For those unfamiliar, Long Road to Liquor City is written by Macon Blair (I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore) and drawn by Joe Flood (Science Comics) and tells the story about two hobos named Jed and Thanny as they search out the mythical Liquor City. On their journey, they make an enemy out of sergeant Ronan O'Feathers, and then this crazy adventure kicks into overdrive.
ComicBook.com had the chance to chat with Blair and Flood about the book, including what inspired the idea and the book's delightful leads.
"The project started as a screenplay I was working on but it soon became clear that the combination of expense (a period piece adventure) and sensibility (R-rated and darkly humorous) would render it unfilmable," Blair said. "So I reached out to Joe, with whom I'd just collaborated on Hellcity, and we decided to tackle it as a comic."
As for the characters themselves, Flood explains they weren't just based on people he used to know.
"Visually, Thanny is based off of a fellow comic artist I knew from college. He had a NYC gutter punk, street kid look, but he was one of the kindest people I've ever met," Flood said. "Jed is a mash-up of Flip from little Nemo and myself in 10 years."
"Hahaha, I never realized that Jed is Future Joe. I see it now," Blair added.
Hit the next slide to find out more about the characters, the consequences of their actions, and this delightful world, and you can check out the official description below.
"From filmmaker Macon Blair (Blue Ruin, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore) and artist Joe Flood (Science Comics) comes a Great Depression-era adventure comedy about friendship, the open road, and the pursuit of happiness. As jaunty hobos Jed and Thanny crisscross the country in search of the fabled Liquor City, they are pursued relentlessly by the fearsome railyard bull Sgt. Ronan O'Feathers, who wrongly blames the boys for his wife's death. Fleeing O'Feathers and his posse, they encounter a succession of colorful characters along the way. Some are underdogs, fellow misfits the boys end up doing right by, even if only by accident. Some are greedy and cruel, bullies that the boys make a headache for because they don't appreciate being pushed around or anyone who's doing the pushing. The only constant is the absurdity and mayhem they leave in their wake."
As we see early on, Jed and Thanny make an enemy out of Sarge after a theft gone wrong, Thing is, they do sort of bring his pursuit on themselves in a way, and they can even understand some looking at him empathetically...at least at the beginning.
"Yes, hate is a strong emotion that blocks out rational thought," Flood said. "Not everyone is capable of the level of violence Sarge engages in, but we've all held onto grudges for far longer than we should have."
"For sure, I think I had Javert from Les Mis or McGee on The Hulk TV show in my head when thinking about Sarge, these relentless pursuers," Blair said. "On one hand they're just doing their job, but on the other hand, they take it too far. Relax, guys."prevnext
Creating A World
Despite some tense moments throughout, the visuals help give things a more lighthearted feel, and Flood's style does morph a bit over the course of the book.
"My initial concept was for a very loose and relaxed look, inspired by French comic artist like Baru and Tardi," Flood said. "Although the first couple pages feel stiff, I attribute this to my lack of experience. Over the course of making the book (about 6 to 7 years) my ability caught up with my ambitions and the later pages are closer to what I envisioned in my head."
"That's one on the benefits of producing the artwork over a long period of time! The visual vibe can evolve just as Jed and Thanny evolve. To me, it all feels very organic," Blair said.prevnext
The Relationship Is The Star
The main premise behind the adventure is to get to the fabled Liquor City, but the star of the show is clearly the relationship between Jed and Thanny, which became clear to Blair as she was writing the story.
"When I started writing this, I was pretty focused on the adventure aspect of the story, their "quest" to locate this mythical wonder," Blair said. "But the more time I spent with it, the more I started to feel like the quest needed to be secondary to their relationship, their romance, and so my goal became keeping that as the main dramatic engine. Because it's so episodic in nature, I suppose the challenge was threading the development of that relationship across all these disconnected "mayhems," but because I love the guys so much, and I love Joe's depiction of these guys so much, the challenge itself was rewarding."prevnext
The Hobo X-Men
One of the most pleasant surprises in Long Road to Liquor City is the Hamburger King and his hilarious court, who end up playing a big part in Jed and Thanny's adventure, a group that also includes a very very threatening rooster named the Red Sorrow.
