The "sex comedy" is an insanely popular subgenre of film, even having sub-subgenres like "teenage" or "wedding" built in, to boot. So why not bring it to comic books?
That's exactly what Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are doing with Image Comics' Sex Criminals, which kicks off in September. Of course, this is comic books, so why not also do their own sub-subgenre: the SciFi Sex Comedy. In Sex Criminals, it's the classic story of boy and girl meeting. Both boy and girl discover that when they're having sex, they can stop time in a limited capacity - so, they take their newfound ability and use it for sexual bank robbing adventures.
To talk more about Fraction's latest creator-owned story, the writer and his artist Zdarsky took a press conference over the phone, and brought along some art from the first issue to debut.
Fraction joined the call, announcing himself as "The NSA," and Image's Ron Richards asked the pair to give a basic rundown on the book.
"Son of a bitch, I just woke up!" said Fraction. He has known Chip for awhile, and knew his work before him. "The entire book was born out of a very sincere desire to work with him.
"We talked about various ideas, with Chip saying we should do 'our Game of Thrones' which I thought was a terrible idea. But then he came up with this idea of us hitting a sex comedy, and..."
Zdarsky interrupted, "and that was me baiting the hook! And we threatened each-other with doing it, and now we have a comic book coming out in a month."
They both expressed the desire to do their take on the "sex comedy," and their love for Image Comics as a place that could actually do that.
Zdarsky said he doesn't like working with people usually, but loved seeing comedic parts in Fraction's writing and wanted to see him write a straight-up comedy.
Richards asked Zdarsky how he visualized the time-stopping moments in the series.
"It's great working with Matt because he's extremely visual," said Zdarsky. Fraction would send him movies and ideas, but when he first tried, Matt just told him "go more crazy with it!"
Fraction praised Zdarsky's color palette, saying he and Frazer Irving have a "singular style" in comics that includes their coloring.
Press questions! First from Casey from CBR, asking about the end of book one that says "don't sell this to kids!"
Fraction says, "Of course! Kids have to steal their knowledge, right?"
Zdarsky said that he "over did it on the back cover" on purpose, even though a book called Sex Criminals should naturally drive parents to not pick it up for their kids.
Fraction said, "It's not a book designed for children. If children have questions about sex, they should go to parents or teachers or something."
Zdarsky noted that he personally wouldn't mind a teenager reading, as there's nothing "titilating" about the story. Fraction noted that it is considered "an R rated comedy, or a show like Girls on HBO."
Next question, from us, "When did science fiction enter the equation?"
Fraction said, "Right from the inception, really, it was about having sex, stopping time."
Zdarsky added, "The big change happened when we started really talking story. Matt gave me the idea for issue one and it was emotional, I was used to just doing straight-up gags, and he managed to string it together into something more. It's not just P-P jokes and characters effing. It's deeper than that."
Fraction, "Once we realized it was going to be the girl's story and not the guy's, we made it work a lot better. But yeah, I wanted it to not just be a bad spec script brokein into 6 issues - there are enough of those in the world. I wanted to really tap into the possibilities of comics and the visual nature of the medium."
Heidi from the Beat asked if there was anything that was "too far?"
Fraction said, "We're not going to do any penetration or ejaculation - it's really more of a romance book than a sex book, sex is just the vehicle to get there." He cited things like "American Pie" as the upper guidline.
Zdarsky noted that there really aren't a lot of extremes, nothing that they even wanted to do. There are jokes in the background that are probably the most crazy. "But who's to say, by issue 10, we could be covered in all sorts of fluids."
Matt from ComicsAlliance asked about the tragedy that kicks off the comedy.
Fraction said, "Well, that's the way it started... I guess..."
Zdarsky said it shows how the book is multi-faceted, and that he is glad it didn't just start out with sex jokes.
ComicVine was next, asking how far out they have things planned, especially with the background issues like the actual time-stopping.
Fraction said, "a lot! We have a series of stories planned. It's a testament to what Image has done with books like The Walking Dead and Chew, where they let people create stories. I think we can do this for a long time, until the bitter falling-out between Chip and I."
Zdarsky, "yeah, we keep adding in some more supporting characters and I'm looking forward to adding more into it."
Fraction, "After the fifth issue everything is spelled out and we can start really exploring more of the cul-de-sacs of the world."
Casey, CBR asked about the time-frame (the early 90s) and the way the kids are doing research/growing.
Fraction said he likes using this era of the dawning of the internet, where it's a different story of discovery. "I can't imagine what it will be like for my kids, though."
Zdarsky said he stole his dad's porno mag when he was young, and it's weird that kids can't do that now. But he imagines it's more like kids stealing their parent's laptop for something without adult controls on it.
Heidi, from the Beat, "Have you run into anything you've had censorship problems in the past?"
Zdarsky, "No, not in comics. When I first put out Prison Funnies, I contacted about 1000 comic shops, sent them stuff, asked if they were interested - I let them know what they were in for, which stopped the idea that they'd complain about it. People are not going to pick up Sex Criminals and be offended by it. Making sure that people know what they're getting up front."
Fraction, "It's not like a Blackhawk comic where there's suddenly a blowjob happening halfway through it." He did note that he had something that had to be patched so that it could "get over the border," but it wasn't anything he considered story essential. "Of course working at Marvel there's a constant what can we say, what can't we say, based on the rating of the book."
Next, from us: "What went behind the decision for Suzie to be the POV character, and how did that open things up for you?"
Fraction, "Well it wasn't working, as a draft, when it was Jon's thing. It had this sort of hacky fear of the manic pixie dream girl coming in and fixing everything - I didn't want it to be that story. As you'll see in the second issue, his story is a little more raunchy. The book became everything I wanted it to be when it became her story. It's much harder to write, but much more satisfying and fulfilling. It made it easier for me to put the story I saw in my head on the page."
Zdarsky, "Because there are so many dudes in comics just putting their own experiences on the page, you have to fight that instinct and do something a little different."
Matt from CA asked about the "Criminals" part of the title not showing up much in the first two issues.
Zdarsky said that it's a matter of meting things out. Fraction said, "It's not True Romance, fun loving bank robbers is not the book we're doing. It's tricky to introduce the crime element to it, because we've opened up this emotionally frail element to the book, and we need to speak to their characters and them being able to have this idea of being able to get away with stuff. We had to earn it with character and not just drive it into a fantastic, Tarantino-esque 'we'll survive because we're the leads.' I wanted you to like these people and understand them before they broke the law.
Sex Criminals #1 hits stores September 25, 2013 from Image Comics. Final orders are due from retailers on Monday September 2, 2013.