Paying Bills Sucks, Especially For B-List Heroes – A Paybacks Interview With Donny Cates And Eliot Rahal

I've just read a sneaky peeky preview of Paybacks #1, the new comic book from Donny Cate, Eliot Rahal, Geoff Shaw, and Lauren Affe from Dark Horse set in the world of the team's previous series Buzzkill. And it's a superfiction comic about super powered repo men who have to get payments, or seize property or servitude from superfolk who still owe for all their high tech – oh I'll let the Paybacks explain.

p3There you go. Exposition in a can. I talked to Donny and Eliot about the upcoming series…

Rich Johnston: We've been told that with great power comes great responsibility. Then why are so many superheroes so bad at paying the bills?

Donny CatesBecause paying bills sucks? Haha, but seriously couldn't the same question be asked of any of us? I think what makes this book so important to us and hopefully resonates with a lot of readers, is that paying bills sometimes becomes an anchor around your neck. So many people have gone to school to learn how to be better, to give something back to their communities or families only to be burdened with a debt that turns you into little else than a money making machine. When we meet the heroes of our book they are in the last part of their careers as heroes. They've all "Failed" and the question of the book becomes, how do you keep going? How do you still do good in the world after being hobbled. It's part of what made Buzzkill stick for a lot of people I think, this notion of wanting to be something more than you are but being destroyed by the modality by which you go about it. It's a heavy subject to tackle but luckily we have sasquatches and people named Bloodpouch on our side to help the medicine go down.

Eliot Rahal: I mean what about dressing up in spandex and fighting crime spells FUNCTIONAL ADULT. I think Moore touched on that with The Watchmen. Also, a big part of this book is showing the difference between certain kinds of superheroes. You have your Batmans and Supermans — as seen with Highguard and The Command. They made it. They are killing it as superheroes. They are good at their jobs. They figured out how to fight crime and make a living. But what about the rest? Think of how many people are detectives. Think of how many people are cool vigilantes. Think of how many people have the same powers. The demand for them isn't that high. So they fall behind, they stick to local markets, in short — they don't make it to the big leagues.

RJ: It was Warren Ellis who once compared superhero comics to nurse novels. As if the only novels that sold were about nurses. Sure you had detective nurses, wartime nurses, spy nurses, but it was all nurses. Does this frustrate you at all? In that Paybacks is a rollercoaster of a superhero repo man story – but you aren't able to just do a repo man story? Or that it has to be superhero to sell? Or is it all about the muse?

DCWell, if our intention was to tell a story about everyday repo men and women we would have just done that, I think. It was never a question of "well, let's put superheroes in this to make it sell" I think that way of thinking would have been foolish and dishonest.  The Paybacks was always going to look like this and it was always going to be about this little unseen corner of the superhero world. All of us grew up on superhero comics, I personally ran three comic stores before I began creating, I went to SCAD to major in Sequential Art, as did Geoff and Lauren, Eliot and I were Marvel interns, I might just be the biggest Spider-Man fan on the planet, my NAME is DC! Make no mistake, this is a comic book made by comic book nerds, FOR comic book nerds. We've created our own little universe to play in and we're having a wonderful time doing it.

ER: I think what makes this book interesting is that the fact that it's about superheroes. If it were just about Repo men/women there would literally be no point. The reason why this is special, or at least why we think this is special, is because superheroes are such a part of our collective cultural fabric. We root for them. We cry for them. We want them to be redeemed even after the irredeemable. Now to see them broke and broken — stripped away from their purpose, but still carrying themselves with dignity — I think that's cool. Maybe it mirrors some of the frustrations that we all feel at home. Maybe it doesn't. But we think it's cool.

This isn't a way to sell more books, it's a way to tell a story that means something to us.


RJ: The glow from the trunk in the movie Repo Man, which seemed to have quite the impression on Pulp Fiction, appears to be replicated in the rather central 'van' in Paybacks.  Here however, we get to discover its very mysterious nature. Is this what you want me to think was in the Repo Man trunk?

DCI know this isn't the answer that anyone wants to hear from the guys who made the repo superhero book but….I don't think either of us have ever seen that movie? Maybe we should endeavor to fix that. Hmm be right back.

(Watches entire movie)

Oh. no, not really.

ER: No. I'll watch it now to get this joke. But no. Which makes us even more honest right? RIGHT?!

RJ: It does. It's not a van after all. That is made very clear. Is it a TARDIS then? It is in England after all…

DRHuh. never thought about that. I mean, now that you mention it, i suppose it is bigger on the inside like a TARDIS and it has a crazy Doctor (Doctor Blaqk) type fella running around inside it. Damn! BBC ripped us off! In all seriousness the truth about The Van is somehting that's very important to this book. It's the key to everything. When we say it's not a a van…we mean that. what it actually  is  becomes the center piece for the first year or so of the books story. it's what……drives the book…so to say. (wink!)

Also, only the first issue is in England. Every issue is a globe trotting affair.

ER:  A TARDIS is bigger in the inside than on the out, yes. The inside of the Van, however, is infinity — or near infinity. One if finite and the other not so much. Also, maybe The Van being in England is a wink and a nod? Or maybe it's a just place where people live? You decide! 


Rich Johnston: Talking of which, does every opening scene in London have to be in view of Big Ben clock tower? Is there a law? And does it now have a London Eye amendment?

DCIs that somehow inaccurate? Having never left the safety and confines of my beloved Texas I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about. That's where the Fantastic Four fought in that one movie right? Wait, that's a real place?!!

ER: I'm 99% what that this is what The Glorious Revolution was about. That's right, Rich. I KNOW HISTORY — Kind of… not at all. But yeah. I mean why do we see The Golden Gate Bridge every time we see movies about San Francisco? So people know we are in San Francisco. Also Big Ben is hella cool. 

RJ: It is that. Thank you Donny and Elliot. The Paybacks #1 is out from Dark Horse in September… and they have a world tour coming up – coming to a store near you?

PaybacksTour (1)
And you can watch that scene from Repo Man right here…

[youtube] [/youtube]

The Paybacks #1 arrives from Dark Horse Comics on September 16th, and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: UL150091 It reaches FOC on Monday, August 24th.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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