And they'll face their biggest challenge ever: irrelevance.(opens in new tab)
Debuting September 9, Bill & Ted Are Doomed (opens in new tab) takes the rockers into a new era, the mid-'90s, as they face the fact that maybe, just maybe, the Wyld Stallions aren't that cool anymore.
Writer Evan Dorkin and artist Roger Langridge take the airhead duo on a world tour as they race the clock to find themselves again as well as write the song that will unite the universe.
Newsarama chatted with Dorkin and Langridge about the upcoming limited series and how they see Bill and Ted, the challenges they confront, and if they could ever write a song as powerful as one that could bring peace throughout the universe.
Newsarama: Evan, Roger, with Bill & Ted Face The Music hitting theaters soon, is there any connection between Doomed and the movie? Aside from that both Bill and Ted are in it?
Roger Langridge: My understanding is that it's kind of a prequel, so there are a few nods to the upcoming movie. Bill and Ted's daughters feature in the comic (several years younger than they are in the movie - here, they're just kids), and I think there's something called the Turntable in the movie, which is a cosmic device of some kind, that we set up here. But Evan can probably address this better than I can, as he's actually seen the screenplay.
Evan Dorkin: I did have access to the final shooting script, which I used to place events between the last two movies that we could incorporate and expand on. And like Roger said, Doomed is a prequel to Face The Music, filling in some of the early events that help crash Bill and Ted's musical careers, personal relationships, and role as saviors of the future.
It's also a sequel to Bogus Journey - we were able to show what happened to the Stations and the robots since they don't appear in the third film.
Doomed is meant to be completely in-continuity as a part of the franchise, although I don't know if it will be officially regarded as canon or not. That was the initial talk, but I'm not going around telling people it's a fact; I humbly think of Doomed as a side quest. If it becomes explicitly canon, then hooray for me and Roger and Dark Horse. If it doesn't, hooray for us anyway, we still made a nifty Bill and Ted comic.
Nrama: So Doomed takes place 20 years in the past and the Stallions have sort of reached cultural irrelevancy. but I feel like most bands of that era that they looked up to didn't even make it to 1995. What's their idea of trying to be relevant again?
Langridge: In the first two movies, they're explicitly told that they will one day write a song that will bring the whole world together. And when our story starts they still haven't done that. So it's not even about staying relevant, really; more about having an unfulfilled destiny, and an unpaid debt to the future. The weight of the world is on their shoulders, poor bastards!
Dorkin: That's pretty much the main thing. Wyld Stallyns are supposed to save the universe with the one song. We've seen statues of them in the future in Bogus Journey, they are called "the great ones" and people speak with their catchphrases. You have to think that means they'd remain popular enough to unite the world with their music, and not just be huge in the Czech Republic like some '80s hardcore band.
They also overextended themselves financially after their burst of popularity, thinking that their future was assured. So, there's bills to pay, on a very simple, pragmatic level.
As far as they understand it, Wyld Stallyns must stay as successful as they were when they played to a full crowd in the Grand Canyon. Which...they totally don't.(opens in new tab)
Langridge: They're friends! They can absolutely, 100% rely upon one another. Their guilelessness, open-heartedness, and irrepressible good spirits are really appealing - perennially, but especially right now, when the world seems dominated by the exact opposite of those excellent qualities.
Nrama: Real quick, do either of you consider yourself songwriters?
Langridge: Aw, no. I made up a bunch of goofy lyrics for imaginary songs in my Muppet Show comics, but they're doggerel, really. They're written to work on paper, not as actual songs. I don't play an instrument or anything. Learning to draw was what consumed my adolescence, I couldn't have become a musician as well. Hats off to anyone who can do both, because their powers are awesome and terrible.
Dorkin: Technically, my wife Sarah Dyer and I have been paid to write song lyrics, when we co-wrote some episodes of the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba with Christian Jacobs (a.k.a., The MC Bat Commander of The Aquabats). But, there's no way in hell I'd consider myself a songwriter or someone who understands music.
I dreamed of being in a band back in the day, but I didn't know how to play a musical instrument, and I also didn't have the nerve to fake it like some folks did when starting out. So I draw them instead.
Nrama: What do you think it is about Bill and Ted that still resonates with fans even 30 years later?(opens in new tab)
Dorkin: Bill and Ted's huge hearts are the killer app in the series. None of the jokes, asides, visuals, or adventures would matter if they weren't so stupidly loveable. They really mean well, they want the best for others, they're willing to go to any lengths to help the world. The utter lack of cynicism and selfishness is incredibly appealing.
As weak as they are physically, as inept as they can be mentally, they are absolutely heroes. Even when they fail. Maybe especially when they fail. Because they really do screw up things a lot. Luckily for them, they're happiness engines that never quit, even when they get killed. Twice.
