Not so 'Desperate Times': DT returns to Image this January

Thu, October 9th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

If you know the name Chris Eliopoulos it's likely for two reasons. The first being that he's one of the top letters in the comics industry. From Marvel to DC to Image and others, his hand writing and fonts can be found on hundreds of comics each and every year. The second reason is because with a last name like Eliopoulos, it's hard to forget him. But there's another reason why you should be familiar with his work: he's an accomplished cartoonist himself, having already published a mini-series with Image Comics a couple years back called "Desperate Times." This January, "Desperate Times" will make it's way back into comics shops with an all new series from the "I." Eliopoulos described the series when he spoke with CBR News.

"'Desperate Times' is a Freudian analysis of one's psyche wherein the characters are a metaphor -- oh, who am I kidding? 'Desperate Times' is first and foremost a comic strip presented in a comic book format. It's also an outlet for all my wacky thoughts and a way to comment on my life and the people in it without getting my head bashed in."

In this new series there are big changes for the cast of characters found inside, with one of them getting married. Thus begins a story that examines what happens to close friends when the new "boss" isn't accepted by all in the group. "Of course, the wife is a wack job, thus providing me the opportunity to get out my frustrations. Basically, if you ever wanted to get your wife or girlfriend into comics, this is the place!

"…I really discovered that this strip is stress relief -- I'm going to be getting all my neurosis and annoyances out on paper and not care what anyone thinks. My family will probably disown me, but I need it."

The stories within the pages of "Desperate Times" comes from the author's own life experience, with members of his family often finding their personal stories trotted out in the pages of the book.

"Things that happen in my life get warped into the strip. Take for example, the character of Doofus, a guy who lives his life inside his theme park costume and dates the sister character. Based on true life. My sister went to Disney and said she met a guy that worked there and was in love--the first thing I thought was, 'My God, my sister's dating a guy dressed up as Mickey Mouse!' Twisted it around in my head and there you go."

But the real question is, how pissed was Eliopoulos' sister when she found out her boyfriend was the inspiration for a guy named Doofus?

"She wasn't pissed at all, she actually found it funny -- especially after they broke up. Actually, she loves to be the center of attention, while I like to hide in the corner, so she would run around showing people the book and letting them know that the character is her. I don't have the heart to tell her it's just an exaggeration of her, but whatever. She recently got married to a pilot and when she told us she was getting engaged, my mind started working and I must have had some silly grin on my face and she just mumbled, 'Oh, no!'"

"Desperate Times" found its beginnings in the pages of Erik Larsen's "Savage Dragon," which Eliopoulos also lettered up to issue #106. Larsen didn't want to insert a bunch of ads at the back of his comic, he wanted content, so he gave his letterer two pages a month to run with. After almost 50 issues as a back-up, "Desperate Times" launched as a series from Image, that came to a quick end which Eliopoulos explained. "...it was during that time [that] I sent out packages to the syndicates. One was interested and we worked together on getting it ready for syndication, so I stopped the book while I worked on it. We got to the point where I was being told that contracts were coming and this is what we're going to do, etc. And the senior sales guy looked at it and said, 'Can't sell it. Just another bachelor strip.' And that was it. I worked with another syndicate for a while, but they kept asking to water it down until they looked at it and said it was bland. So, I went back and self-published for four more issues until Judd Winick recommended me for a gig writing and drawing single panel gags for the 'Complete Idiots Guide' books. In the past year and a half I've done about 150 or so books with 5-7 cartoons per book and they paid well and was hard but fun to try and come up with jokes about the Great Depression and 20 minute meals. But now it's time to come home"

Like Frank Cho's "Liberty Meadows," each issue of "Desperate Times" will be printed sideways so as to preserve the comic strip format. Each issue is 32 pages, black and white and done completely by Eliopoulos. This January will see the release of a #0 issue. It's 32 pages of strips from the self-published run of "Desperate Times" and is the perfect way for new readers to be introduced to the characters. Following that issue, "Desperate Times" takes off with all new material. "I'm ripping my heart out and smearing it all over the pages. This is my little world and I'm making fun of everything and everyone."

Eliopoulos feels that "Desperate Times" is a great book to hand to someone who's maybe never read a comic before, or is returning to them for the first time as an adult. With the stories based on real life experiences, albeit exaggerated, the author believes the series is accessible to anyone.

"It's about all the stuff we go through in life," said Eliopoulos. "The things we do, the people we meet and the absolutely effed up world we live in. The philosophy of the strip comes down to this feeling I have -- I love mankind, it's the people I can't stand. I'm writing this strip for me now. I can't try to please anyone but myself and I want to do a strip that I'd want to read, simple as that."

As you know this new series of "Desperate Times" will be published by Image, but that wasn't originally to be the case. It was going to be published as part of Marvel's Epic line, but when changes in publication practices were made, "Desperate Times" was left homeless.

"Marvel came to me and said they enjoyed my book and thought it would be a great title to reach out to non-comic book readers -- y'know, target a marketplace we're unable to hit right now. What better way than with a comic strip -- everyone reads those, right? We talked collections, bookstores, etc. I was onboard. I signed the contract, began working on it and then was told that a decision was made not to do creator-owned books. I was flapping in the breeze."

And like a super-hero rushing to the scene to save a man who's accidentally fallen off a very tall building (we've seen it happen!), an old friend came to the Eliopoulos' aid.

"I talked to Erik Larsen about it and the first thing he said was, 'Welcome home!' And that was it. Image, my home, wanted to publish DT again and I was elated. It feels right, y'know? I think Epic was that pretty girl at the bar who hits on you and makes you feel attractive. It's a great feeling to be wanted, but in the end you go home to the wife who loves you and cared about you even when you were this goofy-looking kid. They're getting into bookstores as well and,ya know what? They're family. With Jimmy V at the helm (publisher Jim Valentino), I know they're the right place for me -- I couldn't be happier."

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