Omaha Perez has been making comics on and off for years in between working other jobs. He wrote and illustrated the comics Bodhisattva and Holmes, and was a contributor to the anthology Periphery, which he also edited. In more recent years he’s been writing comics like Super Terre.r and The Drude.
He wrote the new graphic novel The Drude 2: Lost Angeles, which is just out from First Comics. Drawn by Tony Talbot, with whom Perez has collaborated before, the book starts roughly where The Drude ended. In that book the titular character begins to see the alien creatures living among us, and in Lost Angeles, the story goes in a different direction. We spoke recently about his new book, writing and that cover.
For people who didn’t read the first volume, or forgot, what is The Drude?
The Drude is a 40 year old rocker-stoner-layabout named Boris Drude. His main ambition is to get loaded and have a good time, and that’s problematic when he starts seeing Reptilian aliens. There’s a fine line between sanity and reality with this guy. In the first volume, the reader has to question if Boris’s experiences are real or a psychotic break with reality.
The first book sets up the character and this world, and I don’t want to say the first was straightforward, but the second one is its own beast.
The first one was nonlinear, so in that sense it’s trickier – jumping from one point in time to another – whereas the second volume is linear but a lot crazier. This one assumes that what Boris sees is really happening. So although, unlike the first book there’s no narration, you’re more inside his head in this one.
I just meant that the first is about a character dropped into this crazy world beneath the surface of things, and that concept is something that readers are familiar with. How do you describe Lost Angeles?
This is an existential nightmare. Without giving much away, Boris bumps into this overweight family man version of himself – in the script I called him “Other Boris.” Boris, being this underground rocker with groupies and cool friends, Other Boris is jealous of him. In turn, rocker Boris is jealous of Other Boris, who’s clearly at a comfortable place in life, at least materially. I won’t give away how it happens, but when they wake up the next day they’re in each other’s lives. They’ve swapped realities.
This one is more existential. Although in most stories like this once the characters get over the initial shock, they kind of like these new lives, but here neither likes the other’s life.
Yeah, they both are envious of what they perceive as each other’s life and lifestyle – yet when they get there they’re quickly disillusioned. In Other’s case he’s at a complete loss being a single man again and a musician, which he has vague memories of decades ago, but he’s not that guy. And Boris is hit with Other’s obnoxious family members, out of control brat kids and a wife who’s distant at best. They are immediately slapped in the face with the reality of each other’s existence.
You have a very striking cover. How did that happen?
That originally was just a chapter head illustration. The script was completed in 2014 and by the time Tony Talbert, the artist, was wrapping it up in 2016, Trump was running for president. I had him as a character, but he’s not president or even a candidate in the book. The book is set in 2014, but I made a concession to current events by asking Tony for that image. I told him I wanted the character, the reptilian with a ridiculous wig on his head, to be at a podium shouting at the reader.
Alex Wald, the 1First Comics Art Director/Editor, and I chose it as the starting point of a promo for the book. Alex did a beautiful digital painting over Tony’s ink drawing. When I started posting it to Facebook and Instagram it got an overwhelmingly positive reaction. People said it was a great cover, which made me think, “Wait, should this be the cover?”
We had a whole different image for the original cover – a cross between the Trump inauguration and the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover, painted by Tony and retouched by Alex. That turned out beautifully; it was just so busy compared to the promo. It was kind of like Where’s Waldo. There wasn’t one central focus to the piece whereas the final cover is an iconic kind of image that has an immediate impact. But we still love the inauguration piece! It’s going to be printed full color as the inside front and back covers so people can pore over it without the type interfering. It’s also an 11” x 17” print available at convention appearances.
You and Tony have worked together before this.
He drew most of Super Terre.r, my sci-fi suspense thriller, after Greg Hinkle left the book. Although their styles are completely different, I knew Tony would do a great job, and he sure did! That was our first project together. My publisher told me to “keep him busy” and I knew he would be ideal for The Drude!
What makes him ideal for The Drude?
Well, for one thing, he could be the character. [laughs] He’s a real bohemian kind of guy. He flies by the seat of his pants and doesn’t seem stressed by it at all. His work is fantastic, and it’s just gotten better and better. Lost Angeles is the best work of his published so far. Right now he’s wrapping up Super Terre.r 2, which is even stronger. When we started on Lost Angeles I don’t think he really knew what he was getting into. He got into it as he was working on it and it shows. You can see the progress within the pages. He became more and more energized the further he got. For Super Terre.r 2 he was invested from the start and he feels real ownership. The Drude had to grow on him a little bit. I don’t think he knew it was something personal to him until he was in the middle of it.
You started your career in comics writing and drawing your own work. What has it been like transitioning to writing and working with artists?
The trickiest part is waiting on them! I’m still used to just drawing it myself and not waiting around for anybody. I always planned on writing for other artists. I always had more stories than I had time to draw myself. Super Terre.r was the first book that I solely wrote and had no involvement in drawing. Now I’m happy to write graphic novels for other artists to illustrate. Super Terre.r was the first one, Lost Angeles is the second one, Super Terre.r 2 is the third one, and Tony is jumping onto the fourth, which hasn’t been announced yet. I’ve got another couple of projects with different artists in development. It’s just a matter of seeing where they land.
So you’re enjoying just writing?
Oh, absolutely! Drawing comics is really painful – especially indie comics because there’s not a lot of money – if any – involved at the production phase. I’m lucky with First Comics that they finance the projects, otherwise you’re working with artists you’re paying out of your own pocket. I know that drawing comics is incredibly hard work and incredibly time consuming. If you’re not getting paid for it up front, it’s impossible to produce the pages, and who would expect that? My own artwork in comics was inconsistent and that’s a lot to do with time and money. I would always get to a point in the middle of a graphic novel where I’d be saying to myself, “Why am I doing this? I’m not making any money. I could be spending my time doing commercial jobs for cash.” The work suffers because of that.
Do you want to say anything about Super Terre.r 2?
Tony is something else. I turned in a 150 page script, and Tony’s turning out a 200 plus page epic! I wrote this one specifically for him (lots of sex and violence!) which I assume is why he’s so into it. He’s spent nearly 3 years on it and is wrapping it up over the next couple of weeks. He’s expanded action scenes by turning single pages into double page spreads. The next project he’s promised to stay true to the page count, so we’ll see how that goes. [laughs]
Are you thinking about a third Drude book?
Absolutely. We’ll have to see how this one does, but I’ve got the third script nearly complete. I’m really excited about it. I know the first two books are weird, while still entertaining, and I guess they just get weirder and weirder. I feel the second book, bizarre as it is, has a very solid story, and the third book, while even stranger(!), is another solid story with its own logic. Book 3 feels pretty complete. It resolves loose ends while leaving room for further adventures.