INTERVIEW: DOTTY’S INFERNO’s Bob Fingerman on why “Hell is my happy place”

Bob Fingerman has been obliging quirky comics carried with feeling and heart for over three decades. He’s perhaps best known for his long-running semi-autobiographical series Minimum Wage which debuted in 1995. His latest comic is perhaps more fantastical than that narrative of working-class New Yorkers, but it’s similarly funny and empathetic. It’s called Dotty’s Inferno, and it’s about a former sexuality laborer tasked with running Hell’s human resources department.

With a new Dotty’s Inferno collected edition coming October 20 th from Heavy Metal’s brand-new Virus imprint, Fingerman joined The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber on Zoom to discuss the beginnings of development projects, the artists who informed his idiosyncratic vision of Hell, and equipping screams in the midst of” “the worlds largest” trying period of our lives .”

Gregory Paul Silber: Dotty’s Inferno is a weird one. I means that in a good way. It’s very much in what I understand to be the spirit of Heavy Metal , both as a store, and even I think what most people think of when they think of the word heavy metal in terms of esthetics. I make, it literally makes region in Hell!

Bob Fingerman: Yeah!

Silber: Heavy metal, obviously, is a long running magazine and symbol, even dating back to France in the 1970 s, and they’ve got this new imprint announced Virus . What is it about Dotty’s Inferno that cleared you want to bring it to Heavy metal music, and Virus specific?

Fingerman: It’s a collecting of short, self-contained but interlinking legends. And a couple of them did invited to take part in the magazine. So truly, they were always my first choice for doing a collection. And I’m glad it worked out that method. You know, sometimes things actually croak according to plan! So those fortunate minutes are the ones you cherish. I necessitate, Heavy metal music are largely part of my imaginative DNA, that publication. This is where I reveal my age, but that store debuted at kind of the perfect term for me because I was already choosing all the time. But there are certain ages where when you get exposed to particular cloth … they actually are shaping your aesthetic. I “ve never” genuinely cuddled American comic books very much because I wasn’t a superhero kid. I liked humor and I liked sci-fi and material. So when Heavy Metal debuted, I was in junior high school and the jug kid had a copy of it. And I said,” what’s that ?” Once I insured the contents and pictured the level of draftsmanship and that it was comics like I’d ever seen before, I said,” that’s my path now. It’s very clear to me .” And then underground comics. Basically I was exposed to probably the two most influential things, who the hell is Heavy metal music and underground comics right around the same time. So when you get a one-two punch of Mobius and Robert Crumb … if you’ve got a certain kind of ability like I do, that says, “OK, now it’s clear to me.”

Silber: Yeah, I’m really glad that you to come up underground comics, actually, because a great deal of the marketing material has invoked Mad Magazine, which you mentioned, and this feels very Mad magazine. Particularly Mad from a very early decades of that store. But also it does have this kind of underground feel and you do have this influence from Crumb and that whole underground circle. But even when I’m reading it, it feels dangerous in that way that comics of that epoch often felt like. You know? It’s about a gender laborer in Hell.

Art by R. Crumb

Fingerman: Yeah. I want, this is the thing. It’s actually a very interesting time to be putting out something that’s roots are more in, you know, the 60 s and 70 s aesthetic than now. I can’t pretend to say that Dotty’s Inferno is a highly woke volume, but by the same token, I think its middle is in the right place. You know? I don’t think there’s a aim bone in its figure. So it’ll be interesting to see what the reception is. I like to think it will be good because I contemplate parties could use a laugh now, and the most important goals of it is humor.

Silber: It’s interesting that you bring up the idea of wokeness, as it were, because- and I think this is true of any era , not just right now-telling a story about sex proletarians can be a minefield. But likewise from the very first panel, it’s very clear that she’s intelligent, she is competent, she is not this inherently bad person.

Fingerman: No , not at all.

Silber: And in some ways I think that is very progressive, actually.

Fingerman: I intend, I hope so. It’s funny, very, because, you know, I’m apparently I’m not the first to depict beings nude in hell. I imply, that goes back to Gustave Dore and other depictions. Parties don’t have often been wearing clothes.

Art by Gustave Dore depicting Dante’s Inferno

Silber: It’s hot down there! Why would you?

