Writer/artist Tony Fleecs is busy. The creator, who is known for In My Lifetime, Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened, Pulp Tales, and C.B. Cebulski’s Wonderlost, has offered his creativity for an array of works for publishers like Image, Boom, Oni Press, IDW, and more.

The Beat caught up with Fleecs to talk about new projects as well as how he tapped into the power of comic retailers. 

DEANNA DESTITO: What projects are coming up?

TONY FLEECS: The next thing that comes out in stores is Feral #1 and the Local Man one-shot. Both come out on [March] 27th. And then two weeks after that, Uncanny Valley #1 comes out from Boom. That’s one that I’ve been working on for, like, ten years. It’s not like I’ve been slaving away on it for ten years, but I’ve been keeping notes and stuff on that thing since before I lived in this house and before I lived in the house before that. So, yeah, a whole bunch of huge stuff is coming out. It’s all sort of the stuff that the opportunities presented themselves because of Stray Dogs, and I just jumped on everything. And then they all seemed to collide during the same three-week period, which is stressful.

DESTITO: So now with Feral, what is that about for anybody who doesn’t know anything about it?

FLEECS: Feral is the follow-up to Trish Forstner and my book Stray Dogs that came out in 2021, which is a horror story about dogs. When we were making that, we were nobodies, and the book was a different premise for comics. There weren’t animal books at the time that were successful. And so we just figured we’d do that, and we were excited that it was going to get out at all. Then when it was successful, we loved working together, and we loved making that comic, but we had an ending for it, and the ending was real, like a concrete ending. There’s no danger for the stray dogs at the end of Stray Dogs.

Tony Fleecs Feral cover
Feral #3 cover

But we loved working together so much that we started talking about what could we do that would be like this to make but then could just go on and on, and we could just keep doing it and have a good time with it. And so we came up with Feral, which is a story about three indoor cats who get lost in the middle of the woods during this massive rabies outbreak. It’s basically a zombie story but with cats. All the rules of zombies apply, except the cats don’t have shotguns, I guess, so there are no double taps. But all the danger of zombies is there for these cats to deal with. It’s an ongoing series from Image, and we’re hoping to just keep it going for a long, long time.

The way we do cats is different than the way we did dogs because they’re different. So one of the main narrative points in Stray Dogs was that these dogs were forgetful. They would forget what was going on in their situation if they weren’t constantly thinking about it. And cats, the way we write them, they remember everything. Like, they hold grudges, they have secrets.

Tony Fleecs Feral sketches
Feral character sketches

DESTITO: So, like real cats?

FLEECS: Yeah, actual cats. It changes the way the book works, but, yeah, for all intents and purposes, it’s in the same universe. But I don’t think we’re going to have the stray dogs show up unless the numbers start to really dip. We love those dogs, and the idea of throwing them into a rabies apocalypse seems like a nightmare.

DESTITO: Any other animals coming up? I hate birds. So if you want to scare me, birds.

FLEECS: I met Trish on My Little Pony. We’ve talked about how years from now, after Feral concludes its legendary run that we come back and we do one last one that’s about horses or ponies. Sort of like a ghost story. Those are easy to draw, right? That’s what everyone says.

DESTITO: What about Uncanny Valley? What’s that one about?

FLEECS: So Uncanny Valley is about this boy named Oliver who’s twelve years old and his mom is a traveling nurse. And she’s all the family that he has. She’s all the family that he’s ever really known. He never feels like he fits in. He’s constantly feeling sort of out of place, and he doesn’t feel connected. This is a story about how he starts to develop these strange powers or strange things start happening to him. And his mom seems to know what’s going on more than she’s letting on.

Tony Fleecs Uncanny Valley cover
Uncanny Valley #1 cover

Through the course of the first issue, we find out that all of this is happening to Oliver because his grandfather is a cartoon character. He’s basically like a Yosemite Sam. Oliver gets pulled into this big worlds’ colliding, chosen one type, epic journey with his grandfather, who he’s never met before. So it’s like a Roger Rabbit coming-of-age story.

The art on it is by Dave Wachter, who is doing Punisher right now, but he’s doing the full line art and the colors and everything, and it’s just really beautiful. It looks European to me, so the realistic stuff looks really realistic and painterly. And then when the cartoons show up, they look bright and like animation cells sitting on top of the artwork.

DESTITO: Is it an ongoing or limited?

