David M. Booher and Claudia Balboni’s upcoming Dark Horse Comics series, Killer Queens, is the type of science fiction comic book that once ruled the newsstands of America, particularly in the 1950s.
Killer Queens is part homage/part parody of all of those classic 1950’s sci-fi tropes, with a modern LGBTQ+ sensibility that puts a new coat of paint on concepts and scenarios we have all seen before in comics and films of the future that never was.
Booher and Balboni took some time to speak to Conskipper about the new series (which will be available in your favorite comic shop on August 18) and how you craft a retro sci-fi series with a 21st century mindset and sense of humor.
What was the genesis of Killer Queens and how did you end up working together on it?
David M. Booher: Killer Queens has always been a personal labor of love. After my all-ages series CANTO, I wanted to do something a little older with a strong connection to the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve always loved the retro-future sci-fi aesthetic, but I wanted a modern queer twist. I loved Claudia’s work on Fairlady, and her fun sensibility was a great fit for Killer Queens.
Claudia Balboni: Killer Queens was already much more than an idea when David contacted me. There was already a story developed and I had directions for the characters. I immediately fell in love with the script and it was easy to visualize and develop the characters, I had a lot of fun.
How would you describe the dynamic between Max and Alex?
Booher: Definitely siblings. They have work in common (assassins) and they have values in common (reformed assassins). That’s where we meet them—on the run because they can no longer do the horrible things expected of them. There’s a lot of bickering, but just like real siblings, they’ll fight to the death to protect each other.
Balboni: Alex is the mind. She has the typical coldness of the killer who manages to remain lucid in the most critical situations. Alex’s brilliant strategic ideas are well channeled by Max’s explosive energy who amazes us every time with diversions full of power and fun.
Claudia-What inspired the look/design of Max, Alex, and Bieti? Were there aspects of 1950’s sci-fi that you drew from? Other sources?
Balboni: Visually developing a character is always a fun step. I looked for a lot of visual references on 1950s fashion and how it influenced sci-fi at the time. I tried to use the same geometric shapes by applying them to the clothes and their details, such as the top of Max’s shirt, the high-waisted belts or the shoulder pads and the clasp in Alex’s hairstyle. I was very inspired by some costumes made by Edith Head, a costume designer who has collaborated with many films including The War of the Worlds of 1953.
David-1950’s science fiction is known for creating a number of tropes of the genre and a great deal of subtext. What aspects did you draw on, and which were most important for you to utilize in Killer Queens?
Booher: My goal all along was to create a cheeky, quirky, fun series that never takes itself too seriously. I think deep down a lot of mid-century sci-fi stories realized how outlandish they were, but they went for it anyway. At the same time, they reflected the times—the Cold War, McCarthyism, the paranoia about the “other”. It was important to use the 50’s sci-fi style as a backdrop for a contemporary take on these two queer characters and the fascism that is very much real today.
Would you describe Killer Queens as a homage or parody of classic sci-fi?
Booher: A little of both, maybe? In Killer Queens, we’re shining a spotlight on how wacky sci-fi stories can get, and we’re paying tribute to those same stories that paved the way for so much of the great sci-fi we have today. All of that serves important messages about inclusion.
Balboni: I think it is the right genre to tell with brilliant irony a story where an inclusive ideal is fought. The sci-fi genre is very suitable for “hosting” stories where concepts about diversity are developed. In my opinion it is enriched with new nuances with Killer Queens.
Do you each have a favorite film, book, or comic from the 50’s sci-fi era?
Booher: So much of the entertainment at the time was kitschy and fun. I love the overall feel of 50’s era retro-futurism. From the day-glow colors of Planet Comics and Weird Science to the iconic Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, it’s an aesthetic we don’t see enough nowadays. If I had to pick, 1953’s War of the Worlds is pretty special.
Balboni: I’ve only seen the most famous films of 50s sci-fi and certainly the ones I’m most fond of is The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Issue one arrives with three distinct covers by Claudia and Harry Saxon, Chris Ables, and Jen Bartel. What does each cover capture in terms of your characters, your story, and the classic elements of sci-fi comic/film covers/posters?
Booher: All three covers capture the wild space fun we’re having in Killer Queens. Claudia and Harry’s cover is the most classic retro sci-fi. Chris Ables’ cover is our Buck Rogers/Don Bluth tribute. And Jen’s cover… well, why not do a gender-swapped Boris Vallejo homage?
Killer Queens is being promoted as consisting of an all LGBTQ creative team. Why is this so important for LGBTQ science fiction and comic fans and readers?
Booher: Representation matters. Authentic storytelling matters. For decades, sci-fi and fantasy (especially in comics) was a place for hyper-masculine men and sexualized women. We wanted to mix all that up and create a space romp for the queer community. There aren’t enough stories with LGBTQ+ characters from LGBTQ+ creators and it’s time to change that.
Balboni: In this chaotic historical moment, it’s important to introduce and represent the LGBTQ reality also through this media and this message is stronger if represented by those who constitute this reality and can describe more nuances. We must be strong and united to represent an ideal that builds bridges of communication, and that wants us to be all unique and respectful of differences.
Obviously I’m not saying that no one else can tell LGBTQ stories; it’s certainly interesting to read them from those who live this reality as a reflection to someone who cares, for example.
Booher: I’m working on the next arc of Canto with IDW (out in July) as well as the screenplay for the Canto film adaptation. I have a few other projects that will be announced later in the year. And, of course, I hope to write tons more adventures for our Killer Queens!
Balboni: For now I am focused on this project, we will see what happens in the future!
Killer Queens #1 will be in comic shops on August 18, 2021.