Last week “Welcome To Eltingville” creator Evan Dorkin talked to CBR News about the inspiration for The Eltingville Club and the process of bringing the caustic strip to animated life. This week CBR News presents part II of that interview. Dorkin talks about what the future holds for the TV show and the comics.
CBR News: “Welcome To Eltingville” is the pilot episode for your show. What do you have planned if it gets picked up as a series?
Evan Dorkin: First I wake up. Then I get drunk and pass out again.
If it got picked up I actually have about 20 plots, which surprised the hell out of me. I wasn’t sure if this thing could make a series. Honest to God I wasn’t sure. It’s not false humility. I was like, “how many more plots do I have with these guys?”
It turned out I have a lot.
I would love it if the network gave me a chance to do five more, a small mini-series. I feel like the pilot sets up a lot and now that that’s all done with we can just flip out on the next few plots. I have episodes that are full dream sequences based on the fear of…well, I won’t get into that one.
I’d really like to do one where the group always goes to the Renaissance fair upstate every year and this year Josh breaks off from the group to go to Klingon Camp. There’s a big fight between them over that. And the Klingon Camp is right next store to the Renaissance fair and apparently there’s been bad blood between the two camps over the years and it culminates in a Klingon vs. Elf war.
And there’s jousting on…what are those things scooters that they sell on TV? The Buddies. Old, very overweight comics retailers with jousting sticks on those little cripple scooters…Klingons siccing dogs…I’d be able to show everything I hate about the Klingon sub-culture and the Renaissance Fair sub-culture before they do get into their final, stupid war which gets them all arrested and burns down half of upstate New York. I think there’re a lot of possibilities for that one.
There’s another one where Bill’s mother throws out a small, innocuous piece of an action figure that looks like garbage. They scour the neighborhood to find it and eventually they end up in the world’s largest dump to look for this thing. The group learns about the fabled, untouched pile of garbage from the fifties. This is all based on the Statton Island dump which is the world’s largest landfill. So the characters get into this “Treasure of the Sierra Madres” deal where they end up in the hot sun in the world’s largest landfill for a day and a half looking for this fabled garbage dump, this mountain of gold treasure. They start to hallucinate and go insane from eating the food they find and meet other scavengers in there, other comics retailers who are looking for stuff.
That’s just two of the more over-the-top ones.
There’s one about the million-fan march in Washington where they elect the new head of world fandom.
They attempt to do a class-action lawsuit against parents who throw kids comics out and try to sue them for the value that they’re worth now.
I’d add some more of the strips. I’d love to do the “Marathon Men” from the strip. Some of these things would only make maybe an act or two. I want to expand “The Two-Headed Fanboy” which is a three-panel joke I did in “Dork,” I could use that as a dream episode with Josh and his inner-adult trying to get out of him.
C2F: I liked the deprogramming strip that you did in the most recent issue.
ED: Right! I would love to do that.
I told them I was doing that strip. In a dream world, if we actually got a season or a few episodes, I would love to do the adaptation of the strip where Bill’s mother hires deprogrammers, former fans, to basically kidnap him and try to do a fandom intervention (like its a religion). He is so twisted and insane that he turns them back into crazed fans who give up their jobs and girlfriends and hygiene and start collecting again. Of course they steal his collection as a start.
I was pretty happy with that strip. The art’s not that great; I got a little rushed on it. But part of the whole deal with “Eltingville” is to be manic and crazed. I try to reflect that in the art.
Hopefully we caught that in the show. Of course the show’s not as mean. For your average cartoon it’s pretty manic and the characters are pretty desperate, pretty obnoxious. I don’t think overly so. I wanted to try to avoid what I call the “Buffalo Bill” scenario. I personally like shows about awful people or movies about awful people. I like cynical Billy Wilder films like “Ace in The Hole.” I like “Sweet Smell of Success.”
It was that show “Buffalo Bill” that Dabney Coleman did, which everyone seemed to like in the industry (you know, I read “TV Guide”…like I’m in the industry). But they just said his character was too mean and too nasty. Every show he’s done is about a character that is nasty and they all bombed. I wanted to try to avoid having the show be so awful that you couldn’t watch these characters again.
But I found that, after doing the strip for 10 years, I’m amazed that I get all this mail from people who sympathize with the characters even though they’re horrible. To me they’re like three Ralph Kramdens and one Ed Norton. They’re filled with all these, not really get-rich-quick schemes, but these get-more-knowledge, get-more-stuff, buy-more-things, know-more-crap, become-more-powerful in fan circles, but they don’t have Alice and they don’t have Trixie. So there’s no hugs. There’s no “baby, you’re the greatest.” There’s no learning. There’s no love. Their parents are never seen so you wonder who the hell created these monsters.
But people seem to actually feel sorry for them because they’re so insane and their dreams are so small and stupid. If you noticed, even in their dreams they lose and even in their fantasy games they lose. In their subconscious and in their D&D games, where they should be able to be winners finally, their personality flaws still trip them up because they’re just so insane.
