The Riffs Interview: Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz Dives Headlong Into Being a Comic-Book Creator
It's a bleak, futuristic setting. Forces of authority are trying to control the development of machines. And in this illustrated tale, a toymaker scientist tries to imbue a doll-like machine with human emotions.
Nope, we're not talking "9," even though Shane Acker's current film echoes some of the same themes. That description actually applies to "Fall Out Toy Works," the new five-part comic-book series co-created by Fall Out Boy's bassist/lyricist, PETE WENTZ. The title, from Image Comics is "inspired by the ideas & lyrics" of the Illinois-spawned, Grammy-nominated emo/pop-punk band, particularly -- though loosely -- its recent hit "Tiffany Blews." (Part 1, launched this month, is titled "Tiffany's Blues.") The creative team includes co-creators Darren Romanelli and Nathan Cabrera, writer Brett Lewis and artist Sam Basri.
Wentz, 30, is constantly looking at numerous ways to expand his artistry -- from beyond music to include comic books, animation, fashion, gallery art and mobile apps. Comic Riffs recently caught up with Wentz to find out precisely why he and his bandmates -- Patrick Stump (vocals/guitars), guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley -- decided to venture into comic-book land.
MICHAEL CAVNA: So first, I'm all but obligated to ask: I've always heard that your band name came from Radioactive Man's sidekick character from "The Simpsons." As a big-time cartoon fan yourself, Pete, can taking the name Fall Out Boy be seen as homage to the show?
PETE WENTZ: Oh, definitely. ... When we started, we did a show or two with no name before calling ourselves Fall Out Boy. The show has been always been really cool with us about it. They even had us play the theme song. And they gave their employees original Fall Out Boy shirts. They've always been really awesome.
CLICK TO CONTINUE READING THE Q&A.
MC: From music to visual art to fashion, you've got a lot going on. How did the comic book come about?
PW: We [Fall Out Boy] met up with this guy, Dr. Romanelli. We're kindred spirits in the way we look at pop art right now. People aren't making cohesive art, across [art] to music to film. I want to do it in a Warholian way, where it can live and thrive and make sense in [different] threads, in all those ways.
MC: So you're a fan of Dr. Romanelli's designs, too?
PW: Yeah. I realized I was seeing these weird clothes around -- Dr. Romanelli had created them -- and thought I needed to get some of his stuff. He'll take, like, a World War II-era jacket and he'll cut-and-sew and turn it into something modern. ... We should: "You should design our gear for stage." ... He and I both really like to create something larger.
So we started talking about doing this comic. I sent him a couple of songs and he picked out "Tiffany Blews." So we came out with the idea that we would base the character off of the character in the song.
MC: So from there, how did you become involved with Image?
PW: Dr. Romanelli reached out to Image -- he talked to a couple of people. We were really very forward-thinking about it. ... This comic could have been whored out if we were, like, in it for a fast buck, but we're not.
MC: So how did the rest of the creative team come together?
PW: We decided we would ask Brett if he would write it. I met up with Image [Comics]. I like "Bulletproof Monk" and "The Winter Men" [written by Lewis]. I like the writing style in it a lot.
MC: As a songwriter, did you have any desire to try to write the comic yourself?
PW: One of the issues was that, I think I can write lyrics and songs okay, but i don't know that I can write a movie script and I definitely know I couldn't write a comic in panels. ... I think there's a time when you can go into other people's world and learn about them and have a partnership -- but you don't want to be coming in like a bull in a china shop. I know it's frustrating in music when you do it, so we didn't want to do it in somebody else's word. It's the same thing: You have to trust your partner.
MC: And what about the look of the comic -- was there a true partnership over the vision for the visuals?
PW: Yeah. I think that one of the things we wanted to have this project be is: I didn't want it to look like other comics out there. ... We wanted it to be sleek and have bright colors and a dark undertone ... It's kind of like L.A. with a futuristic vintage Japanese look to it.
MC: So to clarify, is this primarily your project creatively, or is the whole band involved?
PW: It's the whole band, definitely. The biggest comic aficionado in the band is [drummer] Andy Hurley.
MC: So were you yourself into comics growing up?
PW: Definitely. I was really into Marvel, and was really into Wolverine and all the X-Men stuff . As a comics fan, what I liked the best -- this is me talking as a 14-year-old here -- is [things like] ... when Spider-Man wore the black costume.
MC: Your song lyrics obviously have a lot of wordplay. Do you want your comics to show off wordplay, too?
PW: Yeah, I'm a heavy verbiage guy. When me and Patrick are writing, for some reason I';; just start to see one word differently -- it just feels different.
MC: So from the song lyrics, you decided on a Mr. Moth and a bear.
PW: Yeah, there is a Mr. Moth. And Tiffany. There is a girl Gravity Wells, and a crybaby who is a little bear boy.
MC: And what, in your mind, is the narrative that all these characters revolve around, even in different platforms?
PW: My idea for it is that we can create a world -- a culture that exists through all these different mediums. As far as narrative, the idea is the quintessential Pinocchio. It's the idea of: Can you manufacture artifical love? It's one of those questions that humans wrestle with.
For example, look at Bruce Willis in [the new film] "Surrogates" (video clip below), it looks absolutely insane. You've created surrogates of human being [to the point] that you don't have to leave the house -- your surrogate goes out and hangs out with your friends. It's bizarre.
MC: So in your comic, what's your take on this quest for artifical love, as well as this type of detached world?
PW: It's questioning it, ... It's like taking some of L.A., but it kind of ends up being totally energy-[dependent] on the sun, But the rich have ended up blocking out the sun [for their purposes] and creating insane levels of povery. That technology throws this world into this chaotic thing. And this man who controls all that is this toymaker. His quest is: Can he design this robot so that it would fall in love with hom. [The comic] questions the moral ambiguity of that: If there's a being that's sentient -- that can feel emotion or pain-- is that a person or a slave if they work for you. It brings up these questions that people have asked for a long time.
MC: Do you mean this, too, as a commentary on how things are currently -- how we live now?
PW: Definitely. What is the cost of this reality. It's bizarre to have both a super-connected and disconnected world. Like you can use Twitter in the most narcissistic way. Do people really need to know that I'm drinking a latte right now. It's so indulgent.
MC: Speaking of technology, you said this want this comic to live in multiple platforms. What have you learned from the music world that applies to this technologically?
PW: Music got hit first with [digital change] and we, as an industry, approached it totally the wrong way. The MP3 was the first to sweep across the Internet. instead of trying to embrace that, we treated it like it was something we had to kill or have lawyers take down. Beyond that, we completely got outpaced by peer-to-peer downloading. ... The industry should have embraced that. So that's why we're going to give some things away for free, but you're going to have to earn them.
Viral campaigns are part of the art. You might not have to pay money, but you'll feel more a sense of ownership if you have to earn it. Look: I download music illegally, if I relay want it. But I always then buy the record -- I support ART. I think embracing [as a creator] helps if you're still able to deliver it on your terms. People are leaking records, but it's not really about the money -- it's that you have a certain way you want to present your art. Otherwise, it's like your kids opening all their presents before Christmas.
To contact Michael Cavna, e-mail: ComicRiffs@washpost.com
| September 23, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
Categories: Interviews With Cartoonists, The Comic Book
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