Fear And Loathing Graphic Novel Interview With Troy Little
The iconic subculture novel Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson is released as a comic book from IDW Publishing in the fall. The assignment was given to Powerpuff Girls artist and Prince Edward Island resident Troy Little. IDW Publishing Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas debuted the book at San Diego Comic Con to great praise.
Geek Chic Elite caught up with Little via email after his appearance there. For the assignment we sent The Retro Reviewer, who took time out of his MLB15 The SHOW career to speak with Little about Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thomspon. The Retro Reviewer has a large HST collection comprised of original Rolling Stone issues and gladly stopped playing for an email exchange.
How high did you think your editor was when they pitched you penning this book? Tell us how you got involved in doing the iconic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
I was happily working away on “The Powerpuff Girls” comic for IDW then the publisher, Ted Adams, dropped me random email asking if I’d be interested in pitching for the book. Of course (I joke) I’m the obvious choice. I found out later that they actually cast a wide net looking for the right artist on the book, and I wasn’t even on the radar for a long time. Not sure who exactly dropped my name but I’m sure glad they did! When I think of all the other amazing artists that were offered a stab at this it boggles my mind that they chose me.
Given the book and movie popularity you risk a comic becoming cliche – how did you avoid that problem?
I guess just by being different from those other two. The original book itself is the thing to be experienced. Gilliam’s film took certain liberties but nailed the vibe for that medium. I’m somewhere in between the two, and hopefully the accessibility of the graphic novel will be the proverbial gateway drug that leads a new generation to the source material.
Ralph Steadman’s art is equally as amazeballs as Hunter S. Thompson’s words – did you have any fear or loathing following in such greatness?
Absolutely! I agonized over every aspect of trying to follow in the footsteps of giants; the fear of not measuring up is built in. Basically I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I’m not Steadman, nor should I ape his style and look like a cheap knock off, so I just ran with my own take on things. And Hunter’s words are what is in the book – I added nothing there. You don’t mess with his text, it can’t be improved.
Did Steadman’s art influence your own while working on this project? Did you look at any of his other work?
I LOVE Steadman, I’ve got a stack of his books within arms’ reach. Despite that, it was decided from the get go to avoid similarities as much as possible so I shied away from ink splatters and the sort of beautiful chaos he’s so renown for. I’m not sure his style would even translate into a full on narrative; he’s perfect at capturing the frenzy of the moment.
How did you retain the ’70s subculture vibe while giving it a fresh new approach? Especially in coloring, which appears to be more vivid.
I kept my source material the book itself and pulled a lot of images from that era for reference. It seemed natural to keep the colours vivid as a reflection of Vegas, the drug scene and the intensity of the action. I wanted to capture the manic energy of the story.
Did anyone threaten you or family members with violence from the HST estate if you colored outside the lines and deviated from the source material?
Not at all! The Thompson Estate actually accepted my pitch quickly and there’s been next to no notes on how I approached adapting the book. As I mentioned, every word in the book is Hunter’s – I merely brought a visual interpretation to it. I feel that the book can go two ways depending on how it’s illustrated – sardonically dark and gritty or a hyper-manic carnival ride. I opted for the latter, probably making it more accessible in some respects. Then again, I’m a bit burnt out on everything being so bleak in pop culture these days.
The only violence hurled my way has been from a small number of online fans that basically feel I’m trying to make a fast buck and pissing on their Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. I get where they’re coming from though, if I heard someone was making a graphic novel of this book I’d have my reservations as well!
Was there any fear Johnny Depp would arrive on Prince Edward Island via pirate ship and pistol whip you?
Should the good Captain arrive in my shores I’m sure I could ply him with rum and banter about Hunter for a good long while. Maybe go marlin fishing afterwards.
Both Depp (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and Bill Murray (Where the Buffalo Roam) admit to getting inside HST head to play their respective roles, did you try do this when creating the comic? If so how did it turn out?
With 3 kids and a tight deadline, I didn’t have the luxury of really getting into character the same way. I did immerse myself in everything Hunter, listening to 60’s music, watching documentaries, listening to the Gonzo Tapes, reading books by and about him. Hell, I commissioned a guy in New Zealand to make me a replica of his patchwork jacket and I made a model of the Red Shark for reference, but so far the trunk of my car only contains a baby stroller and not a suitcase full of mind-altering substance. (So far…)
HST was notorious for missing deadlines, did you miss deadlines for completing this project? Any late night frantic calls to the editor? Any lost connection to the internet?
No way! My father was military – If I inherited one thing from him it was Be On Time. I don’t miss deadlines. In fact the book was due July 1st(Canada Day), and that’s when I drew the last page. I co-opted the event as a Nation wide celebration of me hitting my deadline. Thanks Canada, I totally appreciated the fireworks!
What did you loathe most about taking on this book?
I guess I’ll always look at the book and think, “Damn it, I could have done better”! There’s no way to live up to my expectations on this project. That and I’ve been working 6-7 days a week, 12+ hours a day for months on end. Pretty much everything else in my life was put on hold. That much sitting on your ass in one place can drive you batty. But then again, that’s comics life for ya.