This past month Dark Horse comics released the “Trout Volume 1: Bits and Bobs” hardcover which collected the original Trout story from creator Troy Nixey. This June, Troy is returning to his character Trout for an all new adventure in a four issue series “Trout: The Hollowest Knock.” Written and drawn by Troy Nixey with colors from Dave Stewart the series “picks up when Giuseppe and Trout are run out of Upton. Sick and distraught the two have no other option but to travel across the ocean to Giuseppe’s childhood village.”
To learn more about this new adventure for the young boy named Trout we were able to talk to creator Troy Nixey about the series. Troy discuses what readers can expect from this new adventure, why he wanted to return to this world, and working with Dave Stewart again. A big thanks to Troy for taking the time to answer our questions and be sure to look for “Trout: The Hollowest Knock” in shops this June 19th. If you want to prepare for this new adventure you can also explore the original in “Trout Volume 1: Bits and Bobs” in stores and online now.
For those new to the Trout series, what is this story and what can they expect from “The Hollowest Knock?” Obviously, they should go pick up the first collection Dark Horse just released but is this something they can come into having missed the first story?
Troy Nixey: Hello Kyle, nice chatting with you again. I went back and forth for quite a while trying to decide if I should abandon what I created back in 1999 and 2001 or include them as a backstory for the new series. Ultimately what the previous stories represent are too important to ignore so I decided they needed to be the setup for “The Hollowest Knock.” I refer to moments from both stories in the new series but they’re not so integral, readers will be lost. Certainly, reading “Trout: Bits & Bobs” will clear up any questions readers have in regards to the references but I’m not trying to hook anyone into buying both books. Haha. As for what readers can expect, the world of Trout is a surreal fantasy, full of odd characters and physical manifestations of emotional turmoil. There’s also a healthy dose of slap-stick comedy and biting humor.
What made Trout a series you wanted to return to after all this time?
TN: Honestly, it was finally dealing with some childhood trauma and allowing myself to let go of the guilt and shame that came with it, accepting something isn’t your fault is a pretty powerful experience. It’s obvious now what the stories from 1999 and 2001 represent but I wasn’t cognizant of that at the time of creation. Clearly there was a part of me that wanted to deal with the abuse but consciously, I wasn’t able or ready to. It’s not shocking that all the pain and conflict I tried to keep hidden came out in my work. When I finally decided I needed help and began counseling it became immediately clear that Trout was me, the little boy who shut everything off and turned to drawing as an escape. Nicky Nine Doors is the shame, fear and guilt I dragged around with me for three plus decades. It wasn’t until I really started to accept the impact of what happened that I realized Giuseppe is also me, the adult me. Trout is the emotional aspect of the trauma and Giuseppe is the physical. That dynamic really plays out in the new series. Readers might think Trout too passive but he is in fact dealing with the worst of it in “The Hollowest Knock.”
I’m only able to tackle this project because I’m in a much better place now. The shame and guilt are gone, replaced by a strong appreciation and love for myself that has translated into an appreciation and love for creating. I’ve never been this happy making comics. The journey Trout and Giuseppe take will be arduous but it reflects the emotional and physical journey I took. I’m truly content with where I am in my life for the first time and I want to reflect that in the characters who helped me deal with my past. I can’t wait to give them a happy ending as well. They sure as hell earned it.Continued below
Your work has a very distinct look, feel and presence. Even the books you have worked on with other creators still manage to capture that style. How has that evolved over the years since the original series? How best would you describe where you at in your own style with this Trout series?
TN:I joke with friends that I draw the way I do because I’m terrible at copying. Hahaha. In all seriousness, I’ve focused on improving my writing as much as improving my drawing. When the first two stories were created I wasn’t comfortable with writing. I could hide the shame I felt behind drawings but didn’t know how to do the same with words. As a result, the first two stories are ambiguous. There’s definitely conflict between words and pictures in my old work. These days the roadblocks created by the trauma are gone and I’ve found a happy balance as a result. I write and draw to the emotional intention of the scene, most of the time it works. I’ll take “most of the time,” any day. I’ve also let go the idea of creating the perfect image. The perfect image doesn’t exist. I would obsess over my old work but now that I feel more comfortable with my writing and the idea of what comic book storytelling is, it’s a less stressful endeavor. I look forward to getting up every day and making comics.
