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

Bob Fingerman has been performing whimsical comics packed with laughter and soul 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 fable of working-class New Yorkers, but it’s similarly funny and empathetic. It’s called Dotty’s Inferno, and it’s about a former sex work 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 the project, the artists who informed his idiosyncratic vision of Hell, and rendering chortles in the midst of” the most 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 publication, and even I think what most people think of when they think of the utterance heavy metal in terms of aesthetics. I make, it literally makes home in Hell!

Bob Fingerman: Yeah!

Silber: Heavy metal, obviously, is a long running magazine and firebrand, 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 stirred you want to bring it to Heavy Metal, and Virus specifically?

Fingerman: It’s a collecting of short-lived, self-contained but interlinking legends. And a couple of them did run in the store. So really, they were always my first choice for doing a collection. And I’m glad it worked out that room. You know, sometimes things actually run according to plan! So those happy instants are the ones you cherish. I entail, Heavy metal music are largely part of my imaginative DNA, that store. This is where I reveal my senility, but that periodical debuted at various kinds of the excellent epoch for me because I was already extorting all the time. But there are certain ages where when you get exposed to certain substance … they really help shape your aesthetic. I had never actually cuddled American comic books very much because I wasn’t a superhero kid. I liked laughter and I liked sci-fi and nonsense. So when Heavy metal music debuted, I was in junior high school and the jug kid had a copy of it. And I said,” what’s that ?” Once I accompanied the contents and witnessed 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. Mostly I become subject to probably the two most influential things, which were 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 psyche like I do, that says, “OK, now it’s clear to me.”

Silber: Yeah, I’m really glad that you brought up underground comics, actually, because a great deal of the marketing material has referenced Mad Magazine, which you spoke about, and this feels very Mad magazine. Particularly Mad from a very early decades of that magazine. But also it does have this kind of underground feel and you do have this influence from Crumb and that entire underground halo. But even when I’m reading it, it feels perilous in that way that comics of that age often felt like. You know? It’s about a fornication work in Hell.

Art by R. Crumb

Fingerman: Yeah. I symbolize, this is the thing. It’s actually a very interesting time to be putting out something that’s roots are more in, you are well aware, the 60 s and 70 s aesthetic than now. I can’t pretend to say that Dotty’s Inferno is a particularly woke bible, but by the same token, I think its soul is in the right place. You know? I don’t think there’s a aim bone in its body. So it’ll be interesting to see what the reception is. I like to think it will be good because I make people 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 tale about sex laborers can be a minefield. But also 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 manner I think that is very progressive, actually.

Fingerman: I represent, I hope so. It’s funny, very, because, you are well aware, I’m clearly I’m not the first to image parties nude in blaze. I make, that goes back to Gustave Dore and other depictions. People 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 had pointed out 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 actually send bad beings, you are well aware? Send them to the hottest place wearing snowsuits like Ralph’s minor friend in A Christmas Story. But … America’s seeds are the Puritans, and nudity has always been this very thorny thing when it’s represented …[ Bob stops as his bird-dog barks in the background] Hopefully there’s not a home invasion happening as this is going on!

Silber: That “wouldve been” somewhat metal, though.

Fingerman: Yes, yes. Yeah. If watching your interview subject cower and sidestepping is metal, then I would be your follower!

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

Fingerman: That’s kind of my site, in a way, that nudity and copulation are not the same thing. So, it’s a extremely equal opportunity book when it comes to that. I haven’t done a genital weigh, but I’m pretty sure that humen 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. bureau? I adore that juxtaposition. You see images of inferno and there are always personas of demons piercing parties with pitchforks or whatever, and there is also often this understanding that villains were at one point people who were sent to hell … I signify I’m Jewish, so I actually don’t know how any of this works theologically-

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

Silber: But that’s such an interesting doctrine, 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 formation. I like the whole nine cliques. And that everyone is uses are you all right for me. And then you get to play with it the style you want to play with it. But yeah, for one thing, when you convene Dotty and she has just arrived, the guy who’s basically routing her on her style knows she doesn’t belong in hell. But them’s the rules exactly 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 immortality or a pond of flame or anything. She gets office duty. So as far as these things go, it could be worse! Her boss is a demoness who’s pretty, pretty mean. But there again, it could be worse. But I like the idea 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. party, and she sends you off to either what’s going to be your agony, or your job for infinity. So that’s that’s Dotty.

