To say that Brian Winkeler and Dave Curd have a casual interest in the world of double entendre would be the secular equivalent to claiming the Pope has a mild detestation for prophylactics. Featured in the upcoming third volume of Image’s Popgun, their comic, Bastard Road, invokes a disturbingly deviant nostalgia likely to entertain you silly even as you habitually check over your shoulder to make sure your mom can’t see what you’re reading.
We recently spoke with both Bastard Road creators, broaching subjects as wide-ranging as the validity of exploitation art to the indelibly dirty bond between father and son.
Interview by Daniel Crown
To begin with, talk to us a bit about what Bastard Road is all about. Who are these guys Bastard and Farel, and why are they so frighteningly debauched?
Brian Winkeler: Bastard Road is a post-apocalyptic buddy action comedy, featuring Bastard, a natural lady-killer and man-maimer and Farel, his reluctant companion who just wants a little peace and quiet and the occasional all-you-care-to-eat buffet. Bastard’s an amnesiac in search of answers to his identity, but he mostly just wants to punch dudes and have sweet sexytime with the ladies. When Bastard eventually discovers the truth of his origin, all will know why he is what he is.
Your strip is, to put it kindly, unrepentantly filthy. I ask this question as an admirer, but I have to know… are you guys artists or are you just talented perverts? Or are you arty perverts?
Winkeler: Bastard Road is our opportunity to channel our inner-middle schooler. I’m relied upon to be the guy who can make a sophomoric entendre out of anything, so we’ve created a world with outrageous characters who can experience adventures which allow us to, shall we say, “go nuts.” I think everyone’s got a certain level of perversion just under the surface and we both just choose to let ours hang out a bit more overtly than the norm, maybe.
Dave Curd: I am a sex animal caged in bone, fat, brawn and hair. Maybe a smarter answer to that question is that we’ve all got kinks, deviations and hang ups. My specific quirks have obviously informed the work, and hopefully give it a kind of honesty that people will respond to.
The first thing that strikes me about Bastard Road is that it can be viewed in one of two ways: either as a straightforward comedy/action strip or as a kitschy sort of commentary on exploitation art. Is it one or the other, or are these even mutually exclusive?
Winkeler: From a writing standpoint, I’m just doing my damndest to create something that’s an absolute blast to read. I want to give the readers big action with big laughs — we’re utilizing some traditional character tropes, but hopefully we’re succeeding in turning them on their heads to a certain extent. That said, none of this would exist without Dave’s unique vision — not just from a visual standpoint but from everything that exists in our “Bastardverse.” This is something that we created together but it only gained creative momentum when Dave threw a ton of insane character and story ideas at me and challenged me to get it all in my head and see what I could bring to it. Luckily, I did. I think the question about exploitation art is a really great one (and a perspective we haven’t been asked about before) and Dave will have to give you his ten cents on that angle.
Curd: I’m not really interested in commenting on, or creating a knowing wink towards exploitation art, but I’m strongly interested in creating work evolved from and honoring it. I don’t view early-to-mid 80’s Italian post-apocalypse movies (The New Barbarians, 1990: Bronx Warriors, 2020: Texas Gladiators) as so bad they’re good, you know? I don’t view them as guilty pleasures. They were fun, earnest stories that tickled my imagination, blew shit up and probably exposed me to inappropriate depictions of violence and sexuality at a young age. Most importantly, they gave me the sweet, sweet hope that I could survive Armageddon.
So yeah, Bastard Road is a straight-up buddy movie, but it’s also a love letter to every apocalypse exploitation film from my youth.
How did the idea for Bastard Road come about? Did one of you come up with the idea before you joined forces, or was this the result of already having decided to collaborate on something?
Winkeler: I work in advertising as a Creative Director. Dave and I became acquainted with one another about five years ago or so and worked on a couple of client projects together. We started discussing collaborating creatively on some potential properties for comics/animation and Dave had previously played around with some post-apocalyptic imagery. It felt like we could have some fun in that kind of “anything goes” setting, and Bastard Road was soon born. Dave came up with the title and I knew then we had something that was too big for us to not explore — I honestly feel like it almost willed itself into existence.
