By Alex Wilson
Paybacks, a new Dark Horse series written by Donny Cates ( co-creator of Buzzkill and Ghost Fleet) and Eliot Rahal (Dark Horse Presents writer and stand up comedian), with art by Geoff Shaw and colors by Lauren Affe, follows the adventures of a team of superheroes who've so poorly mismanaged their money they now work on a superhero repo team until their debts are paid off. The book tackles debt in a very real world way, playing off the financial crisis many in American now find themselves in the middle of. The book might tackle serious subject matter but still keeps a fun pace relatable and likeable characters. If you're a fan of commentary or just kick ass story telling then throw The Paybacks in your pull file when the first issue arrives on September 16th.
Remember though, when they say it's not just a van, it's not just a van.
Alex Wilson: Paybacks is set in the Buzzkill universe. How do you both balance making the story accessible to new readers while still having callbacks to the original story.
Donny Cates: The cool thing about Buzzkill is while you got a glimpse at this larger world, the story of Buzzkill was pretty self-contained and finite. I'm not being cute at all when I say Ruben's not coming back. He's not going to be in The Paybacks. His story is over. If you've read Buzzkill, there's a few things here and there that will be fun jokes. What's cool about playing with these archetypes is when you see a bunch of superheroes in a watchtower in space we don't need to explain to you what that is. When you first see Doctor Blaqk you get the sense he knows he's in a comic book. I think when you first see him he looks into the camera and says, "Hey, welcome back!"
Eliot Rahal: It's a fun joke for those who have read it [Buzzkill] but Doctor Blaqk is going to be our sort of on board medic and he's going to be in the book a lot, pivotal at certain points. Anybody who loved Buzzkill, there's going to be Easter eggs in there. Plus recurring characters that end up becoming a bigger part of this world.
DC: Easter eggs is actually a better way of saying it. There's stuff in Paybacks that if you've read Buzzkill, you'll notice. But, it's not going to take you out of the story if you've not. It's a whole new world. It's a brand new story. We just really wanted to play in that world more and we really wanted to work with Geoff Shaw again because he's a monster.
ER: Art monster.
AW: Where did the idea for a superhero repo team come from?
DC: I'd done Buzzkill and I really wanted to play in that world more. I struggled with a way to get back into it because I do mean it when I say I'm never going to bring him [Ruben] back because I feel it would take a lot away from the ending and the impact of that book. Eliot and I had this idea of doing a superhero team book, and it was always going to be The Paybacks. We just started adding characters to it and adding fun stuff to it. It was a very kismet thing where I turned to him one day and said "Hey, why don't we just set it in the world of Buzzkill?"
ER: And Dark Horse was like, "That's a great idea."
DC: As for the idea "idea" for it, I think there's a lot of people in our age range who are…
ER: Severely in debt through college or, not to get political, but people in our generation are making less money than our parents generation did. That's something we want to talk about through superheroes.
DC: The same way Buzzkill dealt with addiction but through that superhero lens that helped it go down easier. We are talking about debt and what it takes to get yourself free of it. There's a direct correlation between someone who goes to college who is just trying to make themselves better or make the world a better place to the superhero who is trying to do the same thing. And all of a sudden you've got your neck pinned down and you have to do a job you don't want to and you've been turned into the bad guy just because you wanted to do something good.
ER: You are a criminal for not paying back those loans to college, technically. But are you really? You're just a guy who wanted to get an education. You're a girl who wanted to do better for herself.
DC: For those who don't know, everyone on The Paybacks are superheroes who have defaulted on a loan. It sucks for them. You can see in the book that they're all trying so hard to not give up. They're doing the job they can do but by virtue of trying to do better and failing they are now scum. In the superhero world they are scum. Everyone knows about them but other heroes are like, "Oh you're a Payback? Gross. You're a loan shark." We've written around 12 issues and we looked back and the thing we both really like about the story is they all are really good people. They're intrinsically good and nice people who are thrust into these awful and horrendously violent situations. Ruben was a hard knock, hard to love kind of guy but these gals and guys are really easy to love, and have just been dealt a really terrible hand.
AW: As Buzzkill dealt with addiction, Paybacks deals with debt. Is there anything else you hope readers get out of the story?
ER: There's a lot, all these mismatched heroes who have to deal with putting aside their ego. Death is a big part of it because, as C and D list heroes they aren't too powerful and they're going up against the A and B's. There's also a lot of fun. How do people deal with a shitty life? They're not going to go moping around and hanging their heads. They try to have some fun. Human beings always try to find a way to make a bad situation tolerable. Usually that's through humor.
DC: There definitely is that, "we've all been through war together." The people who are on this team, your alpha squad of Paybacks (because there's hundreds of them) our specific five or six are not normally people who would hang out together. You get the feeling in the first issue these people have been through a lot of stuff. They've been in the foxhole.
ER: They're together. War, battle, makes comrades of us all.
DC: They're all really great characters. They have to walk this fine line because any of them could be dead on this next repo run. There's a line one gives to another member that goes something like, "Keep your head down. Pay your loan off. Don't get attached." It's easier said than done and these people really grow together and not all of them are going to make to the end.
ER: They all know that too, and that's the weird part.
DC: They're going to die or pay their loan off and leave. One of those things happens way more often than the other.
Issue #1 of Paybacks arrives September 16th, and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: JUL150091