Billy the Kid and his sideshow pals are back, in “Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness.” The four-issue miniseries, written by Eric Powell, Kyle Hotz and Tracy Marsh, and featuring art by Hotz, is the third installment of the “Billy the Kid” series from Dark Horse Comics, with the first issue hitting stores October 17.
This time around, The Kid and Sproule’s Biological Curiosities are headed to Loch Ness to rescue their serpentine friend from the peril of Count Dracula. CBR News spoke with Powell and Hotz about the upcoming miniseries, the collaborative effort behind the book, and Dracula’s plans for the Loch Ness Monster.
Billy the Kid and his gang of misfits are hardly new to facing down appalling foes, having already tangled with a monstrosity of biological engineering and a legendary murderer. This third installment picks up right where “The Ghastly Fiend of London” left off.
“Like the two previous series, we’re taking a bit of monster mythology and smashing it into some revisionist history,” Powell told CBR News. “To me, that’s what makes this book so much fun to do. Taking little bits of historical fact and well-recognized mythology and messing with it — doing the unexpected. The first series dealt with Frankenstein, the second with Jack the Ripper. Now we’re taking Billy and the freaks to Loch Ness.”
Readers will be treated to familiar faces, as all the familiar freaks will be present and accounted for. However, Powell hinted that they might not all make it out of this adventure unscathed.
“There is a major change up that will forever change the future of Sproule’s Biological Curiosities,” said Powell.
The collaboration between Powell and Hotz on “Billy the Kid” stretches back at least a decade, as the two began tossing around ideas for a story involving, originally, Jesse James and Frankenstein.
“If I remember right, about 10 or 12 years ago I asked Eric if he wanted to do Jesse James teamed up with a bunch of circus freaks to take on Frankenstein,” said Hotz. “Jesse got replaced by Billy, because there was a ‘Jesse James vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter’ movie (then again, there’s a ‘Billy the Kid vs. Dracula’ movie too). Somehow, it mutated into a bunch of things — at one point the group was actually a team for the U.S. Government under the leadership of P.T. Barnum… Eventually we figured out how to re-work the plot; I drew up some character shots — I’m pretty sure Eric came up with the design for Sproule and the tiny boy, and Sproule’s nemesis in the first mini — and a cover type of image and Eric put it all together in a cool little pitch. [Dark Horse Editor] Scott Allie took pity on us and away we went.”
While the story has been a collaborative effort, Hotz is quick to credit Powell with the bulk of the writing, keeping the story tight and fast.
“I think the first mini had a lot more of Eric’s ideas story-wise,” said Hotz, “and the second maybe a little more me, since I’m the weirdo who knows too much about Jack the Ripper. The newest one feels to me like the most even mix. I think we talked about this one back and forth to balance it, and there’s some big things in it from each of us. It gets kind of hard after a while to remember who came up with what. In the end, I think it really is a story by the two of us, but Eric is the one who has to make it a great read. I think I’d be happy to draw just about anything he wrote.
Hotz added, “Billy’s nude scene was totally written by Powell! I swear!”
“Well, we couldn’t deny the readers the chance to ogle some man ass,” Powell shot back.
Tracy Marsh, who worked with Powell previously on “Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters,” also stepped in on “Billy the Kid” to assist with continuity and layout.
“[Marsh] came in on the first couple of issues to help me lay them out,” said Powell. “I was juggling a lot of plates at the time and she was nice enough to step in and help with some of the structure.”
Hotz’ biggest contribution to the series is, of course, the art. In rendering a believable world around the fantastic characters of “Billy the Kid,” Hotz fleshes the world out with a high attention to detail. Costuming, architecture and set are thoroughly researched to bring the world and era of the stories to life.
“For the first ‘Billy’ series I only really had to research the short period where the guys were in America — trains, guns, clothes,” said Hotz. “But after that they ended up in ‘Transylvania’, so I just relied on my many years of watching Hammer horror movies to get the right look. The second series was a ton of research. I wanted to nail Whitechapel: the settings, buildings, clothes, even the mugs and lab equipment and hospitals. There are even scenes in that series that are actual ‘Ripper’ crime scenes. Now on the third series, I only had to research the look of the landscape: clothes and villages of Scotland in the vague period our stories take place.”
Along with rendering a convincing set and setting, Hotz designs and renders many of the characters and creatures that appear in the book. Hotz again cites horror films as a large inspiration in his work, as well as the work of other artists.
“When I was first starting and for years after, I spent a lot of time devouring the book ‘A Look Back,’ about [artist and illustrator] Bernie Wrightson,” said Hotz. “I probably spent an hour just looking at it every day while I was in college — nowadays, I don’t look to other artists or creatures for inspiration. I either draw straight from my imagination, or just as often, look to nature for the jumping off point of my monsters. There is a lot of my twisting existing animals into monsters in the new ‘Billy’ series.”
As far as the details regarding the involvement of Count Dracula in the story, and what he might possibly want with the monster of Loch Ness, Powell and Hotz were remarkably cryptic.
“Wait,” said Hotz. “This has Dracula in it?”
“News to me,” added Powell.
“Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness” #1 is on sale October 17 from Dark Horse.