Rick Remender is about to get back to his roots this fall, when he leaves his present superhero gig behind in favor of a new creator-owned graphic novel.
But first, Remender is two issues away from finishing his run on Marvel Comics' "The Avengers," inking over Kieron Dwyer's pencils. For a guy whose work has run the gamut from the mainstream to the deeply underground, working on one of the world's most popular superhero books meant he went into the job with certain expectations.
"It was and it wasn't [what he expected] (WOW, What an original response!)," Remender told CBR News on Wednesday. "I loved 'The Avengers' as a kid so when we got the book I was fit to be tied. When I was 10, every kid I knew jumped on the X-Men bandwagon so I went to 'The Avengers' (I'm so counter culture). That was back when Stern, Buscema and Palmer were doing the book. Man, I have some fond memories of those comics. Anyway, I expected the fans were going to be hard to please but I had no idea how hard to please they'd be. The fans were either in love with us or they hated us. I guess people in the middle don't write letters. That was a little tough for me. When you're killing yourself to do your best work you don't want to read a post from someone named 'ImarryMantis' dismissing it because it doesn't look like Perez. It just doesn't help motivate you.
"From our point of view we geared up and really killed ourselves on the book. We were trying to do something that was classic Marvel while still holding current trends in mind. I think we did, I'm damned proud of our run."
As for whether or not there is more ink-slinging of this sort in Remender's future, he can't say.
"I really don't know. I don't want to be pigeonholed as an inker. I think there is a tendency in comics to want to label someone 'a writer' or 'an inker' when there are lots of us who do it all. I wouldn't turn more ink work down but want to make sure I continue to have plenty else going on. I like inking but need to be involved in writing and penciling to feel truly inspired in the project. In 'Black Heart Billy' and 'Captain Dingleberry' (with Harper Jaten and Kieron Dwyer) I got to do all three jobs and those were very satisfying projects. However, in my most recent graphic novel 'Doll and Creature' (with John Heebink and Mike Manley) I took a step back from the art and focused on my writing. I found it to be a different kind of challenge but very rewarding.
"I like the idea of working in mainstream books as well as the underground. Both appeal to me for different reasons."
Out this fall, "Doll and Creature" looks to be a little of both. Here's how Remender describes the book in his official press release:
"Religion in any form has been outlawed and blasé hedonism is the norm, in the skewed future of 'Doll and Creature.' Unleashed into this society of wretched self-absorption is a horrible new drug, Grey Matter, which physically transforms its users into monsters called 'Hydes.'
"With the government unable or unwilling to deal with this threat to its populace, a wealthy priest/General, himself a veteran of the wars that caused religion to be outlawed, contracts a brilliant scientist to create a prototype 'Frankenstein' to deal with the Hyde epidemic. This creature, named Gristle, is formed with only one instinct: to hunt down and mercilessly kill the Hydes and rid society of them.
"In a midnight raid against the Hydes, Gristle encounters Doll, a curvaceous beauty branded ugly by the curiously inverted standards of the time. Although able to drive off the marauding horde and save Gristle's 'life,' Doll is blinded during the Hyde attack. In gratitude, Gristle adapts some Hyde-detection equipment and is able to partially restore Doll's sight.
"Together, two outcasts forced into each others' lives by chance, 'Doll and Creature' is a story of a pair of misfits united against a world who fears them and what they represent. A symbolic reflection on the world we live in today, 'Doll and Creature' is a cautionary tale set in an action-packed and character-driven horror story."
If the characters appear larger than (un)life, don't mistake them for being funny monsters:
"Oh, 'Doll and Creature' is no comedy," Remender said. "It's a boss bowl of balls to the wall Monster-Noir (a genre I created for the book). I think because of the spirit of 'Black Heart Billy' and 'Captain Dingleberry' everyone considers me solely a humor writer. 'Doll and Creature' should disabuse them of that notion. This book is my 'Dark Knight Returns.'"
In an industry where certain styles and tones become so popular that they eventually become defacto sub-genres -- "grim and gritty" superhero books, anyone? -- "Doll and Creature" goes its own way, with a rockabilly sensibility that's more in keeping with the Stray Cats than the shelves of comic shops.
"It all fits into the story," Remender said. "Gristle is a rockabilly. He's an old fashioned guy stuck in a society he holds in contempt. He's a greaser in the year 2083.
"As for the style and presentation -- I always wanted to do a monster book. But let's face it, today's readers are a bright bunch. You have to give them something they haven't seen before and it had better well have a few levels to it. Heebink and Manley are turning in the best work of their lives. Having all of the noir-monster grit in my script brought to life by these two is thrill. I created a fairly complex cast of characters and a very specific world for this story and can't imagine any other team pulling it off as well."
The cover to "Doll and Creature" is by "Nocturnals" creator Dan Brereton, and it's likely fans of his monster books will give this book a flip-through. Remender thinks the two books will have overlapping audiences.
"Both books have intrigue, adventure, and some great looking characters. When we were deciding who we wanted to approach to do the cover Dan's name was the first and last. He's the modern master of this shit. His work is pop, it's fun, and it's eerie. I think that also holds true for 'Doll and Creature.' It's dark without being pretentious."
Remender first broke into comics -- and appeared in CBR News -- with "Captain Dingleberry," about a superhero and his team of sentient fecal matter. While talking feces is notably absent in "Doll and Creature," Remender is still out on a limb.
"Not in the same 'anything goes' vein, but it's pretty out there. Which in my opinion is a good thing. I think you have to be 'out there' to find new ideas. If you're not hunting for originality, you're recycling yesterday. I'd rather take a chance on something new. I find the fans you win stay with you when you are pursuing a unique vision. You end up with a fan base of people who make their own minds up as to what is quality. They don't need a magazine to tell them that.
"I dig that I'm seeing so many new and innovative projects in comics. It feels more and more like an artists' industry to me. You can't survive in this industry today with the same teeth gritting, blood clawing, ass bearing, covert action team on the brink of insanity, borefest bullshit. You'll just be laughed away."
As for what comes next after "Doll and Creature," Remender hasn't decided yet.
"I told myself once I finished the 'Black Heart Billy' trade, 'The Doll and Creature' trade, and our run on 'The Avengers' I was going to take a hot bath and open both my wrists. But maybe instead I'll get a banana split and a whore.
"I'll flip a coin."