Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fast Friends: An Interview w/ Dale Lazarov

Fast Friends is the latest, and perhaps most charming, graphic novel from veteran gay erotic comic author Dale Lazarov. This time he teams up with artist Michael Broderick in a 62 page romantic tale of disillusionment, desire, and finally meeting the right guy after almost giving up. We watch as two men, each looking to break away from a life filled with selfish, emotionally unavailable lovers, somehow find each other via a chance encounter, each fulfilling what was missing in the other's life. It's romantic. It's passionate. And, it gives the reader hope that Mr. Right is still out there somewhere.

Photo by Geo Romolo
Dale Lazarov is well known for his numerous erotic graphic novel series including Good Sports, Nightlife, Manly, Sticky, Bulldogs, and Greek Love. He has teamed with a cadre of amazing artists such as Steve MacIsaac, Bastian Jonsson, Yann Duminil, Amy Colburn, Dominic Cordoba, Chas Hunter, Si Arden, and more! 

Dale's previous books have received praise from his fellow writers such as Patrick Fillion, Christopher Bram, Samuel R. Delany. Award winning Huffington Post columnist Michael Rowe wrote about Dale's collaboration with Bastian Jonsson & Yann Duminil:
“NIGHTLIFE is a blistering, erotic tour-de-force. Part thermonuclear man-on-man erotica, part romance, the heat it packs is leavened with a measure of sweet nostalgia for a less dangerous time, one when sex for its own sake was an occasion for nothing but celebration.”
Even legendary horror writer Clive Barker has gotten has noticed Dale Lazarov's work, calling it, "Sexy, stylish, minimalist…an intense mixture of erotic realism and the freedom of comics storytelling...a pleasure to have in one hand."

Fast Friends is out now via digital, DRM-free PDF download. However, there will be a hardcover print edition out in 2015. Also in 2014, look for digital comics Everybody's Doin' It and Nightlife #3! You can keep up with Dale via his website or great blog Fuck Yeah Dale Lazarov!

Despite all the craziness surrounding the new release, Dale Lazarov was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview!

Q: I am completely blown away by your ability to convey thoughts and feelings without using dialog. How did you come to the decision to exclude dialog from your books?
Dale: The first time I wrote a gay erotic comic -- STICKY, at Steve MacIsaac's request -- I struggled with writing naturalistic dialogue while trying to write in genre since my instinct was, at its core, to mash-up gay erotic comics and slice-of-life, character-based comics. People in real life don't talk like gay smut so it wasn't working.

Steve suggested I try writing STICKY as a wordless comic like Tom of Finland's comics. Going for wordless comics narrative worked perfectly as I had both the knowledge and skill set to write them and it allowed me to fuse both the erotic and the character-based. I was inspired by Tom of Finland's comics, wordless comic strips like *Henry*, silent movies from the Golden Age of Cinema, and, especially, silent film gay porn film loops like the ones Colt and Zeus used to do, where the guys smiled and there was a relational/situational context, either stated or implied, before, during and after the sex.

Q: Did you secretly give the characters in Fast Friends names?
Dale: Yep! Here are the character descriptions from the script for FAST FRIENDS:

Cameron: Cameron is a man in the gray flannel suit. 34, 6'1, built like an AMG model, covered with a lovely layer of body hair. He has a strong jawline and square jaw. He would be in the Kirk Douglas manly-man mode if he weren't so pretty. His chestnut hair is receeding.

Freddie: Freddie is a beatnik. 26, 5'8, less muscular but more defined and sculptural than Cameron. His chest hair pattern is more concentrated on his chest and legs. His face is sort of heart-shaped, something that is accentuated by the widow's peak and pointy goatee with no moustache that he wears. His hair is sandy brown.

Bill: a gorgeous silver fox in his 40s, built like an American football linebacker.

Gus: the iconic beautiful sexually ambivalent beat poet type. 

I left Bill and Gus more generic since they don't appear all the way through the book; I left it for Michael Broderick to use his imagination in their illustration. And he did not disappoint when I saw his character designs.

Q: I love that in Fast Friends you take the time to show what happens to the protagonists’ emotionally immature former lovers. Do you feel that a large portion of the gay culture has given up on romantic love?
Dale: I'm glad you do. I thought that it would give the book an added layer of narrative texture and nuance if I/we hinted at where their former lovers would end up if the story had followed them instead.

Not romantic love per se; I think they've given up on romantic chance that surprises. I think that the internet and hook-up apps have severely curtained the kinds of fluid, unpredictable, interactive experiences that would make people more open to 1) being emotionally available and engaged on a human level *as* a consequence of their sexuality, and 2) to being emotionally available to people not narrowly-defined by predictable sexual- and class-based triggers and/or self-alienating social networks.

Q: What’s the least fulfilling sexual experience you have ever had?
Dale: A sex club in NYC in 1992. For good, bad or indifferent, my dick is connected to my tenderness and affect; my orgasm felt like a religious obligation.

Q: Your essay in captions “Comics Made Me Gay” shows that
you are a true student of the erotic comic art form. How important is it to know the history of a particular genre?
Dale: It adds value to the work to be an expert at what you're doing on an intellectual level. Ambition and/or drive and/or love and/or desire isn't enough to make a work that's worthwhile on multiple levels. Expertise, on the other hand, is essential to making something worth reading more than once since it requires a high level of craft and attention to detail.

I do bring more than gay comics expertise, though. Many, many years ago, a friend who worked at Vertigo told me they worked with writers who read more than comics since the broad knowledge base added something to the quality of the work. Certainly, all the research I made on gay pulp novels and romantic comics in preparation for writing FAST FRIENDS made its presence felt although its slice-of-life, character-based nature is still dominant.

Q: There is a great line towards the end of “Comics Made Me Gay” where someone describes your scripts as “fairy tale gay porn.” While I adore the comparison, I am not sure if he was commenting on the fantasy elements of your work or the romantic elements. What is your interpretation?
Dale: Thank you :) I think it's about the utopian nature of the work; I mean, the idea that sex leads to love or community isn't a sure thing in real life. It's an utopian ideal that's very much part of the old-school gay liberation movement which I appear to have taken to heart as a gay comics smut writer/editor/art director.

Q: I was reading that in recent years, a few publishers here and there have either asked you to censor certain works or declined to sell a title. Does it still shock you when publishers decide not to carry part of your catalog?
Dale: If people are upfront about their no-smut-no-how policy, I respect it. It's only shocking/disappointing/infuriating/depressing when it's a reversal of contract, previous practice, or a clear, specific bias against representations of gay sex. My joke is that "family-friendly" is not a real commitment for a comic book store or digital enterprise if, say, they carry BLACK KISS 2, an Image comic that was banned by Canada and the UK.

I suppose I'd be allowed in mainstream comics venues if I collaborated with Howard Chaykin, but he's not gay and I am not into sexual cruelty in smut.

Q: Who are some of the working artists you currently follow?
Dale: Oh, I don't know where to start. I will say that my latest comics crushes are, from the mainstream comics industry, *C.O.W.L*, published by Image Comics, and, from the gay comics smutsphere, *Manson*, published by Class Comics.

Q: Unicorns…or narwhals? Who would win in a fight?
Dale: Rock lobsters!

If you wish to download "Comics Made Me Gay" essay click the link. Warning: download starts automatically, so don't click if that will freak you out. DOWNLOAD HERE!

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