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Scissor Sisters' Scott Hoffman Upends the Apocalypse with 'Wag'

We chat with the artist about his dystopian comic and why we worry about the wrong things regarding The End.

Scott Hoffman Scissor Sisters Wag

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the comics industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Scott Hoffman about Wag. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.

 

The pandemic remains at the forefront of our imaginations, shaping how we create dystopian narratives. Scott Hoffman's new ComiXology series, Wag, presents an apocalypse similar to those we've seen before (you can't do one of these things without a few nods to Mad Max). However, the angle at which it approaches the end times is rather unique. What do we do when the technology goes away? Even scarier, what do we do when our medication disappears?


Inside the title character, there are voices. Who do they belong to? The question was always concerning, but when certain events rob Wag of his pills, the question becomes exceptionally stressful. The first three issues are currently available and focus on Wag's journey away from his home base, aided (?) by a new companion. Together, they face a world that would terrify us, highlighting the creature comforts we can't imagine living without.


We chat with Scott Hoffman about Wag's origins and how he came to focus on this particular narrative element. We also explore how his collaboration as a member of Scissor Sisters and his general relationship with music informs his comic book work. Art feeds art.

 

Scissor Sisters' Scott Hoffman on Wag, pills, and The End

Lisa: I love talking to creators who work in different mediums. I'm a musician, but I also do other stuff. And by musician, I mean I just sing. I just came from singing a funeral and I sing weddings and stuff.

Scott Hoffman: I heard about this. And you say "I just sing." I mean, that's as pure an art form as we can get, right?

Lisa: Thank you.

Scott Hoffman: I honor great singers.

Lisa: Thank you, but I find that discipline I received as a singer, I find myself applying to every area of my creativity. And I'm wondering, in your process, have you found things that works across mediums?


Scott Hoffman: Yes. I think I had a lot of good training, starting really with music. Although I was always dabbling in all kinds of things, but I think the biggest lesson I had to learn early on was the art of collaboration, which you're very hard pressed to find any artistic expression that doesn't involve some kind of collaboration. And even ones that we think don't involve as much collaboration have to involve collaboration in some way. So I think that letting go is something I learned really early on, that this isn't going to be something that is 100% pure you. Which is something that may be a bit frustrating, but also is freeing, if you look at it that way, is that there's always someone to blame maybe, is a good way to look at it.

But I say that somewhat facetiously, yes. No, I think a lot carries over, the collaboration. The idea that you can get really lost in the process, that you can get to these moments where you just don't believe you have what it takes or you have the vision to carry out what you want to do. And that's, I think, just a natural part of the process and your brain has ways of helping you climb out of those things every time.

Lisa: We've only gotten to read the first issue of Wag, but what already has me hooked was the way that you set up the pills and how your main character's life has been contained in this one specific place for many years and is very structured. And he also had access to something that he needed and we're going to see him over the course of the comic, I presume, be disconnecting from the thing that he's used to contain his mental illness. And I was wondering what the inspiration was to have that element in a dystopian type story.

Scott Hoffman: It was a very specific thought that led me to that and that was thinking about dystopia and post-apocalyptic features during the pandemic. And when I guess in those moments when things felt real or imminent or even just a possibility. I love the fantasy of post-apocalyptic fiction. I was thinking about a quote. Actually, I'm not going to be able to quote it. I'm going to be able to paraphrase it, but basically post-apocalyptic fiction is enjoyable because we are the survivors.


It wouldn't be fun if it was about everyone else enjoying or experiencing this future. Even when it's bleak, it's still us. We're the ones. We're the ones who survive it. So to me, the biggest fear that came up during that time and having friends that were dependent on insulin, friends that are dependent on certain medications, me even going through my mental ups and downs and saying, "What would happen if the pills were gone?"

And thinking about that simple reality in that moment - there was, I believe, an Adderall shortage that was for a psychiatrist friend of mine. He was saying it was completely deregulating his entire group of his patients. So to me, that was a really fascinating question and it's something I like the idea of these tropes, these post-apocalyptic tropes making certain assumptions. And then looking at the assumptions of those tropes and saying, "Maybe this isn't what we'd be focused on. Maybe there'd be other problems we haven't really thought about." And this is, to me, the fear.

Lisa: I have an anxiety disorder and sometimes it'll happen just because I eat a weird grape.

Scott Hoffman: Welcome to the club.

