D. Andrew Price is the writer behind Deadbolt, A.I. Private Eye, currently on Kickstarter. He's joined on the pulp noir science fiction detective comic series by Guillermo Villarreal on art and Toben Racicot on letters.
Tim Midura: Deadbolt, A.I. Private Eye is set in a world where robots and humans live in turmoil. Do you ascribe to the Three Laws of Robotics?
D. Andrew Price: This is sort of a post-Asimov story and world where humans stopped worrying about the implications of advanced artificial intelligence a lot time ago, and the fear of a robopocalypse has been pushed out of the collective consciousness entirely. The divide between the humans and Autos is more social than philosophical.
Rather than being scared of robots hurting or killing them, a lot of people just don't think they deserve a share of the space and resources in their city because they don't think they deserve to be considered human. It's a reflection on a lot of very real things happening in the world right now.
TM: Is a robot the perfect machine to be a private eye as it doesn't need to rest?
DAP: Deadbolt actually functions similarly to a human. He goes into hibernation mode for 5 hours a night to charge, and he eats a purée of radioactive materials to power the internal nuclear reactor that regulates his systems. Kind of like the weird baby food stuff that Robocop eats.
TM: Can you touch on your pulp influences on the book?
DAP: I'm a huge fan of film noir from the 40s, 50s, and 60s and the pulp detective novels from the 20s and 30s that inspired it. Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, The Lady From Shanghai, The Third Man, Le Samurai, Alphaville, Chinatown, Out of the Past, The Killing, Naked City, even something like Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog. Dashiell Hammett novels like Red Harvest and the Maltese Falcon. The style and storytelling in these books and films all went into Deadbolt.
I just love how simple and efficient, but somehow simultaneously convoluted and large the storytelling is. I have a lot of big ideas and I'm not very good at being subtle. I love how I get to be unapologetically hamfisted with my approach to telling a pulp-y detective story. It's impossible to push it too far.
In terms of comics, Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (RIP Darwyn Cooke), Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Sleeper, Criminal and Fatale, and Brian Michael Bendis' Torso were all huge inspirations in terms of how to tell this type of story on the comic page.
TM: How many human body parts can fit in a suitcase?
DAP: Depends on if we're talking carry-on or if it's going to be checked. If you're flying American they allow two free carry-ons, but they can't be any bigger than a small rolling bag. I usually try keeping it to two bags so I don't need to check anything, and I'd say I could probably get three arms, a leg, and MAYBE a head in there.
TM: What made you want to blend science fiction and noir?
DAP: I love the aesthetic of film noir and detective pulp but I also love how those stories deal with emotional vulnerability in an overly-masculine world. Everyone is so guarded and postured. The dialogue is pure style, the characters are living archetypes, but then the knife begins to twist and everyone is slowly broken down to their base emotional components. It's such a great place to examine the inward complexity of a person's emotional mind. Science Fiction is a great canvas for pushing philosophical boundaries, but its limitation is often emotional. I love the thought experiment aspect of sci-fi where it delves into the implications of an idea or a technology. Putting it in a noir setting helps to not only analyze but also reflect. I think it's a perfect combination. Have you seen Blade Runner 2049? It's the perfect movie.
TM: Your initial short-term goal is a four part mini-series. Do you see more stories about Deadbolt after that?
DAP: The benefit of sitting on an idea for nearly a decade before you can actually get it made is that you have a lot of time to think about the world and characters. I've got plenty of others stories in the further adventures of Deadbolt. I even have a bunch of ideas for going back and exploring Deadbolt's time during the war. That'd be more of an action manga-style book. I'm gonna try to focus on getting people this first book first, though.
TM: Why would a robot care about a silly old murdered human anyway?
DAP: That's kind of at the heart of the philosophical question in Deadbolt. I don't want to misrepresent the book and make it out to seem like it's NOT a kick-ass action comic with a gripping mystery to solve, a stylish noir aesthetic, and interesting characters. But at its core I want it to challenge people to wonder if a robot could be considered alive if it was smart enough that our human brains can no longer parse out the simulacrum, and if that even really means anything. If a robot can appear empathetic, can offer help when they stand to gain nothing from it, believes in a sense of justice, has hopes and goals, and can express love towards somebody else, how could you possibly differentiate it from a human being other than physically? And if a machine built by humans can't be differentiated from the humans that built it, what does that mean about our own humanity?
Check out the Kickstarter here.