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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 04/13/2005
Poison Pen
Doug Paszkiewicz on the Essential Arsenic Lullaby

Imagine a world much like our own, populated by folks similar to you and I. A world filled with flawed beings, each trying their best to do the right thing, or the right thing for them, and coming up short despite their best and worst efforts. consider that, a globe covered by beings who often fail both themselves and others. And now imagine that into this strange yet familiar place--a land that's as filled with broken hearts, shattered dreams and unrequited yearnings as our own--wanders a strange man wearing a still stranger face.

Now pretend that this weird guy--hey, let's just call him Voodoo Joe since he's always wearing that voodoo mask...and I do mean always--soon lets it be known to that mass of dispossessed, downtrodden, disgruntled, pissed off and/or truly psychotic folks in the neighborhood that he can offer them some real relief from their pains...by getting back at those individuals whom they consider responsible for their troubles. Even better, the victims quickly discover that the relief offered by Voodoo Joe is only further enhanced by the great deal of suffering his remedies inflict upon the guilty.

It's one of the oldest games in the book, that game of one-upsmanship generally referred to as revenge, and it's fueled the creation of some truly stirring, touching and worthy works of art. It's also one of the main devices that drives a very idiosyncratic and deeply, even perversely funny book called Arsenic Lullaby. Filled with all the varieties of bad behaviors and peculiarities that make humans such interesting creatures to observe, along with a huge serving of zombie fetuses, a government agency whose sole task is to maintain the US population at a specific number so that the census will always correct, as well as other truly odd events and characters, this is one humor book that I find totally unpredictable in all ways but one: It always makes laugh.

Of course, Doug Paszkiewicz, has his own views on what makes Arsenic Lullaby work so well. Which is only proper, since he's the creator and sole driving force behind the book. This is what he had to say about the series, the recently released Essential Arsenic Lullaby collection, and the future of his creation.

Arsenic Lullaby

Bill Baker: For the uninitiated, how would you describe Arsenic Lullaby?

Doug Paszkiewicz: A really long version of The Far Side.

BB: Now, I know that you've released trade editions before this, so what makes this edition "essential"? Is there some kind of significant difference between this and previous collections?

DP: It is just slightly different from the first volume one, and so the distributor said I could not call it volume one because it would confuse/piss off stores. I agreed enough to call it the "Essential" [Arsenic Lullaby] until one of us came up with a better idea.

BB: Did you always dream of being a comics creator when you were a kid, or has this all come as a bit of a surprise to you?

DP: I was never a kid.

Arsenic Lullaby

BB: So where did all this weirdness come from, anyway? Is this all basically the result of an overactive imagination, and perhaps having a little too much free time on your hands, or is it more a case of you simply charting, albeit in an often bizarrely transformed manner, the typical human behavior you see around you everyday?

DP: It is nothing more than what I find funny, my sense of humor is dark and wandering and so goes Arsenic Lullaby. People read all sorts of stuff into my work, maybe they are right but it is unintentional.

BB: What was the journey from your initial conception to those first few issues like?

DP: At that time I was so worried about the business end of things I didn't really dwell on the stories too much, and I still don't, in the sense that if I feel the punchline is understood, then my job as a writer/illustrator is done. I didn't and don't usually worry and rewrite and passionately wring my hands over stories. If I had more time worry back then I probably would have developed all sorts of bad habits.

Arsenic Lullaby

BB: How does a typical issue of Arsenic Lullaby get put together these days...and how might that process differ from earlier in your career? Has it gotten easier for you to do, or has it perhaps gotten a little harder over the years?

DP: It starts with some weird notion. That becomes a bunch of sketches mixed with dialogue in my sketch book...that turns into thumbnails and those turn into finished pages. Pretty much the same as I've always done it.

BB: I know that you've been working on doing versions of Arsenic Lullaby in other media, which leads me to wonder what kind of movement there might have been on those fronts since we talked late last year...and, perhaps more importantly, what kind of changes or compromises you might be looking at having to make to get Lullaby into those formats, if any at all?

DP: It looks like the first branch off will be magazine/newspaper strips. The biggest compromise is learning to convey a joke/story into another medium. Censoring and watering things down is something I simply accepted as a necessary evil. But you take, say, a newspaper strip and now I have only three panels to tell a joke, in comparison to A.L. when I have 24 pages if I need them. That is the biggest compromise, the limited space.

Arsenic Lullaby

BB: What are your plans for Lullaby, both short and long term? And is this the only thing you want to do for the foreseeable future, or are you interested in doing other things as well--or perhaps instead of--the book?

DP: As I've always said, these stories and characters are going to go as far an into as many mediums as I can spread them. Currently, I'm working on a newspaper strip. Believe it or not, a syndicate is interested in how watered I can make A.L.

BB: What do you get from doing Arsenic Lullaby?

DP: Cash...I used to be about the funny, but now it is a job like any other.

BB: What do you hope your readers get from your work?

DP: Laughter, of course....I'm/It's here to make them laugh.

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

DP: Something is not funny unless it makes you laugh. If you pick up another comics, watch a movie, etc. and you just understand that it is funny or clever, it is not really getting the job done. It must make you laugh. By all means, go to www.arseniclullabies.com and test us out.

<< 03/23/2005 | 04/13/2005 | 05/04/2005 >>

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


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