Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez Are Making Waves At Image Comics With Their Series STILLWATER

Exclusive Interview: Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez Are Making Waves At Image Comics With Their Series STILLWATER

Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez

Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez have been an unstoppable team with their work on Image Comic’s Stillwater. With Zdarsky’s clever dialogue and seasoned plot lines, and Perez’s exquisite line work and ability to unify the panels with his intricate artwork, they have put together a series that is sure to grab you and keep you invested until the end. In speaking with Zdarsky and Perez, there is an endgame to their story and they know when that is, although they will not reveal when that will be, we know that every twist and turn is leading up to a finale that is sure to send waves across the comic industry. We are witnessing a series that we will be talking about for years and will sit atop those acclaimed series from Image Comics such as East of West and Black Science. After the twist that was revealed in the final pages of issue #9 of Stillwater, I had the opportunity to speak to the minds behind the series and talk a bit about the series.

Thomas
I want to thank you, guys. Ramon. Glad to have you back. I mean, we had a great talk last time and chip. Big fan. You actually are the one that got me into comics, dude. Daredevil was the first comic I picked up.

Chip Zdarsky
Really? Oh, no, I’m so sorry.

Thomas
Yeah, you know, it’s nothing I can take back but here I am. But honestly, dude, it’s honestly been one of like, the coolest things I read it from Marvel. I always had this understanding that you had to go back to the very beginning and like, dig up people’s graves and take the comics out of their coffin and start from scratch, you know like Marvel comics created. And a friend of mine told me that that was not in fact the case. And we started with daredevils as a mutual read. And that’s when the podcast launched. And it’s been from there and I mean, honestly, dude, you’re awesome. Social media game on point. It’s fucking hilarious.

Chip Zdarsky
Thanks. I’ve been pulled back from social media quite drastically, lately, so I don’t know how much you’re gonna see me on there.

Thomas
It’s a scary game now, my friend. totally is, but Ramon, dude, I want to give you a quick shout-out, man. I’ve been reading Jane and holy s*%t man.

Ramón K Pérez Oh, thanks, man.

Thomas
The art is crazy. Like, I feel like I’m walking through an art gallery. Dude. I can’t wait. Yeah, I’ve been reading it on digital. So I honestly can’t wait to see it on print because I’m a print snob, so I always think it just looks better. Yeah, I’m super excited.

Ramón K Pérez But it’s a gorgeous book. Thank you.

Thomas
It is the way you just like make Jane stand out. And like the colors and all that good stuff. The linework is just man. It’s unreal. And I mean, that leads to Stillwater because honestly, you guys are like the Dream Team and I mean, it shows because you guys got nominated for like a crap ton of Eisners and definitely because of you guys. I mean you guys are honestly probably the best duo in comics right now.

Ramón K Pérez Wow.

Chip Zdarsky
Wow geez. Sounds like somebody needs to read more comics.

Thomas
I’ll fight anybody to an extent on that. Okay. I have my limits, but you know, it’s just honestly really gripping and it’s always endowed in this anxiety, which we talked about last time and you always want to know what’s to come. I go to Comic Hub, which is where I put in my pre-orders and I have to make sure that they’re not screwing me over and missing out on an issue because I mean it It’s insane, you just have to know what’s to come but we’re on the back end of the current arc.


When talking to Chip and Ramon about what fans can expect from Stillwater moving forward after the conclusion of issue #9 gave us a reveal that is going to change the game in the town of Stillwater:

Can you guys tell readers what they can expect moving forward?

Chip Zdarsky
It’s hard to say cuz I’m always out of step with what’s actually on the stand so I don’t know. I don’t know where the story is left off in readers’ minds.

Ramón K Pérez I think the current issue number nine is Yeah, with the baby on the cover. Yep.

Chip Zdarsky Oh, yeah, that’s the creepy one. Yeah, yeah. Ramon is so good at doing creepy babies. I mean, as to what’s coming up after that, God, I think it’s tough because like, you don’t want to reveal anything. There are so many cool twists about to happen where you drop anything in and you’re like, you’re gonna ruin the experience, right? Like all I can say is you find out where the true power in Stillwater lies going forward.

Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez

Thomas
Okay, I can dig that.

Chip Zdarsky
Yeah. Yeah, that’s about all I can say really, without spoiling things.