FLEECS: It’s solicited as one of six, but if it does well enough, we’re going to stretch it out longer because there’s a lot more story we can do. I think the way the market is, they’re just being careful from jump.

Tony Fleecs Uncanny Valley
Uncanny Valley character sketches
Uncanny Valley character sketches

DESTITO: How much input do you give your artists as far as style or do you kind of just write your script and say go crazy? 

FLEECS: It changes from project to project. I definitely feel like I probably do more than most people because I’m a writer and artist myself, and I letter stuff, and I color stuff. So every step of the way, I feel like I have an opinion. When I hear people more established than me talk or people who have done it longer than me, they always go, the relief of realizing that you can just sit back and these people will handle it and that they’ll always come up with something better and blah, blah. I’m always just like, yeah, but I feel like this could be a little more like this.

Tony Fleecs headshot
Tony Fleecs

So it depends from book to book. And I definitely am more often than not impressed by what people come up with than what I had in my head. Also, I do feel like probably more than other people, I go, here’s what I was thinking. Something like this. I’m not doing so much as like…no, sometimes I do sketch right over. I don’t know, I’m a monster.

DESTITO: Do you think because you do have the visual background, it changes how you write a script as opposed to somebody who is a straight writer? 

FLEECS: Yeah, I think so. On the one hand, sometimes it slows me down writing because I’ll be thinking it all the way through before I write it down. I’ve definitely worked with writers drawing scripts, where I can tell they were just like, these five things need to happen on this page, and they didn’t really think about how it was going to all fit together on the page. So generally, I think about that stuff a lot, but then the artists that I work with, too, are all people that I have pretty decent relationships with. Oftentimes I’ll know about what they’re going to do. I can just say to Trish on Feral or on Stray Dogs, “this should be the cutest thing we’ve ever seen, or this should be the most heartbreaking thing we’ve ever seen.” And I can do that hyperbole, and she’ll be able to hit it, or our colorist on that book, Brad Simpson. I’ll say what we need here is a Brad Simpson sunset or a twilight or whatever. He can come through and do it. So it’s nice having worked with all of these people for as long as I have.

Like Dave on Uncanny Valley, this is the first series that we’ve done together, but we’ve worked together probably 15 years ago and then intermittently here and there on little projects through the course of both of our careers. So on the one hand, I think about it a lot, but on the other hand, I don’t have to be too didactic in the scripting because I can just go, do this thing that you do. 

DESTITO: What genre do you prefer to work in? 

FLEECS: I like to mix it up. I think the same way I like to read things or watch things, I don’t get stuck in one zone for a long time. I mean, I guess if it’s watching things, there’s a running theme of horror always for me, and then I’ll watch other things on top of that.

When I write, I don’t know if it’s just the way my career has gone or if it’s just a really bad idea to market yourself as this kind of thing. But whatever the story is that I’m liking at the time is kind of the one that I get into and get excited about making.

DESTITO: What about Local Man with Tim Seeley?

FLEECS: The special comes out on the 27th, the bad girl special. Every arc we do a story and then we’ll do a one-shot in between to sort of bring in new readers, give you something, because the book is really ’90s focused. First, we did a big ’90s crossover, and then we wanted to do a bad girls comic. Then we’ll launch into our third arc in May, which is called “Lost Ones.”

The basic premise of Local Man is that it’s a guy that used to be, like, a 1990s Image Comic superhero, and now it’s today, and he’s sort of canceled and fired from his job as a superhero. He has to move home with his folks in the Midwest, and everybody in town hates him. He lives in this very small town, and they all are disappointed in how he turned out, and he’s disappointed in how he turned out. So on the one hand, it’s a superhero crime story. Things start happening in town, and he starts looking into them. But on the other hand, you flip it over every issue, and there’s the flashback to the ’90s. 

Tim draws a spot-on 1990s Image Comic every issue. So the third arc we’re doing is a lot about change and loss, and the whole book sort of feels like it has relied on nostalgia a lot. We wanted to take a look at that in terms of what it actually means to let these things go and where the things went that we held onto so tightly.

The whole book has been really…I don’t know how great I am at selling things because I’m like, you remember Young Blood? It’s like that, but if it has a lot of sadness and regret in it. So that’s sort of what this third arc is about. This guy Jack, the hero of Local Man, figuring out what all that stuff means that he left behind.

DESTITO: How’s it working with Tim? I’ve interviewed Tim a couple of times. He’s a fun guy.

