Bill & Ted Face the Music, out now in theaters and on-demand, is most likely the swan song for the resplendent Bill and Ted film franchise, but the farewell tour for the Wyld Stallyns isn’t quite over yet. Announced back in June, Bill & Ted Are Doomed, a 4-issue miniseries prequel comic from Dark Horse, chronicling the events leading up to the film hits stands on September 9.
Enlisting writer Evan Dorkin, who got his early start in comics working on the Eisner-nominated licensed Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book series for Marvel in the ’90s, and artist Roger Langridge guaranteed a most triumphant book. Add in the involvement of Bill & Ted co-creator Ed Solomon, and the project only gets even more bodacious.
Ahead of this week’s release of Bill & Ted Are Doomed #1, The Beat had a chance to chat with Dorkin and Langridge, two non-heinous dudes, about their experience working on this prequel miniseries.
TAIMUR DAR: How did you both become involved in this Bill & Ted Face the Music prequel comic? Getting Evan involved obviously is a no-brainer, but was having him draw this mini ever considered or was getting another artist always the plan?
ROGER LANGRIDGE: I can only speak to my side of it, but I was approached by Dark Horse with an email that started “Evan Dorkin is writing…” and I was on board right then, frankly. That it was a Bill and Ted book was a delightful bonus.
EVAN DORKIN: Basically, [Dark Horse editor] Daniel Chabon e-mailed me to ask if I was interested in writing the project. Daniel was aware that I almost wrote a new series when BOOM! Studios had the license, and he knew I was still interested in working with the characters. He suggested we bring Roger on board, and I should have figured that one out myself and still feel stupid for being so slow on the uptake. I never considered drawing it, it would have been nice, but I’m a slow-enough writer. I was happy to be able to draw the covers, though, and keep a hand in there.
DAR: I believe Bill & Ted Are Doomed is your first project together. In any case, you’ve known each other and admired each other’s works for years. What was the collaboration like, and did having a prior camaraderie with each other translate well into the collaboration?
LANGRIDGE: I think so! We’re on the same page about a lot of things, we both have a lot of influences and interests in common (Kurtzman’s MAD, old comics and newspaper strips, old movies), so when Evan asked me to stage a page “like a Frank King Gasoline Alley Sunday” I knew exactly what he meant. We’ve been working alongside one another, rather than with one another, for decades now, in that we both contributed to the same anthologies at the same time over the years (Deadline, Dark Horse Presents, the Bizarro hardcovers DC did several years back). And when we’ve been at the same conventions, we always end up on the “Humour Comics” panels together, because nobody else in the world makes funny comics, as I’m sure you know.
DORKIN: Roger echoed what I was going to say, we’re both on a very similar wavelength. We’re both fans of old classic cartooning and comedians and sketch troupes. So it’s great to be able to just drop references in a script to cartooning tropes and approaches like a Harvey Kurtzman sequential tier of panels or whatnot. And it’s great to know you’re in synch and having a dialogue with a collaborator within a script, you know you’re in good hands. Again, working with Roger has been a goal, I’m glad it fell together and our creative paths crossed because I’m terrible at making these kinds of things happen. I’d work with Roger again in a heartbeat.
DAR: You’ve both worked on all-ages books, and the tone of the prequel comic is definitely young readers-appropriate while still appealing to an audience much like the Bill & Ted licensed comics Evan worked on. Was this a mandate or something you were always leaning towards?
LANGRIDGE: Just speaking for myself, I had no instructions one way or the other, but it always seems like a commercially sound proposition to pitch the tone at a level where you’re not shutting potential readers out – particularly for a thing like Bill and Ted, where millions of kids will be watching the movie and looking for related stuff to read. God knows everything’s hanging by a thread in the comics industry right now, it seems to me the last thing we need are more barriers between us and our audience.
DORKIN: It was never discussed; it was just a given. If you have a modicum of talent and half a brain you know the boundaries of a given project, what’s possible and better yet, what’s desirable. When I work on material for younger readers – either on my own or with my wife Sarah Dyer as co-writer – the idea is to always be aware of the target audience but not to pander or talk down to them, and if possible, bring something to the table that engages older viewers and adults. We’ve written for some animated series and the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, and while you always adjust accordingly, in essence you don’t want to dumb it down.
And since we’re living in post-nerd takeover times, why not try to engage the widest audience possible, in some way, shape or form? Dark Horse is giving us a free hand to do what we do, and the licensors have been equally easygoing. Hopefully that translates into a fun comic for the readers, whatever their age, whoever they are.
DAR: I was going to ask if you finally saw Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure after learning in a 2015 ComicsAlliance interview you’ve never seen it but Kate Jay from Dark Horse already informed me you still haven’t. Have to ask why the hesitation?
DORKIN: When Excellent Adventure was released, I had no interest in it other than Diane Franklin being in the cast (be still my heart). I never bothered to watch the first movie when I adapted Bogus Journey because everything I needed for the project was in the script and reference photos. At this point I feel so familiar with the first movie by association that I don’t feel like I need to watch Excellent Adventure. It’s not like I avoid it to annoy anyone, I just feel like I’ve already seen it, if you get me. I still haven’t watched the Ben 10 episode Sarah and I wrote some years ago. I’ve gone years without watching things I’ve worked on. I’m lazy and forgetful
DAR: I know Kevin Smith saw Bill & Ted Face the Music early and said it brought him to tears. Have either of you been given an early look at Face the Music, and if so what did you think of it? If not, whether in theaters or on-demand are you (looking at you Evan!) planning on seeing it?
