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Frissen Chronicles the Adventures of “The Unfabulous Five”

by  in Comic News Comment
Frissen Chronicles the Adventures of “The Unfabulous Five”

Jerry Frissen is an acclaimed designer, but he’s also a comics writer. “The Zombies That Ate the World,” which he co-created with artist Guy Davis has been released in two volumes from Humanoids, and “Lucha Libre” is a Humanoids anthology that was released — in part — in the United States by Image Comics.

Since the final issue was released, Humanoids has been collecting the anthology’s serialized stories into collected volumes. The first release was “The Tikitis,” which was recently followed up by “The Unfabulous Five” from Frissen and the artist Bill. Centering on a would-be superhero team of men from East Los Angeles, “Unfabulous Five” is funny, action-packed and strange — though perhaps no stranger than Los Angeles really is.

CBR News: For people who don’t know, what is “Unfabulous Five?”

Jerry Frissen: It’s the story of a gang of five aspiring Mexican (Lucha Libre) wrestlers that decide to fight crime in their East Los Angles neighborhood. The problem is, they’re not really wrestlers, nor are they Mexican. Nobody believes in these unemployed, middle-aged losers but themselves. Everybody laughs at them when they see them in the community with their masks on, but they don’t give a shit. They are very passionate about what they do, and it turns out they can actually do something to fight crime and save their neighborhood.

Where exactly did this idea and your love of lucha libre come from?

It mainly came from my love for Los Angeles. I was looking for the right approach to write about LA. I wanted to do something with a new tone. One day, I was in East LA and I saw a bunch of guys sitting in the front of a building doing nothing. They looked pretty cool and they made me think about a gang of unemployed superheroes. Then it struck me: These guys were the people I wanted to write about. Since there is a big Latino community in LA and I was, at that time, into collecting Lucha Libre masks, I put everything together. That’s where the idea of mixing genres also came from, because the entire Lucha Libre project was about mixing things together.

Most American readers will remember the “Lucha Libre” series from Image Comics, but there were more issues that came out in Europe than we ever saw.

Yes. There were 13 issues — or rather volumes — in total.

What made you interested in presenting the series as an anthology? It was an oddity at the time — and would be today as well.

I grew up reading “Metal Hurlant” magazine, and I wanted to recreate something like that. I wanted to have my own magazine. It was very naïve and a little pretentious, but I didn’t care. I wanted it to happen, and it did. I had to convince a lot of people along the way, even lying to some of them, but I don’t have any regrets. It was a great adventure — one of the best of my life. I had a chance to work with amazing artists. Working with Bill, for instance — who did “Unfabulous Five” — was an extraordinary experience. Every page he turned out blew my mind.

What was the thinking, then, behind collecting the series into volumes based on individual storylines?

It was always the publisher’s goal. Humanoids wanted to do it because it was the only way to make it economically worthwhile. With all the talent involved, the anthology was quite costly to produce.

When issue #6 of the Image Comics series left off — which was the last published here in the U.S. — our heroes were following the Creatures from the Black Leather Lagoon. Can you tease a little about what else is in the book for new and old fans that they haven’t seen before?

Let’s just say that this part of the story moves from East LA to Orange County, mainly in Huntington Beach where the Luchadores Five are fighting a bunch of new gangs. The Creatures From The Black Leather Lagoon, of course, but also surfers, and a gang of old retired Hollywood actors. I used a lot of cliches from the surf culture to write these issues.

One thing that struck me reading the series again is how much you love Los Angeles. Is this your love letter to LA?

Yes — exactly! For me, it’s the ultimate science-fiction city. People from all over the galaxy coming to live in the same place, all bringing with them part of their universe and exchanging their goods. It’s philosophically beautiful. Los Angeles is the future of mankind! It’s not perfect, but it’s full of hope and beauty.

Is there a chance we’ll ever see more adventures of the Unfabulous Five?

There’s a better chance that we won’t, but who knows? Doing the “Lucha Libre” anthology was like being in a band. It was a lot of fun, but it was also incredibly overwhelming. It was the busiest three years of my life. It was seven of us constantly talking, laughing, arguing and, unfortunately, sometimes fighting. All together, “Lucha Libre” was almost a thousand pages of comics. It left me exhausted and happy and sad at the same time. I don’t know about the others, but I’m not sure I could still find the energy to do it again. It was my punk years. Now I can die happy.

Will there be “Tequila” or “The Werewolf of Solvang” books?

They exist in French, but I’m not aware of any plans to release them in US in the near future. I’d like to see “The Werewolf Of Solvang” printed in English, because I’m really proud of that one.

Any chance of more “Zombies That Ate the World?”

There is a third book coming, as well as an omnibus edition. Not sure exactly when — early 2015, I think. There’s a new artist on the series named Jorge Miguel. He did an incredible job taking over for Guy Davis.

What else are you writing? What’s next for you?

I wrote a few science-fiction books, one of them a series of three books with the always-amazing Peter Snejbjerg. It’s called “Word War X” and it’s going to be released in English soon, via Titan Comics. The last two years, I’ve been working almost exclusively on something that I unfortunately can’t disclose yet. If I talk about it, I think the good people at Humanoids will break my kneecaps!

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