Gaby Dunn is ambitious, but not ambitious enough to cozy up to a child murderer for a good story. However, that’s exactly what the queer writer’s protagonist and alter ego Madison Jackson does in Bury the Lede , her debut graphic novel from BOOM! Studios.
Illustrated by Claire Roe (DC’s Wonder Woman and Batgirl & The Birds of Prey) and inspired by Dunn’s two-year stint as a Boston Globe intern, the deliciously twisty contemporary noir mystery sees Madison, a bisexual Asian-American rookie newspaper journalist, not only land a scoop but become part of the story itself when a seductive alleged killer, socialite Dahlia Kennedy, confesses to her that she murdered her husband and child. Yet Madison, who begins sleeping with her idol, veteran reporter Lexi Ford, soon realizes she’s being manipulated into uncovering a far more sinister conspiracy that involves a Betsy DeVos-esque character, Raquel Stief.
Dunn is probably best known as the wickedly funny host of the personal finance–themed podcast Bad With Money, which she spun off into a 2019 book of the same name, and as the co-host of the podcast and YouTube series Just Between Us (which she does with her codependent bestie Allison Raskin), but she’s also appeared in Take My Wife, a semi-autobiographical comedy series starring former comedian couple Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher.
Taking a break from all that—and just before making her first appearance on the other side of the table at New York Comic Con this weekend—Dunn called up NewNowNext to chat about murder, cosplay, and whether sleeping with your idols is ever a good idea.
How did this first foray into comics come together?
I’d wanted to pitch to BOOM! since 2016. A woman I was dating worked there, and I loved their LGBTQ-inclusive series Lumberjanes. I sent maybe three pitches and didn’t hear back for a year or something. I thought it was over. Then my editor Dafna Pleban came back and said, “We like this idea and have time and an open slot.” Then I had to learn how to write a graphic novel.
Did any specific comics or authors serve as influences?
Yes, I love Warren Ellis and his Transmetropolitan series, which is about a journalist, actually. Another of my favorites is Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man. Saga. Birds of Prey, which [my illustrator] Claire worked on. I read a lot of Dennis Lehane books and watched The Departed, The Town, and Mystic River—anything you can consume about Boston crime, which is all super straight and white-guy-driven. Queering up and adding people of color to that genre was what I tried to do.
Did you ask for any of the characters to be based on you, visually?
Madison is Chinese American, but for some reason my dad still thinks she’s me. I guess she dresses like me when I was in college, but my parents will be like, “Oh, my god, it was crazy when you did this in the comic book.” I respond, “Well, it wasn’t me.” But I guess parents are like that.
This was partly inspired by your experience at the Boston Globe. Was there a specific story from that time that you drew from?
Yeah. Starting at age 19, I worked at the Globe on and off for a year and a half. This was a little bit based on a couple of things that happened around me. I don’t know if you remember the Clark Rockefeller story, but they made a 2010 Lifetime movie about it, Who Is Clark Rockefeller? Basically, he was a German con artist pretending to be a Rockefeller, and he got caught because he tried to kidnap his own kid. The story kept unfolding. He was also wanted for murders in Germany, and it kept getting crazier and crazier, so this is a little bit based on that.
Also, there was a thing that happened where they thought a guy had murdered his own kid and was in jail and not speaking to anyone, and then he decided to speak only to one of the female reporters. Maybe because they both spoke Spanish—I’m not sure. I remember her being very taken by this guy confessing to her, and that has always stayed with me as a visual: her coming in through the doors and everyone in the newsroom staring at her as she wrote, because we knew the murderer had confessed to her. It was something I wanted to explore with Madison: What is it that made a murderer talk to this person?
Madison ends up sleeping with Lexi, a seasoned reporter she thinks is hot. Was that also based on your experience? Would you advise against doing that sort of thing?
Yeah, don’t do that. There was a female reporter who worked at the Globe that I think everyone had a crush on. I remember idolizing her. That’s what that’s based on. You would see [the seasoned reporters] as these gods and goddesses. But if that reporter had wanted to hook up with me, who knows what I would’ve done.
And Betsy DeVos was the inspiration for Ms. Stief?
100%. That’s what it said in the pitch: “Think Betsy DeVos.”
Let’s talk about your podcast. Will there be a Season 5 of Bad With Money?
Yes, we’re contractually obligated to do seven. So the fifth season will be coming this fall or winter.
Who are your current wishlist guests?
I just got Elizabeth Warren’s personal finance book, All Your Worth, which she wrote with her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi in 2006. I thought, Ooh, I wrote a personal finance book. I could run for president! I would love to have her on. There are a lot of angles to discuss: her beginning in personal finance and student loan stuff, and all the proposals she has for literally everything. She engages with followers and fans, so maybe it’s not so out of reach.
We’ll hashtag her on this story.
Yes! Come on Bad With Money or you’re homophobic!
What podcasts do you love these days?
I listen to My Favorite Murder. I just started Mob Queens, which NewNowNext followers might enjoy because it’s about drag queens and the mob. I love Webcrawlers, which is about conspiracy theories. There’s a RuPaul’s Drag Race recap show I love, Race Chaser with Alaska and Willam, and I listen to Throwing Shade.
You also have a YouTube series, but are you over YouTube at this point? I read in another interview about how they demonetize queer content.
Yes, super over it. They just started doing this thing where they demonetize videos by people who are sponsored by Adam & Eve, the sex toy company, and they’ve sponsored me in the past and they’re great sponsors—really easy to work with—and now other posters’ videos have been flagged or given a strike on their channel. If you have Adam & Eve as a sponsor you get a strike, and if you get more than three strikes you’re deleted.
The site has become so anti-queer and sex-negative—it’s the antithesis of everything it was built to be. Look what happened with Tumblr. It banned porn and now nobody is on Tumblr. These people are doing videos for Adam & Eve showing sex toys as a way to do sex education, even specifically queer sex education, which—guess what?—some people can only get on the internet. And YouTube is shutting it down. It’s such garbage.
Between the podcasts, videos, and writing, you’re insanely prolific. Anything else you’re working on?
I’m working on a scripted podcast—a fiction podcast.
Do you have time to date?
I am dating, but I’m nonmonogamous, so make of that what you will, internet! I’m seeing someone, but my relationships are always open.
So folks should dress to impress for your appearance at New York Comic Con.
Yes, please dress to impress. Cosplay as me.
Are you into cosplay?
Oh, my god. I’d love to see Killing Eve cosplay at the cons. I’m obsessed with Halloween and do it big every year. Last time I did Laura Dern’s character from Star Wars. It’s on my Insta, and I dressed my dog as BB-8. This is not a joke. I dressed as The X-Files’ Mulder for Halloween in sixth grade, and my friend and I carried around an inflatable alien.
Bury the Lede is available in comic book stores now and in bookstores October 8.