Thomas
Yeah, no, for sure. It’s definitely taken a turn that I didn’t expect when I first started reading it. I mean, I’m happy with it. I’m a big fan of children of the corn. So you throw in, yeah, scary kids in there, and you got me sold, and my wife is absolutely petrified of children possessed or not, I don’t know, I haven’t really clear that up.

Chip Zdarsky
That’s always been kind of the big, scary point of the story that we didn’t examine much early on, just because we knew it was going to be creepy as it kind of was being revealed. Like, if you’re a grown adult, and time stops for you like weird things are gonna happen. As a kid, the developmental stages of a kid, you’re a sociopath, you know, till you’re basically in your late teens. So the big question is, well, will the brain develop, like physically, to get them out of that point? Or are you going to have somebody or you have a bunch of kids that are going to be like, you know, 50-60 year old sociopaths trapped and kids bodies? You know, I think it is as united as a scene where it even talks about stuff like building the treehouse, and the fact that they can’t get stronger because the way muscles work because you have to damage a muscle for it to get to reform and get stronger, that’s just how it works when you’re working out. So weird little things like that, that kind of feed into the plot and the character stuff. I find it fascinating. We kind of knew from the beginning like the kids are going to be like, really the ultimate kind of creepy elements of the town.

Thomas
Right, Yeah, you know, it’s a scary thing to give that much knowledge to a sociopath, and that kind of answered one of the questions I had was just, you know, what the hell is wrong with these kids?

Chip Zdarsky
Yeah, I mean, beyond just the, like, the physical situation. There’s also just the idea that they’re, they’re trapped, like, out of everyone, they’re, they’re the worst off because they’re, they’re not allowed to grow to their full potential.

Ramón K Pérez
Also, just like, depending on when they got trapped in that body, or that status of the rage, or like, you know, that they’ll never see puberty than ever, like, which might be a good thing. Who knows? There’s so much growth that happens between the ages of nine and 19. You know, that, depending on where you’re stopped in that kind of tangent of your life, you can it can really mess you up. Do you know what I mean?

Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez

Chip Zdarsky
Yeah, imagine being in puberty during this, and like, your voice is cracking and your voice cracks forever. There’s all sorts of horrible things.

Ramón K Pérez Yeah. involved in like kids, you know, unable to move past that. It’s like this The Lost Boys, right?

Chip Zdarsky Yeah.

Ramón K Pérez There’s also that facet where because they’re trapped in kid’s bodies. They’re never taken seriously by the adults because there’s all these seeds. Like, it could be a 60-year-old, like you were saying in that in that body, but there’s still seeing the facade of the child.

Thomas
yeah, pretty much. All right. You know what? You guys turn me around? I think I think I like the kids again. But no, yeah. It’s funny. You mentioned the Lost Boys because when I saw that reveal, the first thing I thought of was Interview With the Vampire with Kiersten Dunst’s characters. Yeah. And that’s essentially what it was. I mean, she lost her mind being stuck as a child.

Chip Zdarsky
Those books, the Anne Rice novels were like a huge influence on me when I was younger. I fell pretty, pretty hard for that collection, and because it delved into the ideas of immortality and how it just wasn’t as cool as you know, be cracked up to be on the surface, so a lot of that is infused in Stillwater, like just the idea of exploring the concept of immortality, beyond just like, Oh, I live forever. Isn’t that cool?

Thomas
It’s not always so happy.

Ramón K Pérez
Also, you’re also trapped in a tiny town. You’re not even traveling the world like a really cool vampire. You’re just like, Okay, I’m in Podunk. Whatever. Yeah. It’s like no.

Chip Zdarsky
Yeah, it was important to kind of do this story within the small town because there’s such a feeling growing up in a small town of being literally trapped there. Not only are small towns like especially the one that you know, I lived in when I was a kid. They feel like they’re actually stopped in time, but also there’s an overwhelming feeling of being trapped there, so it made a lot of sense to kind of make this kind of town the setting for Stillwater.

Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez

Thomas
Yeah, it makes sense, and coming from a small town, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Honestly, I feel like everybody goes through that point in their life when they’re planning for their future and it’s always like, how the hell am I going to get out of here?

Chip Zdarsky
Yeah, there’s, there’s a feeling of being an outsider too, when you try and go into a small town, like, my family moved to a town called Cold Water, which was like a population of 1000 when I was in grade four and you know, my parents had a hard time, probably harder than the kids did. Just kind of like making friends and like, quickly discovering that everyone’s kind of up in your business, as if they don’t trust you. So yeah, like, again, there’s a lot of that in this as well, just amped up because of the situation.

