From wanna-be rock star to being destitute with skull scars, the eponymous star of Kid Lobotomy is a unique specimen. While his story - and that of creators Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler - might seem like a call-back to the glory days of DC's Vertigo, it's actually part former Vertigo senior editor Shelly Bond's new IDW imprint, Black Crown.
October's Kid Lobotomy #1 serves as the launch title for Black Crown, delivering the type of oddity that Milligan - a Vertigo alum himself - is known for. With the release this week of the new book's second issue, Newsarama spoke with both Milligan and Fowler about the title's reception thus far and their plans for the future, and got inside their heads about where this admittedly weird concept came from.
Newsarama: Peter, Tess, how's the response to Kid Lobotomy so far?
Tess Fowler: Civilized madness. Which is entirely appropriate considering the book they're responding to.
Peter Milligan: My neurologist seems to like it, which is the main thing! Actually, even beyond my favorite brain doctor, the response from readers has been terrific. When you do something as complex and strange as Kid Lobotomy there’s always the risk that you don’t quite take the readers with you, and I’m happy to report that as well as simply liking it most readers people really “get” it.
Nrama: Has there been anything surprising, in terms of what people are reacting to specifically or how?
Fowler: I've been listening to a lot of YouTube videos where people are trying to peel back the layers of Peter's work, like an onion. It's always a joy when they get to the center and... find another onion.
That's a Milligan book, folks.
Nrama: Peter, you worked with Shelly at Vertigo - how would you compare the experiences here with Black Crown?
Milligan: It feels eerily similar. I feel I have just as much artistic freedom with Kid Lobotomy as I’d have over at Vertigo, and Shelly is the same easy-going, laugh-a-minute good sport she’s always been.
Okay, I’ve climbed off the floor now, wiped the rictus off my face, where were we?
Oh yes, Shelly, Black Crown. Obviously I’m aware that Black Crown is Shelly’s baby but really that doesn’t affect the day to day work on the book. We still talk about the same stuff. Character. Theme. Story. Haircuts.
Nrama: Kid Lobotomy #2 is out this week – for those who aren’t early birds who already read it, what can fans look forward to in this?
Milligan: We’ll find out how and if Kid survives getting his throat cut by the mad lobotomy patient, Randall Van De Post. And we’re introduced to a major new character, a new guest at the hotel. He’s a Pulitzer winning writer and whatever he expects this hotel to be it isn’t. There’ll be more about the weird cast and the even weirder hotel, which seems to hold a lot of very dark secrets…
Nrama: As I said, #2 is out this week but you two are much further along in making it. Tess, what's it like to be back in the groove on a comic book run - is there a groove?
Fowler: As an artist, it's a growth groove. Like working out regularly at the gym. I'm getting stronger. That's the joy of it for me.
Nrama: Kid Lobotomy is a unique piece of work - did he come out fully-formed in your mind, or did he develop over time?
Milligan: For Kid himself it was a surprisingly short gestation period. The type of person he was, his attitude, his “voice” did pop out pretty well-formed, the hotel in which he was raised and that will play such a central role in this story (the Suites hotel is in many ways a vital character in this story) that took a little longer, a bit more piecing together of ideas and dreams. It was strange but while working on the beginnings of this story I was seeing quite a bit of my neurologist (for reasons I won’t go into here) and this preoccupation with the ways of the brain really coloured my thinking about Kid, the hotel, and the story. And then of course Tess came on board with her ideas for the characters and the hotel and that was like an amazing jolt, pushing the story and characters down unexpected synapses. This book really does feel like a team effort, Shelly, Tess, and myself. A creation that couldn’t haven’t happened without this trinity.
Nrama: As you mentioned, this takes place in the Suites, "America's Strangest Hotel." Is this based on any hotel in particular? And if so, would you stay there again?
Milligan: No one hotel in particular. But perhaps an amalgam of aspects of a number of hotels. I’ve stayed in a lot of establishments, during signing tours, conventions, and vacations and many hotels seem to have some dark aspect, even if only in my own imagination, those strange corners, those empty rooms, those members of staff who seems not quite of the normal, everyday world. If you look at some of the regular features of hotels - the shoe polisher, the coiled fire hose, the empty corridor - but try to see them with fresh unblinkered eyes, they can seem really fucking weird, as horrific in their way as Gregor Samsa’s body, turned into a giant cockroach on his bed.
Nrama: Tess, how much do you know about Kid Lobotomy? I know some artists prefer just to read the scripts as they come in, while others want to know the big picture.
Fowler: I'd love to know the big picture. I ask questions all the time. Doesn't mean I get answers. [Laughs]
I've learned to just trust the people leading me into this haunted house. If I get eaten by monsters, well at least I had a good run.
Nrama: I've noticed in the first issue you've really had a breakthrough in your character expressions. Is that just through repetition, or is it something you've actively been working at?
Fowler: When you provide an artist with a safe, honest work environment on an ongoing book, they can't help but grow. It does also help that the scripts call for more acting than in previous projects.
Nrama: What's on your drawing board right this moment?
Fowler: It's a page from Kid Lobotomy #4 involving pastries and underwear.
Nrama: Are there any other specific areas of your art you've been working consciously to hone more with Kid Lobotomy?
Fowler: Boys with no beards or body hair. I'm under orders. Kid can't be fuzzy.
Nrama: So lastly, what are your big goals for Kid Lobotomy?
Fowler: To learn from my betters and to grow as an artist.
Milligan: Creatively, I want to explore Kid Lobotomy and the hotel that he grew up in, and that made him who he is. I want to examine the types of guests - that America flotsam and jetsam - who wash up in this strange establishment. And I want a lot of people to bloody love what we’re doing as much as we do.