Lisa: Yeah, so I'll eat a weird grape and then all of the alarms in my body go off. Sometimes I go, "Maybe..."

Scott Hoffman: And then you're Googling grapes and death, right?

Lisa: Yes, 100%. And so sometimes I feel like in a dystopian situation, maybe it would be actually comforting because at least the alarms would ... Things aren't really terrible. It wasn't a grape this time or whatever the thing that is alarming me.


Wag is a fictional character. When you're creating his mental illness, are you going for something specific, like DSM specific, or are you going for something a little bit more abstract and also fictionalized?

Scott Hoffman: That's a great question, as well, because I guess I've dealt with my own partially self-diagnosed neuroses and all these things that I sort of fear about how things could break down or how your normal way of experiencing life can break down in certain moments, but I was thinking about two things specifically. One was an obsessive mind because that's something I'm very used to and used to talking about. I think comics have been a great way and creative endeavors in my life have been a great way to channel that obsessiveness in good ways, but what happens when you don't have the ability to channel those things? So I was thinking about OCD in particular, but I was also thinking about an article I read about the voices in our head. It was a New Yorker article from a little while back about how we see the voices in our head and it's not a given in culture to see those voices as our brain.

Before we understood how the brain worked, before we understood what the function of the brain even was or even the fact that it existed physically in our head, there have been different ideas about what that voice in our head was. And there was a time when people, going back to maybe even tribal cultures, there were times when people thought that that may have been another voice. That that was a voice not of you, but of someone else talking to you. There's been plenty of examples of religious and religious history of people believing that's the voice of God. And to me, those things mixed together, the idea of that voice in your head and then moving into technology, that it's constantly placing other voices in our head and the confusion that that might bring about.

So I don't know if that's a decent explanation of this sort of neurological take on this that I had. It was a bit of experience and a bit of just playing with this sort of fantasy of where we're going to end up when we actually have the ability to hear other people talking in our head or hear our phones in our heads and how we differentiate those things.

Lisa: What draws me to dystopian stories is that it strips us down to what actually makes us feel safe. I love the way that you describe that there is no internet anymore, the idea of the air now is quiet. And this idea of does having the internet actually make us safe? Does having a home base actually make us safe?

Brad: And the idea that the information that we had access to at one point was magical. What a gift that was.

Scott Hoffman: Exactly. Exactly. And also, that's going back to ... God, I want to say Arthur C. Clarke and now I'm blanking. I think it's Arthur C. Clarke's idea that sufficiently advanced technology will look and feel like magic.

Brad: Yeah, it's Arthur C. Clarke.

Scott Hoffman: Right. So the idea that I think a lot of my thinking around the time of writing that book was the idea of being uprooted in general. And so our dependence on that technology around us is something I was interested in thinking about what it would be like when that was gone. But all those creature comforts to me, the technology, the pills, the fast food, the easy access to friendships and connections, all those things. I say fast food. I don't know why I say fast food.

Brad: I know why.

Lisa: Yeah, we have been on and off our dependence on fast food.

Brad: Absolutely.

Scott Hoffman: Yeah, I know. It tastes good.

Brad: During lockdown when you suddenly didn't have access to a Big Mac in the way that you once did. I found myself coming out of lockdown really craving Big Macs.

Lisa: But there were things about the lockdown, and this is just weeding my garden because it was a terrible time for everyone, but there were parts about the lockdown that I loved. As a person who is an indoor cat, who I get to work from home and I get much more time to make a good meal or whatever.

Brad: And you got severed from the social anxieties that you often battle.

Lisa: Yeah, I have a lot of social anxiety and the idea of never going to a party again, I'm like, "Yes."

Scott Hoffman: I thrived. Absolutely. I think nerds in general thrived. We've been waiting for this. I said to my friends, "I've been training for this my whole life. I'm comfortable in this." But as a artist, I really said that COVID is or was a cultural psychedelic. It was something that allowed us to or forced us to look at everything we had and not take it for granted in a certain way. So there were certain creature comforts that I missed, but at the same time what I got to see was that I was prepared for a certain kind of isolation that maybe the other people around me weren't. And that was also kind of alarming, to see that the people that I had in my circle were actually really not coping through this. And I was thinking a lot about how they would cope as well. So yeah, it was a really interesting moment and I do think about comfort and familiarity. And that of course is what drives us as humans, is our creature comforts.

 

Wag is now available through ComiXology. To hear the rest of this conversation, join our Patreon.

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