“70s Americana is hard-wired into it’s DNA” Chris Sims and Chad Bowers talk Down Set Fight from Oni Press
Oni Press’ Down Set Fight is the comic equivalent of a punch to the face, with it’s a stunning mix of sports hero action, super villain style mascots and retro 70s visuals. From the writing team of Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, who we last saw working their magic on MonkeyBrain’s Sub Atomic Party Girls, and artist Scott Kowalchuk, it’s the story of a washed up football star who gets pursued by evil mascots looking to get their revenge. It’s like Scott Pilgrim versus John Madden. Keen to find out more, we contacted writers Chris and Chad to find out if their own experiences of high school football training regimes had helped inspired them.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration for Down Set Fight – was it a light bulb moment of inspiration or did it evolve through the writing process? Did you always intend to make a football book or were the mascots the big draw?
CS: I think the core of the idea when we started was that we wanted to do a story where the ultimate jock fought the ultimate nerd. It’s obviously something that’s different now, but if you’ve read the whole story, you’ve seen that we kept the idea of Chuck fighting this very manipulative enemy. Like, he’s this insanely powerful guy, and his thought process is very linear — that first mascot fight against Jumbo really sells the whole idea. He sees something wrong and he just plows into it and runs through until it’s not a problem anymore. So what kind of obstacle do you give a guy with that kind of power? That’s where we started, and it eventually turned into Down Set Fight. I don’t think either of us expected to have that much football in it, though.
CB: No light bulb moment. Football and Chuck’s cross country antics drawing attention away from the sport was there from the beginning. And the mascots played a major role in the story, but initially, they were part of a larger sports-themed group of psychos who wanted to take a shot at Chuck. But Charlie Chu, our editor, thought the mascots were hilarious, and based on his Jonathan Winters-like instincts, that really cemented the mascots as the central antagonists of the story.
The book has a very retro feel (like something from the 70s) yet has contemporary references. Was it always the plan for it to be a throwback comic or did that just come through with the artwork?
CS: We’re both big fans of ’70s action movies. The first thing we ever wrote together was called The Hard Ones, and it was inspired by ’70s kung fu movies and ’70s car movies. For Down Set Fight, we definitely wanted to capture a little bit of that – I think before he was even designed Chad and I had a conversation about basing Chuck visually on guys like Jim Brown and Mean Joe Greene – but it was also important that it felt current, too. Scott got that really well with the art, and I love that he used that kind of faded-out color palette with all the yellows and greens to give it that kind of look. I hope it’s not too much of a “throwback,” though!
CB: Yeah, trying to peg the setting and feel of Down Set Fight! is an all over the place conversation. I think a lot of what ends up on the page is firmly rooted in those over the top, 70s comedies that’re older than us, but better than anything we’ll ever hope to do. Stuff like Slap Shot, The Longest Yard, and more specifically, the Hal Needham gospel, like Cannonball Run, Smokey and the Bandit, and Hooper.
It takes place right now, but you’re not wrong. It’s got a feeling of 70s Americana, and that gets mixed in with everything about our favorite fight comics of the modern era, and I absolutely love that about it. All of that’s hard-wired into the DNA of Down Set Fight!
You treat the mascots almost like slightly tragic super villains with them sat in costume in Crockets at the end, did you model them on comic characters or actual mascots?
CS: Ha! I hadn’t thought of it that way. Chad, that scene was all you, I think?
CB: They’re all supposed to be archetypes of sports mascots and restaurant spokespeople. Looking at them as sort of sad, down and out super villains is a pretty apt reading of those guys.
We love all the scenes with Chuck and his Dad going through the training sequences – which was your favourite to come up with and were there any you deemed too extreme or too silly to include?
CS: Man, I still don’t know how to play football. The closest to Al and Chuck’s training that I got when I was a kid was when my dad was teaching me to play baseball, and my sister served up a fastball right into my face. It was like a sitcom. As for the training sequences, those were some of my favorite parts to write. Our editor, Charlie, really loved those, and encouraged us to go as far over the top with them as we wanted, which I think shows. I definitely like the one with the bear traps, but the one where he’s doing windsprints on a freeway with a blindfold on is pretty hilarious too.
CB: I don’t really think we held back on anything with those. I feel like we talked about having Chuck wrestle crocodiles or something in one of those flashbacks. At the very least, we should’ve…
The book feels perfect for continuing on beyond this first run, any plans for a sequel – or perhaps a mascot focused spin off – or are you just waiting to see how this one is received first?
CS: We’ve joked about following it up, but I don’t know if the world is ready for Chuck to fight an army of ninja cheerleaders. It’s Bring It On meets Game of Death, Hollywood. Call us.
CB: I’ve been joking with Chris for months now about doing a sequel called “The Wreck League.” I’d love to revisit these weirdos, especially if Scott Kowalchuk was involved! But if we do something else, you’d probably see the mascots take the lead. Chuck’s so much fun to write, but I’m happy with where we leave him at the end of Down Set Fight! and I’d hate to mess with that.
Finally, what’s next from you guys? When will we be seeing more Subatomic Party Girls? And how important was it for you that this was released digitally or was that Oni’s choice?
CS: Funny you should ask: The next issue of Subatomic Party Girls is out the same week Down Set Fight finishes, the same day DSF is out in print!
CB: Subatomic Party Girls! There’s some great stuff coming up with those gals, and while it might not seem like a one-to-one recommendation, if folks enjoy what Chris and I do on Down Set Fight!, they should definitely give it a shot.