Writer and comics creator Rich Tommaso is known for his anthropomorphic spy-thriller series Spy Seal and his horror-based series She Wolf, both reflecting the 1970s and 1980s crime and horror movies that have influenced him.
Dry County, totted as “The EVERYMAN Crime Series,” is one of Rich’s newest projects among others. This first comic, published by Image, follows the character “Lou Rossi.” This noted “everyman” finds himself solving crimes that are seemingly thrown his way, all while he tries just to eke out a living through every day occupations. This first issue follows Lou, who at the moment is an unsatisfied writer for a newspaper’s comic strip, as he meets the seemingly “new-girl” to his building, Janet.
As mentioned, Rich has been busy with a number of projects lately, but thankfully he was still able to set aside some time to talk about Dry County with The Beat.
First off, would you say Lou Rossi is modeled after you in any way?
Yes, he’s part of a plan I had come up with back in 2009, which was to make a series of crime novels heavily based on my own life experiences. Each one would be set in a different place in the U.S. – all of the places I had myself lived: Florida, Main, New Jersey, Seattle, New York, Vermont, and my current home, Atlanta. With this first book, it was easy enough to take my own story of a troubled, unrequited romance and spin it into a “missing girl” crime yarn.
Where did the title “Dry County” come from?
It points to a spoiler in the story’s plot – pretty close to the ending – so, I’ll just leave it at that. But, it also came from B52’s Cosmic Thing album, which the story can certainly relate to and which is an anthem of the laid-back generation of – I believe it was based on their own adolescence, which would have been the late 60s? But it definitely fits in perfectly with the slacker generation of 1990 as well.
The cover states that this is, “The EVERYMAN Crime Series.” Should we look forward to the male equivalent of “Murder She Wrote’s” Angela Lansbury, except a murder-mystery solving cartoonist instead of a writer?
The writing will continue, but I think it will rarely bear any fruit for Lou. He will more often be saddled with low-wage jobs to make ends meet; working at pizza restaurants, print copy shops – and other minimum wage gigs that I’VE had to work for close to 30 years. The crime will always come his way, though. Whatever comes to mind and seems appropriate for the time and place he finds himself living in. And relationships – some romantic, others with friends, will always be closely tied-in to those crimes.
From the uses of bright pinks and teals, the story’s setting, and the reference to “The EVERYMAN Crime Series,” would you say “Miami Vice” played at all as inspiration?
Miami Vice was absolutely an inspiration, but I always end up doing things that are more low-key or hum-drum than their source inspiration. This story is so closely based on my own life that I couldn’t place Lou into any real action sequence or super violent crime scenario, because I’ve never been a party to any of that. I’ve known drug dealers, thieves, thugs, vandals – you know, your average, every day, neighborhood deviants, but I’ve never been witness to any gun play or had any involvement with real-life gangsters. So for this series, I had to keep things “real-to-(MY)-life.” I couldn’t have Lou do anything that I myself couldn’t imagine doing. For example, I had a scene where Lou breaks into this guy’s house to search it out. I would never have the gumption to do that, so I changed the scene to him prowling OUTSIDE the house, late at night, merely looking into his windows to see if he could find Janet there. There was another scene where he breaks into this same guy’s place of business; a tavern. THAT changed to find finding an open window and getting inside that way – also, he did this late at night (or early morning) when NO ONE else would be around, like around 3 a.m.
Where did the choice come from to tell the narration with cut outs of legal pad pages?
The legal pads were devised in order to make some of my earlier, heavier text pages more interesting to look at. But also, it provided me with another use – they could be used as notes for Lou’s own possible crime novel someday.
I noticed for many of your characters, you hardly portray them with their eyes wide open. Where do you think this style choice came from?
This is a stylistic choice that came from Roy Crane. I first decided I liked these curious, little, slit eyes and wanted to use them for my own characters when I was preparing my Sam Hill: The Cavalier Mr. Thompson novel, back in 2010. That book was heavily influenced by Crane’s Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer strips of the 1930s. It just stuck with me after that book and I still like using those squinty eyes for my sad sack characters today.
I know this may be a bit of a spoiler, but I must ask. Lou kisses Janet right after he has pretty much vomited the entire contents of his stomach, and she doesn’t notice even a bit?
That’s true. She does do that, doesn’t she? Gross. An unlucky chance happening there. I think that she’s so upset over her foul argument with Earl and Lou’s right there to comfort her, she probably just lets his bad breath fly. That does happen A LOT in movies and television and it always makes me cringe. I surprised I let that one go. Oh, well…
What can we look forward to next from Lou Rossi?
I’ve made the mistake before of planning for further stories with a current series, so I’m just gonna say, let’s see how Dry County sells before I can speak on doing anything more with ol’ Lou Rossi.
Rich Tommaso’s Dry County #1 is slated to release March 14th, with Dry County #2 marked for April 11th.