Few comic editors are associated with a particular aesthetic or level of quality. Shelly Bond, former vice president and executive editor at DC’s mature reader imprint, Vertigo, is a figure whose name resonates with discerning readers. Her work in that role helped shape a line of comics that defined a particular moment in the medium’s history: artistically bold, thematically daring and immensely readable. Announced earlier this month, Bond has returned to the medium as the head of a new imprint at IDW, Black Crown. Paste has an exclusive interview with Bond on the debut book in this new line, Kid Lobotomy, announced this afternoon at WonderCon. The series reunites Bond with writer Peter Milligan, with whom she previously worked on a host of Vertigo titles, and teams him with artist Tess Fowler. Paste chatted with Bond about the genesis of the project and how it fits into her larger plans at Black Crown.
IDW Description of Kid Lobotomy:
Kid, as he’s affectionately referred to, is the youngest descendent of a strange, overbearing hotelier. While he sports rock star good looks, Kid Lobotomy has more in common with Hannibal than Morrissey in his prime. Unsuspecting hotel guests who check in to “The Suites” are in danger of losing more than their luggage. Living up to his name, Kid has shed a few brain cells in his day, which naturally makes him qualified to perform a lobotomy or two. And why let those brain bits go to waste when he can use them to help—or unwittingly harm—his subjects? Ultimately, Kid hopes to restore some of his sanity. But can he survive the truth about his cursed lineage and face what runs rampant throughout the torturous hotel hallways? Simply put, you’ve never read anything like this.
Paste: Kid Lobotomy will be the first title on the Black Crown imprint. What qualities does it have that make it well-suited to begin a new line of comics?
Shelly Bond: It has it all. From the rush you get from saying the title to its unconventional premise and exuberant art, Kid Lobotomy sets the tone for every Black Crown comic that follows. Not unlike a band’s debut album, the first book in a new imprint is a statement of intent. It has to slap you in the face as it pulls every appendage. Kid Lobotomy is dark and demented, not unlike its writer, and captures the beauty and bleakness of our times. So in addition to the horror and headaches—there are cures for those in this book, I can assure you—there’s also black humor. I’m privileged to work in an industry that not only allows for escapist entertainment, but practically demands it. You’ll enjoy a bit of a break from everything that ails you, or the hell that is other people.
Kid Lobotomy Art by Tess Fowler
Paste: Your working relationship with Peter Milligan is now several decades long. How have you seen his work evolve over that time?
Bond: I guess it’s safe to call Milligan one of the original postmodern masters of comics. He was part of a British invasion of writers published stateside in the early ‘90s, who showed us young Americans a thing or two about the human condition. But Milligan was always a few brain cells apart from the rest. He would find wholly original ways to deconstruct and bend the medium to his sick, twisted, literary pleasures. We still don’t actually have any proof that he’s human. Or even alive for that matter, which is what makes Kid Lobotomy so intriguing.
Paste: Stylistically, Milligan is a writer who’s worked in a host of genres and styles. Where would you file this book in terms of his larger body of work?
Bond: In a cabinet labeled “Do Not Disturb” that’s carried by strong women in hazmat suits so it can be torched and tossed into the nearest body of water. Seriously though, Kid Lobotomy fits somewhere between the mad existential romp of Shade, the Changing Man and the horror of John Constantine’s last pint in the original Hellblazer. In other words, it’s classic Milligan, with the addition of a neon drillbit propane laser ray gun. For special occasions.
Kid Lobotomy Art by Tess Fowler
Paste: What are the qualities that impressed you about Tess Fowler’s art when you first saw it?
Bond: I discovered Tess’ work online a few years ago and found it instantly appealing. She manages to capture the lush, old-world inking style of some of the masters with her brushwork. And there’s no mistaking her modern flair. All her characters look like troublemakers.
Paste: Would you say that either is working outside of their artistic comfort zone for this book?
Bond: I wouldn’t say Tess is necessarily working outside her comfort zone; I’d say she’s doing the work of her career. She’s a fearless person by nature, and coupled with an enfant terrible like Milligan, even your expectations will have shocking expectations. As for Milligan, he never seems to be surrounded by enough creature comforts. And by this, I mean shapeshifters, personal demons and dubious acquaintances. In spite of this, he seems to be at the height of his craft.
Kid Lobotomy Art by Tess Fowler
Paste: In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, you mentioned that one of your goals for Black Crown was pairing veteran and emerging creators. With Kid Lobotomy, was that the case, or did Milligan and Fowler come to you as a team?
Bond: Tess was the first writer/artist I hired for Femme Magnifique, the Kickstarter Anthology that I’m editing and co-curating with Hi-Fi Colour Design that salutes powerful women in pop, politics, art and science. She impressed the hell out of me with her three-page story, so I knew I wanted to find her a monthly series. As for Milligan, it started as it usually does, with an impetuous decision. This one involved sending an email, on Valentine’s Day no less, with the ridiculous subject header, “HEY, LOBOTOMY!” I’m sure his wife was thrilled to be interrupted by this sort of madness over cheap roses and creme brûlée.
Paste: How has the book evolved since you began working with Milligan and Fowler?
Bond: Peter and Tess pretty much get on like a hotel on fire. In fact, they’re probably plotting my demise right now—how to bury my bones beneath the floorboards of The Suites… Little do they know how many room keys I’ve duplicated.
Paste: Based on the description, there seems to be more than a little Gothic horror in the DNA of Kid Lobotomy. What do you think the medium of comics brings to this sub-genre?
Kid Lobotomy is King Lear meets Kafka by way of Young Frankenstein. It’s a certifiable blend of levity, literary smarts and comics cool. And for the record, I’m not the only diva wearing the black crown in this establishment. I kid you not.