Back in March, we spoke to Atlanta author Bill Meeks about his Dogboy series of books, which began with Den of Thieves and continued with Danger on Liberty Pier and Demon’s Dare. This month, he’ll be releasing the fourth book in the series, Eye of the Scarab, which explores the concept of the surveillance state and examines the very nature of Dogboy’s hometown of Colta City.
In addition to being an author, Meeks is also a podcaster and video producer, and his work has been seen in international cinema, on domestic television and across the internet. To learn more about Meeks and his various projects, visit him online at www.billmeeks.com.
I got a new podcast off the ground, wrote two books, and got my hair cut. The hair cut didn’t take that long but I thought I’d mention it since I think it looks pretty sharp. Sadly they weren’t able to fill in the patches where the hair is less there.
You’ve now written four books in the Dogboy series. What is it about the Dogboy character that you, as the author, find most intriguing or exciting?
The best thing about writing stories about Dogboy is the research. While the series tells a connected story, each book has it’s own style and setting. Danger on Liberty Pier let me dig deep into The Hardy Boys. Demon’s Dare pushed me to a great book called The Night Circus and lots of information on old theme parks.
Eye of the Scarab let me dig deep on surveillance technology and a lot of the class struggles happening in the U.S. right now. All the books give me an opportunity to share my love and thoughts about superheroes as well, which is a lot of fun.
How have you evolved creatively since you first started the Dogboy series?
I think my prose is better for sure. I’m better at structure too. Demon’s Dare is way more straightforward than Den of Thieves. I’m also more willing to get “weird with it,” as Frank from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would say. I’ve always loved trippy Silver Age madness and it’s fun to really open up and play with those concepts. The big bad of the series is a “multi-dimensional theater professor,” for example.
I’m also more willing to experiment stylistically. For example, in Demon’s Dare I use present tense to indicate Dogboy is dreaming or has stepped out of time (a new power he gets in that book). The next book will be four individual stories all told in first person. I’m pretty excited about that one.
What inspired you to explore the theme of the surveillance state in Eye of the Scarab?
As a tech head, I’ve always been concerned with privacy. I’ve also always loved 1984, and it makes me pretty sad that we as a society are heading that way. With the Snowden revelations, I thought it would be a good topic to address. It also ties into the themes of class warfare that I introduced in Den of Thieves. Mayor Lane’s Project DOLAN security system watches over the city, which lets me poke at the weaknesses in the superhero concept in the context of a modern world. I’ve also been developing a subplot with Dogboy and his girlfriend Cindy McNeil built around secrets that the surveillance state stuff brings into focus.
Do you have an end in mind for the saga of Dogboy, or is the story one that you could conceivably continue indefinitely?
I’ve left enough “holes” in the timeline that I could go back and write as many Dogboy stories as I’d like, but five seems like a good number to stop on. I’m planning Dogboy: River of Time for next summer. The pitch is “Four heroes. Four decades. One chance to save the world.” It’s a superhero time travel adventure that will take Dogboy to a fateful Halloween night in the 80’s, through the great superhero war of the 90’s, into the alternative 2005 he creates, and then finally to the modern day where he will face his two greatest enemies. I’m planning for it to be a double-length adventure. Should be a lot of fun.
What are your fondest video game memories?
Defeating Maleficent in her dragon form in the first Kingdom Hearts. I was in college and bought a PS2 just to play Kingdom Hearts after seeing a commercial. I spent hours and hours trying to defeat the dragon with no luck. Just couldn’t get the timing right. Eventually I got so frustrated I shut it off and considered selling the system and the game. After I calmed down, I sat down and completed it on the first try. It taught me that getting frustrated when you fail will only make you fail harder. Sometimes you need to take a step back.
How did the Legends of Gotham podcast come about?
We decided to do Legends of Gotham pretty early. January maybe? I’d heard the basic concept for Gotham and the pilot had a lot of good buzz. We’d been doing the Once Upon A Time podcast Greetings from Storybrooke for a year and some change, and thought it would be fun to branch out. My co-host Anne Marie DeSimone likes the kinds of things I don’t, but both Once Upon A Time and Gotham have elements we both like. As far as Gotham goes, Anne Marie is into police procedural, which I generally dislike. It’s also set it the Batman universe which I love, and she can take or leave. It’s a fun dynamic, and one we hope to grow out in 2015.
Since Gotham sounded like such a good fit, we jumped on the name, and spent the first part of 2014 figuring it out while we waited for footage. It was pretty scary. What if we hated the show? Luckily it all worked out. We loved it, and the whole Gotham crew has been great about working with us. We even got a chance to appear in a commercial for the series. I played Bullock and Gordon, while AM played Fish Mooney and Captain Essen. We’ve also featured exclusives calls and messages from actors and directors on the show. It’s a lot of fun, and it seems like Gotham should go for awhile, so we’re just getting started.
What do you think Gotham did best in its first ten episodes, and what storylines or characters are you most looking forward to seeing in future episodes?
Gotham makes me feel like I did when watching the ’60s Adam West series before I realized they were joking. It’s also a pretty decent live action Batman: The Animated Series. They do a great job being funny while taking the situations seriously, and the entire cast has nailed the right tone. It feels like a comic book without feeling like it’s for kids, and when it’s at its best, it feels like a classic Greek tragedy with mind-blowing camera work.
I hope we get some more big name villains in the second half. A brief wish list: Mad Hatter, Condiment King, Man Bat, Killer Croc, Maxie Zeus. I also hope we get more cast interviews for the podcast.
What was your initial reaction to the news that Ben Affleck was casting as the next Batman?
I’m all for Batfleck. It’s an unpopular opinion but I loved Man of Steel. Featuring a Batman who’s been operational for a few years makes good sense to pair with a Superman whose first adventure went sideways. The Batman character works great as a mentor. I love Affleck so no problem there. He keeps getting better. The only thing that gives me pause is all the references to Dark Knight Returns from the BvS creatives. The Superman in DKR is a tool and not the character I’ve loved my entire life. That being said, they nailed him in Man of Steel so I’m pretty pumped.
If you could craft the perfect sandwich, what would be on it?
You just had to mention sandwiches. It makes me sad, but last week I was given a “diagnosis.” That’s where you go see a doctor and he tells you all your favorite things are killing you. No more bread, coffee, red meat, or hot sauce for me. A week in to fruits, fish, and veggies, and your question has me salivating.
Doctor-approved answer? Tomato slices on lettuce. What I’m actually thinking? Bacon, ham, pastrami, pepper jack cheese, colby cheese, turkey, pickles, mayo and mustard on toasted rye bread. My tummy is growling. I think I have your next interview subject here in my abdomen.
Any plans yet for post-Dogboy projects?
I’m already starting work on the next series. It’s called Infinite Tina, and it’s basically Quantum Leap through the multiverse. Can’t wait to start putting this one out. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s also a very different series than Dogboy. I should have more on that early next year.