The first Trout series had that absurdist story-telling and visuals I love in your work. From the jump this series picks right back up with that tone. How do you approach and script a series like Trout where it often seems like it can and will go anywhere?
TN:I created a guideline for myself; I wanted to be respectful and true to the characters, be honest with myself and give Trout and Giuseppe a happy ending. Trout’s journey was going to be emotionally wrought while Giuseppe’s would be both emotionally and physically draining. I had a few moments in mind for them both then I just let my imagination run wild. One scene I knew I wanted to include and is the foundation for the entire series, is the moment between Nicky and Trout in issue three. Nicky divulges a horrible truth to Trout. It captures the same emotional impact of the lies I used to tell myself to make myself feel miserable and unworthy of love. I reworked the dialogue of that scene numerous times and the week leading up to drawing and lettering it wasn’t easy but it was necessary. A flock of doves framed by a rainbow didn’t appear out my window when I finished the scene nor did I expect or need it but I knew it was important for me to include it. It was me giving the middle finger to shame-fueled secret I carried all those years.
This first issue features a lot of grid work. Is that something you were looking to work on with this series?
TN:I approached my layouts for “The Hollowest Knock.” the same way I approached “Vinegar Teeth,” abandoning full-bleed and overlapping panels. I’ve been working diligently on my writing and storytelling over the years and the grid layout is a natural progression resulting from that work. I feel my work is clearer and flows better with the grid approach. It’s also more practical. I work larger these days, a 13.25 by 19.75 inch live area. As a result, I physically cut the pages in thirds or halves along the gutter for ease of inking and tape them back together when I’m done. It’s something that a lot of European cartoonists do. It sure makes inking and scanning a lot easier. There’s also some pages with a very heavy panel count. I love to try and replicate camera moves, as much as one can in comics, in my storytelling. Definitely a carryover from the directing days.
You excel at visually grotesque character designs. What are you thinking/looking at when it comes to creating the monsters and people that inhabit the world of this series?
TN:Hmmmm…I don’t consider my work, especially the characters to be grotesque, it certainly isn’t my intention. Quirky, lumpy, well-worn with some frayed edges certainly, but not grotesque. Well perhaps the monsters are grotesque but then they should be even if they’re comedic in nature. I stopped trying to dissect the origins of why and how I approach the worlds I create and the people who inhabit them, years ago. There are a few obvious ones from my youth; Dr. Seuss, Mad Magazine, Looney Tunes cartoons and even a sprinkling of Herge, all of which were instrumental in my early years of creating but there’s no definitive starting point for my quirky style. I learned to simply enjoy it and when I got to that point I stopped thinking about it. It’s what feels the most natural and I just run with it.Continued below
Dave Stewart is coloring this series. What does he bring to the book for you and what makes him so goddamn good?
TN:Dave is an absolute powerhouse. I’ve been working with his wife, Michelle Madsen of late as well and both have given me the confidence to push myself in areas where I might not have gone in the past because I know they’ll do a dynamite job. I’ve moved away from what I call ‘noodling’. All those brushstrokes that I’m known for were muddying up the amazing work Dave was doing. I wanted to give him room to work so if you take a closer look at issue one to what I’m doing on issue three at the moment you’ll see a big step in a different direction with my inks. Having Dave involved has also given me the courage to use color as important storytelling elements. Some are obvious while others are far more subtle but they work because Dave is brilliant. I’m over-the-moon with how this book is looking.
Do you plan on returning to Trout following the completion of “The Hollowest Knock?”
TN:There have been a few attempts over the years to make a live-action feature film based on Trout. I believe Trout will exist beyond this new mini-series in one form or another.
What do you hope readers take away from this first issue but also for those who stay on till the end of the series?
TN:I hope the first issue offers enough intrigue and action, they’ll want to come back and take the crazy journey with Trout and Giuseppe to its dramatic conclusion! The world of Trout is absurd and chock-full of weirdos and danger but at its heart, it’s a very personal work and I consider Trout relatable in his innocence. I’m proud of the series, for a lot of reasons. I’ve put my heart and soul into “The Hollowest Knock” and I think it shows.