LANGRIDGE: I’ve only seen what’s online – the trailers, a few publicity photos. Haven’t read the script, haven’t seen anything the rest of the world hasn’t seen, so that’s occasionally been challenging if Evan (who I believe has read the script) asks for something specific from Face the Music. There’s been a bit of… creative bluffing, shall we say?
I hadn’t seen either of the first two movies before I was offered this job (though I did have Evan’s original Marvel run), so I picked up the DVDs and caught up. I wasn’t prepared for how much heart and positivity was in the movies. That wasn’t in the trailers! I’d have watched them years ago if I’d known. Having an excuse to see them has been one of the unexpected joys of this job. I’m on board for Face the Music one way or another – I don’t believe the streaming option is being offered in the UK, so I might have to rent a hazmat suit.
DORKIN: I’m sure I’ll check it out at some point, but I’m lazy and forgetful and have no plans right now. I haven’t seen Bogus Journey again since the free screening Marvel was invited to back in the day – which was freaky, because the final cut of the movie chopped out a lot of things that were in our comic.
Regarding Face The Music, I did read the script, and I made a lot of notes to lock down a timeline of events that took place in-between the second and third movies. I wanted to touch on as many “real” events as possible in our story, and work with as many characters as possible, especially the robots and Stations, who aren’t in the new movie. The comic gave us an opportunity to show what happened to them, which I hope folks will like.
DAR: I loved the small reference in the first issue to Wyld Stallyns playing the Grand Canyon, which was mentioned during the Bogus Journey montage. Gotta know if the other events from the montage will be featured in the mini, particularly Death winning the Indy 500 or the wedding of Missy and Chuck De Nomolos?
DORKIN: The Grand Canyon event ties in directly to Face The Music and helps show how far Wyld Stallyns’ fortunes have fallen by 2020. Bill & Ted Are Doomed covers several events that take place early in the band’s misfortunes, we show the financial issues they face and the rift developing between Death and the others. I worked backward from Face The Music while developing the story outline, and then references and Easter eggs would fall into place while I was scripting. There are references to the backstory throughout, either shown or implied. There’s a nod to hell, De Nomolos appears on a few monitors, as do a few other old characters. Rufus has a small role, the three most important people are around. And we got to include one little bit that suggests the Marvel series takes place in a parallel universe. Older readers will hopefully be happy when they find it.
DAR: Bill & Ted co-writer/co-creator Ed Solomon is also involved in this project. It’s a contrast to when you adapted Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey from the original screenplay which obviously resulted in some significant differences between the comic and the finished film. How did the experience this time around actually working directly with the filmmakers compare to your first venture with Bill & Ted?
DORKIN: Meeting with Ed was, well, pretty excellent. I was really anxious, because I was meeting a co-creator of the characters and concept, and I didn’t want to come off as some schmuck who was going to do a bad job babysitting his kids, as it were. Ed hasn’t read the Marvel Comics, for the same reason a lot of writers avoid like material – he didn’t want to be influenced or distracted by any ideas in the series. I hope he’ll read them one day. He also told me that Alex Winter liked the old comics and that carried some weight with Ed, which was really nice to hear.
We discussed my initial story pitch, which was ultimately rejected, mainly because it worked from the Marvel series and they wanted the new comic to fit in movie continuity. But he liked the ideas, and he suggested some things he wanted to see the comic deal with, like touching on Wyld Stallyns’ finances and reputation falling apart. After we spoke I was able to work up a pitch that everyone was happy with. It was great to just talk about the project, the films, and get a nice sense of where things came from and what Ed’s viewpoint was. And he told me some fun stories, and was surprised to know I didn’t realize De Nomolos was “Ed Solomon” backwards. Ed’s really cool and it was great to meet him, and speak on the phone a few times. I hope he likes the comic, if he reads it.
LANGRIDGE: The thing that resonates with me is their friendship. They trust one another completely and absolutely, and – really sweetly, really endearingly – they just assume that everybody they meet has as big a heart as they do, unless proven otherwise. And sometimes not even then. (And, yes, part of that is because they’re not the sharpest tools in the box.) But that generosity of spirit they both have, that irrepressible positivity, seems like such a tonic for the times in which we live.
DORKIN: It’s their friendship, their heart, their real need to make others happy without anything in return. Their inherent goodness confounds evil and cynicism and sees them moving forward despite not having much talent, intelligence or business sense. Bill and Ted just win people over. They won Death over. They won me over, I couldn’t stand the characters at first and always meant to quit the Marvel series after a few issues. But they got under my skin. They’re incredibly pure, classic characters, and hating them is like hating baby bunnies. Bill and Ted love their friends and family, they want everyone, everywhere to be happy, they want everything, everywhere to be excellent. More of that please. That always resonates. And cracking dopey jokes and giving Death a full-on meltdown is truly a most resplendent bonus.
Published by Dark Horse Comics, Bill & Ted Are Doomed #1 is on sale Wednesday, September 9th.