Nrama: The gang is pretty much all here, including Joanna and Elizabeth, their wives. How would you describe their relationship at the beginning of Doomed?
Langridge: I'm sure Evan has his own take on this one, but to me, it seems like Joanna and Elizabeth are quite…long-suffering? Is that fair? Bill and Ted are permanent adolescents, and that must be exhausting. But it seems like there's genuine love and affection there, too. When Bill and Ted screw up, it's usually because they're trying too hard, rather than not hard enough. You can't stay angry at that for long.
Dorkin: I have to admit I always found Joanna and Elizabeth difficult to write for, as they don't have a ton of agency in the earlier movies. I tried to give them more to do in the Marvel series, but, at the end of the day, you can't stretch the characters too far beyond what the IP holders will allow, and the name of the property and comic is 'Bill & Ted.'
So, it's hard to balance things out with only so-many pages. Roger has it exactly right in that Bill and Ted can be overgrown, clueless children. Their love and respect for their wives is completely pure, but they aren't exactly mature adults and their behavior causes some negative real-life issues for the family.(opens in new tab)
Working with that dynamic didn't exactly make me feel super-comfortable about my own situation. I'm afraid far too many male cartoonists who came up in previous decades – myself included – are guilty of having their heads elsewhere while their partner 'puts up with them.' Every male cartoonist who has ever won an Eisner Award seems to thank their partner for being long-suffering and keeping the household together and the like.
And like Bill and Ted in Face the Music, maybe that's a burden that shouldn't be placed squarely on others so we can follow our muse, even if we are netting an income of some sort. Not to get too serious here, but I tried to touch on this sort of thing with humor, knowing it comes to a head in the new movie. The relationships between the princesses and their husbands are a major plot point in Face the Music.
Nrama: Roger, I feel like your art was perfect for the Station creatures, but was there any character you had a difficult time trying to adapt your style with?
Langridge: The whole thing has been a bit of a balancing act, really, because whether or not we can use the actors' likenesses is a bit of a gray area. I've been trying to evoke all the characters in spirit, rather than to the letter, just to be cautious about that side of it. So they've all been difficult in that very specific regard. Otherwise, the schedule has been such that I haven't really had time to be too precious about it. I'm just jumping in and taking each page as it comes, finding a way to make it work as well as I can before I have to do the next one.
Nrama: Can you say who they'll meet this time around?
Langridge: They make a new friend, Zahir, who's their road manager while they're touring, and some new enemies: Vile Empire, the deathiest death metal band in the world! At some point, there may also be a goat.
Dorkin: I wanted to try to include as many characters from the series as possible, even if it was just a reference or a cameo of some sort. Whenever I work on a licensed project, I like to try to touch on as many aspects from the source material as possible.
I remember being a fan and appreciating that sort of thing, and as long as it isn't a series of empty fan gestures, it's a great way to round out a story and make things seem 'real.' We included most of the established cast, adding Thea and Billie, and there are references or mentions of characters like Missy, Captain Logan, Chuck DeNomolos, and Satan.(opens in new tab)
Langridge: My take is, I guess he's kind of our link to the bigger picture? All the destiny business. He's on top of that, the significance of that, more than Bill and Ted are. I guess it's like Bill and Ted can only see the bit of the picture they're in, whereas Rufus is our way in to understanding that there's more going on, and that there's more to Bill and Ted than just being loveable goofballs. Although they're that as well, of course.
We have some new characters because you should always have some new characters, including our villains, the evil metal band Roger mentioned.
Vile Empire is basically every genre of metal rolled up into one ridiculous, over-the-top band that takes itself and its music way too seriously. We weren't allowed to reference real bands like in the old Marvel comics but if you're into Ghost or Mercyful Fate or Black Metal or anything of that order you might get a kick out of some of their nonsense. And there is a goat. He's with a different band, though.
Nrama: Will you please give Death that bass solo?
Langridge: I can only work with what I'm given!
Dorkin: Only far enough so we could make a pretty weak prog-rock joke.
Nrama: Obviously Rufus won't be around for Face The Music, but what is his role here?(opens in new tab)
Dorkin: If Bill and Ted are the heart of the series, Rufus is the brain, as well as the mature parental figure that Captain Logan, Missy, and Mr. Preston are not exactly capable of being. And he's clearly a fan-favorite. He doesn't have a substantial role in Doomed but we tried to make his presence clearly felt and not just a throwaway cameo. Hopefully, it works.
Nrama: What do you think the biggest lesson Bill and Ted will learn with Doomed?
Langridge: Cluck-E-Chick don't deliver.
Dorkin: European beer bottles might be nicer than American ones, but they hurt just the same when thrown at you on stage.