Time Share: A Dirty-Joking Time Travel Adventure Worth Reading
What’s that? Oh, its me! In mid-february, yours truly (on the right) guested on Allison Pregler’s entertainment review channel. Just take two gals, one huge mutual investment in Quantum Leap, and throw it all in a bowl with Quantum Creep, a “fun” comic from Parody Press and the early ’90s. What do you get? A diverting twenty-seven minutes. Oh boy! Please, do enjoy.
Towards the end of this episode, I make a recommendation for Oni’s Time Share. Any reader after a comic that combines time travel trope juggling with edgy jokes for grown-ups might find what they’re after there, I suggest (and much better there than in Quantum Creep). And ain’t I a sweetheart? Here I am with more info on that for you as I talk to Patrick Keller, who conceived and wrote the script for this comic, and Dan McDaid, who took on full art duties. But first, some of the dick jokes that had me rolling. Last year’s Ghostbusters did a lot with the name “Mike,” but Time Share does it better.
Time Share is kind of a rascally book. It throws everything on your face and runs away laughing. Was there any moment, point, formal aspect, or concept that you worried an audience would or might have trouble with? Was there any point at which you thought, “Oh, I’ll lose them with this.”
Patrick Keller: Sure, there’s a lot of ‘em, maybe even the whole book itself. The story morphed so much from the initial pitch to the finished product that I ended up creating a lot of material that won’t see the light of day. So I tried to hint at all that and maybe give the reader the sense that each one of these characters could conceivably have their own story that we could follow, even if we don’t. Like, Bax’s mom, the agriculture secretary who becomes the leader of the resistance against the robots. Or Uncle Jacques’ gig as a special effects guru for Parliament-Funkadelic in the ’70s. But it’s the finale that I really wonder if people can figure out. It was originally written chronologically, with Ollie’s big confrontation played straight through. But it just wasn’t working. So I cut that version up. The confrontation scene is still in there, but out of order. Some people won’t like that, I suspect. But here’s the thing: the plot specifics aren’t really the important thing there. What is important is what Ollie’s learning and how he’s changed, in my opinion. Well, that and I got Dan to draw a Cadillac rocket car for, like, fifteen pages.
Dan McDaid: Not really, no. I’m pretty confident in my storytelling ability–maybe even a little over-confident at times–so I don’t tend to worry about that too much. My main problems were the same problems all artists have: how to draw a horse, how to draw a house, how to draw a crowd of people that doesn’t just look like a load of bubbles attached to sticks. I think I tend to become bored quite easily, so having a constant stream of picaresque concepts is almost necessary to keep me engaged. And Time Share really delivers on that front, I think.
It does. It also delivers on a lot of time travel fiction visual jokes. From background characters to the designs and concepts of the main cast, how much of that was scripted, and how much was Dan making his own fun?
McDaid: A LOT of it was in the script, but there was also a ton of room there to add little Easter eggs and fun jokes and what have you in the background. And I would–a little cheekily, I now have to admit–go off script from time to time if I thought a scene needed a visual punch-up. The whole project had something of a “fast and loose” ethos, which left a lot of room for the artist to have some fun.
Keller: Dan’s being modest. He added a ton. The scenes in the “time traveler jail” and the post-apocalyptic future, for instance, have a lot of his gags in there. I’d make suggestions in the script, and he’d pick and choose which to use or add his own. But it was other places where he’d toss in something like the running gag about Teddy having a black bar over his robo-bits that really killed it.
Speaking of robo-bits, what really sold me on the book was “save my cock,” and the immediate flurry of supporting dick jokes. How did you (Patrick) walk the line of dirty-but-not-gross? Was there editorial input on how to stay ribald but appropriate, or do you have your own inbuilt gauge for what’s just far enough? Did your pitch have an age rating, or did you do it by ear?
Keller: As a preschooler, my siblings used to play this game with me where they’d coach me on some kinda dirty phrase I wasn’t supposed to know, and then wait for me to use it around Mom and watch the fireworks. Getting people to gasp and then laugh was like a sport around my house, but that gasp was the important thing. You have to go just far enough that it’s a little scandalous, but not so far that it’s not funny. So I pitched the book to Oni, and it had a lot of situational absurdities, but it wasn’t until I was writing that first script that I hit on the idea of giving the future’s savior a filthy pseudonym. I wrote that first volley of Mike Hawk jokes, stopped, and sent an email to my editor, Charlie. “Can I do this?” He bounced it off the rest of the Oni crew, and they said, yeah, go for it. I never really had an age attached to the pitch, I just knew the zone I was going for. I have to give a shout-out here to Judd Winick’s Adventures of Barry Ween, also published by Oni Press. Judd walked that ribald-but-not-dirty line like, well, like he’d grown up in my family. One of my favorite jokes from that book is when the title character rigs a Talking Elmo to curse in Italian. Vaffanculo!
Dan, you did the colours for this book, as well as the linework and etc., correct? Did you pull from the media being riffed on for inspiration? How did you decide on the punchy, vibrant result?
McDaid: I think it’s mostly the way I’m wired, to be honest. I like my comics to look poppy and fun and inviting, with a lot of bold colours and energy. So when I’m colouring, I like to bring some of that snap. I also felt that the book had a kind of “Magical Mystery Tour” vibe, a certain hallucinogenic energy, so it felt appropriate to go a little wild with the colour. But it’s partly down to the script, as well. For the Future War section, I switched it up to lots of browns and greys, a very muted palette. I like to see contrast on the pages, so you get a very strong sense of atmosphere.
Time Share is a comic that throws you right into the action. Think Marty in the rain at the end of Back to the Future 2 taken as your first taste of the McFly saga. Time Share doesn’t over-explain; it barely explains at all, and that’s exactly what I’m after in a genre-savvy work. I’m a modern woman, an entertainment critic, I know the heck out of time travel fiction. I’ve seen Terminators and flux capacitors, and (without even trying) doctors. I’ve read ages of Futures Past! I don’t need straightforward, step-by-step unfolding of chronomystery. Embracing the knotted chronology and not-explained-til-later throwaways of this particular tale is a natural and enjoyable step for me on life’s long journey of readin’ stories ’bout timelines. If you’re with me on this, if you too were a student with a couple of boxsets and wicked insomnia once upon a time, then Time Share might be something you’re looking for. It’s not perfect (there’s a bit about a robot prostitute I could have done without), but it’s structurally daring and delicious to look at. It’s not cruel; the killer future muscleman robot (original character, do not steal), whose injuries during an early action sequence reduce his cognition is a precious sweetheart, isn’t humiliated by the narrative or punished for being different. And man! I love that “my cock” joke.