FLEECS: He’s great, right? I’m working with him on Local Man and on a secret thing, too. And he just somehow manages to work constantly, which I thought I was doing, but then I see him and I’m just like, he’s doing it so much more than me. He’s always out there working.

It’s great to work with him because the Local Man process involves both of us writing and drawing a comic every month together. It’s not like I write and draw my side, and he writes and draws his side. We both write both sides. We both draw both sides. That’s not true. We both write both sides, and then each of us takes a side and draws it. But even then, there are times where if I’m drawing a scene and I go, “oh, I feel like he feels really heroic here. This should be drawn by Tim,” I can send it over to Tim and he’ll draw a panel of Jack punching someone or something, and it sort of lets the reader feel like, “oh, he’s back. He’s getting it.” It’s a really open collaboration and really fun. I mean, all of my collaborations are pretty great right now.

Tim and I both have the same amount of responsibility on the issue. We’re 50/50 on it. And so it’s fun to have somebody that is doing the exact same thing as me on the book. It’s weird. I don’t think there’s a lot of books like that.

DESTITO: So working with retailers, can you talk a little bit about what you’ve been doing with them?

FLEECS: When we did Stray Dogs, I had another book that I was doing at the same time that was going to be through a small publisher, and I was doing all this stuff that everybody does to make a comic and promote it and put it out. I probably did more. I would make posters and mail them to retailers, and I would call people and I would email people and stuff like that. But no matter what you’re doing to interface with retailers, they have, like, 800 books come out a month, so they only have so much time to pay attention to any one person.

I got to the point where it felt like whatever I was doing, you couldn’t break through with it. And Stray Dogs was a book that was, like I said before, is like a strange thing in the industry at the time. There were no animal books. I made My Little Pony. There’s no reason that somebody was going to buy my Image comic. So I had a friend, Ed Greenberg at Collector’s Paradise, who said, if you want to sell this thing, you should come with me to Portland. There’s this retailer show called ComicsPRO. The best comic retailers go there. You can sit down in front of them. You can show them your book.

And so I did. I made preview copies of my books, and I went to Portland and I went to this ComicsPRO, and I saw all these retailers, and the cool thing was not only could I sit down and tell them about the book and give it to them, but I could ask them in person, “What is it? Because I’ve been trying this for years. I’ve done independent comics before, and I don’t know what necessarily breaks through now.”

What also helps is if the book is the type of thing that takes off like Stray Dogs did. That makes it a lot easier to sell books after that. But in talking to them there, they would also tell me, “Oh, this works for my store, this doesn’t work for my store. My customers like it if you make a video where you say hey to the shoppers at Midtown Comics in Manhattan” or whatever. And other people go, “my customers don’t care about that at all. They like this type of thing. Give us trailers that we can show the books.” Some people would say, “we like shelf talkers to put on our shelf.”

It’s different than my normal, everyday job to go sit down with a bunch of people and hear from them what works and be able to write down, okay, send this to this shop because it’s all stuff that doesn’t take me long to make. If it makes a difference to them and helps sell it, then the whole point of it is letting retailers know that I know that I can’t do this job if they’re not selling my books and making them feel like they’re also part of Team Tony Fleecs, where all this stuff that I’m putting out, I’m making it, obviously, so I can pay my mortgage and stuff, but I’m also not bullshitting around and making comics that you can’t sell.

I make stuff that appears bizarre from the strictly Wednesday Warrior, that doesn’t seem mainstream, but you step back and you go like, well, this is exactly like whatever’s on TV or whatever’s in, it’s mainstream to a normal audience mostly. But for comics, it doesn’t have capes or it doesn’t have…I guess now it has zombies.

DESTITO: Zombies are very popular.

FLEECS: Fingers crossed.

DESTITO: Between COVID and digital comics, how important is the brick-and-mortar comic shop? 

FLEECS: For me personally, I still go every week. I’m just a regular comic shop Wednesday guy. I still go in and buy books every week. But I don’t have the Jonathan Hickman big-brain take on what happens after comic stores go away. I have no idea. So I know that they are important. A) they’re important because they employ a bunch of people that I like and they lift up the marketplace that I like, and they sell the books by literally all of my friends. But B) if there is something after it, there’s like a disaster in between that I don’t know what to do in the meantime, while we’re figuring that.

DESTITO: For me as a kid going into a comic shop, it was more than just shopping. You would talk to people, you would bond, and you would learn about other books. And with everything going digital, you lose that community. 

