Home Sick Pilots
Writer: Dan Watters
Art: Casper Wijngaard
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Design: Tom Muller
Publisher: Image Comics
Comic of the year 2020 goes to Home Sick Pilots
Home Sick Pilots quickly snuck in and cemented itself as my comic of the year. Similar to DIE last year, Home Sick Pilots was one of my most anticipated titles, and boy it did not disappoint!
Haunted houses, but make it punk
Issue 1 of Home Sick Pilots has its feet in stories that we’ve seen before. However, there is nothing samey here, Home Sick Pilots is full of life and fresh ideas. The balance between, haunted house ghost stories and the coming of age, teenage angst is perfectly balanced.
Set in the early ’90s in California, these punks live in a town with a dark shadow. Watching over the town is the Old Janes House, a once magnificent, but now dilapidated mansion with a dark and bloody history.
After coming to blows with rival band, The Nuclear Fucking Bastards, Ami, Billy and Rip are planning their next move. They can’t be outdone, and they’ve got to pull off something epic. Ami suggests hosting their next gig, at the Old James House. What is more punk than a house, rumoured to have killed people? Ami heads up to the mansion alone that very night and is swept into a world of horror and mystery.
An epic reunion
Home Sick Pilot sees Dan Watters and Casper Wijngaard reuniting, as well as Watters and Aditya Bidikar. The story is expertly told, Watters is confident in his storytelling. This is a series so steeped in a love of music and the 90s grungy punk era. Each character reminds me of the kids I hung out with growing up. In particular, the gig scene flooded me with memories of gigs in peoples back gardens and cramped, dingy venues. I once went to a party, where a band was playing out of a garage and it was incredible. Anyway!
Home Sick Pilots is striking
Wijngaar’s colours and illustrations are distinct and so so striking. A prevailing use of pinks, purples and blues really add to the overall tone of the issue. Wijngaar’s depiction of a haunted house really stands out. It emerges from the ground like another character, menacing and always watching. Like a mech Overlook Hotel. The use of more muted tones for characters and backgrounds in the calmer, more safe panels creates a lovely distinction from the more vivid colours of the dangerous scenes. The visual clues compliment the pace of the issue and help to ramp up the tension and momentum.
There is a section in which we see the cross-section of the Old James House that is just expertly executed, but I do not want to spoil that sequence, so just, look out for it!
Clear, flowing and stylish
Another element of Home Sick Pilots is the lettering from Bidikar. He continues to deliver and really showcase his craft. His speech balloons have an uneven, almost manga style which really fits the tone and style of the issue. The handwritten SFX only add to the grungy, but stylish look of the issue.
Muller’s logo design is just another example of this team working with a real sense of synergy. Born of the great punk concert posters of the era the logo looks exactly like the kind of thing I would have scrawled on my Docs in sharpie!
Home Sick Pilots gave me nostalgia in waves
Home Sick Pilots gave me such a sense of nostalgia, this is obviously a creation born of a love of music and storytelling. It will really resonate with anyone who was a part of the punk grunge scene in the 90s. However, it doesn’t stop there, it’ll resonant with any who has experienced the mass heartbeat of a live rock show, or who has found companionship with the people in these music scenes.
Meeting these characters and experiencing their music scene brought back such great and cherished memories. However, like I said earlier none of Home Sick Pilots feels dusty, it is so slick and fresh. We are treated to quite a degree of character establishment and scene-setting before the real horror emerges. But, that is no bad thing, these are complicated well fleshed out characters. The kind you will really root for.
Whilst 2020 might have been a rollercoaster of a year that had a LOT of downs, there have been some highs and the release of Home Sick Pilots is a massive high. As I said at the beginning it snuck, well smashed in and took the spot of my comic of 2020. I can not wait to follow this series. I will be at every show.
Writer Dan Watters was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series and his love of music!
What was everyone’s role in the creative team?
I write the scripts, Caspar does everything visual from the rough pencils right through to the finished colours. Aditya letters, and Tom Muller handles design- the logos and inside covers, as well as stressing certain pages to get that good DIY Home Sick Pilots xerox feel.
All the elements work so well in Home Sick Pilots. How involved are you in each other’s processes? What is your advice for a successful collaboration?
