The new series Public Relations is a workplace comedy where the workplace has a moat.
Written by longtime Vertigo scribe Matthew Sturges and his Fables: The Wolf Among Us co-writer Dave Justus, Public Relations debuts on September 23 from Devils Due/1First Comics. Described as feudal and funny, it's about an P.R. executive who's tasked with repairing the damaged reputation of his father, the king of a country where magic actually works.
Balancing this new series with work on the digital-first Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Sturges and Justus spoke with Newsarama about Public Relations, the delays the book has experienced, and what readers can expect from a humorous series that's set in a world of fantasy.
Newsarama: Dave and Matt, what's the brief pitch of this series?
Dave Justus: When we pitched it, it was basically Arrested Development meets The Princess Bride. But the way we've been referring to it more recently is, "It's Always Sunny in Westeros," because so many people watch Game of Thrones.
But yeah, it's basically a sitcom in a fantasy kingdom.
Matt Sturges: It's about a guy named Dan who works in public relations in Dallas, where both Dave and I grew up, and he's invited to his father's 50th birthday party in the magical land of Sardonia.
Because of a typo on the invitation, there is a terrible, terrible public relations disaster. And so Dan is hired by his father to put things right with the neighboring countries.
And that's the inciting incident for the whole series. So it's basically a fish out of water story about a guy from our world who has to go live in this wacky, magical world.
And there's a love story — there are several love stories, and some of them include monsters. There's jealousy. There's sibling rivalry. All the essential elements of comedy, including…
Justus: Arena battles, and churros, and all the things you see on a typical episode of The Office.
Sturges: [Laughs.] It's a little darker.
Nrama: So it's a comedy set in a fantasy world, with monsters and dragons and such, but it's not about "hero versus villain," but rather "protagonist deals with problems?"
Justus: Yes. And Dan is a hopeless romantic. So the comic gives him a little bit of hope, but mostly encourages him to be hopeless.
So he's just trying to do the best he can, given the resources he's got in this world that doesn't make a lot of sense to him.
Sturges: It's really these personal stories but in an outlandish world, where people are doing things that would be normal in regular circumstances, but in the circumstances that we've put them in are utterly outlandish, often absurd and borderline tasteless.
Not even borderline tasteless. They're tasteless.
Nrama: You came up with this idea awhile ago, right?
Sturges: It was something Dave and I started talking about when we first met, which was around 2007 or 2008. And we've been working on it ever since, in some way or another. So there was a lot of effort and a lot of thought that went into it.
And as we were proofing the issues for the last time, for the printer, we noticed how much care and effort we've put into it. It's actually been awhile since we wrote the first few issues.
I think if people read it and pay attention, they're going to be pleasantly surprised at how much care and thought have gone into it. And we had a blast writing it, and I think it really comes out on the page. There's a lot of laughs.
Justus: I think at the time we started coming up with this, we saw this as an underserved market in the comic shop. And now, seven years later, we still kind of feel that it's an underserved market.
Sturges: There are now books for the kind of people that we were writing this book for, which I don't think was really the case seven years ago — books like Sex Criminals and Hawkeye. Things like that that have a more sophisticated sense of humor about them.
But still, this is a straight ahead comedy, where I don't know that those books are even that.
It's funny how, for a medium called comics, how little comedy there actually is in it.
Nrama: Well, it's especially unusual in a fantasy setting too.
Sturges: Yet there's so much material there for kind of poking fun. It's this magical, anything-can-happen land, and that allows us to create really nutty situations that we can mine for comedy.
Nrama: When Newsarama reviewed the first issue, it was expected earlier in the month. You guys had a change in schedule?
Justus: It comes out September 23rd, and we want to get that information out.
Sturges: It was originally scheduled to come out on the 2nd, but there was a printer error and the entire first printing had to be pulped. And because of that, we ended up with this three-week delay. And unfortunately, some retailers got invoiced for the book. And some retailers got some of the misprinted books.
So we want to shout out to those retailers and say that we're really sorry for any of the troubles they had with the book, but we hope that they'll stick with it and continue to order the book. We really appreciate them very much.