Thomas
Almost treated like a Russian spy. It’s crazy. I can’t imagine going through that. I’m too emotional. What the hell is your problem? Why can’t we just hang out? But you know, let’s talk about where the story is going. I know, we can’t reveal much. I did read a reader’s comment, though, with their unhappiness of the direction of the plot. So as creators, Do you guys ever see comments like this from like, even reviewers or anything like that? Does it ever, sway you to reconsider where you’re taking your arc? Or do you guys have already have your plans, and you know, screw the rest.

Chip Zdarsky
I mean, it changes for me over the years, there’ll be periods of my career where I’ll be kind of invested in like, what the reaction is either from readers or from critics. The past few years, I’ve kind of gotten the exact opposite and stayed away from it. I don’t even read the letters in Stillwater, like, you know, every month our editors, okay, do you want to reply to some letters?

Chip Zdarsky It’s funny what, what always makes me think about reader comments and directions of stories is x men. Because I was a big X-Men fan during the Chris Claremont era, and readers were furious all the time. All the time. Like, first of all, they hated Wolverine for the first three years of his appearance, like just every letter, which is about how stupid the character is. And he doesn’t deserve to be on the team, but as you kind of went along, you saw Chris Claremont just take wild swings with that book. Like at one point, they were just like, all split up in Australia for like a year. Readers were really upset, but it was also the top-selling book because it was unexpected. It would take things in the direction that, they needed to find out what would happen next, and they’re being entertained, even if they were kind of upset that it wasn’t being presented the way they want it to and every reader wanted the same thing. They wanted all of their favorite characters happy together, living in that mansion again, that’s all we wanted.

So that’s where Chris Claremont puts them at the end, like when they launched X-Men run, which in one way, and immediately left. After two or three issues, I’m just like, Oh, this is isn’t interesting. Yeah. Like the happily ever after in comics, especially serialized comics is not an interesting place to be and I noticed that a lot was when I was working on Spider-Man, which was like, the readers would just be like, Oh, he needs to, like, mature and he needs to be, you know, not angry all the time, he needs to be cool, no longer make jokes and like, Oh, yeah, you’re talking about like, a person’s advancement through life, but you’re not talking about an interesting character. Like, every reader wants every character to become perfect at some point, but as soon as they’re perfect, they’re all just Captain America. What’s interesting about that? So yeah, so look, it’s a long way of me saying like, I don’t pay any attention. Like, you know, I’m always gonna be my own worst critic. Though I’m sure there are a lot of critics out there who will say otherwise and I want to make sure Ramon’s entertained if Ramon has problems with the direction like he’d be the only person I’d listen to on it because he’s actually creating the story with me and I just don’t take his calls.

Ramón K Pérez I keep trying. I keep calling

Chip Zdarsky and Ramón K Pérez

Thomas One day he’ll get to those voicemails. I get what you’re saying. And honestly, I 100% agree. Honestly, for creators, I think people not being happy would be the biggest compliment for me and that always takes me back to the final season of Game of Thrones. The fact that everybody was so upset. It shows that they were so invested that they came up with their own ending as to where they wanted this story to go put at the end of the day, you have a team putting their vision out, and you know, we as fans just have to absorb it. We either like it or we don’t. That’s why I went when I write reviews, I won’t say one negative thing. I think Ramon and I talked about this last time, you know, comics, and everything is almost like music, you know, it’s a matter of taste. There’s always something you can enjoy from anything. Even if it’s the worst book ever. There’s one good thing in there that you can enjoy whether it be the fact that you flip the last page.

Chip Zdarsky
Yeah, certain things or for certain readers, and not necessarily for other readers, and yeah, you know, having spent years doing the Marvel DC stuff, like, I can almost immediately tell you how long someone’s been reading comics for based on their comments of the work. Like, it’s because you can tell like, Oh, no, you’ve been reading this character for too long, so you know where you want the story to go in your head, and it’s true, like, especially with long-running characters, people do have their own ideas as to where things should go and what constitutes a proper story and they’re wrong. I mean, they can, if they wanted to do it, they can write the stories themselves and pat themselves on the back, but I guarantee they’re not gonna be very good.


For the full interview, visit our Youtube channel or enjoy it below! For more on Chip visit his website here and you can find everything on Ramon by visiting his website here.