EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview contains explicit sexual language.
It’s only been a year since Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky launched their award winning comic “Sex Criminals,” and yet it’s hard to remember a time before brimping, Sexual Gary and kegel faces. Eight issues in, the series has developed a loyal fan base that has been touched by the raw, hilarious honesty in the story of Suzie and Jon, a couple that stops time when they orgasm. The Image Comics series’ backmatter, Letter Daddies, is filled with readers sharing their own embarrassing escapades, adventures with woods porn, struggles with depression and seeking advice from Fraction and Zdarsky.
With the success of the series, enormous fan support and endless creative talents of the creators, it’s no surprise that the world of “Sex Criminals” continues to grow. Next month, “Just the Tips” hits stores the same day as Issue #9, gathering a raunchy collection of sexual advice, anecdotes and classic moments from fan letters into a beautiful hardcover book. In January, “Big Hard Sex Criminals: Volume One” debuts, a collection that promises to be large enough to embarrass everyone buying it.
With all of these on the horizon, CBR News checked in with Fraction and Zdarsky to talk about what’s next for the series, a printer’s refusal to work on their filthy material and the worst sex advice they’ve ever received.
CBR News: So many exciting things are happening in the world of “Sex Criminals” — how are you both managing your time? Chip, you recently quit your full-time day jobÂ for more comics time — is that helping?Â
Chip Zdarsky: Team Chip is doing really well and is proud to announce that Niko has been promoted to Third Chip! Since the book has done so well, I finally managed to quit my full-time job at a newspaper and hire many people to manage the art duties on all Zdarsco products. This leaves me with plenty of time to answer questions about timeÂ management!
Matt Fraction: Team Matt is maybe a little overbooked, but that tends to be the way Team Matt rolls. And I’m thrilled for Niko. Niko’s theÂ goodÂ Chip, if you know what I mean.
With the series heading into its second arc and “Just the Tips” coming out next month, can you talk more about what you’re planning for “Sex Criminals?”
Fraction: Well, we’d always kinda figured we’d get three issues out and have to pay entirely for the fourth, and we’d beg Image to let us do a collection. Then we’d have our funny dirty little book, and that would be that, but as “Sex Criminals” continues to swell and grow as if engorged with blood (I wish I could think of an appropriate metaphor here), we’ve realized we could actually call an audible on “Operation: Four Issues and Done” and start to live in the world some. So, really, post- this second arc, we’re going to start growing the world a little bit more and a little bit more, finding new people for Jon and Suzie to encounter as they continue to navigate the waters of being Jon and Suzie.
Zdarsky: And Matt and I will continue to navigate the waters of being “Matt and Chip.”
I loved Issue #8, especially seeing the fan response to Jon’s experiences with depression and Suzie’s needs as her partner struggles with his self-care. Was thisÂ character aspect always part of the plan? And were you nervous about bringing it into the story?
Zdarsky: I was nervous, but I’m always nervous.
Fraction: Once the plan grew, yes; I wanted to do a story about what happens after those first three weeks of a relationship, when you start to see your significant other as either significant or insignificant, when that rush of new lust sorta levels out and you see each other in sweatpants with morning breath and all that. And I wanted to talk about — uh, well, what we talked about. I wasn’t nervous about bringing it into the story — I don’t really think about that stuff — but I struggled to get it down right. Issue #7 was late because of me, me, me. It was a rough summer.
So many things in “Sex Criminals” are appealing and attractive because of how authentic they are. It’s not two perfect robots having space sex, but two veryÂ relatable, flawed people doing a lot of things sexually that people do. What makes you both of you feel sexy? Does that come into the series?Â
Fraction: We’re saving space sex for the third arc: INTERNATIONAL SEX STATION.
And I am going to do you a huge favor and not answer the back half of your questions here with a joke. You are welcome.
I think because the book is about what the book’s about, and we’re trying to talk about what we’re talking about, there’s very little prurient or deliberately-erotic stuff between our pages. It’s really a love story, albeit a totally dirty one, and not so much about “sexy” but rather the whole of “sex” and “love” and “relationships” and “honesty” and stuff.
Zdarsky: The only thing that makes me feel sexy is increased sales numbers, FYI.
The fan letters have more and more space devoted to them in each issue, which I think is wonderful — will any make it into the hardcover?Â
Zdarsky: Yes! The cream of the crop, as it were. The ones that are great stand-alone stories made it in because they’re the best for people who may just be reading “Just the Tips” and not “Sex Criminals.” The many letters saying how great Matt is and how I’m dragging him down just don’t work in that context, y’know?
Fraction: “Just the Tips” has a lot of our stuff and some best-of excerpts from issues’ past, on top of a shitload of new stuff Chip and I have produced. New moves, the origin of some of your favorite positions, advice, pick-up lines, new sex tips, old sex tips, new sex tips for having sex with old people, even more Future Genitals, and basically everything else you could possibly want from a tiny pink book called “Just the Tips.”
