Talking With Doug Wagner And Daniel Hillyard About Their New Dark Humoured Slasher Series ‘Plush’

by Olly MacNamee

For those with a taste for their humour dark and gory, then Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard’s latest collaboration, Plush, is definitely for you. Especially if you enjoyed their previous dalliances with the darkside in both Plastic and Vinyl.  Plush #1 is out today in all good comic stores so what better time to catch up with both to quiz them on their new miniseries. 

Olly MacNamee: First we had Plastic, then there was Vinyl, and now Plush. With a title like that, anyone would think you’re both going soft in your old age. Say it ain’t so, guys. 

Doug Wagner: You make it sound like serial killers don’t like soft, cushiony things. I’d like to think they’d enjoy something that was a bit more pleasant to the touch. You know, like soft skin.

MacNamee: So, we get the familiar black humour and a splash of gore, with a promise of more to come. And at the heart of it all is Devin Fulcher. A guy who’s got a pretty shitty life to begin with. What can you tell us about him?

Wagner: Devin’s a good guy stuck in a horrible spot, exactly where Daniel and I want him. He’s lived this normal, basic existence all his life. He’s followed all the societal rules you’re supposed to – go to college, find someone to settle down with, respect your parents, don’t do anything to stand out, strive to fit in and be normal – yeah, we’re gonna crush that idea of happiness.

Daniel Hillyard: Absolutely. Devin has lived his whole life like he was following a script. And through the story, he learns that happiness for him isn’t found there. I think it’s something that everyone can relate to… aside from the cannibal serial killer parts.

MacNamee: A first-timer at a furries convention and it’s rather a memorable one for Devin. And, I suppose, the origins of this series’ horror. But why a furries convention rather than, say, a comic-con?

Wagner: That’s simple. There isn’t enough furries at a comic convention for my taste. I wanted lots of furries and wanted to torture Daniel by asking him to draw all the furries I could get out of him.

Hillyard: Ha! I knew it.

Wagner: I’ve been to both furry and comic conventions. Although there are a lot of similarities, they have different vibes. I wanted that furry vibe for this story.

MacNamee: Any firsthand research by either of you two go into this series? And just to be clear, I do mean a bit of dress up, rather than cannibalism.

Wagner: I’ve actually been to a couple furry cons and have a few friends that are part of that community. Although I’m not the dress up kinda person, I love attending and being a part. Much like comic book conventions, furry cons are one of the most accepting and safe environments I’ve ever been exposed to. The whole place is filled with people that accept everyone for who they are. No fursuit or a set of cat ears or a full-on fursuit, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome. Also, as you’ll find with most writers, we prefer to be observers. I’ll get to the airport early just so I can sit and watch people. We have previously established I’m weird, right?

Hillyard: I probably ate a rare burger once, does that count?

MacNamee: Sticking with the theme of furries and I’m intrigued with the designs for these suits. We meet three standout furries in this debut issue, so what thoughts went into the suits? Anything overtly symbolic going on, or just creepy?

Wagner: A ton of research and thought went into each character. We wanted to attempt to showcase the diversity of the furry community as much as we could in just a few choice fursuits, so many a discussion was had. Daniel and I did take symbolism into consideration, but that’s one of those things I don’t like to divulge. I prefer to let the reader decide what is symbolic to them and what it may stand for. And, yes, we always aim for creepy. I mean, it is a horror book, but we also wanted to infuse that creepy with cute, sexy, and a dose of strange.

Hillyard: Quite a few ideas ended up on the cutting room floor before we landed on the right feel for the characters. We did have one in the bag pretty early on and they kind of served as a design bible for the rest.

MacNamee: When reading this first issue, I felt a sense of claustrophobia on Devin’s part. It’s clear that he is cornered in on all sides. You really capture a sense of helplessness that shared with a good deal of Hitchcock’s output. Where does he turn from here when the whole world seems to be against him?

Wagner: Sweet! That’s exactly what I was hoping for. I wanted to put Devin in a situation that almost anyone could relate to. Where all seems lost and there’s no clear path out. To figure out where he goes from here, well… you gotta read the book.

Hillyard: No spoilers [laughs].

MacNamee: Should we be looking out for Easter eggs? Visceral connecting tissue that somehow hints as Plush, and before that Vinyl and Plastic, being part of a wider, sicker, shared universe? More in the style of Tarantino rather than Lucas, of course.

Wagner: Absolutely. We start off the furry con with Easter eggs for Vinyl and Plastic. We love speckling those in, but at the same time, we don’t want anyone to have to have read any of the “material” trilogy books in order to read any of the others. We want each one to be completely stand alone.

MacNamee: You two clearly enjoy your creative collaboration. By now, how does that affect scripting, artistic input and the outcome after so long together? Can, for instance, Doug still surprise you and vice versa?

Wagner: The biggest advantage to us working together for such a long time is we work so seamlessly together. We both know where each other’s hearts stand when we’re discussing things. We don’t worry about hurting each other’s feelings or stepping on toes. For years, we’ve shared the same philosophy when it comes to creating books – it’s all about delivering the best story the two of us can possibly deliver. No egos are involved when it comes to criticism. And as a side note, I’m still excited every time I see an email from Daniel that I know contains art. He always takes whatever I write down and makes it better.

Hillyard: I love reading a new piece of script or talking over ideas. I think we still surprise each other, but only in the best ways. There’s always this cool back and forth. Something that might seem like a throwaway detail to one of us could turn into an idea treasure trove for the other. As Doug said, there is no ego, and it is such a freeing way to work and such a nurturing friendship.

Plush #1 is out now from Image Comics, and if you do need more persuading why not read my review of the debut issue here?

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