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Baker's Dozen
Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.

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BAKER'S DOZEN for 12/15/2004
Eric Adams on Lackluster World

The title of this piece, like the state of the world at any time, could easily be interpreted at least two different ways. For some, the world's a bit screwed up, but essentially all is right or soon will be set right. For others, things seem to have gone terribly wrong and only seem to be getting worse the more effort is exerted to change things. Similarly, the title "SOS" could be interpreted as an ironic statement on life's seeming immutability; every day is the same, hence it's all the "same old crap"...or it could be a clever play upon the idea, using the International Signal of Distress, to highlight both life's stagnancy and our general need for relief from that state of affairs. Kinda all depends on how you look at it, doesn't it?

It's amazing how a relatively alight alteration of perspective results in a seemingly cataclysmic change in one's outlook on a situation. What's equally amazing is the amount of power which can be released by that tiny but might mental shift. It frees energy enough to alter the course of a single life, or that of the entire world. For that simple act of suddenly realizing that "Things don't have to be the way they are!" is the first step to changing things; just like its physical counterpart, the journey of creating of a new world begins with the collective--or personal--decision to take a step, to do something.

Or, to paraphrase The Clash, "Let Change have the hour. Change can be power. D'You know that you can use it?"

As will become rapidly evident in the following discussion, Eric Adams understands all this, and more, and put it all into his very fine and funny comic, Lackluster World.

Lackluster World 1

Bill Baker: So, what exactly is a Lackluster World, and what kind of people inhabit it?

Eric Adams: Like most story settings, Lackluster World is a mirrored, albeit exaggerated version of the real world. However, calling it a "Lackluster World" applies only to how Fahrenheit Monahan sees his environment. And he see the world as being, well... lackluster. Through him, we see "The City"--the metropolis in which the story takes place--as a land of busybodies carrying out their formulated lifestyles like robots against a horizon of never ending skyscrapers.

Its inhabitants are exaggerated versions of the real world too. Everyone in The City still has their own life and does different things and tries to be an individual just like everyone else. However, some people clump all of that "individuality" together and see the world as a plague of routine and ennui. Fahrenheit is one of these people.

All of that aside, I try not to overly define "Lackluster World" and allow the readers to come up with their own ideas.

Lackluster World

BB: Why concentrate on Fahrenheit? I ask because you could easily have chosen to focus on one of the other characters, instead. What about Fahrenheit's story, or the man himself, makes him the perfect central character for the mini-series?

EA: Fahrenheit is the central character because he sets the entire story arc into motion when he makes an impulsive decision to "change the world."

Born an albino, he has been ridiculed all of his life causing him to become very bitter and defensive. In the first issue, we see him suffer through his birthday party. A party engineered by his ultra-annoying and aggressively fundamentalist brother and sister, Kelvin and Celsius. And then later crashed by his party-hard coworker, Herman "Cog" Cogswell, and his band of equally obnoxious cohorts.

Although Kelvin, Celsius and Cog get just as much "screen-time" and carry just as much importance as Fahrenheit, they only react to his actions. They become caught in his wake and slowly begin to change as well.

Lackluster World

BB: Where'd all this come from, and how'd you develop it? Also, I was wondering how much of the series draws from your own, personal experiences, be they greatly exaggerated for effect, just slightly altered...or perhaps even transferred literally and directly to the page?

EA: Well, ideas come from all types of moments and experiences. LW is a melting pot of many elements that are exaggerated versions of past events, old friends, stories I've heard, jokes and facets of myself.

The specific idea for LW didn't come from any one place at all. It was quite random actually... one day I just said to myself, "You know, I think I'll make a comic." I had no characters, no story and no ideas for either.

I began jotting down a free flow of thoughts and pictures. Sometimes, my best inspiration was just a single word. "Lackluster" for example. Before long, I took this collection of notes and started finding ways of putting all these ideas together. It was like a puzzle. Eventually, I found a way to make the ideas fit. Lackluster World is the result.

As for my own personal experiences, I have certainly used them to some extent. In some ways, Fahrenheit behaves like a younger version of myself -- hateful, impulsive, close-minded and tolerant of far too much. And in other ways, I think of him as the type of person I once hoped to become - witty, aggressive, ambitious and well spoken.

In a similar fashion, I also identify with Cog. As my college-life ended, I began to feel estranged from my friends and started looking for something more substantial to do with my life. Cog is having a similar crisis and feels there is more out there for him. Despite this urge, he struggles to tear himself away from the very thing that is holding him back -- his social life.

The last obvious-to-me, real life experience was my "education." For thirteen years, kindergarten through 12th grade, I suffered through catholic school. It left me pretty scarred, but at the same time it opened my eyes to the bigger picture. I learned that people will tell you who to be if you let them. Kelvin & Celsius are my way of personifying the idea of "religion" as I've experienced it. Kelvin thinks his words are gospel and he forces his beliefs on everyone -- regardless of how adamantly they disagree. Celsius is like the sheep that follows Kelvin around aimlessly.

Lackluster World

BB: How is a typical issue of LW created? Do you just sit down and hit the boards with only a general mental outline of what you're going to do, or is it more tightly structured -- or scripted -- than that? Also, do you ever stray from the script when inspiration hits?

EA: I try to keep away from all the creative details in each issue until I get there. Being able to conceptualize things is a thrill and if I were just making pretty pictures that were planned out months/years earlier, I would go fucking crazy.

So with each issue, I sit down to write out the dialogue. Once it is worked out enough (or until I'm stuck) I move to layouts, where I get even better ideas and the dialogue and flow undoubtedly go through a series of changes. After that, it's just penciling, inking, markering, Photoshopping, lettering and sending it to the printer.

