Donny Cates, the writer behind Buzzkill has a new series from Dark Horse coming out called Ghost Fleet on November 5th. The story revolves around a trucker myth that there are government truck drivers who aren't aware of the cargo they're carrying and can't be pulled over by law enforcement. I sat down with Cates to talk about Ghost Fleet and was able to ask a few questions about Buzzkill as well.
Donny Cates: Ghost Fleet is actually a real thing. Whenever the government wants to transport hazardous or secretive cargo, for real life, the life we live in, this really exists, they hire out big rigs and those big rigs are known as the "ghost fleet." They can't be pulled over. They can't be tracked. The drivers have no idea what they're hauling and it's a really, really, really well kept secret that I found out about through a very weird couple of sources and stuff, tried my hardest to find some of these guys and talk to them about it, and found one guy willing to talk to me about it, who told me some crazy stuff. Either he's a maniac or there's some crazy stuff going on in our world. But I kind of took this idea of a trucker conspiracy story and turned it into my kind of summer action Michael Bay popcorn flick.
After Buzzkill, which was a very small emotional story, my intention was to write a big dumb action film. It didn't end up being that. I messed around and fell in love, so I found Daniel Johnson, who's my artist on the book [Ghost Fleet.] He's also a writer himself. He has a web comic called Space Mullet, which is outstanding. He really started grilling me when we started talking about the book, asking really hard questions, and made me really think about it. I found something out about myself, which is that I'm incapable of writing books that are not about love. It's a big-rig-conspiracy-trucker-story-action-blockbuster full of love.
Alex Wilson: How long is the series planned for?
DC: Right now it's planned out until the 12th issue. Where we go from there, depends on you, the readers at home! I kind of learned the hard way on Buzzkill that if you kill all the characters in your book it's hard to make them come back, not that I'm promising there's going to be a happy ending in Ghost Fleet because happy endings are for suckers.
AW: What kind of Characters are we going to see in Ghost Fleet?
[There followed a long, awkward pause followed as he looked into the distance of the small room we were sitting in. He then began to speak…]
DC: The number one rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club, right? The number one rule of Ghost Fleet is that a driver never looks at his cargo. Never. It's the golden rule. Some of our characters do not obey that rule. Over the next 12 issues we will explore the grim consequences therein. Things get pretty bad. It's easily bloodiest, goriest, most heart breaking, most tear-jerking comic I've written in my life. That being said, I've only written one other comic book in my life and that was a pretty intense one too. The love story is something the people aren't going to see coming.
[I then took some time to ask about Buzzkill, which was recently announced to have a spin off/sequel following the character Doctor Blaqk. Buzzkill follows a superhero named Ruben who gains his power from drug and alcohol use. Ruben decides he wants to get sober and enrolls in AA.]
AW: What happens if Ruben takes Viagra?
DC: You know, I never really thought about Viagra. I guess just a super boner would be the easiest way out of that one. I'll tell you this. We kind of mapped it out, like any kind of LSD or shrooms or anything made him hyper-aware that he was in a comic book.
I kind of hinted at it with Doctor Blaqk who definitely knows he's in a comic book and is also kind of an acidhead.
We just made him really hungry. It didn't do anything. I just made him stoned.
AW: What drew you to the subject of addiction?
DC: Around the time that the idea started being batted around, I lost my best friend to drinking. I should be clear. He didn't die or anything but it got to a point where he… I was able to make Ruben make the choice this guy should have made, which is Ruben asked for help and got it. It didn't really work out for him, but at least he tried. I would be absolutely lying if I said there wasn't some therapy for me in writing a character who was basically that guy. Every word out of Ruben's mouth in that book has come out of my best friend. I've never spoken to him since then. I don't know if he's read the book or not, I hope he has.
AW: There's a Doctor Who reference in Buzzkill!
DC: You know what's funny? I read a review that said I must have timed that perfectly because that issue came out on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. I'm a Whovian, dude.
AW: Who's your favorite Doctor?
DC: Tennant. Tennant, man. I think everyone's answer with their favorite Doctor is their first Doctor. Tennant to me, the power and the rage and the wisdom, uhhhh. Chilling. I love Tennant, man. There's a stupid cheesy dad joke. 'The Eleventh Doctor didn't own the Tardis. He was just a Tennant.'
Ghost Fleet is arriving from Dark Horse on November 5th, and is currently listed in Previews with item code: SEP140020.
Donny Cates will be at New York Comic Con. Make sure to ask him what he thinks of Peter Capaldi in this season of Doctor Who.