What do you get when you put a well-known musician and an acclaimed designer in the same room, lock the door and blast some of said musician’s favorite tracks? You get “Fall Out Toy Works.”
In September, Fall Out Boy vocalist and bassist Pete Wentz and designer Darren Romanelli will unveil “Fall Out Toy Works,” their brand new comic book series from Image Comics, written by “Bulletproof Monk’s” Brett Lewis and illustrated by Sam Basri of Imaginary Friends Studios. The details on the plot are scarce thus far, though the overarching world is based off of Wentz’s song “Tiffany Blews,” a track from Fall Out Boy’s album “Folie Ã¡ Deux.” The book introduces readers to a variety of characters including a mysterious toymaker, a cyborg girl named Tiffany and a kid in a bear suit.
To learn more about the mysterious project, CBR News sat down with creators Pete Wentz and Darren Romanelli, also referred to as Doctor Romanelli. The pair spoke about how “Toy Works” was born, the story’s thematic potential and their desire to tell the tale through multiple media platforms.
CBR: Pete, can you talk about how “Fall Out Toy Works” first came about? Was this a project you’d been thinking about for a while?
Pete Wentz: Well, how it first really came about was that I’d looked at the circle [Darren] Romanelli ran in and saw a bunch of the gear he’d done. He had this “Doctor Love” series, he’d done some stuff for Lupe, and I thought, “Oh, this is insane. I just have to meet this dude.” That’s why I go into situations like that, just to have a kind of dialogue with the dudes first before you even know if there’s anything more there. So I went over and I saw some of his laboratory, and I realized why he was, in fact, called “The Doctor.” [laughs]
We got to talking and I was like, “I gotta get some of this gear.” We vibed out really hard; we were just like kindred spirits that had run in different circles, and I wanted him to do something for [Fall Out Boy’s] tour. He was like, “I’ve done a couple of things for tours, but it’d be cool if we could do something bigger than that.” And I said, “Yeah! Let your brain loose! Go crazy!” And he asked, “Do you have any sort of parameters? What excites you about what’s going on in Fall Out Boy right now?” I explained to him that it was this song called “Tiffany Blews.” From there, he kind of took it and went crazy with it.
Darren Romanelli: We clearly hit it off and spent a lot of time together and started talking about ideas and ways that we could collaborate outside of just me creating gear under the “Doctor Romanelli” brand. So I kind of went back, and there’s a guy that I do a lot of my work with that’s pretty epic in creating worlds, and his name is Nathan Cabrera. So me and Nathan sat down and listened to the lyrics of “Tiffany Blews” and put some storyboards together, showed them to Pete and the guys, and Pete was pretty happy.
We started talking about the world, came up with some characters together, and shortly thereafter I met up with Brett Lewis, the amazing writer. We started developing the world with Brett, and from Brett – well, Jeff Krelitz introduced us to Brett and Imaginary Friends. It’s been a really great experience in terms of everyone being super passionate about the band and the project. It’s been great up to this point and we all think it’s something big and exciting.
PW: I think where Romanelli and I clicked most was in creating an actual world. It was like, it’s not just going to be this gear you wear on stage. Whether it’s a micro-site and a graphic novel and whether we animate it, it’s going to be this world that can live on its own with its own rules. That was the thing that was so exciting for me. So when I finally saw some of the original sketches, I was like, “Oh my god!” This is the stuff I would dream about but I’d never be able to put that from brain to pen. Like I said, we were kindred spirits in the way that his work totally made sense with what we were thinking already.
DR: On that world element, my brain goes in multiple directions in terms of creating the story. It’s not just the story itself – obviously the comic and the story is crucial, but we’ve discussed every possible element in terms of creating more such as the micro-site, downloadable applications, there’s animation in the works, obviously toys, obviously gear. It’s slowly coming together. I don’t want to let too much out of the hat just yet, but there’s a lot of different pieces to the puzzle that we’re gonna be working on that we haven’t [announced] yet.
Let’s talk about the story of “Toy Works,” the comic book. Not a lot has been made known other than the basic premise. Can you tell us what that world is like?
DR: I don’t know if I’m allowed to let out much, just because I feel like everything has been staggered pretty carefully and strategically, so I’d rather just build off of what has been released so far. Just know that it’s pretty incredible.
PW: There’s a strong element of, “What is real? What makes something real? Can you fabricate reality?” That’s something that’s functional within our own world. When you look at people on TV on TMZ or something, you think, “Is that a real person that I’m watching right now, or something created by fame entirely?” [“Toy Works”] is a metaphor for that. You’ll get it more when the story comes out, but to know that there’s a toymaker involved [in the plot]… ah, it’s just the most brilliant story, and I’m able to say that because the only iota we ever contributed was, “Oh, what about a couple of characters like this?” The rest of it was these dudes coming up with the story. It’s cinematic without there even being a movie in existence right now – you can picture it in your head.
DR: We listened to all of Pete and the band’s music over and over again, so there’s a lot of inspiration pulled from the lyrics. There are a lot of hidden elements that we built into it and a couple of great characters built off of song titles. I don’t know man… there’s a little bit of “Blade Runner,” a little bit of “Pinocchio,” and you can kind of run off that.
What made “Tiffany Blews” the ideal song to build this comic book world around? From your remarks, it sounds like you’re basing the story on the entire Fall Out Boy catalogue.
