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Rubio & Boatwright Sing The “Cemetery Blues”

by  in Comic News Comment
Rubio & Boatwright Sing The “Cemetery Blues”
“Cemetery Blues” #1 on sale in January

Ryan Rubio and Thomas Boatwright have the classic comics origin story. Writer Rubio, a former comics store employee, and artist Boatwright met in their hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina; found common interests; and went from producing their own comics in a local print shop to finding a bigger audience and a big-time publisher. Their creation, "Cemetery Blues," debuts this January as a three-issue miniseries from Jim Valentino’s Shadowline imprint at Image Comics. Rubio and Boatwright spoke with CBR News about their story and their stories.

"’Cemetery Blues’ is about the macabre misadventures of Ridley and Falstaff, two bumbling monster hunters that will do battle with all manner of spook, specter, and ghoul, but they’ll do it under protest," Ryan Rubio told CBR News. "They dislike the work and are not very good at it, but they are badgered into doing it by the spirit of a once-great monster hunter named Wilhelm Lear. They can’t seem to shake this ghost, so at his insistence they begrudgingly pursue an ancient necromancer named Orlok across the land."

"I’ve always loved the paired side characters," said Thomas Boatwright. "In cartoons, movies, books, the bad guys always have two dullards working for him. These two really never do anything worthwhile. The might capture the girl, or sucker-punch the hero, but in the end they’re going to lose. Ridley and Falstaff are those guys. That’s the life they lived before they encountered Lear and started this monster-hunting thing. All they know how to do is drink, fight, and follow instructions — sort of. They could have just as easily (and more appropriately) be working for Orlok. All the henchman rules apply, but now they’re on the good guys side."

“Cemetery Blues” #1 pages 1 and 2

"Cemetery Blues" has its origins in an image Boatwright drew of two individuals, who turned out to be the series main characters, killing vampires in a crypt. "I still have the picture," said Rubio. "I had the idea of making these guys vampire hunters that are always one step behind a master vampire, killing all the other vampires that he creates. Thomas had the idea to make them incompetent and unable to afford the proper gear that they would need. And we decided not to limit it to vampires, because that could get old fast."

Asked about the creators’ influences, Rubio said, "It’s those Hammer horror films," referring to the British horror production house famous for their gothic horror films featuring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. "We want to keep that kind of look and feel, as well as injecting comedy into it. And we must be pulling off that British style of humor to some extent, because some woman who wanted to buy our books at HeroesCon last year expected us to actually be British."

"Charles Shultz and Chuck Jones were my earliest influences," stated Boatwright. "Bill Watterson is probably the biggest. He’s the first artist I tried to study and copy exactly what he was doing. I discovered Charles Addams and Edward Gorey later on. Mignola, Eric Powell, and Guy Davis are favorites these days. I’ve actually followed Guy Davis since his ‘Baker Street’ days. He’s always done his own thing, and I’ve loved watching his style progress as it has."

“Cemetery Blues” #1 pages 3 and 4

"I listen to a lot of music, too," Boatwright continued. "Mostly old time stuff, but I like anything with a lot of mood or character. Tom Waits and Nick Cave get a lot of play on my iTunes. Johnny Cash is on there a lot too as are the Pogues. The Pogues are a big influence ‘Cemetery Blues’ specifically."

Horror plays a big part in how these two creators came together in the first place. "There was a horror movie starting pre-production in town," said Boatwright of how he met his collaborator. "Through some mutual friends we both ended up working on it. Ryan was working on scripts, and I was doing the visualizations for investors. I was going to go on to do storyboards, but the whole thing fell through. We enjoyed working together though, and pitched some ideas back and forth. We found out that while we have different backgrounds, a lot of what we liked to watch and read was the same. If it wasn’t for the Disney Afternoon block of shows back in the ’80s and ’90s there may nave have been a ‘Cemetery Blues.’"

“Cemetery Blues” #1 page 5

"We started out printing our stuff at Kinko’s and handing it out to everyone (whether they wanted it or not) on Free Comic Book Day 2005," Rubio explained. "Our first book was a little anthology called ‘Sequential Matinee,’ which featured a ‘Cemetery Blues’ story. That year we met some guys from Ronin Studios, and they got us hooked up with ComiXpress, an online print-on-demand service. So under the Ronin banner we began a three-issue story called ‘The Curse of Wallace Manor’ and debuted the first issue at HeroesCon 2006. It was a big hit and we got it in a lot of people’s hands. "

Boatwright continues, "After I had finished issue #3, I met [writer] Dwight MacPherson online and did a fill-in for one of his many projects. That led to ‘Edgar Allan Poo’, which was eventually published through Shadowline. When that was done I pitched editors Jim Valentino and Kris Simon on ‘Cemetery Blues.’ Originally we wanted to re-print the first series, but it just wasn’t going to work. Since Ryan and I have a number of different ideas for a ‘Cemetery Blues’ story, we pitched them a new one, the first issue of which is coming out in January."

“Cemetery Blues” #2 and #3

Rubio and Boatwright are looking forward to a bright future for their dark comedy. "Right now it’s just this three-issue limited series, but we’d love to do more," said Rubio.

Added Boatwright, "I would also love to do a cartoon. Kind of like
‘The Tick,’ where it was the same spirit of the comic but wasn’t just animating the same stories. There was some crossover of course, but there was some really funny stuff in both versions, that wasn’t in the other. I’ve had some very funny ideas that just wouldn’t translate well to a comic that would work perfect in a cartoon."

Said Rubio, "We have lots of stories left to tell. We have the whole ‘Cemetery Blues’ epic basically mapped out already. We see it as a series of minis, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Image Comics forum.

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