AN INTERVIEW WITH TROY LITTLE
editor’s note: the final cover art for the graphic novel has not been determined as of press time. The book will be released in October at Comic Con in New York. It can be pre-ordered via Top Shelf Comix. You can get a sneak peek at Troy Little’s graphic novel here: ComicCon Preview
Interview by David Pratt
art copyright Troy Little
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson, is intimately associated with Ralph Steadman’s iconic images. In fact, over the years Hunter and Ralph engaged in an only half-joking dispute over what made the book the cultural milestone it became. Steadman opted for his own twisted ink-splattered illustrations, while Thompson dismissed these “filthy scribblings” as incidental to the brilliant groundbreaking text.
Of course, it was Thompson’s writing, the story he told and the way he told it, that wins that argument, but it is next to impossible to think of F&L without Steadman’s art accompanying it.
What then would possess anyone to attempt a graphic novel adaptation of Fear & Loathing? What batshit crazy bastard would risk a possible shitrain of derision from manic fans of HST should he fail?
We sat down with the artist, Troy Little, to find out what the fuck he was thinking when he accepted this gig and how he managed to pull off his interpretation of Thompson’s gonzo masterpiece.
Gonzo Today: Let’s start off with a little of your background.
Troy Little: I went to school for illustration, spent a decade working in animation and have been working away in the background on comics for around 15 years. I got into self-publishing in the late 90’s when I discovered Dave Sim’s Cerebus, and Jeff Smith’s Bone. I’m also a huge fan of Sam Kieth, Craig Thompson, Sergio Aragones… All over the board really, which I guess reflects in my work. My first book Chiaroscuro was a Noir, David Lynch type of story. I followed it up with Angora Napkin, a wacky rubber hose style cartoon series. I sort of try to adapt to a style that fits the feel of the book I’m working on.
GT: Why this particular subject? Were Hunter and/or Steadman influences or inspirations to you or your art?
TL: I’ve been a huge fan of both Hunter and Steadman for years, so it was a real trip to be working on this project. Fear & Loathing is one of my all time favorite books. I also loved the Gilliam film. Having the opportunity to add my own little spin on this classic was a fairly mind-blowing opportunity.
I was offered the chance to pitch some artwork and ideas for the book while I was working on The Powerpuff Girls comic for IDW, so you know – I’m the obvious choice. I was told IDW cast a wide net looking for just the right artist to take on the job, so in that I’m humbled to have been selected.
Ted Adams, the publisher at IDW is a longtime Hunter fan and it was his efforts to attain the rights that got us where we are. Ted’s been of the mind-set “Do it right, or don’t do it at all.” and he’s been working directly with me and my editor Denton Tipton to make sure we bring out the best adaptation we can. The Thompson Estate was quick to approve my pitch and we made sure to stay true to the spirit of the book from page one on.
TL: I’m not sure… Kind of a manic, cartoony approach? I wanted to capture the Gonzo energy of the text. Playing it too realistic would stiffen the action and too simplistic might “Mickey Mouse” and diminish the impact. I tried to walk a fine balance between the two.
I was told outright to avoid the Steadman approach, which I totally agree with. I’m not sure it would have worked, it’s too chaotic and also I’d look like a cheap knock off. I didn’t watch the movie for quite some time into the project for fear it would influence me. So basically I took the novel and worked from there, taking my own spin on things and hoping not to get drawn and quartered along the way.
GT: Is the incorporated text strictly from the book or did you take poetic license with it? And how did you decide which text to incorporate?
TL: Every word in the graphic novel is Hunter’s – that was made explicitly clear to me early on and I back that 100%. I may bring my visual interpretation but you can’t improve Hunter’s words. Even the narration text is based off the electric typewriter he used. Going through the book line by line, I snatched out the essential bits and only let slide a few asides that interrupted the flow of the graphic novel. I had a limited time to do the book. Originally I blocked it in at around 140 pages but it ended up closer to 166. I didn’t want to cut anything!
The final book runs 176 pages in total, and will be a hardcover from Top Shelf Publishing. It’s available online for pre-orders and will be in bookstores as well as comic shops everywhere this October. The book makes its debut at the New York Comic Con and I’ll be there to sign copies – I can’t wait, I’ve never been to New York before.
GT: Considering Hunter’s alleged hatred of cartoons, how do you think he would react to this visual interpretation of his work?
TL: I can kind of guess, but then again he wasn’t crazy about any interpretation of his work. Despite that, it’s been a movie and a stage play, so he might grumble and haunt me but hopefully he knows it was made with reverence. Hard to fault the guy, what with the Doonesbury strip basically playing him too close for his comfort. In “Breakfast with Hunter” he loses it when they [orignal director Alex Cox and screenwriter Tod Davies who were fired as a result] suggest animating him surfing during “The Wave Speech”, a section of the book that he points out to be one of his finest piece of writing and was too important to him to diminish in any way.
GT: Would you, or do you have any plans to adapt more of Hunter’s work in the future?
TL: Currently I’m still working on the final bits of the book’s cover and design with Top Shelf. In the future? Man, The Curse of Lono or Hells Angels would be cool, or even some short pieces and eventually collect them into a book. But then again, I just did the BIG ONE. Do I want to be known just as the guy who adapts Hunters’ books? As of this moment, I have a few ideas what I’d like to follow this book with but time will tell what comes of them and what opportunities this might bring.