PW: Not to go too far into it, but some of the main characters are from that, but they’re expanded. In a song, you’re limited to four-four time and melodies, so to have a description of what characters look like or what they feel or how they go about their life – those are creations that maybe have some basis in the song, but [“Tiffany Blews”] is the one that stuck out the most. When I played a couple of songs for Romanelli, that was the one that stuck out to him and to me as well. The main thing about it is I know that there’s tons and tons of comic books and stories out there, but the way this is both told and drawn is unlike something I’ve ever seen – and I’m not a huge comic book guy so I can’t say there’s nothing like it out there, but it’s got such a neo-slick “Pinocchio” vibe to it. It’s perfect to me.
DR: You’ll see more when the first issue comes out. You know the genius behind Brett, and Brett’s been killing it. It’s really strong. We’re all really excited about it. And I’ve been integrating little bits and pieces of my gear that I’m going to surprise Pete with pretty soon on some of the characters, so there’s a lot of good stuff coming out.
What stages did you go through in creating the comic book and all the gear with each other, Brett and Sam?
PW: The initial stages for me were that I’d met with Romanelli a couple of times and we talked about what we wanted the stage gear to look like. It kind of had this neo-fascist paramilitary look. The cool thing about working with Romanelli is he’d worked with two of our guys that were vegan and was able to come up with vegan materials for them, and he came up with two different looks for each member. Our drummer doesn’t like to play with sleeves so he created this awesome detachable sleeve. It was something that fit in our stage show in such a cohesive way. I’ll never get rid of it. We’ve already had requests from Hard Rock to put ’em up there in our hometown, and I don’t even want to put it up – I just want it hanging in my closet! I love this gear.
So we had our initial discussions. I’m not the kind of person that micromanages, the kind of person who is going to sit here and tell someone else who is doing their job how to do their job better. So I had my initial meetings with Romanelli and he was like, “These are a couple of the partners that I like.” And I liked them too. So Romanelli said, “Okay, I’m gonna vibe out with them, see how they are.” Then they went and vibed out the story and the way the world itself would look. If you go to the teaser website, that’s sort of how the world looks, and I love it. It’s gorgeous to me. It’s like Tokyo on acid. [laughs]
What drew you guys to Image Comics? How did they come into the scenario?
DR: There’s a buddy of mine, Jeff Krelitz, that’s been a key component in connecting me with Image and Brett. He’s a good buddy of mine, a super comic nerd, and he helped me get with the right partners. Image has been great. There was a little bit of a process finding the right creative team. I kind of sifted through a lot of recommendations and once I clicked with the right partners, I presented them to Pete and the guys and it’s been an easy process. But Jeff played a big part in making the introductions. He has a great relationship with Image.
PW: And I like the passion that they’ve come through with. They’re not only meeting deadlines, they’re beating deadlines. They’re sending stuff and saying, “Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re doing.” And it’s just – wow, they’ve got 20 sketches already and I’ll show them to my wife, and she’ll say that it looks like it’s already done. And I’m like, “Yeah, we’re not even anywhere near done!” That’s just the passion that’s played into it. Just an amount of excitement that not only our individual fan bases have had, but in general, we’ve already gotten phone calls from outside sources that have been like, “When can I read this comic? When’s the first issue?” It’s awesome to see that initial excitement already.
You’ve talked about adding further elements – shirts, toys, animation, websites – to build upon the “Toy Works” world. How far away are you from an official announcement on these things?
PW: Romanelli has been working around the clock on this. In fact, he’s leaving for Japan tomorrow morning – he’s working around the world on it. One of the greatest things you can do as an artist is release your ideas in a timely way. I don’t want to just go out and go, “Hey! Here’s the mug you can buy!” It’s all got to make sense. Part of it is suspense and part of it is fitting in with the world. We’ve been working on this for a long time. For this sneak peek to get out and create such a big reaction… we want to release it slowly so people can take it all in.
DR: I can tell you now that there are a couple of secret things that we’re going to release here at Comic-Con. I’d definitely leave a little hint that we’ve got some special stuff coming out in the next couple months.
As it stands, the comic is only five issues. Have you given any thought to expanding on the series with more issues down the line, or are you just thinking of this one series for now?
PW: My initial commitment is that I want us to build this world based on these five issues. Whether it’s to make these toys, an animation, a micro-site, some of this gear, etc., I want to show people that you can really make cohesive art. You can make visual art, sonic art that meets with fashion, and they can all be cohesive and part of the same thing. There have been a few people throughout the past few years, contemporary artists who have done it, but I don’t think people focus on it enough anymore. Showing the world that you can still do that and it can still be exciting and interesting – and not just like He-Man that has the battle cat in the show just to sell you the battle cat – but that you can create this world that’s interesting and that people want to be a part of and interact with. I’m not adverse in any way to continuing the story further, but I don’t want to do it just for the sake of that. I want to make sure that we create the rest of the world as well.
DR: The story is pretty incredible, pretty impressive. I’m just speaking from my end, but I think it’s going to be very hard to call it a wrap after the last issue. All of us would need to come together and talk through it, but I would kind of hint that this thing will continue.
“Fall Out Toy Works” #1 hits stores on September 2 from Image Comics.