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The World of Doll and Creature
by Will Allred (07/11/2002)

What do you get when you take one of the hottest inkers in comics, throw in a veteran Marvel artist with a penchant for drawing curvaceous females, mix with another industry veteran at home in comics, animation, or the Web, and top it off with a hot cover artist? You get treated to a little something called Doll and Creature, a 96-page one-shot black and white graphic novel. Scheduled for a mid-October release under the "Cult Classics" line at AiT/PLANETLAR, Doll and Creature will include pin-ups by Ted Naifeh, Chris Marrinan, and Rick Remender plus a back-up story penciled by up-and-comer Scott Cohn. All this is wrapped-up in a color cover by Dan Brereton.

Doll and Creature had its beginning in the fevered brains of current Avengers inker and creator of the Wizard favorite Captain Dingleberry Rick Remender and artist John Heebink, known for his renditions of curvaceous women such as 'The Bod' and Elvira. "Well the spark that set it off was moving into a studio space with Heebink. I loved his art and wanted to put his pencil to work on one of my stories," says Remender. "Weeks went by," he continues, "as I searched for an idea he'd be interested in doing."

"I came up with Doll and Creature during a bout of depression and insomnia. I've always really wanted to do a monster book. But it was very important to me to do one that was character driven with a real story. That night I thought up most of the world they live in. It was interesting to take some of the current trends in society and imagine them run amuck. I had been on a rant the prior evening at a party about how all the world's woes come down to religion or the ultra liberal. When I began writing, I based the world Doll and Creature live in on the premise that these two things had been left to flourish unabated. What if the war between the left wing and the right wing came to a conclusion with one side victorious? In the world of Doll and Creature it has and the ultra left has won. Once I had such an interesting playground, the story was easy," said Remender.

“Doll's physical attributes are what we consider today perfect,” continued Remender. “Her demeanor is cautious, intelligent, and nurturing. She is a stunning tall young woman with a heart of gold. Unfortunately for her, the world she grew up in has an entirely different opinion of constitutes physical and personal beauty. The population of Nether Providence has utter disdain for all things that were thought to have value in our times. Doll is woman misplaced. She has spent her entire life hated and despised for who she is-- a decent person. She feels as though she is trapped in a superficial and soulless world gone mad. During her first encounter with Gristle Doll looses her eyes. This incident forever bonds the two. Gristle’s sense of responsibility motivates him to supply her with the goggles she now wears in order to restore her sight. This is a huge sacrifice for Gristle as these goggle are the only tools he has at his disposal to spot the human Grey Matter addicts before they become full blown monsters. Gristle was created to be a secret police by a wealthy politician named Merlin Robson. An ex-general of the religious wars decades prior, Merlin is terrified of what the world has become. What he fought to make it. Monstrous drug addicts are coddled and cared for as if they are victims in this world. He pays a scientist to create, for him, a creature capable of cleaning these vermin off the streets. Gristle is that creature and is singular in this vision…nearly to the point of villainy. It is his encounter with Doll that begins to show him that his mission may not be ethical. He also feels alone in this world and pines for Doll.”

Once he had the story, it was time to bring in artist John Heebink to visualize the world of Doll and Creature. "Once I'd agreed to draw it," says Heebink, "we co-designed all the characters with a lot of back-and-forth, and there were many, many versions of the main characters before we settled on one for each. I kept urging Rick to make sure we had a strong plot," continues Heebink, "one that was complicated enough to intrigue people but not confound them. And I would balk at some of the more over-the-top horrifying moments, and Rick would persuade me they were okay, even necessary. He has such a limitless well of creativity, and this is really his first non-humor writing, so there was sometimes a problem with there being too many good ideas for one 96-page story, and he'd agree with me to hold some of them for future stories."

"So I was playing Story Editor to Rick, and he played Art Director to me, pointing out if something was kind of lame and talking out the script with me till I understood what he was seeing in his head while he was writing. He would act it out, like an animator "selling" a storyboard, like the animator he is, in fact. He really lived in the world of Doll and Creature in his head for weeks at a time. It was my job to visualize the reports he was bringing me out of there," says Heebink. And visualize it, he did. "A few fellow pros have said it's my best work ever, and with that and Rick's excitement about the art, I really feel at the top of my game," explains Heebink. "I've been drawing comics for over ten years, but I never had an attitude of 'I can't wait to see what comes out of my pencil today' before Doll and Creature. And on top of that, we had a story that, while it had a real plot, it still came out as a torrent of gripping visual moments. Monsters, weirdoes, gorgeous women--everything was fun to draw. Being so visually oriented, Rick doesn't ask you to do anything dull or impossible to show. The emotions in this story -- like loss, danger, anomie, estrangement, redemption-Rick made sure they were brought out visually. You certainly can't say that about every writer, or even most artist-writers," says Heebink.

With the story and art taken care of, all they needed was a publisher, which they found in Larry Young's AiT/PLANETLAR. "An easy decision since I'd drawn 'The Bod' with Larry Young and formed a working relationship with him," says Heebink. "Larry is really one of a kind. He's very attuned to the business, to opportunities that others miss. We didn't even shop it around, aside from showing it to Jim Valentino in its early stages. Larry was interested in it, his deal is good and his energy and smarts in getting stuff out there are really just unmatched, as far as I can see," explains Heebink. "Larry is the new 'it' publisher," adds Remender. "We looked elsewhere and realized no one is pushing things as well as AiT/PLANETLAR. Larry has the same spirit that Dark Horse had 15 years ago," explains Remender.

When asked why a reader should shell out his or her hard-earned cash, Heebink responds, "I don't think you're going to get an involving, cinematic experience like this reading another black-and-white comic--or most color ones. We made sure we were taking you to a world you haven't been to and one that confronts you, surprises you and gives you characters who struggle to be human while everyone around them is trading their humanity away. " Remender adds, "What he said."

Check out Rick Remender and John Heebink's work on the Web at...
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