Exclusive: Discussing The “Whole Damn Meal” Of ‘Death Drop: Drag Assassin’ With Writer David Hazan
by Tom Smithyman
Debuting in June, Death Drop: Drag Assassin is a new limited series that followed a hitman turned drag queen. The five-part noir series from Scout Comics is written by David Hazan of Nottingham fame. In an exclusive interview with Comicon.com, Hazan discusses the history of drag in comics and how we internalize homophobia.
Tom Smithyman: How did you come up with the idea of combining the noir and thriller genres with drag?
David Hazan: A lot of things coalesced at the same time. First, I was deep into watching Jessica Jones, which presents such a beautiful melding of the noir and superhero genres. Then, there was Shade/Darkveil, Marvel’s first mutant drag queen, who debuted in Sina Grace’s Iceman run (whom I felt was a missed opportunity) and my addiction to Steve Orlando’s Midnighter run. Add to that the retired-assassin-on-the-run-from-their-former-mentor trope, which is a perfect narrative device to deconstruct how we internalize homophobia, and you’ve got all the elements that add up to Death Drop: Drag Assassin.
Smithyman: Drag has become somewhat more mainstream thanks to pop culture and despite some politicians, but it doesn’t have a deep history in comic books, does it?
Hazan: I think that idea’s slightly deceptive. The contemporary conception of drag is a bit different from what it was, and then you have to consider the advent and intervention of the Comics Code Authority.
However, Jimmy Olsen has been going undercover as a drag queen since at least 1966’s Jimmy Olsen #95. Beyond that, there’s the aforementioned Sina Grace creation, and a rising tide of drag characters in the indie space. If you look at the likes of queer superhero comics pioneers like Joe Glass (of The Pride and Young Men in Love), or even the more recent Boulet Brothers Heavy Metal Halloween issue, drag queens have been more and more pervasive in comics as their mainstream popularity has increased from shows the likes of Dragula and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
But, at its core, how different is the idea of drag to the idea of a superhero, really? You take a person, you stick them in a sparkly, tight-fitting, outfit and BAM!…you have an alter-ego.
Smithyman: What approach do you take to writing a story like this? Is it a thriller that just happens to have some characters in drag or is it a drag story set in a noir world?
Hazan: I’m not sure I can untangle the two. Queer culture and drag is as intrinsic to the story as the genre and setting. It’s certainly a thriller, it’s certainly set in a noir world and it’s most definitely a drag story that also has some characters in drag. I think people will take away what they want to take away from it, but I’ve tried hard to really make the world breathe, layer the characters with relatability and depth, and respect and pay homage to the world of drag.
Smithyman: I can’t draw to save my life, but I would think that illustrating a drag queen without turning them into a caricature would be particularly challenging. Did your artist, Alex Moore, talk with you about the challenges, and if so, how did you get around them?
Hazan: Alex’s art is naturally very cartoony, but they have a penchant for drawing lantern-jawed ladies to begin with, so I just unleashed them. I was really careful to communicate tone in the scripts for this series so that Alex could contextualize the campiness of the drag. The dark themes really help to cut through the campiness and vice versa, which really creates an interesting interplay of art, writing, tone and themes.
Smithyman: What do you want readers to take away from this series? Is this about opening their eyes to a world they may not have experience with or just telling a great crime story?
Hazan: All of the above! I ultimately set out to write the kind of queer stories I wanted to read in comics, so if people are into drag, if people are into noir or superheroes or crime, there’s not just something in Death Drop for them…there’s a whole damn meal. No aspect of the book was an afterthought, or intended to be superficial, so I’m hoping it will meet readers at whatever angle they’re coming at it from.
Smithyman: Death Drop is one of several series you have out right now. Where do you find your inspiration, and what’s next?
Hazan: If I could unravel that, there’d be even more books out…but here’s the advice Alan Moore has for getting inspired that I keep coming back to (heavily paraphrased) – forget trying to ape the things you love – take the things you disliked, but see the seed of a great story in, and iterate from there.
Smithyman: From Heidi N Closet to Pandora Boxx, drag names are usually very creative. What would your drag name be?
Hazan: I only have so many puns in me, and I gotta keep them for the series! It’d be Death Drop if I could…you know…death drop (but I’m not that flexible)!
Smithyman: I think that’s something your readers would love to see, but I guess they’ll just have to wait! Thanks for taking the time to talk.