With the success of the Chaos Comics relaunch, Dynamite has been growing the different titles including Bad Kitty, Lady Demon and more. Now, Evil Ernie’s little buddy is getting his time to shine and Chaos: Smiley the Psychotic Button written by Mike Raicht. Byron Brewer caught up with Mike to talk about writing a comic where the star is a lapel fixture.
BYRON BREWER: Mike, how did you become involved in a book focused on Evil Ernie’s grinning friend?
MIKE RAICHT: I had just wrapped up doing a short for the upcoming Army of Darkness 1992.1 special with Dynamite super-editors Hannah Elder and Molly Mahan, which was a blast. Afterwards I mentioned I’d love to work on more if they were interested and they offered me the Smiley special. I studied up on the cool work Jessie Snyder and Tim Seeley have been doing with Dynamite’s relaunched Chaos Universe and I was off.
BB: Tell us about your perceptions of this most unusual comic book character?
MR: He is the ultimate agent of evil contained in a bright and happy little button. Oddly enough, the thing that really drew me in to the character, was his moments of clarity and insight for Ernie. Deep down he seems to care for his pal. It is those moments that make me believe there is more to him than just being an obnoxious evil machine.
BB: How would you describe the relationship between Smiley and Ernie?
MR: I see Smiley as two different things to Ernie. The first is easy. He’s the devil part of the devil/angel on your shoulder scenario. He is the nasty voice you hear in your head every time you want to do something horrible. Unfortunately for Ernie, or probably more accurately, the nasty people he takes down, there is no angel part of this equation to balance the nastiness. Unlike the imaginary devil on your shoulder, Smiley can unleash his own brand of hellfire and kick a lot of ass.
The second, more surprising, aspect of his personality is that he seems to care about his partner. He is a complex little piece of plastic and metal. That makes him someone (thing?) I want to learn more about.
BB: Tell us a little about the storyline here.
MR: The initial story is Smiley’s origin. We meet Richard Smiley, a god fearing, family man who is having a wonderful life… until he’s not. His origin shows how good can go bad. Bad can get demonic. And demonic can get plastic.
BB: It seems like this would be a very difficult story to write. Where did you find your inspiration?
MR: Oddly enough, I kind of took inspiration from the real world for this story. How many times in life do we compromise ourselves because we enjoy something? We watch things we know are bad for our inner health all of the time. We cheer for athletes who are not perfect, some who engage in criminal acts. We eat food that we know can’t be healthy. We participate in things that we know may not be completely on the up and up for the fun of it.
At the end of the day, we all hope we are still good people. This story just takes that to the next level. How much of your soul would you sacrifice for happiness for you and your family right now? How long before the ends no longer justify the means and there is no soul left?
BB: Have you been a fan of the Chaos characters through the years? Why have Ernie and his psychotic button friend remained so popular all these years?
MR: I didn’t read Ernie when I was younger. I was more of a superhero comic reader and a horror movie fan. I do remember always being intrigued by Ernie. He is visually stunning.
I think he endures because the character is just a lot of twisted, sick fun. Who doesn’t want to read a book like that? He also, at least early on, has used his demonic power to deliver the ultimate punishment on those who deserve it. That is certainly a noble cause, right? Right?! Who doesn’t like to watch a little reckless vengeance unleashed with impunity?
BB: Why is artist Juanan Antonio right for this book?
MR: I’ve never worked with Juanan before but he is a great artist. He just sent me some of our juiciest Lucifer and Richard Smiley unleashed pages from the story and he has knocked them out of the park. The thing I like about him is how much energy he puts into every page. He is perfect for a story about the rise and fall of a fast food icon and his transformation into a psychotic button. He gets the personal moments and cuts loose on the big bad moments. I really hope we work together again soon.
BB: How does it feel to be a part of reestablishing this classic comic book universe and these iconic characters?
MR: It was a load of fun. I never thought I’d ever have the chance to write a Smiley button’s origin, but now that I have, I want to write him more. Writing this character is addicting. Hopefully, that doesn’t make me a bad person. J