Dan Schaffer - Talking Dogwitch: Mood Swings and More
Dan Schaffer on Dogwitch
Imagine the movie Devil's Rejects crossed with The Real World and throw in some Wally Wood. As a comic. Once you've gotten that synthesis into focus (it might take a bit), you're close to what you can expect from cartoonist Daniel Schaffer's Dogwitch. But even then, you're missing the greatest part of it: Violet Grimm.
Originally published by Sirius Entertainment, Dogwitch has found a new home with Image Comics. In forthcoming trade paperback Dogwitch: Mood Swings, Schaffer collects issues 13 – 18 and follows Violet Grimm – you can call her 'Vile' – on a ink-tinged, horror-soaked and goth-filled escapade into the off-kilter world Vile calls home. In this third and final collection, Vile is powerless as her doll Dolores has hijacked her body as her own. Anxious to get back into her own skin, Vile gets her wish but suffers the consequences from the magical outpouring and is in need of a doctor. But in a world like Vile's, could you really trust a doctor?
Let's not spoil it anymore, and talk with cartoonist Daniel Schaffer to find out in his own words about the series, the starlet and the startling finale of Dogwitch.
Newsarama: Thanks for talking with us, Dan. Let's pretend we're newbies to this --- how would you describe the series and your lead character Violet Grimm?
Daniel Schaffer: It's an ultraviolent, bloodthirsty satire on the horrors of fame, love, and dating. It’s a goth punk sex farce, a neo-fem comedy/horror, a good excuse for blood, sex, magick, and kinks. It’s look at sexual politics through a pop culture video nasty lens. Maybe I should just admit that I don't really know what it is. It's lots of different things.
Violet Grimm is easier to define. She’s an electric chaos witch. A freaky sex magick extremist who believes in biting the hand that feeds. She’s her own worst enemy but a great advocate of “doing it her own way” and celebrating her own personal flaws as if they were divine gifts. She’s an accidental feminist, just by her uncompromising nature, but she’s also a male fantasy figure, so she’s kind of a contradiction.
NRAMA: Sounds like an ex-girlfriend of mine. Errr.. anyway. In the book, Vile has been banished in the Banewoods. What's it like there?
DS: The Banewoods are full of all the really horrible things that have been kicked out of the real world over the centuries and taken on a life and culture of there own – giant bunnies, undead stalkers, crazed fans and critics. It’s home to the Splinter Man who wants to steal your childhood, a notorious demonic serial killer called Elastic Head, and a team of evil clockwork cheerleaders, ra ra!
NRAMA: Clockwork cheerleaders should be the new monkeys.
Violet's not alone in this – she has her familiars, including a chain-smoking plushy dog named Ralph. Can you tell us about her familiars and how they stand each to her?
DS: Violet’s familiars represent two sides of her psyche. Ralph’s the voice of reason. He’s kind of like Violet’s conscience, but Violet’s conscience is malfunctioning most days, so he’s got a dark side too. Dolores Twist is the voice of the devil in Violet’s other ear. She’s a disfigured doll who can’t really be trusted, and she makes Violet do bad things.
NRAMA: And what's happening in this newest collection, Mood Swings?
DS: This third collection brings together all the seemingly random storylines from the previous two books and bangs them together into one big mixed up cosmic conspiracy. Violet’s personal problems will no longer be confined to her creepy house and her underwear. Her issues with sex, gender, magick, and love are about to become universal in scale. Like the logline says, “Violet’s coming home and she’s going to bring a little chaos to the Order.”
NRAMA: Over the course of the series, Violet has amassed a cult-like following as a b-movie starlet for a decidedly gruesome subject matter: a mixture of reality TV and snuff films.
DS: Well it’s a winning combination, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to watch reality snuff TV? Come on, it’s not just me is it? Hey, come back, it’s really about love. Dogwitch is a love story. Swear to God.
NRAMA: After you finished the single issues of Dogwitch in 2005 you've gone on to do several new projects such as The Scribbler and several collaborations with writer Katiejane Garside.
DS: I’ve collaborated with Katiejane a few times over the years. We did the Indigo Vertigo graphic novel together, and then the comic short Lesions In The Brain. I also provided some art for her exhibition at the Woom Gallery last year (a series of iffy portraits of her entitled "Crime Scene" and "Autopsy Doll"). Katie and I are at different ends of the artistic spectrum, but we always manage to connect on some kind of profound level every time we hook up.
The Scribbler was a chance to get away from all the schlock of Dogwitch and do something a bit more serious. Dogwitch had enough scope to tackle everything from gender politics to concepts of fame and identity, but it was always from slightly skewed, sarcastic angle. The Scribbler was my chance to say that stuff more seriously. That book had an agenda because there was something I wanted to say about the death of individuality and the dangers of a black and white hive mind mentality. I’d been touching somewhere close to that in Dogwitch, but I wanted to pack more of a punch and be more obvious, more serious about it. I’m not sure if anyone got it though. I think everyone just figured that I’d lost my sense of humour.
NRAMA: Before we go, I have to say that Dogwitchis a shocking read. What led you to doing this initially, and what kept you going in these strange and unique directions?
DS: The writing technique I used was sort of designed to throw curve balls at the story line and send the plot of in all kinds of weird directions, but I always had a firm grasp of where it was going. So it’s off the wall, sure, but I don’t think it’s particularly all that shocking. Not when you compare it to Ennis’ chocolate fistings and Ellis’ arse rapes. I may have played with a number of outrageous ideas, but as a book its still kinda PC. There are heavy doses of irony and black humour, so even though you’ll find blood, gore, fetishism, necrophilia, and demon sex inside the pages, the truth is, it’s possibly one of the least offensive comics out there. Back when I wrote it, I really didn’t want to offend anyone. These days I couldn’t give a flying fuck.
Dogwitch: Mood Swings TPB is published by Image Comics and is currently in stores. For more on Schaffer's work, visit www.danielschaffer.com.