Fingerman: Exactly. Well, actually, it’s funny now that you mention that. It seems to me that everyone should be wearing parkas. That would really make it Hell!( Laughs) I never “ve thought about it”. Maybe that’s in the sequel. That’s where they truly cast bad parties, you know? Send them to the hottest place wearing snowsuits like Ralph’s girl friend in A Christmas Story. But … America’s seeds are the Puritans, and nudity has always been this very thorny thing when it’s imaged …[ Bob stops as his bird-dog rinds in the background] Hopefully there’s not a home invasion happening as this is going on!

Silber: That would be jolly metal, though.

Fingerman: Yes, yes. Yeah. If watching your interview subject cringe and requesting is metal, then I would be your soldier!

Silber: The notion of nudity being an integral part of the fib … I’m glad that you accompanied that up, because literally from the first panel, it’s just right there in your face. And it’s not even sex, really.

Fingerman: That’s kind of my top, in a way, that nudity and gender are not the same thing. So, it’s a exceedingly equal opportunity book when it comes to that. I haven’t done a genital counting, but I’m pretty sure that subjects actually have the lead in that department.[ Laughs]

Dotty’s Inferno art by Bob Fingerman

Silber: What is it about the relevant recommendations of hell’s H.R. department? I affection that juxtaposition. You see images of inferno and there are always portraits of villains jabbing people with pitchforks or whatever, and there is also often this understanding that demons were at one point people who were sent to hell … I necessitate I’m Jewish, so I actually don’t know how any of this works theologically-

Fingerman: I grew up with no belief at all, so … yeah( mocks ).

Silber: But that’s such an interesting theory, that beings do have to be sorted into their various hellish responsibilities.

Fingerman: Dante’s Inferno is a good place to start for structuring Hell. I like that arrangement. I like the whole nine roundabouts. And that everyone is studies very well for me. And then you get to play with it the behavior you want to play with it. But yeah, for one thing, when you encounter Dotty and she has just arrived, the person who’s basically communicating her on her behavior knows she doesn’t belong in inferno. But them’s the rules merely by virtue of her having been a sex worker in life. Right at the start, he just says,” well, that’s not fair, but what can you do ?” Her punishment isn’t quite as severe. She’s not getting pitchforks in her for afterlife or a lagoon of fire or anything. She gets office duty. So as far as these things get, it could be worse! Her boss is a demoness who’s pretty, somewhat mean. But there again, it could be worse. But I like the relevant recommendations of, you are well aware, in heaven you get Saint Peter and he’s just ushering you into paradise. But in Hell, you sit down with an H.R. being, and she sends you off to either what’s going to be your torment, or your work for infinity. So that’s that’s Dotty.

Silber: It nearly speaks to a certain progressiveness to the way that this in-universe version of blaze operates. Because it’s not a punishment-fits-what-you-did-in-life kind of thing. It has nothing to do with the fact that she was a sex worker. It’s just, well,” this is something you’ll probably be good at .”

Fingerman: I are really written a partial romance that some of this trash was attracted from … at least the characters. And one of the large-scale reveals-I symbolize, I still hope I get to write that record someday-but one of the reveals was that heaven has about seven beings in it because nobody ever prepares. And the rules are so specific that it’s just like the most boring cocktail party you’d ever want to go to because everyone’s such a goody two shoes. So genuinely hell is not just where the bad parties are. It’s pretty much where everyone is.[ Laughs}

Silber: I like that very, because without spoiling it, I’m sure you’re familiar with The Good Place.

Fingerman: Yeah, I’m, I’m about midway through the second largest season.

Silber: Without botch and being as broad as possible, there is the idea that it is so hard to be a good person that the majority of people go to” the bad target .”

Fingerman: It stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Silber: You talk about this banal see of Hell, and I think that speaks interestingly to your previous labor, substance like Minimum Wage. When beings think of something like that, they think of the slice-of-life idea that you’re now bringing into this operatic create. Has that previous work informed Dotty’s Inferno in any way?

Bob Fingerman’s Minimum wages

Fingerman: I’m sure it has. I’ve done a lot of category substance, but I think if there was a quality that typifies what I do, in a manner that is, it’s bringing the mundane to the fantastic. So you are well aware, I’m doing a thing set in Hell, but she works in an office.I did a Hellboy story years ago for when they were doing the Hellboy Weird Tales. The large-scale set piece of that was him duelling a vending machine. Take something really over the top and then supplement something certainly middle of the road, utterly quotidian, and bang them together. And I think that’s probably my aesthetic. So, you are well aware, these stories are all set in hell. But one of the narrations is her having to go to the pharmacy to get something for her headache. You know? And then crazy bastard happens.