Dave, a big part of the charm (if that’s the right word it) of Bastard Road is intrinsically linked to the oddball, at times outré character designs. I was wondering how you settled on the basic aesthetics of the comic?
Curd: To start, I knew I wanted the characters to be simple and hopefully, iconic. Bold lines, clean silhouettes, quick reads, a limited pallet. But at the same time, to keep them interesting in comics form, beef them up a little from say, an animation level of detail. From there, it was a matter of drawing the things I’ve always been interested in drawing: Ass kickers, mutants, lizard people, and big-legged women. Oh, and lots of lots of wastelands!
I’m curious how you guys feel about having Bastard Road featured in a 500-page book? Popgun is a really fun read — but an extremely hefty one as well. Do you see this as a glorified pitch of sorts? Maybe a launching pad for a new series?
Winkeler: I’m crazy about Popgun and I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity to be a part of it. I think we were at an advantage by launching Bastard Road in the second volume — because we knew what kind of work ours would be surrounded by, we purposefully chose to maintain an animated look, and I wanted to structure the story so that it could be told in a really quick, fun way, with an easy, old school readability to it. I think that has helped both stories stand out amongst some really top notch, dynamic work. We do have a goal to produce a Bastard Road graphic novel — probably a mix of remastered work from Popgun alongside new stories and a ton of additional material (scripts, sketches, pinups, etc.). We’re planning to start talking to our editors about making that happen.
While reading Bastard Road, I couldn’t help but think how great the franchise would work as a short Adult Swim cartoon, or something else of that ilk. Do you have any plans for this in the future?
Winkeler: We’ve always envisioned an animated series as the ultimate environment for Bastard Road - shows like Futurama and The Venture Brothers are a huge influence on us. So, yeah, it’s something that we’ve always had in mind and, without saying too much, we’re seeing what opportunities exist for us.
Brian, I remember you mentioning you have a 6-year-old son. When he grows up, his reactions to Bastard Road will probably be limited to one of two scenarios. He’ll either think you’re the coolest dad of all time, or he’ll cringe in disgust at how many times his own father referenced “a giant black cock.” How would you have reacted if your father had published a short like Bastard Road?
Winkeler: As I think about it, I’m realizing how much my dad influenced my sense of humor and my sensibilities. I come from a traditional Catholic family, so I’ve got the whole guilt/shame complex built in, which helps foster the environment for my kind of humor. But I also grew up watching the classics with my (slightly) older brother and my dad: Young Frankenstein, Animal House, Airplane, Caddyshack, The Blues Brothers, Stripes, Vacation. Though all the boobs and F-bombs made for occasional discomfort, my dad was exposing me to stuff that directly led me to write what and how I write. It’ll be a long while before my sons get to read Bastard Road, but they’ll get the proper pop culture schooling in the meantime. Once they experience Blazing Saddles, they probably won’t think twice about their dad making “Huge Black Cock” jokes.
Thanks for your time guys. As we wrap things up, why don’t you give your best pitch for why people should buy Popgun and read Bastard Road?
Winkeler: Well, I think people should buy Popgun because the return-on-investment is huge. It’s $30 (something like $20 on Amazon.com), it’s really big — like, 500 pages big — and it’s a gorgeous, high-quality production. The guys who created Popgun have really picked an amazingly diverse talent pool and, as far as I’m concerned, even the stuff that doesn’t really click with me is still a fresh attempt at pushing the boundaries of the medium.
As far as people reading Bastard Road, it’s definitely not for everyone. But, if we’re successful in what we set out to do, and I think we are, those who get it are going to find something that’s big and funny and gleefully over-the-top in its outrageousness, while still fleshing out a new world — a “Bastardverse,” if you will — that doesn’t look or sound like anything else on the shelves. We’ve got a ton of great stories to tell and wild characters to tell ‘em with, and I think all who are game to jump in with us will have the ride of their lives.
Curd: Hundreds of pages of quality work from both new, and respected voices. For 30 bucks. And me and Brian really deliver the goods in the cock-joke department.