So, hopefully people will not just turn off to them. They’ll be able to empathize with them and see that they’re just so sad that you have to feel sorry for them. Maybe not. I don’t know.
(laughing) Maybe people should just feel sorry for me, when they watch the show! “I really feel sorry for this guy. I feel sorry for the Cartoon Network and pop culture in general.”
C2F: There’s a “Myron the living voodoo doll” reference in the pilot. Will there be any other “Dork” characters showing up?
ED: That was just a weird thing. I wanted there to be some material in there that was not just pop-culture.
The Spielberg joke is pop-culture but it’s tipped with the anti-Semitic gag, things like that. The joke where the kid gets knocked down and instead of helping him they go through his stuff.
It’s just to round it out a little bit and not make it as pointed towards the fan mentality, so we can get the general audience some participation there, hopefully. Again, I don’t know who the hell’s watching any of this.
The Myron thing was just I wanted to do something weird. That comes from the character Jane who is not explored much in the pilot. Her sickness is that she’s a very angry Catholic grade-school girl who started a girl gang at school. She’s positive she has latent psychic powers that will manifest any day now. She believes in the afterlife and all this crazy stuff: voodoo and Wiccan crap. She’s trying to kill her brother and the club members or do them harm. She’s a fairly, purely evil, screwed-up little girl. She’s actually a character I really like and I hope we’ll be able to do a little more work in.
There’s a couple of references to my own work in there I just threw in there to just do as a goof. There’s the voodoo bit and the background has “Milk & Cheese.” They’re in there as toys and things like that. [Mike Allred’s] “Madman” is in there, [Frank Miller’s] “Sin City,” Oni and Slave Labor are a few things I was able to get.
DC and Marvel wouldn’t give me the rights to any of their stuff, which was a little frustrating because DC is owned by the same parent company.
C2F: But you got Boba Fett!
ED: That was great. That was a real luck-out because it just locks the episode down. That was really crucial for me because, one: I’m used to that being the thing in the strip and two: Boba Fett to me is just one of the silliest characters ever created.
He has this huge pop-culture following and basically he’s a guy who shows up, walks around and trips and falls down into a pit. And there’s millions of dollars of toys and posters of him and people love that character and he’s a guy wearing a can on his head who walks around and trips into a pit. This character is famous! He’s an also-ran schmuck in two of these dumb movies and I love that. Plus, it’s a funny name.
Somebody at the Cartoon Network knew somebody at Lucasfilm and somehow it worked out and that was great! Boy did that help. If we had to call it “Bring me the Head of Made-up Guy” it just wouldn’t be the same. It resonates that the show is about real pop culture. Even though we made up a lot of things like Major Violence and Mushroom Man…I wanted to get as much pop-culture in there as possible so its grounded in reality so the viewers would be like “oh they’re talking about real stuff.”
It’s just something in a cartoon might be, in a small way, kind of surprising that there’s this verisimilitude in the cartoon. They’re not just talking about “made-up guy.”
And then I just put a lot of jokes in the background because that’s what I do in the comics: “Beverly Hills Robocop” and “Two Guys With Two Guns Story.”
C2F: What does the future hold for the comics?
ED: Right now I’m working on “Dork #10,” which I don’t thing will have any “Eltingville” strips in it.
I’m doing an “Eltingville” one-shot. I still own the rights to the characters. If the show miraculously went to series, I’d still be able to do comics, but the network would own the characters, God help them.
I’m planning on probably wrapping up the series as a one-shot. I think I’m going to do a big 40 pager. By then I’ll know if the series is dead or not.
I’ve always planned on having the four characters meet when they’re in their thirties in San Diego at the convention and basically they haven’t spoken in 15-16 years. They all really don’t know why they broke up and they go over all the plots I wasn’t able to use on the show because they think that might be the one they broke up the club over. At the end they realize they broke up because they’re just horrible people and they end up in a fist fight.
The joke is that three of the four got into the industry. One of them is at DC as an editor. One of them is in a gaming company. Pete’s doing something for like Troma or something. Bill’s the only one who didn’t get into the industry, the one who was like their alpha male and the big bully and everything. He assists at a comic shop flea-market table a couple times a week. He’s a very lonely fan, still living with his parents.
But I’m doing the last few stories. I’m doing one story that takes place mainly in Joe’s Comic Shop, so I can hit the retailers up a little bit, because I’ve been going after the fans. I want to do at least one shot that gets a little bile out towards the retailers. There’re a lot of good retailers out there but plenty you can make fun of.
Then that’s probably going to be it for the “Eltingville Club.” This is probably the beginning of the end.
I just need to get on to some other strips. All this trivia and all this pop-culture gets even me depressed. I’m looking up at 30 little Japanese vinyl toys on my shelf right now. As I get older I think I want to do less stuff that’s about fandom because I think I’m getting known for that.
Of course if the series happens I’d be very happy to write ten scripts right off the bat.
Welcome To Eltingville airs on Cartoon Network on March 3 at 11:00p.m.