Silber: Of course.

Fingerman: Let’s give something that everybody can relate to and then turn it on its ear. That’s how I have fun played with things.

Silber: It obviously seems that direction. That’s an aesthetic I cherish myself: marrying the everyday with the fantastical. It’s a lot of what I love about comics in general, up to and including a great deal of superhero substance. You brought up your Hellboy story, so that’s a good segue channel into some of the people that you have contributing to this book, including Mike Mignola.

Fingerman: Oh yeah.

Silber: You’ve also got Bill Sienkiewicz, and a great deal of other figures who aren’t the type to contribute art to time any assignment. So I’m really strange about what your relationship is like to those used artwork pieces.

Fingerman: Well, that’s kind of a carryover from Minimum Wage. I’m trying to remember where the idea first sounded in my leader, other than I don’t know, I’m sure there’s a certain egotism to it.[ Laughs] But certainly, it’s reaching out to fellow creators and having them do their renderings of my reputations. It’s just something I’ve always experienced really fun and fascinating. And, you know, I’ve been in the business a long time and have made some really great friendships with astounding, legendary expertises. So I thought it would be fun to ask a few friends to contribute a little gallery to the end of the book. And yeah, it is an amazing lineup! So that’s a little nice extra bonus material for the people who buy the book. Mike lent one, as “youve said”, Bill lent one. Howard Chaykin, Dan Panosian, and Dave Johnson and John Sebalero. There’s some quite amazing art.

Silber: You mentioned that this is going to be part of the end of the book. Do you receive a potential for more Dotty’s Inferno in the future?

Fingerman: I hope so. I symbolize, that’s my hope, that this will be the first work of narratives peculiarity her and other people in hell. There’s a backup facet. Most of the book is Dotty’s Inferno. But then there are also these two demon sewer employees reputation Ralf and Borax who have a whole chunk of legends in the book as well. So, if I have my druthers, I’ll be doing more volumes with lots of different references in Hell.

Ralf and Borax from Dotty’s Inferno

Silber: Another thing I wanted to get into was your artistry vogue now. I determined the use of color interesting because it’s very striking, even with the demons where they’re not that classic scarlet. Some of them are pink! What was the reasoning there?

Fingerman: With the exception of one narration, they are a very limited color palette. It’s really the straddle between yellowish and violet. So it’s kind of yelloweds, oranges, blood-reds and purples and a little of brown. And that’s about it for the hue palette for most of the Dotty stories. The Ralph and Borax narrations, actually, each one’s in a slightly different style. So one of them “re kind of” like the rest of the book. One of them is a more soft pencil, painterly look. And then one of them looks like old-time comic book sheets. So, there’s a variety of comings in the book, which, again, I think is fun. One of the things I ever liked about Dan Clowes’ Eightball is that he would, you are well aware, have differing storeys in different styles. And even though it was all him, it was basically an anthology work. That gives people a little more creative latitude.

Silber: You mentioned Dante’s Inferno being an inspiration for the structure of this form of Hell. Did you go back to any classical prowes depictions of Hell?

Fingerman: Yeah. I signify, I invoke visually Dore in one sequence and give him a little a little shout-out. Hieronymus Bosch is all over the book. The little critters, those are sort of my explanation of George Lucas having nonstop little critters all over the place. You could play” pinpoint the Boschling” as I’ve called them.

Silber: Maybe that could be the name now. Bob Fingerman, the George Lucas of Hell? I dunno, I’ll workshop it…

Fingerman: I just to be expected that parties order it and that it devotes them some delight in what is no doubt the most trying period of our lives.[ Laughs ]. We’re all in this together. So, you are well aware, perhaps this is the joke book on the lifeboat…there’s a certain therapeutic aspect to doing humor stories, especially as the world kind of get darker and darker. I review a lot of people have the inclination to just sort of succumb to the darkness. When I was talking with Matt and Kris, I said ” Hell is my happy place ,” which says a great deal about the real world. But at least there I can kind of control the madness.

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