FLEECS: Yeah, absolutely. And you can tell you’re in one of those great shops when you walk in and the people that work there are hand selling and going “If you like this, you’re going to love this.” That’s just good business. You can sell somebody one comic, you can sell them two comics. But then also, aside from that, I go in my shop and either I’ll run into people and we’ll go out and have coffee or lunch or whatever, or I’ll see other people just running into people. They’re an actual community hub, which I feel like there are less and less of. Definitely post-COVID, but economy-wise,

I also go to the movies every week, and there are less people there, and there are less people in comic stores. And the thing with the whole world shutting down for two years, sure, there were a ton of people that just got really psyched about getting back into collecting and that big boom. Once stimulus checks went away, people had to really figure out, all right, what can I afford to, what sort of entertainment can I afford? I already got 20 streaming channels I got to pay for. Is it still worth it for me to pick up comic books every week?

That’s one of the main things that we try and do with Feral especially and with Uncanny Valley. Do books that you need to get. You get to the end of it, and you’re like, I can’t wait five months to read the end of this. I have to read the next one as soon as possible. That’s how Saga is for me. That’s how I remember Strangers in Paradise was for me, stuff where I’ll get to the end of it and I’ll go, shit. I need to know exactly what happens next. I cannot wait because the way the publishing is now, you know that there’s going to be a cheaper, more convenient, better format to get it in if you stick around, if you hold off for a few months. But my job is to make it that not an option.

DESTITO: What would you say are the highs of your career so far in the industry, and what has been your low? 

FLEECS: We’ve definitely had some lows. The reception to Local Man has been really great. People who read it love it. I did all the promotion with Stray Dogs. I did ComicsPRO, I did all the blah, blah, blah. And on Local Man, we thought, well, you know, Tim’s got a readership. I got a readership. Let’s put it out, and I feel like we missed a trick not super-promoting at the beginning of it. That’s why I look exhausted right now because I’m in the middle of super-promoting two big books in a row.

We’ll see dips on those numbers, if dips on numbers on your Image comic book is the low of your career. That’s still pretty good, but we’ll see dips, and it just is demoralizing. And you think like, all right, well, we dropped 500. And is that 500 shops dropping one? Or is that like ten shops going out of business or what is it? And I talked to retailers, and they’re like, “I talked to a bunch of guys in these forums, and they said they just had to put all their Image books down to just only hold files or what they could afford to order that they knew would sell.” They couldn’t take the chance that they were going to spend $2 on the issue that was going to sit there and then go into a dollar box.

It all happened at the same time as my life got complicated. So that stuff has been rough, but like I said, still pretty great. It would be much worse if that happened and also, people hated it, too. They’re like, “This thing sells horribly and the reviews are in. It stinks.”

And then highs. Stray Dogs is still pretty tough to beat. It’s uncomfortable for me to tell stories about successes, but coming from My Little Pony and having this sort of chip on my shoulder where I was like, you guys don’t think these comics are real comics, watch. I’ll do a cartoon animal book with a My Little Pony artist and show everybody.

Not that the whole thing was born out of spite like that, but there is sort of a little spite behind it, that when it took off, it felt really gratifying that the book did great, that it sort of built this little mini animal comics revolution. I see a lot of animal comics out today, and I don’t feel like all the people that made them were like, “oh, I gotta do Stray Dogs.” But I do feel like publishers are like, oh, you can sell animal comics. I feel like we’re at least a little bit responsible for that. And then it was nominated for awards. It sells all the time, and people come up to me, and the most gratifying thing that I hear about it is people say, “I gave this to my brother, who doesn’t read comics,” or “I gave this to my girlfriend,” or, “I can’t get my kids to read comics, but they want to read Stray Dogs.”

The idea of making gateway comics feels really great for somebody who had so much of my life built around having found comics and having found that community. Stray Dogs is probably the high point.

DESTITO: How do you feel like the comic industry has changed since you started, even just as a reader?

FLEECS: I can only really speak to my own experience of it. Again, like I said, I don’t have, like, a big brain take on it, but definitely superheroes have remained the majority of everything. When I was a kid, that’s all there was, apparently, from the outside looking in. And then they went on this crazy 20-year run at movie theaters, where they became not just the dominant part of comics, but the dominant part of all popular culture for a while there.