Silber: It approximately speaks to a certain progressiveness to the way that this in-universe version of blaze controls. 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 had actually written a partial tale that some of this trash was plucked from … at least the characters. And one of the large-scale reveals-I make, I still hope I get to write that volume someday-but one of the reveals was that heaven has about seven beings in it because nobody ever modifies. 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 truly hell is not just where the bad beings are. It’s pretty much where everyone is.[ Laughs}

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

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

Silber: Without mar 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 prosaic perception of Hell, and I think that speaks interestingly to your previous make, substance like Minimum Wage. When parties think of something like that, they think of the slice-of-life idea that you’re now bringing into this operatic fixed. Has that previous work informed Dotty’s Inferno in any way?

Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage

Fingerman: I’m sure it has. I’ve done a lot of category nonsense, but I think if there was a quality that typifies what I do, in a manner that is, it’s bringing the everyday to the astonishing. 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 make the Hellboy Weird Tales. The big-hearted set piece of that was him duelling a vending machine. Take something genuinely over the top and then add something actually middle of the road, perfectly quotidian, and smash-up them together. And I think that’s probably my aesthetic. So, you are well aware, these legends are all set in hell. But one of the storeys is her having to go to the pharmacy to get something for her headache. You know? And then crazy diddly-shit happens.

Silber: Of course.

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

Silber: It emphatically seems that nature. That’s an aesthetic I adore myself: marrying the mundane with the fantastical. It’s a lot of what I love about comics in general, up to and including a great deal of superhero nonsense. You to come up your Hellboy story, so that’s a good segue action 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 lists who aren’t the type to contribute art to simply any campaign. So I’m really puzzled about what your relationship is like to those used prowes pieces.

Fingerman: Well, that’s kind of a carryover from Minimum Wage. I’m trying to remember where the idea first popped in my heading, other than I don’t know, I’m sure there’s a certain egotism to it.[ Laughs] But really, it’s reaching out to fellow artists and having them do their presentations of my people. It’s just something I’ve always noted really fun and mesmerizing. And, you know, I’ve been in the business a long time and have made some really great friendships with amazing, mythical 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 you said, Bill contributed 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 recognize a possibility 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 boasting her and other characters in hell. There’s a backup facet. Most of the book is Dotty’s Inferno. But then there are also these two demon sewer works appointed Ralf and Borax who have a whole chunk of fibs in the book as well. So, if I have my druthers, I’ll is being done more diaries with lots of different characters in Hell.

Ralf and Borax from Dotty’s Inferno

Silber: Another thing I wanted to get into was your skill style here. I observed the use of color interesting because it’s very striking, even with the wizards where they’re not that classic scarlet. Some of them are pink! What was the suppose there?

Fingerman: With the exception of one storey, they are a very limited color palette. It’s really the collection between yellowish and violet. So it’s kind of yelloweds, oranges, maroons and purples and a little bit of dark-brown. And that’s about it for the complexion 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 is kind of like the rest of the book. One of them is a more soft pencil, painterly examine. And then one of them looks like age-old 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 know, have different fibs in different styles. And even though it was all him, it was basically an anthology book. That gives you a little more creative latitude.

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

Fingerman: Yeah. I signify, I reference 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 edition of George Lucas having nonstop little critters all over the place. You used to play” know the Boschling” as I’ve called them.

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

Fingerman: I merely to be expected that parties fiat it and that it makes them some recreation 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 specific therapeutic tone to doing humor floors, especially as the world kind of comes darker and darker. I mull 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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