In the upcoming miniseries Clown Fatale, you will learn clowns are no joking matter.
With a cover proclaiming “Big top babes… bring on the heat!,” Victor Gischler’s Clown Fatale mixes his love for grindhouse storytelling and circus antics into a story of four harlequin clowns who get mistaken for contract killers and have to fight their way to the truth. Set to debut on November 13, Clown Fatale comes from this renowned crime fiction author who expanded into comics writing the likes of X-Men, Punisher MAX and Buffy. The Vampire Slayer: Spike. After writing about mutants, anti-heroes and vampires, Gischler had an itch for mixing his influences of Russ Meyer, Quentin Tarantino and the circus all into one series illustrated by newcomer Maurizio Rosenweig.
Newsarama: With a name like Clown Fatale, it has some wide expectations. What can readers expect from this series?
Victor Gischler: As one might expect from a first issue, we meet the characters and are introduced to the setting and the situation ... but there's also a nice dose of bloodshed to get the ball rolling. And then each issue cranks up the crazy one more notch!
Nrama: How’d the idea for this come to you?
Gischler: I was thinking of Russ Meyer's film Faster, Pussycat. Kill! Kill! and it occurred to me I really wanted to do something over the top ridiculous but also with that Quentin Tarantino edge of violence. Somehow the words "clowns" and "hired killers" connected in my brain. It's unapologetically outlandish.
Nrama: On the cover is four women seemingly straight from the circus, who I assume are the Femme Clowns. Can you tell us about them?
Gischler: Chloe is our protagonist and our cowgirl clown. Aya, Candy, and Tina are her pals, all sharing the miserable life of a circus clown. They feel trapped in their lousy lives. They are women on the edge, and it won't take much to push them over.
Nrama: How do they get mistaken for assassins?
Gischler: Ah. Well that's best illustrated in the comic. But let's just say the real assassins aren't too happy about it.
Nrama: And although they aren’t necessary killers, what kind of skills do they have in case they do need to kill in defense?
Gischler: Their lives as clowns have made them downright mean. It's not like they have Green Beret training or anything like that, but that have undaunted willpower to see things through. Aya does have special skills, but her background is the most mysterious of all the girls. For the most part, the ladies are gifted amateurs with a natural understanding of violence.
Nrama: This is set in the realm of the circus, and circus folk. How do you get inside that world?
Gischler: It's really a sort of "common knowledge" approach to the circus. I mean, the focus is not an expose of circus life or anything like that. But the circus does provide an excellent backdrop for much of the action. The tents and costumes provide wonderfully garish scenery.
Nrama: On your blog you described this four issue series as “unapologetic crass” fun. Can you dig into that?
Gischler: Yes. It's the sort of dirt you want to wallow in. You just see this mud puddle and the mood hits you that it would be great to splash around in that mud puddle even though you know your mother wouldn't approve. It's that kind of reading experience. There is nothing inspirational or uplifting about this kind of reading experience. I wouldn't want to live in a world in which every comic book was designed to feed your inner juvenile delinquent ... but neither would I want to live in a world where there was none. It's for people who want a little "WTF?!" with their comic book
Nrama: This is a creator-owned book, and there are a variety of places you could have taken it to. Why Dark Horse?
Gischler: I'd already worked with Dark Horse on some other projects, so I knew they were the sort of folks I wanted to keep working with. And when I showed Scott Allie and Dan Chabon the pitch and the sample art they really got it. That's important.
Nrama: Last question – your mention of Tarantino and Russ Meyer brings to mind the grindhouse genre of storytelling. In the press release for Clown Fatale, you described this as grindhouse and a parody of grindhouse. How does that work?
Gischler: Hmmmm. How best to explain. Okay, remember in Robert Rodriguez's film Planet Terror when the film "breaks' and then when it's "fixed" we've moved forward in the story? Well, we all understand that didn't really happen. Rather, it was a callback to that grindhouse movie-going experience. Rodriguez was "doing grindhouse" when he made the film break. So part of the fun of Clown Fatale is that awareness that we're all enjoying something cheap and tawdry. It's fun! Jump in! The mud is fine!