Who is Lazlo Cale is the question that was on my mind when writer and Lazlo co-creator Andrew Maxwell got in touch with an email. The old cliche goes that curiosity killed the cat but did you ever wonder how much that cat learned and experienced before dying? My curiosity was piqued after seeing the images he’d sent so I read — no, devoured — a preview he included. So now I know who Lazlo Cale is and you may want to know too especially if you like Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element and the like.
Gay League: Hello, Andrew! You’re a writer with several projects in your portfolio and a new comic curiously titled The Bawdy Tales of Lazlo Cale. Who is Lazlo, why might Lazlo appeal to queer people, and how did this story come about?
Andrew Maxwell: Lazlo is the charismatic protagonist of our gonzo sci-fi caper. As an ex-gigolo turned art dealer, he has been tasked by Paris’s most notorious gangster to retrieve his stolen painting. The city of Paris is currently residing in the middle of an interdimensional time portal, causing multiple time periods to coexist simultaneous. Dinosaurs, flying cars, and Vikings are not at all uncommon to see on a walk down the street.
In this world, sexuality and gender are more fluid and less of a topic than our current society. Lazlo himself is pansexual, and nobody bats an eye. However, this world is far from a utopia, and still deals with issues of class and race. Jealousy, greed, and violence, are just a few of the other themes that Lazlo encounters on his journey.
The idea itself came from a combination of things. At the time of the scripting I was watching a ton of French crime films like Breathless and Le Cercle Rouge to name a few, and reading my fair share of European sci-fi comics. The publisher Humanoids puts out a lot of great product, and I was eating it up. For a completely different project, I had also been researching Paris and Berlin in the 1920s-30s in the lead up to the war, and discovered the gay subcultures that existed there. I was blown away at how progressive things were, especially compared to the United States. All of those ideas kind of blended together, and created the perfect storm for me, and became Lazlo.
GL: Looking at your previous comics shows an eclectic sensibility. What elements have to grab your attention to make you curious about combining them in some fashion to tell a story?
AM: I’d have to say historical context is always a base for me. I’m a history nerd, and I’ve always been fascinated with various figures and movements. Every time I think I have a basic idea of a time period or event, I always find contradictions that make me rethink my initial thoughts. Whenever I’m researching one project, I usually came across a ton of other interesting new subjects, that shoot me down different paths than I had originally planned. My previous projects involved Prohibition, and anarchist secret agents at the turn of the century. I’m currently writing about an occult paranormal team during the birth of America. Heh, so there’s definitely a pattern there.
GL: The artist for Lazlo Cale is Goran Gligović. Before I read his bio I was struck by his European visual aesthetic. You’re in Long Beach and he lives in Serbia. Even though the Internet makes the world a smaller place how did you two find each other?
AM: I met Goran through social media. I started following him on Twitter and Instagram (which you should do the same). His art posts are fantastic! All his pieces have so much personality, and it was clear he had a great sense of humor. (He did a Judge Dredd/Judge Judy mash up recently. Perfect example of what I’m talking about). I thought he would be perfect, so I pitched him the project, and he was in. It turned out we had a ton of common interests, and he was such a breeze to work with, it only made it that much better. Although, I do remember one thing that caught me by surprise, was the art style he chose (and ended up in the book). He has so many different styles, I actually had another style in mind, until he came back with the character concepts. A complete 180 of what I pictured, but after seeing his take, I thought it was excellent. A match made in heaven. He took the script and really ramped it up to 11. There were certain panels where we were almost trying to top or outdo each other with more wild ideas. He also did a fantastic job of making the characters his own, adding things, molding them into his vision. Truly, I couldn’t be happier with how the final product turned out.
GL: Who are the other people involved on Lazlo?
AM: Oh man, we have a fantastic team. Bernardo Brice handled lettering duties on the book, and he did a phenomenal job. You may have seen his work recently in the Where We Live Anthology from Image, where he lettered multiple stories. Continuing with the ongoing global theme, he lives in Chile, and is an amazing writer as well. Knock on wood, a story we’re collaborating on isn’t too far away. Sonia Harris is the uber talented logo/cover designer. I have had the privilege to work with her on multiple projects, and she always does an incredible job. She’s designed logos for multiple Image titles, including co-writing her own book The Bounce with Joe Casey. Last but not least, is Adam Pruett. He works on the interior designs, prepress, and assists with editorial duties. Adam is the glue that holds everything together, and I literally couldn’t function without him.
GL: Hello, Goran! Your style is very energetic and expressive while having a minimalist quality as well that really drew my eye into the story. What was there about Andrew’s story and concept that caught your attention? Did you have as much fun drawing the story as you make the story feel?
Goran Gligović: Well, the first thing that attracted me to Lazlo was the fact that literally anything could come out of one those portals. Endless possibilities for drawing fun, bizarre things. I’d get bored pretty quickly if all I had to draw were cars and guys in suits and the hodge-podge nature of Lazlo’s Paris made me feel like the fun would never stop. The other thing was the villain. His design just immediately popped into my head the minute I learned who he was. He was probably my favorite character to draw in this book.
GL: If Lazlo Cale had a play list — an early 21st century one — what would be on it?
AM: Hmm, good question. I was definitely listening to the Velvet Underground and Nico album a lot when initially outlining this story. Nico, his best friend and bodyguard, got her name from pretty obvious origins. Lazlo’s last name comes from co-founding bandmember John Cale. But I’d definitely love to sit down and do a Spotify playlist for each character. Even though this story takes place technically in the “future”, the whole city is very nostalgic. If Lazlo had his own list it would definitely have some Bowie tracks, and Serge Gainsbourg is almost mandatory for this story/setting. Aerial Pink, Khalid, and Britney Spears would be the more “modern” choices. Heh, now I feel like I have to actually design a playlist!
GL: “Bawdy Tales” in the title is plural and your epilog hints at possibilities with one of the principal characters. Do you have plans for more Lazlo stories?
AM: I really hope so! The goal is to do two more oversized issues like this one, and collect them in a trade. Each one will sort of be their own adventure, but have a running thread throughout, to form the overall arc. The next issue will explore another cast member, while also building on Lazlo. Plus the world we set up is the ultimate sandbox to play in. In a world where any time period is at your fingertips, imagine the possibilities. Picture restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, in completely different eras. Anyone could step out of those interdimensional portals. For good or bad…
GL: Will you be at Comic Con or other cons later this year?
AM: Unfortunately, I won’t be at Comic Con this year. I’ve been in the past, but never as an exhibitor. I’m hoping to change that in the future. However, I am planning to be at L.A. Comic Con, Long Beach Comic Con, and fingers crossed Wondercon. Possibly a few others, but that’s what we have planned so far.
GL: On a closing note, what made you decide to take a chance writing comics and what encouraging words would you have to tell someone else who’s thinking about doing the same?
AM: I love the medium. There’s things you can do in comics that you can’t do anywhere else. For someone starting out, I would say just make comics. I know that’s the most basic boring answer, but it’s so true. I have learned so much in the past few years, and I’m still learning all the time. What to do and what not to do. Some mistakes being more expensive than others, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The indie comics community is one of the definite bonuses. The kindness and support I’ve been given from other creators, at all levels, has been beyond amazing. I feel very privileged to be a part of it.
Thank you, Andrew and Goran!
You can follow Goran @EveryGogi on Twitter and Instagram
and Andrew @IhateMaxwell on Twitter and Grenade Fight
You may have guessed that The Bawdy Tales of Lazlo Cale is a crowdfund project. Here’s the Kickstarter video! Please click over if you’re intrigued. Bonus for US backers with no extra charges for shipping!
Art by Goran Gligović.