‘They Are Either Immediately Intrigued Or Abhorrently Repulsed’: Doug Wagner On His Hit Comic Plastic

by Oliver MacNamee

The last issue of the critically acclaimed Image Comic Plastic by Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard and Laura Martin hits stores next week (August 23rd) and soon after that it’ll get the trade paperback treatment just in time for those colder, darker nights to come calling.

I’ve made no bones about how much I’ve enjoyed this series and so it was great to be able to catch up with writer and co-creator, Doug Wagner, to ask him about the series, Edwyn’s character, and why we like him so much. Y’know, considering he’s a homicidal maniac in love with a sex doll and all.

Olly MacNamee: Doug, I’m interested to hear what reactions you’ve had from cons and signings for Plastic? While we here in the UK have a sick sense of humour, US readers, not so. Or am I wrong?

Doug Wagner: LOL. I didn’t realize US readers had that reputation. Well, I can tell you if the response to PLASTIC is any indication, there are quite a few US readers out there with a sick, twisted, disturbing sense of humor just like mine. Hmmm, I’m not sure if that should scare me or not.

One of my favorite things about this book is the reaction I receive from people at shows and signings. I get some sort of sick kick out of it. When I tell people what the book is about, they are either immediately intrigued or abhorrently repulsed. There’s yet to be anything in between. I admittedly have a lot of fun trying to guess which way a particular person will go when they walk up. The good news, at least for me, is you just can’t tell who are the PLASTIC kind of people are and who are not. Of course, that should probably worry the rest of the world.

OM: Now, in many ways, Virginia seems to be a calming influence on our ‘hero’ Edywn. Behind every great man is a great woman, maybe?

DW: Absolutely. Regardless of what some might think, PLASTIC is at its deepest core a love story, and even deeper than that, it’s about true love. Edwyn loves Virginia in the purest and simplest of ways, and he sees her accepting him with all his scars. No, more than that. They love each other exactly the way they are…scars, baggage, quirks and all. And a love like that can’t help but change a person, help them become their true and honest self. That’s what Virginia has done for Edwyn.

OM: I must admit, you’ve made me care about a serial killer, in the same way as a nation got behind Walter White. Is it a question of surrounding him with even more deplorable characters? Characters who don’t have insanity as an excuse for their horrendous actions in this book?

DW: I’d like to think it’s more complicated than Edwyn just being less deplorable…well, my ego does anyway. I hope people are attracted to Edwyn’s character because he’s actually a decent human being–funny, caring, sometimes oblivious, treats everyone as an equal. Yes, he does commit some horrifying actions, no doubt about that. But, he only does so when someone has committed an act of ill intent. Edwyn doesn’t have an ounce of animosity towards anyone until they’ve purposefully done something cruel to another person…or thing…or blow-up sex doll. Heck, he might chop your head off for being mean to a rock. However, if you treat everyone and everything with a proper respect, Edwyn would probably lay down his life for you. Yeah, this guy’s a little crazy.

OM: He does seem to have some sort of twisted moral code, at least? Unlike others in the cast. Is this something that makes him more likeable as well, do you think? 

DW: As scary as this is gonna sound, I believe Edwyn’s “twisted” moral code speaks to a lot of people. As much as we’d all like to delude ourselves, we all have a bit of the rage welling up from time to time. Someone cuts you off, someone bashes your favorite movie, someone bullies you…I know all of you out there have those “twisted” little thoughts of what you’d like to do to them, don’t you? Of course…well, hopefully, we all keep those darker thoughts in check. Edwyn doesn’t, and because of that, we love him.

OM: I suppose, the black comedy has a big part to play in this series’ success? Black humour and horror are hard to pull off. How do you even get the balance right?

DW:  Luck. Luck and a great team of collaborators that you can bounce ideas off of. I wish there was some secret formula that I could share, but honestly, it all comes down to experimenting constantly with your work and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I did my best to write the kind of story I wanted to see on the shelves. I took my time, did multiple rounds of rewrites, fought constantly with the doubt monster, and worked my hardest to do something good. You never know how readers are going to respond to your work, but Daniel and I reached a place where we were happy with how close we’d come to what we’d hoped to accomplish. We released it out into the world and have been blown away by the positive reaction to our baby.

OM: Edwyn’s surname was odd enough that I searched for it online. It seem to me to be an Easter egg of sorts, linked to the chemical properties of plastic. Any other Easter eggs to look out for?

DW:  Hah! I’m glad someone finally noticed that one. I don’t know about how many Easter eggs we’ve scattered about, but there’s definitely a ton of inside jokes hidden in the series. I always try to have a nod to in all of my creator-owned work. It started out in THE RIDE, and I’ve found myself unable to resist keeping it going.

OM: And, where did you find your partners in crime, Daniel Hillyard and Laura Martin? What a great team you make, may I say.

DW:  I actually meet Daniel a few years back when we worked together on the second I.C.E. mini-series for 12-Gauge Comics. We immediately became great friends, and I’d be thrilled if I could work with Daniel every month for the rest of my life. When I started getting serious about pursuing PLASTIC, there was never any doubt that I wanted Daniel as the co-creator.

In regards to that Martin woman, we were studio mates at Gaijin Studios for two years. We hit it off pretty quickly…mostly because she and I were the only ones staying until 4 am on a regular basis. During that time, she and I would help each other avoid work by talking about storytelling and about how important every aspect of creating a comic book can influence its success. After several hours of those types of discussions, I realized Laura was a friggin’ genius and began plotting the day she and I would work together. Again, when PLASTIC began to become a reality, Laura was my first choice. I can’t express how happy I am we finally got to create something together.

OM: And finally, while I await the final chapter in this story to drop on August 23rd, I believe, can you put me out of my misery by answering whether we’ll be seeing more of Edwyn and Virginia in the future?

DW:  I can neither confirm nor deny anything at this time. 

Plastic #5 is out August 23rd and the collected series will be available October 18th 2017. It’s well worth your time.