I think the key word there is collaboration. For a book like this- when it’s creator owned and you’re going to be pouring a lot of your heart and time into the project without any guarantee of success- I always want to create the book I couldn’t create with any other team, or without the team. I say that a lot, but that’s because it’s true! There’s a reason this should be a comic and not a novel, basically. Caspar and I have always worked closely- we made LIMBO together five years ago at this point and have always talked in the interim; we know where each other stand creatively, and what will get us both motivated and excited in a book. So Home Sick Pilots exists quite specifically at the intersection of our interests. In the same way that a book like Coffin Bound exists at the intersection of mine and DaNi’s interests.
I work with Aditya a lot too. He’s extremely thoughtful about his craft, and always comes up with the best ideas for the book. He brought these manga-influenced, uneven yet clean balloons to HSP that are just perfect. Neither Caspar nor I had worked with Tom before this book, but we’d been looking for an excuse to- and we knew the design would be really important to the era we were trying to capture. We ended up sending Tom a huge batch of band and skate logos, and he really nailed it from that.
The Home Sick Pilots are clearly a mix of personalities- what can you tell us about their dynamics/ relationship offstage?
Well, the Home Sick Pilots are a power-trio, consisting of Rip, Buzz and Ami. None of them have really grown up with parental figures in the picture, so the band really becomes a sort of family unit. The punk scene really can feel like an insular world of its own, a place for the misfits. Within the band, Rip is the loudmouth and also the local weed dealer. He’s an East Coast street kid who’s ended up in Cali and really embraced it. Buzz is probably the one who gives the least shit about what everyone else thinks. He really cares about the band and the Pilots, and the rest of the world is just noise, so when things start to fall apart, that really messes things up. And Ami… well Ami’s the angriest. And in a high school punk band, that’s saying an awful lot.
Your blending of a coming of age story within horror works really well. Was there any influences you drew upon?
Thank you! I suspect that grew out of Caspar and my mutual love for 80s and 90s horror flicks, where this kind of metaphor was pretty prevalent; off the top of my head; It, Return of the Living Dead (and ROTLD III in particular), Society…and now I think about it, Goosebumps basically did it in every book! Being a teenager is a fundamentally scary time- it’s all angst and depression and real-life body horror. Not to mention, there’s a real struggle in how you have so little control over your destiny at that point of life, while at the same time you’re starting to figure out that there are more problems and grey areas to the world than you were told as a child. I think being a teenager is to feel betrayed and trapped, over and over again.
What kind of sound would the Home Sick Pilots have?
Loud, fast, a little poppy-er than they mean to sound. Out of tune, for sure. They started out covering Blitzkrieg Bop, but now probably have songs about nuclear war without really understanding what that is beyond a thing that punk bands sing about.
Other than a murder mansion, what other famous landmark would you like to see the
Home Sick Pilots play?
Oh, that might give too much away! We’re definitely planning on taking them to other locations, with definite repercussions… so I’d say keep an eye on the book for the answers to that.
If you were too arrange a gig with a mega line up- who would be your top 3 headliners?
Oh wow, that’s quite a question. If we’re talking about a dream line-up of bands at the top of their game, I’d probably take Discharge and the Misfits. Both those bands are still kicking in some form or another, but I kinda have a problem with how many big shows these days seem to be legacy bands or bands from the 80s or 90s still kicking, rather than fresh blood. Though I’ve just named a bunch of old bands, so I guess I’m part of the problem. That said, The Cure would be headlining regardless of whether we’re talking about bands in their prime or as they are now. It’s insane the energy they still have, I think they’re the exception to the rule there.
Was there a concert that has stayed with you? Or your most memorable?
I went to see Leeds based zombie themed hardcore band Send More Paramedics at a reunion gig in 2014. They’d broken up years before, but they’re one of my favourite bands of all time. Everyone thought they were never gonna see this band again, so it was bedlam. The best energy I’ve ever felt in a room. There were kids swinging off the rafters and I lost an entire set of clothes to the fake blood. Another gig that stands out, though not as much for the band, is going to see street-punk band The Restarts in a squat somewhere in Hackney. I was maybe 14 or 15 and it was the first squat show I’d been to. It was in this three-storey house with a winding central staircase. Most of the banister had rotted away and it was a sheer drop down from the top floor to the ground. I just remember looking down from the top at what looked like the circles of Hell from Dante, but an explosion of studs and chains and mohawks and colors. Just joyful, drunken, raucous
Finally if you were going to sum up Home Sick Pilots in three words. What would they
I can do it in two! The name of our first story arc: Teenage Haunts.
Home Sick Pilots is out today! Make sure you are first in line to pick up your copy!
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