Interior art from Feral

When I was 13, 14, 15 years old, and I discovered independent comics and all my favorite artists left Marvel comics and started just making their own comics, I feel like that changed everything, when those guys went and made Image comics. As a kid when I would start thinking about what kind of comics I would want to make or what kind of stories I would want to tell, I have friends who are, like, two years older than me that they still think about it in terms of what would be my X-Men story or what would be my Spider-Man story, right?

Because of those guys going to start Image comics and also stuff like Strangers in Paradise and Stray Bullets and Frank Miller’s books at the time and these sort of huge touchstone independent comics that came out at a formative time in my life, all the stories that I think of and the reason why they all seem sort of scattershot and not just in crime comics or not just horror comics, is because I saw the people that I liked the most just going, “I want to tell a story about this,” or “I want to tell a story about two girls in Texas,” or “I want to tell a story about the fuck-ups from Baltimore that can’t do crimes right?”

To their credit, the Image guys did just do superheroes. They just did basically the same thing they were doing at the place they left. But Todd McFarlane, you could tell he thought Spider-Man was a little goofy, and he was like, what if I just made him badass all the time? It really sort of changed the way I thought about creating things.

When I started thinking about creating things, it was always very personal. What are my ideas? What would I want to do? What can I do that’s different than what other people have done? And I think that independent comics and Image in particular, and all these people that came from Image, I know the people at Boom it’s the same thing. They want to tell stories that are different. I don’t know if that’s about the comics industry overall, but the changes that I’ve seen from going into a comic store when I was a kid to going into a comic store now is that there’s a Marvel and DC rack, and it’s the same size as the rack of all this stuff that is completely different. And then there’s a manga rack, and there’s a YA rack, and so there’s all this stuff that isn’t just superheroes. So, yeah, that’s a change, right?

DESTITO: I would agree. Any areas, any genres that you haven’t worked in yet that you want to?

FLEECS: I’ve got a YA thing that I want to do, but I want to write it and draw it myself. Just sort of, like, take a year, draw the lush backgrounds. Maybe there’s a colorist, but I bet I probably color it myself, too. That seems like it would be really fulfilling but also the sort of thing where I would just have to have a ton of runway. 

The stuff that I love that I can’t even imagine tackling are these. If it’s like a space thing that’s hard sci-fi or something where it’s a huge ensemble cast with a ton of different characters. When I’m making a project, I break stuff down into the smallest pieces, and then I do that, and then I move on to the next one, I do that and I move on. But the idea of the smallest piece being just, like, a tiny star in a giant galaxy seems very daunting. I would love to one day do something like that, but I feel like if I did it, I’d be disappointed in myself because I’ll be like, “You see Star Wars over here, but if you look over this way, there’s an outpost and only three people are there, and this is their story, and they don’t even have spaceships in this place.”

I feel like I get very creative and I have a lot of ideas, but my ideas never tend to be about how to do this big-brain stuff. I keep saying that. I feel like the headline of this could just be, “This guy? Not a big brain.”

DESTITO: Do you have any legacy characters that you’ve wanted to work on?

FLEECS: When I was working on My Little Pony, IDW was about to get the license for Star Wars, and they were like, “Hey, we’re going to do Star Wars kids comics. We know you love Star Wars, and you make our kids comics. Do you have any ideas for that?” I did a ton of pitches. We could do this story, a young Princess Leia, or an Ewok adventure. I had all these ideas, and they didn’t go with any of mine.

When they started making those books, I was just still making My Little Pony. I was down in San Diego and I went to lunch with my editor, and we popped in and saw Denton Tipton, who was editing Star Wars at the time. I was just like, “Hey, can I draw Star Wars at some point? And he was like, “Yeah, you want to draw 23?” And I was like, “Easy.” Then he’s like, “Yeah, I got 26, too. Do you want to do that?” And I was like, “Yes, I do.” The real ask culture versus guess culture moment where I was like, I guess you can really just open your mouth sometimes.

Doing Star Wars was sort of that mountaintop, and it was kids Star Wars comics, but I got to draw it. I got to color it. It came out exactly how I wanted it to come out. It was finished, and it looked exactly how I wanted it to look. And weirdly, Lucasfilm wasn’t like, you drew this wrong. You always hear about licensers having notes and stuff.

After I did that, I had this calm where I had no anxiety about having to prove something or having some stone unturned.


  1. Heck yes!!! I love Tony and his work so much. I’ve been following him from his earliest indie work. It’s been so wonderful to see him getting the credit he deserves! Local Man & Stray Dogs are both GREAT!! I’m looking forward to Feral & more!

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