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Inside Look: Labor Days Volume 2

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Out now in a trade collection from Oni Press is the second volume of Rick Lacy and Phil Gelatt's Labor Days. As the press release describes it:

The critically-acclaimed sleeper hit of 2008 returns. Sky Pirates, Fascists, MacGuffins and Dragons, twice as drunkerer and extra nudity! It's not just another day... it's Labor Days Volume 2: Just Another Damn Day.

Rick Lacy and Phil Gelatt gave Broken Frontier this exclusive creator's commentary on the book.

The Splash Page

               

Phil Gelatt: So this is the page where excitement begins. And also I always viewed this page, and that single line, as a metaphor for the book at large. Not only is that ship crashing, this whole book is crashing, falling off the path and into stranger territory.

Rick Lacy: Strange adventurous territory! Wrought with peril and comic intrigue! We both knew that going into Volume 2 we should have a splash page. Something grand and page shattering. The first volume, we noticed after all was said and done, never touched upon the splash page realm. So we figured, if we're going to do it, we might as well do it right. Crashing fantasy airship! From that point on we set the tone of the book. It's going to sample the weird and absurd, but without, we hope, flying so far off the rails of the story.

Page 30

Phil: I wanted to point this page out because I love the idea that Stryker has seen a crap rain before and all he's doing is acknowledging that fact. Like "Oh my god, I know what that is! It's-"

Rick: "A crap rain!" There I said it and it still cracks me up.

Page 37

Phil: So here's a fun little argument about what is cooler: riding bulls into battle or flying airships across the sky. One of the things I think we handled best in doing this book was the plethora of bizarre side characters, most of whom we only meet once or twice. My favorite character in the first volume is still Gunblade Gary, a character with only two lines. But to me, he's like the Boba Fett of Labor Days.

So the little argument that takes place on this page is a case where two of those lesser characters really get to come forward and argue about something that probably nobody has ever argued about before or will again.

Also, just for the record, we all know that airships are cooler than battle bulls.

Rick: I think airships are going to be cooler than "battle anything." When the first script came in for this chapter of Volume 2 we had a lengthy discussion, that spanned the breadth of a few months, on whether we should elongate the airship sequence. We were both falling in love with the freedom and pure adventure that this vessel offered us both creatively. Much the same way Victoria wished she were still flying aloft the fantasy ship. But we knew, in the end, that it wouldn't deliver us the proper plot outcome, so we had to wreck her and get on with the story. A sad, gloriously exciting day.

Page 53

Rick: Do you see those minions behind the gun totting doctor? Those are the Broken Hearts Cyclopses. They're a group of ragamuffin villains, sad-faced and dangerous. They're peppered throughout the series.

Phil: This page is the pulsing, ridiculous heart of the world of Labor Days. The book for me has always been about throwing together as many absurd elements as possible and seeing what churns up.

So when describing this page to Rick I was rather vague and basically just said "the Face of History conspiracy is going to be visualized here. Make it nice and crazy." And then wrote the voice-over elements of it.

Then Rick just went away and did it. And did it damn well, I might add. The only thing I remember specifically asking is "Can you be sure that you have Oliver North shaking hands with a man in a horse skull mask?" I leave it to you, dear reader, to interpret that as you will.

And yep. There it is.

Rick: That's Boris from volume one punching out FDR too, by the way.

Pages 60-61

               

Phil: Before I was a writer myself, I'd always read interviews with writers who would say things like "sometimes a character will just speak for himself and you just have to step aside and let it happen." And I always thought that was complete bull crap.

And then I started writing Rick Stryker and he said to me "Phil. buddy, listen. I have this thing inside me that I need to express." So I stepped aside and this speech about flaming knives and torn britches is what he had to say. In a book that is fairly full of speeches, monologues and silly opinions, this one is my absolute favorite.

And now here I am, saying the same thing: sometimes a character just has something they want to express and you just have to let them do it.

