Talking With Doug Wagner And Daniel Hillyard About Their New Dark Comedy Serial Killer Drama ‘Vinyl’

by Olly MacNamee

Writer Doug Wagner and artist Daniel Hillyard left me in stitches with their black comedy serial killer drama Plastic a few years back. And now they’re reforming the band to bring us Vinyl. More than just a spiritual sequel to the aforementioned series, maybe? After all, as Wagner himself describes it, it’s a comic book all about “serial killers, inhuman monsters, and a cult of sunflower farmers all trapped together inside an underground bunker.” What’s not to like?

I was fortunate enough to catch up with both writer and artist and escaped with my life! Although my funny bones are still hurting after this one.

A great first issue and a great follow-up to Plastic. And, and even better interview! I couldn’t have asked for more on this one. It’s definitely going down in my “favourite interviews of all time”. So, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did as we delve into the sick minds of the two creators ahead of the first issue dropping.

If you liked Plastic, you’ll definitely love this one, coming from Image later this month…

Olly MacNamee: Your new series from Image Comics, Vinyl, comes out June 23rd as your previous partnership on Plastic, it’s a horror-comedy focusing on at least one serial killer, isn’t it? I have to ask, how long has this idea been in your collective minds?

Daniel Hillyard: Hi Olly, nice to meet you. Hope things are well over there in England, funnily enough, I am in Spain, and I think you might be having better weather than me at the moment. [Laughs.]

Vinyl is focused on our serial killer, Walter, but he has some good friends that we get to play with as the story goes on. Doug will have a better memory than me for this (sorry if I am dropping you in it, Doug.) My brain is telling me that the bare bones of this story have been around for a good while.

Doug Wagner: The bones have actually been around since the summer that Plastic came out. As the muses tend to work, they popped one thought into my head – “What kind of friends would you need to bring along if you had to fight the scariest people on the planet?” Because something’s wrong with me, my thoughts immediately went from The Expendables to Seven Psychopaths. I decided I would need serial killers to help me out. I laughed at my own insanity and started writing.

OM: The name of the series – as with Plastic – relates to a particular trait associated with Walter, doesn’t it? Music, in this case, doesn’t seem to soothe the savage beast but rather offer him a soundtrack to kill by.

DH: There is a catchy theme developing…

DW: Yep, Olly’s on to something. When we decided we wanted to do another serial killer book, we knew we wanted a thematic thread to carry from Plastic over to the new book. Materials popped up, thanks to a suggestion by Eric Stephenson, and we ran with it. BUT, we didn’t want to use vinyl in the obvious relationship that it has to plastic, so we twisted it a bit and made it all about records and music. The music in this case is a tool Walter uses when he’s murdering folks. He needs the soundtrack to organize the killings in his head.

OM: The opening is wonderfully shocking before we pull back and meet serial killer Walter, as well as his “friend” Dennis, who really is getting too old for this shit, isn’t he? But, it would seem Walter is not the worse threat of this series, is he? 

DW:  Well, Walter isn’t the biggest threat to Dennis. An all-female death cult of sunflower farming psychopaths is the biggest threat to Dennis. You’ll just have to read to find out what monsters in this book are the most lethal.

OM: So what can you tell us about this all-female Bellini Family cult? Any real-life inspirations? Their leader, Madeleine, certainly seems to imply her flesh-and-blood relatives are full-on nut jobs. Is she the acceptable face of a psycho-clan? The beauty covering up for the beasts?

DH: You hit the nail on the head.

DW: Truth is Madeleine is much more than the beauty covering up for the beasts. She is the beast. When we started tinkering with what kind of cult we wanted to pin against Walter, we happened upon the idea of creating monsters that were so stunningly beautiful that you would never assume just how nasty and vile they were on the inside. We both loved that idea and chased it. I believe Daniel brought up the Manson family and I tossed in Charlize Theron as the most beautiful, graceful villain in the history of cinema. 

OM: As a willing partner in all of this, Daniel, how much input do you have in the story as it developed?

DH:  I am willing, and I am in no way tied up in a basement while writing this under duress [laughs].

One of the many amazing things about working with Doug is how much of a collaboration everything is. We really work over everything together, pushing each other to do our best for the story. Honestly, it is so much fun working together.

OM: Considering Walter is a homicidal music-loving maniac in his spare time, he also shows a considerable amount of loyalty to Dennis. It may be a black comedy, but it also seems to be dealing with loyalty, family, and friendship. Are these going to be the big themes running through this mini-series?

DW: Well, I couldn’t create a story that doesn’t have some sort of message, could I? No matter how messed up that story may be? I’m actually pretty impressed and happy that you picked up on those themes in just the first issue. The underlying current throughout the entire series is friendship and family and how far a person would go for both. Are you loyal even in the most disturbing of situations? Would you sacrifice your life for those you deem friends? As with Plastic, Vinyl is actually a story about love, just not romantic love in this case.

OM: How much free rein do you have Daniel, in the character designs? Especially Walter, who you can’t help but warm to, especially given his relationship with Dennis.

DH:  It’s all about the collaboration again. Doug and I bounce around names of actors and personalities that we think give a good feel of that character, then we just work together fleshing them out. We keep working through designs until something feels right. Walter, in particular, went through a few different incarnations until we stumbled on one sketch, and both thought, that’s him.

OM: Will we be getting a Spotify playlist to accompany this series? More importantly, should we be paying close attention to the tunes specifically chosen as the soundtrack to Walter’s killings?

DH: Oh, that sounds like a great idea. Are we stealing that, Doug?

DW: LOL. I love it. We’re totally stealing that idea, Olly. Regarding the songs in the book, you don’t necessarily have to pay close attention to them, but if you look a little deeper into each song, I think you’ll find even greater meaning behind why we chose them. There’s history behind each song or artist that led us to pick that particular song for each scene. Yes, I may have spent hours picking them. 

OM: Plastic, now Vinyl… is this a planned trilogy of serial-killer based black comedies you’re both cooking up or just a happy coincidence? Or even, part of a bigger, shared universe a la Quentin Tarantino?

DH: Hmmm… there might be a plan afoot.

DW: I believe Daniel and I have thrown around the term “Material Trilogy” on a call or two, but that may be just a rumor. Admittedly, we both enjoy playing in this universe so much that I could see us doing it for years to come. It really depends on if we can come up with stories that we think deserve to be published. 

OM: Gentlemen, thanks for your time, and here’s to a successful six-issue series! 

DH:  Thanks, Olly, it was a pleasure.

DW: Olly, we can’t thank you enough for doing this for us. I see a Vinyl Villain Variant cover in your future.

Vinyl #1 is out Wednesday 23rd June from Image Comics

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