Local troublemaker Chip Zdarsky talks super powers, bank robbing, orgasms, and comics.
What if you had a super power that was triggered only when you orgasmed? That’s the premise of Sex Criminals, the hugely successful comic from Image Comics co-created by writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky.
Zdarsky may be familiar to local readers for any number of reasons. He ran a parody campaign for mayor in 2010 under his non-comics name: Steve Murray. He does illustrations for the National Post when he’s not writing an advice column there. He enjoys forging online relationships with friendly Applebee’s social media managers, and he also feels strongly about Garfield.
Sex Criminals has done extremely well—Time named it the best comic series of 2013, and on Tuesday, the series earned two Eisner nominations. Today, the trade paperback collection of the first five issues of the series will be released, and Zdarsky will be signing at local comic book store the Beguiling.
Torontoist spoke to him about his series, his secret super power, and the undisputed handsomeness of his friends.
Torontoist: Your comic series Sex Criminals has quite the premise: Protagonists Suzie and Jon stop time when they orgasm, and they use their sexual super power to rob banks. How did you develop this idea with co-creator Matt Fraction? Do you have a secret power we should know about?
Oh, man, I wish I had a better story to tell you that involved time and genital manipulation. Matt and I’ve known each other online for years and have always wanted to work with each other. One day, he sent me this email:
…and that started our balls rolling. Matt’s in Portland, so we would do some late-night chats about characters and story and just, like, dump all of our weird sex stories on each other. The comic was originally envisioned as the two of us just doing a dirty comedy comic, but by the time we were into issue one, it became more of a story of sexual discovery and relationships. With dumb dick jokes.
Oh, and my super power is dumb dick jokes.
The series has grown very popular very quickly; the first issue had six printings. Are you surprised by how people are responding to it, and what do you think it is they’re connecting with?
Oh, we’re still stunned. Matt warned me early on that this would probably have to be cancelled by issue three. It really felt like we were doing it for ourselves, as a fun excuse to finally work together. But then, yeah, it kind of exploded (everything sounds sexual now, sorry). I had a relatively good idea of the popularity, as much as I could working on it all the time from home. But then we hit the conventions and were blown away by all the people reacting to it and us.
I think it’s because we’ve taken our time and focused on fleshing out the characters. They feel real to us now and, I think, to a lot of readers.
Because of the nature of the subject matter, you have to draw some graphic scenes without being too overt. As an artist, how has that challenge been? Have you had to re-do some art after pushing the line a bit too much?
It’s pretty easy! Matt and I are both on the same page about the fact that the sex is dictated by the story, not as a means to titillate the reader. Not that they won’t be titillated, but it’s not my goal when I’m drawing the sex and nudity. Also, I’ve based the look of the characters on friends of mine, so I feel kind of protective of them, like I don’t want to exploit them or their fine, fine bodies to a pornographic degree. They’ve entrusted me with their images.
You’ve also sneaked a few Toronto friends into the background of the series. Can you tell us a bit about where we can find these people, once we have purchased the trade paperback for $9.99?
Ooooh, nice sneaking in of the price point there.
Whenever I need a background character, I always just look to my friends, who are all very attractive. I managed to sneak a fair number of them into the montages of previous lovers for our main characters, and I have yet to be sued by any of them.
Also, most of the architecture is pretty Toronto-ish. If I need a row of houses, they invariably end up looking like the street I live on.
Are there any plans for how long you and Fraction intend to make the series, and has this changed how you have been planning it together?
We’ve always had an idea for an endpoint and new characters, but were waiting to see if people actually liked the series before fleshing it out more. So, I’m not sure how long it’ll go. We keep having more ideas, so hopefully we can keep working on it for as long as people let us!
When a new super power is introduced, people like to see if they can also pull Jedi mind tricks or whatever it may be. Have you heard any such reports from your Sex Criminals fans? If not, how disappointed are you?
You’d think with a series like this we’d get more emails detailing people’s fuckventures, but no. I am very disappointed.
Can you tell us about your signing on Wednesday? Are there things you would like your fans to bring you, other than unconditional love?
The Beguiling has been our number one supporter since the beginning, so I’m pretty happy to be signing there. Also, as a special bonus, my friend who models for the main character will also be there signing with me! Has there ever been a comic signed by a creator and a model? Be there for history.
And people can bring anything for me to sign. Also, as always, I will be signing as “Stan Lee” for $5 and donating that money to the Hero Initiative.
Chip Zdarsky will be signing copies of Sex Criminals at the Beguiling (601 Markham Street) from 6–9 p.m.