They say it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. Well, in the game of comics, the players don’t get much better than the men and women who have contributed to (or will be contributing to) Strange Sports Stories, our new sci-fi sports anthology series.
Issue #1 was a slam due to the cutting edge work of writers and artists that included Gilbert Hernandez, Amy Chu, Lauren Beukes, Ivan Brandon and Tana Ford, as well as its adrenalized mix of stories which included tales about intergalactic prison dodgeball tournaments to the death, Lovecraftian hockey tournaments and much, much more. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, it’s a must read.
And the crazy thing is that the second issue may be even better. Featuring the work of Lee Loughridge, Nick Dragotta, Mark Finn, John Lucas, Tim Fish, Ronald Wimberly and Gabe Soria, it brings with it another unique set of unique stories, many of which cast a satiric eye on the current state of professional sports and athletes. Such as the first story, “Skate Cynic,” written by Loughridge and drawn by Dragotta. Here’s what they had to say about it…
So, what’s “Skate Cynic” about?
Nick Dragotta: The story is basically Lee. I've known him for more than twenty years and have witnessed him snatching donuts out of my hand and pulling tricks out of his ass on a skateboard that I never thought possible. All of which happens in this story.
Where did you get the idea?
Lee Loughridge: The story was based on kids I used to skateboard with growing up in New Jersey. Nick grew up there skating as well, so we really connected on this story. Skaters can sometimes be super competitive and often think they are the only one that is allowed to do a trick if they feel they brought it to the table first. We all think our ideas came from us first and the older we get, the more we feel this way. I wanted to make this kid spiral out of narcissistic control. This story parallels comic creators too. I want everyone who reads this to see a little bit of themselves in this story. Then I want them to take a deep breath and relax.
ND: I just drew it. Lee adhered to the first rule of writing. Write what you know.
What’s your favorite sport? Are you much of a fan?
LL: I still skate and surf, Nick raises babies and makes love to his food. The only sport I have ever really been into watching is boxing, not so much these days though.
ND: I love the NFL, but I'm starting to question my moral fiber.
How competitive are you in general?
ND: Lee forgets our greatest rivalry... foosball. We had a table in the studio and Lee was the reigning champ for years. He was really unbeatable and unbearable in his undefeated reign. We were constantly reminded who was number one. He posted a leader board on the studio wall with rankings, Lee first, me last. I wanted that number one spot. After a year of steady practice, my skills grew and I started to climb the ranks. I challenged the champ for his title—this was my time. I won the best three out of five. Glory and the title were mine. The best part was watching Lee rip the rankings board off the wall when in that #1 spot read Nick Dragotta!
LL: Nick and I used to be extremely competitive. We competed with one another in paper airplane throwing, whiffle ball, nerf basketball, yo-yoing, skateboarding, break dancing, running, really anything and everything. Now that I have low T my competitive nature has mellowed quite considerably. Thank god for Cialis.
A Sneak Peek at "Skate Cynic":
Loughridge and Dragotta’s skate story is in pretty stark contrast to the final story in issue #2, which is written by Gabe Soria and drawn by Ronald Wimberly. Called “Les Boules du Mal,” it’s a variation on the “duel with the devil” story…with a twist. What really sets it apart is that Soria and Wimberly have set it against a backdrop of a game very few people are familiar with in North America, the French game of pétanque, making the entire story that much more surreal.
We had a chance to speak with Soria about his devilishly fun contribution…
Tell us a bit about “Les Boules du Mal”…
“Les Boules du Mal” is a tale about the greatest match of pétanque ever played, which occurred in Marseille in 1931 between the two greatest pétanquistes to ever throw a boule: Emile Duchamp, charming rogue and barfly, and the Devil, who as it turns out is also a charming rogue and barfly. Of course! And let’s get this straight: we’re talking about pétanque and NOT bocce. Pétanque is infinitely superior and that’s just a fact.
Where did this idea come from?
Well, I was introduced to pétanque—one humanity’s finest inventions and one the most elegant and leisurely sports there is, yet one that requires intense devotion to be mastered—by my good friend St. John Frizell, who built a small piste in his backyard in Red Hook, Brooklyn, many years ago. He and I and our friends would spend HOURS playing, and one day it occurred to me, while I held a bottle of beer and cigarette in my left hand and threw a boule with my right, that this HAD be Satan’s preferred sporting pastime because it was SO beautifully lazy and because it seemed to reward those who liked to mix a little bit of debauchery with their competition.
That kernel of an idea stayed with me for years, and when I heard about the revival of Strange Sports Stories, I quickly wrote up a proposal for Will [Dennis]. When he gave it a thumbs-up, I had only one request: Ron had to draw it. Why? Because Ron Wimberly rules the wasteland. (I should note that St. John served as the inspiration for the Devil in the story and that he's the proprietor of Fort Defiance, a fantastic bar and restaurant in Red Hook that inspired the bar in Marseille.)
Are you a sports fan?
As a New Orleanian, I’m a diehard Saints fan. As a Los Angeles native, Fernandomania-era Dodgers and Showtime-era Lakers will forever be my choice for pro baseball and basketball. That said, I worship at the altar of minor league baseball. I believe that a game of catch with two mitts and a ball is a uniquely American form of zen meditation, and my oldest son Caleb and I go nuts whenever the World Cup rolls around. I also miss fencing, which I used to compete in during high school.
And finally, would you say you’re a competitive person?
Am I competitive? Well, when it comes to playing pétanque, I can be, although I enjoy the simple act of playing the game above all; it has a unique rhythm all its own, and right now I’m dreaming about playing a match in my backyard, tropical drink close at hand and some Django Reinhardt on the hi-fi. That said, I try to compete in the annual Bastille Day tournament on Smith Street in Brooklyn and my team and I try our hardest to win, even though we inevitably have to face a team of actual French people, at which point we know we’re doomed. C’est la vie!