These days, Joe Casey is best known for his often off-kilter and critically acclaimed work published through Image Comics, from “Godland” and “Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker,” to “Doc Bizarre, M.D.” and Todd McFarlane’s “Haunt.” As recently as the mid 2000s, however, he was spending much of his time working on DC Comics and Marvel books like “Adventures of Superman,” “Wildcats 3.0” and “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” During this time, Casey wrote a creator-owned comic titled “The Milkman Murders,” illustrated by artist Steve Parkhouse (“2000 AD,” “Doctor Who Magazine”) and published through Dark Horse.
“Milkman Murders” is a dark, dark comic that looks at everyday life in the suburbs and the evils that lurk within supposedly normal people. The book focuses on Barbara, a housewife, how she deals with the realization that her husband, son and daughter are much worse people than she ever knew. Thanks to a new deal between Man of Action Studios — the quartet of creators Casey belongs to that includes Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle best known for creating the animated series “Ben 10” — and Image Comics, the world will get a chance to explore “Milkman” once again, this time in a hardcover edition. CBR News spoke to Casey about the new edition, announced at last weekend’s Image Expo, what it was like collaborating with Parkhouse, and how the new format services the story.
CBR News: How would you explain “Milkman Murders” to people who might not be familiar with it?
Joe Casey: It’s not the easiest book to describe. Needless to say it’s a story about the Vales, a typical nuclear family on the verge of imploding.Â Only the household matriarch is keeping it together, but when a strange visitor shows up while she’s alone at the house, he leaves something behind that’s going to change the way she sees the world and her own family.Â From there, it’s just a goddamn dark ride.
Why make the move from Dark Horse to Image for this new collection?
It’s pretty simple, really.Â “The Milkman Murders” was always a creator-owned book, but there was a contracted period where Dark Horse controlled the rights.Â When that term expired, it just made sense to take it over to Image, whereÂ I do all my creator-owned work now, under the Man Of Action Studios bullet.Â It also allowed me to have complete control on how the work is presented, which is extremelyÂ important to me now.Â But I give a big shout out to the folks at Dark Horse and Scott Allie in particular for their assistance in making this happen with no fuss and no muss.
â€¨ What kind of extras can fans expect in the new hardcover?
We’re still working out exactly what will go in the final book. I’m sure I’ll end up spouting ape shit in a new essay somewhere in there.Â For anyone who might’ve bought the original Dark Horse version of the trade, I can tell you that this hardcover edition will be bigger — meaning, it’ll be comic book-sized, as opposed to the digest size that DH published.Â And, I think you can see from the brand new cover, there’s a new design aesthetic at work with this version I think better suits the material.
â€¨ “Milkman Murders” is an intense book. What was it like going back and looking at it again for this reprint?
I gotta admit, when I looked at again — I was disturbed.Â It’s a pretty raw piece of work.Â It reads like a primal scream of a horror book.Â Not a lot of subtlety there, but that’s part of its charm.Â I’m really happy that it’s going to be in a more permanent edition, so readers can appreciate Steve’s work at the proper size.Â Of course, I never considered that the original Dark Horse collection was printed at digest size to possibly minimize the disturbing nature of the material, but what the hell — maybe I’m still not very subtle.
â€¨ When “Milkman Murders” was first released, you had been spending your time working on titles like “Adventures of Superman” and “Wildcats 3.0.” Was this book a way for you to get away from the world of big deal superheroes?
Keep in mind, it’s a little tough to think back that far, especially considering my state of mind at the time. I do know “The Milkman Murders” was a pretty low-money gig, but what that translated to was more creative freedom for Steve and me.Â That meant a lot back then.Â Of course, now I treat all of my work — both WFH [work for hire] and creator-owned — as though I have that same amount of freedom.Â But this book was definitely an importantÂ step on the path of my own creative independence.
You mentioned that “Milkman Murders” helped expose you more to the realm of creator-owned comics — was it this specific experience that stuck in your brain and pushed you towards the mostly creator-owned path you’re on now?
I think it was one of many.Â I also started “Godland” around that time, too.Â I think, even beyond the creator-owned side of things, I was getting closer to finding my own voice as a comic book writer.Â I was drawing on personal things, as opposed to drawing strictly from other comics (which tends to happen when you do WFH on company-owned superheroes). It was liberating as hell, so I supposeÂ this book was a pretty big deal, in the greater scheme of things.
â€¨ What was it like working with “2000 AD” artist Steve Parkhouse?
Amazing.Â I was a huge fan of Steve’s work, going all the way back to the “Bojeffries Saga” strips he did with Alan Moore.Â So this was one of those instances where you get to work with someone you really admire, and the experience was everything I’d hoped it would be.Â He did an amazing job from top to bottom.Â I hope Steve is still as proud of the book as I am.Â I like the idea that this hardcover will really showcase his work in the way it was always meant to be seen.
Was there a particular story or event that spawned the idea for “Milkman Murders?”
Well, I don’t know how much I should cop to here.Â I grew up in the suburbs, and it wasn’t all baseball games and white picket fences.Â Not by a long shot.Â There was a lot of dysfunction around, the kind of shit that you only realize was so dysfunctional when you’re older, looking back on it.Â So, in some ways, this series was a way to maybe exorcise some of those demons.Â I think Steve felt the same way, because he based some of the visual designs on real people from his own family.Â I remember having a discussion with Scott Allie about the ending, about how completely bleak and unrelenting it turned out to be.Â There was a bit of nervousness in the air that maybe we’d gone a little too far with this.Â Luckily, we all stayed true to the original intent of the book, which is to explore a different kind of horror, the horror that exists behind the doors of the houses that sit behind those white picket fences.
Did writing the book help exorcise some of those white picket fence demons from childhood?
Hell, no.Â If anything, I’m more twisted than ever!
The new printing of Joe Casey and Steve Parkhouse’s “The Milkman Murders” debuts towards the end of 2012 from Image Comics.