JF: When hearing the name "Hamburger King" I instantly thought of E.C. Segar's Popeye and his gang from Thimble Theater," Flood said. "Even though his style would clash with my own, I wanted each character to be unique and exaggerated in their own way. Instantly recognizable, even in silhouette (a design concept especially used by animators). Once these characters were designed, I applied this to almost every other character in the book."
As for the Red Sorrow, you can credit dinosaurs for his intimidating demeanor.
"The Red Sorrow was easy," Flood said. "Photo reference of terrifying looking roosters are in abundance. Also, being aware that dinosaurs and chickens are very closely related helped as well."
"Dinosaurs! Right! I forgot that Joe is an experienced dinosaur drawer. I think that prehistoric quality really comes through with the Red Sorrow," Blair said. "I wanted the book to have the quality of a fantasy adventure—rogue heroes confronting various vicious monsters along their journey. Most of the time, here, they were human monsters, but this was a fun opportunity to have an actual beast to battle."
"I kind of thought of The Hamburger King's Court as like our hobo version of the X-Men or something," Blair said. "All these outsiders with specific talents or wild powers who come together as a unit to defend themselves."prevnext
Mustard And Hobo Surgery
At one point Thanny gets an education in mustard, resulting in an endearing sequence that pretty much blows his mind, though not everyone on the team loved mustard.
"Macon came up with the original list, and once the panel was drawn I filled in the gaps," Flood said.
"I despise mustard," Blair said. "The taste, the texture, the smell, it makes me feel ill. Conversely, the idea that Thanny's one true weakness is mustard made me laugh. Not sure if that makes sense."
Jed has his own surreal moment, though is even more bonkers since it involves a giant pickle and what he terms Hobo surgery. So...what's with the pickle?
"My intention was to keep that scene as vague as possible," Flood said. "The looks of Thanny and the other bystanders should tell you that Jed is doing something otherworldly and somehow it involves a pickle."
"Are you a hobo? Are you a hobo surgeon?! No, you're not, so that's a trade secret that you can't know about! Go to hobo medical school if you wanna know all the good stuff," Blair said. (No, that's the old 'leave it up to the reader's imagination' thing. If we were to explain how it worked, it would never be as enjoyable as whatever you'd thought up for yourself. Just be content with the knowledge that if you get badly injured, Jed will take care of you. More or less.)"prevnext
Blind Faith And The Future
Jed is steadfast in his goal to find Liquor City and is the beacon of determination for Thanny when he doubts it exists at points throughout their adventure. At one point though his facade falters a bit, revealing the true reason behind his faith in the mythical place. So, is the message here more than you should have blind faith in something or that you shouldn't?
"The map shows you your innermost desire, how you wish the world was. Jed fails to realize this, to him the map is faith, believing that paradise is real and attainable, but only through following the map," Flood said. "Thanny learns that the world is cruel and harsh, but joy and paradise comes from accepting that and making the best of what you have at the moment. Thanny rejects the map and in turn Jed rejects Thanny. How they resolve this, I don't really want to give away the ending, so I'll just say, the story explores the idea of blind faith, but does attribute a positive or negative to it."
"Joe says it better than I ever could," Blair said. "I'll just add that there's a piece of friction there that comes from an older person's certainty in their lifelong faith coming into conflict with a younger person's questioning. I wouldn't say there is a message at all, as in 'this is the way the book suggests you feel about things,' it's more like we wanted Jed and Thanny to come at it from opposing sides and still figure out a way forward. It's like how when you try to explain something that you might not totally understand to a curious child and their repeated responses of "Why? Why? Why? Yes, but why?" can start to weaken your own understanding of the world?"
It's hard not to smile throughout Long Road to Liquor City, so will we get to return to this world again someday?
"I sure hope so," Flood said.0comments
"That's very kind of you to say, thank you! It's designed as a trilogy, so the hope is that we'll be able to follow Jed and Thanny's adventures in subsequent books," Blair said. "If you buy this one, it'll sure help that happen!"
The Long Road to Liquor City hits comic stores on January 28th!prev