Steve Orlando is having a banner year. His first creator owned series “Undertow” just recently wrapped and is releasing it’s first trade today. He’s recently put together some of his earlier stories for a new iPad app called Farrago Comics, one about Russian Pop Culture sex gods, and another offering a culinary spin on The Cronicles of Narnia. Apart from that, Orlando is about to have a story featured in Vertigo’s new ambitious quarterly anthology “CMYK: Yellow.”
And we’ve got an exclusive first look for you here today. So catch this candid chat with one of the best dudes in comics. We talk a lot about inspiration and the sorts of stories Orlando always finds himself telling.
Bloody-Disgusting: How did you get approached to do Vertigo CMYK Anthology, and what was it like being part of yellow?
Steve Orlando: This isn’t the first time I did an anthology. My mystery in space book was comprised of four pitches, and they picked the strangest one. It was about centaurs going through puberty doing hallucinogenic drugs. They would engage in a gladiatorial battle where their human self would battle their horse self. This was to decide what type of person they are.
When CMYK came around, which is the most intimidating anthology they’ve ever done. The concept is super vague. Which is liberating, intimidating and ominous at the same time. You’re out to sea on how yellow inspires you. You can do anything. So my story involves cow urine. It’s based on a folktale that involves force feeding cows mango seeds they’d eventually be malnourished until they die. But before then they would pee this glorious mango pee and you would take that and dry it off and make yellow.
I thought that was super disgusting and totally strange. I sent the email, and they approved it. I guess that’s my career now, and what they expect from me. They were very excited about doing something even stranger and potentially more revolting than my horse people story. The crazy thing was that I spent more time on these eight pages than anything else I’ve ever written. We found an amazing artist with an incredible sense of style, and it’s really exciting.
Bloody-Disgusting: Are you planning on working with Vertigo any further?
SO: I would definitely like to. Vertigo is the Pixar of comics. You’re always working the whole team. They bounce things off of one another and there is all this talk of evil sorcerer editors in comics but working with Will and Greg is a dream. They keep your story driven, and without them I’d just fly off the handle. The door is always open, and nothing is ever too strange to talk about.
Bloody-Disgusting: Tell me about your recent partnership with a new iPad app Farrago Comics? People need to know more about Russian Pop Culture Sex Gods?
SO: The app will be making the transition to android, and iPhones. The two books on there are things I’m really proud of. The first Octobriana I wrote in 2008. I was fledging kid going to conventions. I was urged to write about Russia. I was writing my thesis on this man that was right out of Grant Morrison’s playbook. It was this character created by an underground society called the people’s progressive pornography. During the Soviet period it was illegal to show any female nudity, in any way but maternal. You couldn’t show a breast unless it had a suckling child. It was super restrictive. And so these people were making porn as a form of social outreach. They used this women character Octobriana to inspire people, and made material to pass around to educate and liberate using her likeness.
Turned out that the man who “created” her was completely full of shit. He stole this character from a Czech artist; he lifted and totally plagiarized this guy. But at the time the cat was out of the bag and the character became what he wanted anyway. He appears everywhere, his creation was more powerful than him.
My version of all this, is this post modern type of God, trekking across this weird version of Russia. She was exploring in a pulpy way the weird folklore of Russia. I connected her to other Russian folklore. She has an ongoing love affair with Anubis. Central and almost all horror literature is the connection of sex and death. Her perfect lover was an ancient God who was seen as an outsider as well. She’s an outsider because she’s a god made by pagan. She’s trying to find her place and earn her place during the book.
At the start of the book you have this man made God of sex trekking across Russia for a final showdown with in many ways her exact opposite. With incredible art by Chaz Truog, he was the best artist for the story. God love him, I even made him make a Grant Morrison sigil for the book, and he did it.
Farrago is the best format for the story because it’s free, and the ideals of Octobriana are all about sharing and receiving for free. Having it out there so people can consume it without giving anything back is the perfect ideological way I wanted to share this story.
Bloody-Disgusting: Tell me a little bit about “Kevin and the Kitchen Witch” on Farrago?
SO: It was the first thing I financed on my own and something that I did so I’d have something my parents and little cousins could read. In many ways it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. It’s an all ages book, it’s hard for me to removing swearing and breasts from my scripts that I did it.
This doll my mother used to leave in our kitchen to give her good luck and help prevent her from making mistakes inspires the story. It’s got really cool art by Heather Brekham and Olivia Pelays. It’s always a pleasure for me to sit down and read this. It’s basically Chronicles of Narnia in a kitchen. It’s about this little boy, Kevin who sneaks into his father’s kitchen the night before a restaurant is to open. He’s sucked into this fantasy world within the kitchen. The different parts of the professional kitchen become the geography of this world. So the actual part of the map and the landscape is based on where similar items would be located in the kitchen.
He’s got to locate the Kitchen Witch who’s the guardian of this world and the protector of their kitchen. He’s in this race against time, because someone has hired these gremlins to sabotage the restaurant opening.
It has crazy fantasy visuals and honest anime energy. It’s just fun. It’s really bright and will pop on the iPad. This is so unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
Bloody-Disgusting: What can you tell me about the new content in “Undertow Volume One: The Boatman’s Call?”
SO: The “Undertow” collection has a ton of new content. Well over an issue’s worth of new stuff. Much like the variants covers. There are new pinups from artist’s we’ve tracked down. There are also new stories. There is a story about the social relationships and social justice from Lela Del Duca from “Shutter” and drawn by Toni Grigori it explores polyamory in Atlantis.
My reach out for “Undertow” backup stories was much like the reach out for CMYK. I just wanted to see stories in my world, where everything is fair game. We used this strange weird people to talk about things that are going on with us.
Then we have a story from Blair Butler who’s working with a mutual friend TJ Kirsch for a really fun adventure on land, an early explorer who maybe didn’t make it back. We have a two page story with Kingu’s past from Yaroslav who did our stinger scene at the end of the series.
A lot of the backing material is great because it’s not super narrative driven. It’s beautiful touches or elaborations on themes from the miniseries. They are not things that I directed, but just things that people wanted to explore.
Having people write in a world I created was really weird, but it was the most surreal experience about this. When you create comics you sit in your house, you don’t really see other people who make them. The fact that real people have read the book and have opinions about it is still really strange.
Bloody-Disgusting: What’s next for “Undertow?”
SO: There is a plan. But there is nothing to announce yet. Artyom and I have sat down to discuss where we want to go. We’ll definitely have more coming out, but we might take a break, or we might get right into it. But, we’ll definitely be back. It’s all about keeping it fresh, and keeping it interesting.
At this point the conversation devolves into a talk about Bucky o’ Hare action figures, and the Toxic Crusaders cartoon. Seriously a fucking Troma character known for killing a man by shoving his head into a milkshake machine became a environmental hero. Here, what the hell, check it out. This is for you, Steve.