In March Dark Horse Comics announced The Worst Dudes, a new five-issue sci-fi miniseries from the twisted minds of writer Aubrey Sitterson, artists Tony Gregori and Lovern Kindzierski, and letterer Taylor Esposito. Billed as a “hilarious, aggressively weird, and willfully vulgar detective story,” the series stars a trio of really terrible people – a crooked cop, a spoiled brat prince, and a drug-fueled, pink-furred anthropomorphic cat – who more than live up to the title of the book.
The Beat had the opportunity to chat with Gregori and Sitterson about the development of The Worst Dudes, what makes the series’ leads The Worst, and why the book will appeal to non-terrible people.
Joe Grunenwald: What inspired The Worst Dudes? Did the two of you develop it together? Why was it the right project for your first collaboration?
Tony Gregori: We started developing The Worst Dudes in early ‘18, Aubrey had reached out to work on something together and asked me what I felt like drawing. At the time I was on a New Gods kick so we went from there, it was a total collaboration. Aubrey wrote this brilliant shaggy dog mystery while I designed the world, but we bounced ideas off of each other and inspired each other’s decisions. I can’t express enough how much fun Aubrey and I had making this, constantly making each other chuckle with each indignity we created.
Aubrey Sitterson: Tony and I really hit it off as pals because we share a love for raunchy, vulgar humor and stories about absolute dirtbags; the kind of nihilistic, willfully trashy entertainment that we loved as utterly loathsome teen boys, and that, truthfully, still cracks us up. We also felt like there was a lack of this type of material. As much as I love some serious, highbrow, artful comics, there’s also a long, proud tradition of stuff you need to hide from your friends, families, and religious leaders. Books you’d only read at night under the covers. That’s where The Worst Dudes fits in.
Grunenwald: Aubrey, this book feels about as far away from No One Left to Fight as you can get. Was going in the complete opposite direction a conscious choice? Given the success of the previous book, was there any hesitation on your part about following it with The Worst Dudes?
Sitterson: So, first, I feel like I’m obligated to mention that both books do have space cats in them, Caligula Monomacho in The Worst Dudes and the intergalactic rock star Billy Von Katz in No One Left to Fight, but that being said…fair point!
As for hesitation: Not a single iota. I love doing No One Left to Fight with Fico Ossio, but fight comic soap operas aren’t the only books I want to write. I’m a genre guy, through and through, whether it’s stoner kung fu in Stoned Master, my current Kickstarter with Chris Moreno, leftist superhero comics with Tyrell Cannon on BEEF BROS, Jed Dougherty and my sexy jungle romcom Savage Hearts, or raunchy Chandler-esque scifi mysteries like The Worst Dudes.
I want to write all of the genres. All of them. And I’m so very blessed and grateful that Dark Horse has put so much faith in me.
Grunenwald: What’s each of your guiding principle as you’re sitting down to write or draw an issue of The Worst Dudes? Is there an element of trying to one-up each other at all when it comes to packing in the raunchiness?
Gregori: I tried to make sure I never punched down, or made something “raunchy” just for the sake of it. A lot of the gags are in the script so I just tried to bring them home to the best of my ability, bringing to life what was on the page and trying to elevate it. It amps up each issue, #1 is just a taste!
Sitterson: Tony and I talked extensively during the development process and we set up a bunch of rules for how we’d approach this raunchy, vulgar comedy. But really, the biggest thing for me was, once establishing those rules, figure out how to a) Get the biggest laughs possible out of Tony, and b) Explore the outer limits of what our very patient, brilliant, handsome editor Brett Israel would allow to see print. Seriously, don’t tell Brett, but I’m still shocked with what he’s letting us get away with.
Grunenwald: How has the work of your collaborators, Lovern Kindzierski and Taylor Esposito, elevated this book? Both of them get to show off some fun stuff in the first issue.
Gregori: Lovern’s understanding of color and mood took the book to another level, his experience speaks volumes and he brought that Lobo energy to every page! And Taylor’s creativity was greatly exhibited in this book, from his logo design to the font choices for our leads’ catchphrases, he showed what a great letterer can bring to a book!
Sitterson: This question makes me so happy because, frankly, Lovern Kindzierski and Taylor Esposito are both doing truly brilliant stuff on The Worst Dudes and I’m tickled pink that you’re picking up on it. As Tony mentioned, it was a big deal for us to get Lovern on this book, due in no small part to his having colored a ton of our favorite classic Lobo work, which is a huge influence on the type of sci-fi comedy we’ve pursued. But beyond that, Lovern is a comics innovator; he’s one of the people who invented contemporary comics coloring, using digital tools not just to make things look aesthetically gorgeous (which they always do!) but to participate as a storyteller. Lovern, as a writer himself, reads the scripts, looks at the art, and finds ways to amplify everything that Tony and I are going for with thoughtful, powerful color choices.
Similarly, there’s a reason Taylor Esposito letters everything I do, and it’s because he truly engages with the work. Like Lovern, he’ll read the script, internalize it, and look at pages, not from a perspective of grinding them out, but, rather, actively searching for ways to participate in what we’re creating. And since Taylor and I have worked together so much at this point, he knows how to accentuate what he finds in the script, developing a unique approach for each of these gorgeous gonzo genre books. I trust Taylor so much now that I’ll just put “TAYLOR MAGIC” in the scripts, which is his cue to cut loose and do something weird, amazing, and impactful.
Grunenwald: Sam Sugar seems like a guy stuck in a specific role as part of a system that’s out of his control. Compared to some of the other characters in this book he’s downright likable. Do you see Sam as a bad person? Is he a victim of his circumstances?
Gregori: Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say each of our 3 dudes’ backstories are revealed in the next 3 issues, Sam specifically in issue #3. I’d leave it to readers to decide whether Sam’s redeemable or not.
Sitterson: The book opens with Sam, a crooked cop, torturing a suspect; I feel like that’s pretty odious! That said, we knew that a comic about purely awful characters, absolute villains, would end up being kind of a slog to read. To write and draw, as well! So, while Sam Sugar, Bang Monsoon, and Caligula Monomacho are all just despicable, like everyone, there’s more to them than just their, well…worst qualities.
Grunenwald: Why is everyone else in this book The Worst?
Gregori: I’ll put on my judgmental hat on and say they allowed their worst, base instincts to take over. Real lizard brain behavior!
Sitterson: You just landed on exactly what this book is about: Why are dudes so terrible? I’d go ahead and tell you, but we’re trying to move some units here!
Grunenwald: What will people who are not The Worst enjoy about The Worst Dudes?
Gregori: Joking aside I think most people will relate to a lot of the behaviors in The Worst Dudes. We show what brought these dudes to act the way they do, and it’s very human, whether we like to admit it or not.
Sitterson: There’s something profoundly cathartic about reading about bad behavior, especially when it’s depicted as hilariously as what Tony is doing on The Worst Dudes. And like all good genre work, we’ve worked hard to not just graft deeper themes onto the story, but use the genre tropes we’re playing with to really dig in and ruminate on those big ideas. As for what the big ideas are and how we get to ruminating, please see above with regard to trying to move some units.
Published by Dark Horse Comics, The Worst Dudes #1 arrives in stores and digitally on Wednesday, June 2nd. Final order cut-off for the first issue of the five-issue miniseries is Monday, May 10th.