Then, I start on the next issue. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Lackluster World

BB: What about your overall plans for the mini-series itself? Do you have a tightly structured written outline that guides your work issue by issue, or perhaps even page by page, or are you working from a more amorphous idea of where you want to go, and what you'd like to see, while making the book?

EA: The overall story arc has been worked out for some time now. I consider it to be written in gold and under no circumstances do I allow myself to stray away from it. Yeah, that sounds good, but I'm sure if I had a killer idea, I would be willing to compromise with myself. As for dialogue, layouts, scenery and everything else... when I get a good idea, I put it on paper and save it until I get there.

Going into each issue, I know where to start, where to end and I have a checklist of requirements that must be included somewhere in the middle. Once I sit down to write the next issue, the characters tend to have a mind of their own. Generally, anything goes.

Lackluster World

BB: I found the book to be quite funny, which made me wonder just how hard is being funny -- or, more specifically, being funny in words and pictures on a printed page -- for you? Does this just seem to come naturally, or do you have to work at it a bit, and is there one aspect of humor, be it the visual or verbal or even combination of the two, that seems to be more important to you?

EA: I rely on visuals for humor more often than the verbal. That's just my style.

"Funny" is something I tend not to think about too often. When I write dialogue, the humor just happens. It's no fun to build up a sequence of events to reach a certain joke that you planned in advance, but better to find a sequence of events that you didn't notice was already there and then put your joke on top of it. That technique gives more dimension to a scene too.

BB: So here's the million dollar question: How do you know when something's genuinely, universally funny?

EA: Absurdity. I try making my characters, their dialogue, their expressions, their interactions with one another and even the backgrounds of panels to be as absurd as the scene will allow and from their the humor comes out on its own. That absurdity might be something visual like one of Kelvin's zombie-like expressions, someone acting absurdly like Celsius on a sugar-high or maybe someone pointing out just how absurd something is like Fahrenheit putting down Cog.

And for the record, I don't think there is a "universally funny". One person's laughter is another person's outrage. The absurd just works for me.

I just said absurd a whole lot. Absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd, absurd! [General laughter]

Lackluster World

BB: OK. Well, what's coming up for Fahrenheit and the rest of the crew of LW?

EA: Overall, LW is story about change and finding your place in the world... if you have one.

Fahrenheit is trying to change the world around him, before it changes him. As seen in the first issue of LW, Fahrenheit has created a large public spectacle by vandalizing an entire city block. He gets away with it and then returns to his job at "The Paper" to write about the event. Being a journalist he aims to create a media spin that sways public opinion about The City into chaos. Readers are going to see him take this idea a lot further and, of course, see more of the after-effects of his dirty work...

Cog wants to change who he is, but doesn't understand how to go about it or if that is even what he truly wants. He finds himself strangely attracted to large-scale vandalism that has taken place and the buzz that surrounds it. He feels that it speaks to him somehow.

It drives Kelvin mad to know that his own brother does not and will not "share" his religious idealism with him. He has gone from annoyingly friendly to aggressive and will later come to be forceful and violent. His largest goal in life becomes the religious conversion of Fahrenheit. And if that fails, he plans to destroy him.

Celsius continues to be Kelvin's shadow, but she starts to question why he would want to hurt Fahrenheit so much. After all, they are both her big brothers. Much more of her development takes place late in the series.

Lackluster World

BB: What about you? Is this going to be occupying you full time for the foreseeable future, or are you already beginning to lay the groundwork for your next project?

EA: Self-publishing LW definitely keeps me occupied full-time. At the moment, it seems I am managing to stay on track with my quarterly release schedule. With LW being a 7-book mini-series...possibly 8...this schedule will last almost two years.

A lesson I've learned from self-publishing LW is that people don't like waiting for issues to be released and understandably so! I'm guilty of impatience too! Once LW is complete, my next book will be done in one-large shot and I've already begun some of the foundation work on it. I have a title, some characters and a story, but it is all a big secret for now.

BB; What do you get from making comics and art? How about from doing LW?

EA: A sense of accomplishment. Often, that feeling can be as good as love or sex.

LW is specifically important to me because it is my first series. In a way, It can also be therapeutic to see things about the world at large when I twist all around into some weird little book.

Lackluster World

BB: What would you like your readers to get from your work generally, and LW, specifically?

EA: If you've read it, LW is obviously a funny book and I am happy that everyone gets a strong laugh out of it. Nevertheless, as the story arc continues I hope readers gain something more emotional.

Again, LW is story about change and finding your place in the world. My secret hope is that all the people who feel like they do not have a "purpose" will become inspired enough to look for one.

But if you just like the pretty pictures, that is good enough for me.

Lackluster World

BB: Anything else you'd like to add before I let you get back to it?

EA: The first six pages of Lackluster World #2 have just been posted on my web site:

Go check it out and reserve a copy through your comic retailer. Lackluster World #2 is in December '04 Previews! Diamond Order Code: DEC04 2656

You can catch up on the story by reading the first half of Lackluster World #1 - also on my site. If you are pleased, you can buy a complete copy of it online. However, if you want to simplify things for yourself, that too can be reserved through your comic retailer. Diamond Order Code: SEP04 2738

And if you need to find a comic retailer, I highly recommend starting here:

Lastly, anyone and everyone that wants to contact me may do so through my web site. I try to reply to everyone -- just be patient!

<< 11/17/2004 | 12/15/2004 | 12/29/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me in World Famous Comics' General Forum.
Read my weekly blog, Speculative Friction, on my website

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