The name Gary Phillips may be new to some of readers of Komplicated and it may not. In the City of Angels, Mr. Phillips is a familiar face and distinctive voice standing up for his community, but in darker places that Gary is much more familiar. Crime and criminals occupy much of his time, stealing and conning their ways onto the pages of his novels. That is not all Gary Phillips writes. He has brought the gray world of crime into the four color and occasionally black and white confines of comics. Titles such as Cowboys , Angeltown , Shot Callerz , and others bear his name and his stamp. He has written for Moonstone and for DC. His latest mini-series, The Rinse, comes to us from Boom! Studios. It debuts on Wednesday August 31st at the introductory price of $1.
We are lucky to have Gary Phillips stop by Komplicated for a "Lucky Number Seven" interview just in time for the release of his new book and ahead of his appearance on It’s Komplicated for an expanded interview.
Without further ado …
Komplicated: Let’s cut to the chase, you are here to talk about your new book from Boom! Studios, The Rinse. Could you please talk about the story and tell us what shaped the decision to start off the first issue at such a low price.
Gary Phillips: The Rinse is the other end of the caper story. What happens once you rip off all that filthy lucre? Money laundering according to law enforcement and those who study its impact, is a massive underground undertaking where billions are washed worldwide each year. The laundry man’s job is to reduce the bulk – for instance a million in 100 dollar bills weights 22 pounds – and more than anything hide the source of the illicit cash. Laundering isn’t something confined to dingy back rooms where hard looking guys stand around with AKs. In the old school stories the launderer was called a fence, the guy who wore a green eye shade on his balding head, who gave you so much on the dollar for the hot ice, the diamonds, you stole. Today, large financial institutions are routinely fined for suspected money laundering, for doing the rinse. The cost of the levy they pay is nothing to what they’ve made on such transactions so that’s just the cost of doing business.
As to a buck for the first book, what's not to like? Ha. It was a way to not only because of the books' subject matter, but get a little attention as the flood of all those rebooted DC 52s roll out.
GP: They’re not exactly knocking down my door with offers. I'm not going out of my way to be obscure or a cult figure, but as you know, comics is a complicated bit of business and given the vagaries of the marketplace, let alone that even well-received crime comics sell a lot less than super hero books, it’s hard sledding getting these types of books going. One problem is there’s not much overlap of prose readers who will migrate to a crime or mystery comic book even though that reader may be a fan of my novels or short stories.
K: How much of your background in what is referred to as South Central Los Angeles went into The Rinse or your other works?
GP: There’s not much of me in Jeff Sinclair, the money laundering anti-hero in The Rinse. He’s better lookin’, a champ with the ladies, more glib and handy in a knife fight. That said, my job is to imbue my characters, inside or outside of the law, with traits we can identify with. That no matter how maniacal Dr. Doom can become, there has to be something about him, a point of view, a mindset that while we acknowledge you wouldn’t want him as a next door neighbor – “How dare you trim my bushes, peasant!” – we can at least understand what drives him to do what he does. On a much calmer level, to me Sinclair embodies that rogue quality of a man who has decided to walk the path he does, but there are reasons and motivations for this and he hopes internally, as he’s chased and shot at while trying to rinse a cool $25 million, he doesn’t lose his bearings, doesn’t betray his own code.
GP: Oh yeah, I’d love to tackle some super hero material. Revive a totally obscure, forgotten character and tweak him or her for the modern era. That doesn’t mean make them all dark and brooding, I think there’s been way too much of that. And I say that as a cat who writes noir stories. Like I dig what Mark Waid is doing with Daredevil where he’s doing a blend that recognizes the character’s gloomy descent but also looks to capture the devil-may-care if you will feel of those early issues of the book like when Bill Everett and Wally Wood was rendering him.
GP: I’ve got a sweet retro 64-page one shot coming from Moonstone early next year called Danger-A-Go-Go. It features for the first and probably only time ever a team up of super zen spy Derek Flint, the curvy and brainy private eye Homey West, and Captain Action. I think readers will dig this story.
K: Just to wrap here and to get you ready for the broadcast version of The 3rd Degree, the folks at Komplicated have a feature called Who’d Win Wednesdays. With that in mind, who would win Nate Hollis or Slam Bradley?
GP: Ha. Battle of the Private Eyes, eh? Well, experience in fisticuffs should never be discounted and Slam is stockier than Nate. But unless Slam knocks Nate out on the first or second punch, you gotta figure Nate has the edge given he’s younger.
K: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us. Looking forward to having you on the It’s Komplicated broadcast soon.
GP: My pleasure and looking forward to it.
[Previously: Comics: The Rinse #1 Debuts For Only $1 This September]