I really appreciated the conversation between Suzie and Robert Rainbow regarding control of her reproductive choices, especially the footnote about PlannedÂ Parenthood. Although much of “Sex Criminals” is told with a mantle of humor, how do you decide which moments to make the serious impact with?
Fraction: It’s funny — that was a moment where Chip and I disagreed, editorially, a little bit. It started because Chip and I both love infographics, and I think Chip is spectacularly gifted as a designer and we wanted to work some of that stuff in. In the early conception of “Sex Criminals,” Chip and I were going to appear on-page as hosts that would present sex facts and diagrams and stuff; that got erased very early on but kind of became the letters page, I guess.
Anyway, Chip was worried it’d come off as mansplaining birth control, and he wasn’t wrong, but since it was so data-driven — and I was worried it’d come off as, I dunno, flip, or not actually researched, and wanted to remind literally anyone that needed to know what a great resource Planned Parenthood is. Chip added the little joke (plan your parenthood!) and suddenly we had a very “Sex Criminals” sequence.
Zdarsky: It’s kind of the nice thing about there being two of us so invested in the book. People often ask if we’re ever worried that we’ll go too far or if there’s stuff too extreme that didn’t make it in the book. But I think Matt and I are old enough and wise enough to know what makes sense in the book and what doesn’t, and we have each other there to check and balance.
I think, overall, I’m the reluctant one in this relationship. I get too worried about tone, but Matt is able to stroke my hair and tell me it’s all right, and it always is. He’s so wise and handsome.
Fraction: No, you!
Speaking on the community, at what point did you guys realize that “Sex Criminals” was becoming a sort of therapeutic outlet for your readers, and what was yourÂ reaction?Â
Zdarsky: Fear. I’m so scared of letting readers down! Nobody’s ever had an emotional connection to anything I’ve done before, whether it be comics or sex, so it feels like a tremendous responsibility. Which I guess kind of explains my previous answer. Oh, God — I’m a wreck. Help me, someone, help me.
Â â€¨Fraction: The letters from the first issue. They were immediately great and honest and revealing and human and real. So amazing, right from jump street.
And there’s no other reaction to have but to, y’know, thank each and every one of your lucky stars a thousand times a day.
Let’s talk more about your sex advice book, “Just the Tips.” Did the reader reactions and community help inspire this?Â
Fraction: Really, that stuff is just so fun to do, and the title occurred to us and it was just like, “Well, now we have to do it.” Everything about “Sex Criminals” has felt like a game of chicken between Chip and I, and neither of us have had the guts to stop it.
Zdarsky: A game of career chicken! Like “Sex Criminals” itself, it feels like the kind of thing that we’re doing for ourselves and, oh yeah, other people will probably read it. Also, really, it’s kind of a game of chicken between us and Image. I mean, Image isn’t really know for it’s mostly-prose self-help books, at least not since “Spawn Juan: How To Meet Women The Spawn Way.”
What was the collaboration between the two of you like on it?Â
Zdarsky: It was a total back-and-forth where we just tried to make each other laugh. Once we had the template down, it flowed pretty easily. I think we’re really going to help a lot of people with this. A lot of people.
Fraction: The whole thing for me, this whole crazy ride, was about wanting to work with Chip because he makes me laugh like no one else alive. So really it’s like working with the absolutely hilarious, incredibly gifted, andÂ Canadian-handsomeÂ man of your dreams.
Zdarsky: Ditto, but American-Handsome.
What are you most excited for when “Just the Tips” debuts?
Fraction: Just the lawsuits.
Zdarsky: I’m just really looking forward to seeing it on my parents’ bookshelf. Now this is the true game of chicken for me. Can I produce a thing so gross and inappropriate that my parents cease being proud of me?
I heard that you were having some issues with the printer — what’s the status on that?
Fraction: The first printer got a look at it and said, “No thank you, sir!” The second printer got a look at it and said “Please Chip, put your dick in my hair” or some such — I’m paraphrasing. No big deal, everything is well. The book will come out on time.
What’s the best and worst sex advice you’ve ever received?
Zdarsky: My father once gave me the best sex tip, which was to go down on a lady and, just when she’s about to orgasm, pull back. Then go for it again, almost bringing her to orgasm. Repeat until she’s losing her mind and then finish the job. I remember nodding when he was telling me this, like, “Yeah, of course, that makes sense.” And then I realized he was talking about bringing my mommy to orgasm with his mouth and I really felt confused and alone in this universe. So, that was the best and worst advice I’ve ever received.
Fraction: My father once said, “Don’t do anything stupid,” which was my father-code for, “Don’t get anybody pregnant,” which, y’know, classic. Â And the worst was maybe this one time Chip’s father told me how to make Chip’s mommy orgasm with my mouth?
“Just the Tips” is available November 26. You should probably ask your local retailer to carry it just in case.
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