Annie Wu is a powerhouse. From her iconic run illustrating DC Comics‘ Black Canary through her stint on Matt Fraction’s beloved Hawkeye run, as well as issues of Archie and Batman Beyond, Wu is one of the most exciting creators in comics. But since Black Canary, comics fans have been wondering what she’s up to next. We learned the answer at Image Expo today when she announced her first ever creator-owned book Dead Guy Fan Club. She’ll write and illustrate the comic. It’s about “the founders of a rock star’s fan club [who] reunite in adulthood to investigate the suspicious death of their hero and the involvement of an unhinged member of their old flock.” To celebrate the announcement, I chatted with Wu about Dead Guy Fan Club, her journey moving from Big Two to creator-owned comics, and the experience of creating a book on her own for the very first time.
Dead Guy Fan Club looks to be an exhilarating murder mystery ride into the world of rock ‘n’ roll. “What hooked me was the concept of fandom. In this story’s earliest iteration, the celebrity was a Broadway actor, and I only settled on him being a musician after Bowie and Prince died. I started thinking a lot about what people seek in an idol, especially through adolescence and, from there, the types of fans I encountered online when I was young,” Wu explained. “It’s a neo-noir black comedy, my personal take on a crime/mystery book. At its core, it’s about what we take from others to make sense of our own lives. In terms of tone, ‘Hitchcock meets It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘ isn’t too far off…I want utterly ridiculous writing to be delivered by the most grounded, thoughtful artwork I can manage.”
Wu, a fan of classic noir, pulled in some recognizable genre archetypes to help build the universe of Dead Guy Fan Club. “I couldn’t resist some pulp tropes along the way so, naturally, our main cast is led by a self-destructive private investigator. In her teens, she excelled at digging into celebrities’ personal lives and launched a fansite for her favorite rock star (in present day, the titular ‘dead guy’). Our ‘wild card’ is a musician who molded a great deal of her life to follow the trajectory of this rock star in hopes of being a new him, but things aren’t going so hot. Our mysterious femme fatale type detailed her hardcore fangirl crush on the singer in the early days of the site, and even in adulthood she never managed to shake the feeling that he might be The One,” Wu told us.
The burgeoning of the internet played a huge influence on the story too. “There’s this weird little window of social media history, right after most families had internet access but before everything boiled down to a few huge platforms. In the early 2000s, it was a lot of hyper-specific message boards and chat rooms. Accessibility and boundaries were being felt out online–like, it was still sort of maybe not okay to use your full name? At the same time, it was easier than ever to reach out to almost anyone. It’s an unusual environment to have spent formative years, when you’re trying for the first time to find your tribe and anyone to look up to. I think many people around my age who went through their teens in that period were shaped by something unique, and I haven’t seen it explored in many stories.”Dead Guy Fan Club was a learning experience for Wu. “I was dealing with some mounting creative anxiety about my development as an artist or being a bad collaborator, and once it hit a fever pitch about a year ago, I decided to address all this and work on something that’d make me dig deep into the comics-making process. I want to truly understand first-hand how it all works, and in just a few months of working on this I already feel like I’m leveling up. Dropkicking myself out of my comfort zone feels daunting at times, so it’s nice to remember that no matter what happens I’m coming out of this a stronger, more considerate creator,” Wu said.
The transition away from the Big Two has been interesting, with less homework required. “Usually with a work-for-hire book, a huge chunk of time is spent reading old issues so I understand what’s at the core of a character. Even with a new take on a character, you have to figure out where they fit within this much larger, already established universe,” Wu explained. “The control of creating from scratch is really exciting because I can make sure that every detail–from words to visuals to how and when I’m releasing issues–supports the story I’m ultimately trying to tell. Also, I get to make my own deadlines so that’s pretty sweet.”
Wu’s passion is infectious and she can’t wait for fans to see the book. When I asked her what she’s most excited for fans to see she simply said, “Everything. Honestly. This is so unlike anything I’ve done. At times, I feel like I’m making a mixtape of feelings, so I guess I’m most excited for readers to go through that journey–I’m combining a lot of campy and bleak things. For people who are already familiar with my work, I’m very excited for them to see what happens when I lean into my weirder impulses.”
Dead Guy Fan Club will be out out in Fall 2018 from Image Comics.
Images: Image Comics
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