NYCC 2014: Dark Horse Announces The Paybacks Set In Buzzkill's World – Donny Cates And Eliot Rahal Talk Life And Times Of A Superhero Repo-Squad(UPDATE)

Last week, in an interview by Alex Wilson talking to Eliot Rahal, Rahal let slip that The Paybacks was on the way, a sequel set within the Buzzkill universe reuniting the creative team from that Dark Horse book about a drug-addicted superhero (well, drugs are the fuel to his super-power), his troubled past, and grim but redemptive present. As soon as the series reached its shocking finale fans were asking for more but writers Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal were vague about it. It would no doubt take away from the gravitas of the original (albeit hilarious) series to simply reprise it. But the alternative makes a whole lot of sense (until you hear what they have in mind–joking), in The Paybacks. Despite what I've come to expect of this team, which includes the superbly talented Geoff Shaw on art and Lauren Affe on colors, I honestly did not expect this central premise. It is pure madcap genius with painful relevance to modern life.

Meet the deep in debt superheroes of The Paybacks who are forced to repossess the gear of other superheroes if they ever hope to get back in the black. And witness the quirky grace of Geoff Shaw's own masterful design sketches for this upcoming series.


Hannah Means-Shannon: You kill all the characters in Buzzkill and then you taunt us with something—the fact that in some ways it's not all over. How can this be in the same universe as Buzzkill? How and when is it set?

f7fe06aa1bb744a5766056016863f4a3Donny Cates: The Paybacks is a wholly new story that Eliot and I have concocted with brand new characters that is firmly set in the universe created in Buzzkill. Chronologically speaking, it follows after the events of Buzzkill but you don't have to have read it to understand The Paybacks. There will be in-jokes and cameos aplenty for those sharp-eyed readers throughout. Pay attention….Ruben's story might not be as over as you think…

Eliot Rahal: They are neighbors to each other, really. All the characters have their own individual stories and lives to tell, but they all relate in the much larger shared context. The events, and tragedies, that occur to one household have a totally different impact, and meaning, to another. Ruben's death left us shattered. Who was left to live in the pieces?


HMS: Are there recurring characters we will recognize from Buzzkill? If so, why did you choose them for this project? If not, what do these new characters have in common with Ruben and his life story?

DC: Yes! A few characters will be appearing here and there throughout the book. A certain crazy-faced Doctor Blaqk will be a recurring character as well as some…not so nice superheroes we've met in the past. Just like any social circle, The Paybacks have heard of Ruben and what happened to he and his father. The Paybacks is a story about trying to do the right thing despite it possibly ruining your life. Which is very much in line with the themes of Buzzkill. This time, instead of addiction, the thing they become slaves to is their own debt.

The characters in the book have all taken out a loan to become superheroes, to pay for their elaborate costumes and cool hidden lairs and stuff. Now that they can't pay off that loan they have to work it off repossessing other heroes and their stuff.  Which gives us ample room to introduce a wide array of crazy villains and heroes!

Rahal-Headshot-1ER: I mean just think of the type of banna-coocoo-crazy people that would take out a loan to become a superhero? Those are the types of characters we are inviting to live in this world! Some are down on their luck, while others are just totally unhinged. And the big question in the series is: Who wants a super-hero repo squad? Who could possibly have the power to become a loan shark for super heroes in the first place?

Also, The Paybacks travel, live, and work out of an infinite mansion located inside an old conversion van. So there is that…

Oh, and the character I'm most excited for you all to meet is the world's most dastardly villain, REFLECTOID! — Master of Mirrors, and Prince of Reflection. Why? Because evil doesn't have a reflection.

Donny: Also, Panteradactyl….he's back too. ☺


HMS: When you think back to working on Buzzkill initially, were you prepared for the big reception and attention that it received? Did that change the way you saw the book and its ideas at all?

DC: It was shocking how many people connected with the characters and the story, overwhelming really. Mark Reznicek and I told a very intimate and honest story about superheroes and addiction and we never in a million years would have thought people would like it so much. It's so much a part of me now, I carry Ruben with me everywhere I go. Poor guy.

HMS: What excites you about bringing the Buzzkill universe back?

DC: Well I think the great thing about our little universe is that there are no rules. Eliot and I have been working on The Paybacks for a while now. After Buzzkill wrapped we kind of both hit upon this idea of setting this story in the Buzzkill world and playing with all of those toys. It was such an amazing, wild place to play in that it seemed a waste to not go back. We'll be living in this universe for a long time. It's a blast. And to be able to do it with Eliot, who is not only my friend but a terrific writer (and the inspiration for Doctor Blaqk himself!)…I don't think it gets better than that!

ER: That we get to do whatever we want. I mean the dream is creative freedom, and we have the unique opportunity to expand on a world that people are already invested in. We were both so excited when we finally got the chance to write The Paybacks that we actually secluded ourselves in a cabin in the East Texas woods for a week to write it. Sure we lost our minds, but that was only because we were having too much fun! And also because of Cabin Madness brought on by lack of heat or electricity…. But we're okay now!!


HMS: What would you say the overarching goals are in Paybacks for you and the rest of the creative team in terms of character and storytelling?

ER: Well we wanted to write about debt. We also wanted to have as much fun as possible while incorporating as much cool-action-explosion stuff as the pages could hold. But here's the thing about debt…it's not very "funny." Usually people who are mired by it are what you call, "very sad forever." So that was definitely a delicate thing to overcome, which I think we both did by inserting our own personal encounters with being in the red. Plus poop jokes! Poop jokes really tie this whole thing together.

DC: Also? It's about sweet space fights on moon bases, a talking yeti who loves popsicles, huge robot suits, unicorns, violence, people with magic bull powers, tanks, ninjas, a little boy in a bubble named Jacob Destruction, a living mannequin, a gun that fires souls, the universe engine and the Queen of England! All that stuff too…


HMS: Will there be any giant, crazy bears? If you don't know the answer to this, I expect you to talk to Geoff Shaw and find out.

Donny: That would be ridiculous.

HMS: Donny, I present Buzzkill evidence:


The Paybacks is coming in Summer of 2015, but Donny Cates will be at New York Comic Con signing his series Ghost Fleet at the Dark Horse booth so maybe you can pry some more information out of him…

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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