you can guaran-damn-tee that it will be on the shelves when we say it will.
What other projects do you have going on?
Like I mentioned, more "Four Eyes" is coming down the pike as we are finishing issue #6 and starting issue #7 right now. Also, I'm launching something new next year and I'll share details then, as well as a collected remix of my Vertigo book "Bang!Tango." And then there's all that MOA stuff that I will not let get in the way of all these beautiful sick and twisted comic book babies! Don't put me in the corner, damn it!
So, yeah, buy "Bad Dog," please. Thanks!