Rick: This was actually one of my most favorite scenes to draw. I normally enjoy drawing and composing a scene of a few men sitting about conspiring, scheming and generally having a lark over a few drinks in dim light. A similar scene is in chapter 3 of volume 1. With this one scene in particular I wanted Styker's speech to be center stage. So I kept the panel compositions simple and direct. The essence of Stryker is the legendary unseen man he claims to be. So there is no flashback/-forward of stalwart adventure-isms. There's just this one, over the top fellow with an itch to scratch.

Page 80

Phil: I don't remember if I wrote the knife to be a knife with breasts. I suspect that Rick and I came up with that idea after I had scripted this scene and it was just so perfect and tantalizingly immature that we had to use it.

Rick: Yeah, that's almost exactly how it happened. That's pretty much how a lot of this book happened. The dream sequences of volume 2 rapidly became weirder and full of nudity, so when the idea of this talking dagger of fate showed up I immediately went to "set of tits." I can't recall a set of hooters being put on a talking sword of belligerent fate anywhere. Can you? You can't. Now you can. In Labor Days.

Page 91

Phil: This is actually a page from the script and that is the exact panel description I gave to Rick.

This is a lot how Labor Days as a collaborative process works. Rick and I discuss story in broad strokes, I scurry away and do a script. Then he starts drawing it and comes back at me with ideas and it becomes a very productive back and forth. But also a bit like a game of chicken.

Rick: Who's gonna steer clear first! Turns out no one did. And we just collided head on, smashed and flipped over each others machine wrecks, e-bracked a street flaming U-turn and did it all over again. "OMGeezus." That's the exclamation of the book.

Pages 106-108

                      

Phil: As scripted this was a much larger fight scene. And it ended with the Face of History's air force swooping in and obliterating his foes (which is setup by Leon's mentioning of an air force). It was gonna be huge. Like Spartacus style epic.

But then the mathematical realities of drawing and time stepped in and we had to get a bit creative about how all this plays out.

Rick: I blame myself for the lack of Spartacunism in this scene. As Phil stated, the original script called for, in a dramatic one liner, "battle. Oh so much battle." But unfortunately the book was taking me far too much time to draw in the allotted schedule. We had already pushed the deadline back from SDCC 2009 to SPX and any further setbacks would result in releasing the second book more than a year after the first. Something we both knew we didn't want to do. Also, because, we both realized there wouldn't be a better place to release it other than SPX, where we both could attend. This scene really wanted to go on for a few pages. Incorporating all manner of mechanized military and outlining better the fate of our hero squad at the hands of the Face of History. When we realized we couldn't get it all done in the scheduled time we pitched around a few ideas to help alleviate the situation. Leave it blank pages as a gag for the reader to fill in? Finish the scene, but release the final chapter as a longer, self-contained issue? Pretend the book doesn't exist and return to regular life? Leave the planet? Fortunately I think we were able to compose the excitement in a few simple pages and hopefully the reader doesn't hate us for it.

Page 125

Phil: If you haven't seen ZARDOZ, then see it. It's the very soul of Labor Days. nay the entire world. And once you've seen it then you may return to this page and feel the Zardozian rage that Bags is experiencing here.

Rick: I still haven't seen it. Sue. Me.

P.S. Zardoz 4 life.

The Bio Page

Phil: It was always really important to me to fill this book with as much bizarre and off-kilter humor as possible. And traditional bio pages bore the crap out of me. I always want to turn to them and find out something really fascinating about the people who made the book and I rarely do.

So we decided to up the ante here and make our bio page into its own little fantasy-sci-fi-poetic mini-story. It might actually be my favorite page in the book, it feels self-contained to me and ripe with narrative possibility.

And it's also a warning: beware my withering hand.

Rick: The fate of the robot warriors rests now in the conquering words and steel of its two bravest and boldest heroes; the man of fire borne metal and the wizard of wither-hand, art of the foul skull magix. Feast upon their visage and weary be thee who so thrive on oil, glass and artificial ways.

Labor Days Volume 2: Just Another Damn Day is available now from Oni Press priced $11.95. And check out the Labor Days blogspot here.

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