Junkyard crime nior cover for true crime comic, She's Running On Fumes


May 3, 2024

With my newest book, “She’s Running on Fumes”, releasing monthly I have been working with several amazing podcasts and comic-book websites. One of my favorites of these interviews was my time with Jed W. Keith from FreakSugar. In this interview I was asked some of the most insightful and through questions I have ever answered. I hope that you all enjoy hearing my answers just as much as I enjoyed giving them! Find the original interview here.


FreakSugar: Before we get to the comic itself, what made you decide to look to your family history for inspiration? Was this a story you’ve wanted to tell for a while?

Dennis Hopeless: I’ve been trying to figure out a way to fictionalize my parent’s relationship for over a decade. The world they lived in before my father’s wreck and who they were as young people always fascinated me. The details, as I got old enough to understand them, were too good to pass up. But I could never figure out a story structure that worked as a comic. The moment I realized I could exaggerate and twist the criminal elements into my mother’s worst-case scenario… This semi-true crime comic was born.

FS: What can you say about the background of the story and the personal history behind it?

DH: My parents always told the same stories about their lives before I was old enough to remember. Strange things that happened. Snakes in the toilet. Dad flying off the handle and trying to outrun the cops in the middle of the night. Stories that were so well-worn I didn’t think too much of them. But as I got older, and especially after my father passed, Mom started adding details that made clear… Before his near fatal car accident when I was 3, my dad was a criminal. After the accident he had to learn how to walk again and went to trade school and became a relatively normal dad, but there was a moment there where things could have gone very differently. She’s Running on Fumes is the story of what if they had.

FS: And on to the comic itself, what can you tell us the plot of this adaptation?

DH: After my father is nearly killed in a car accident and $50K worth of biker cocaine goes missing, my 26-year-old mother starts a chop shop with a junkyarder named Corn Dog to keep us alive, afloat and fed.

FS: Many of us have parts of our family history that are heavy with emotion. What was the writing process like? What kind of feelings were you going through as you brought this story to life?

DH: Dramatizing some of this stuff was a lot harder than expected. Dad has been dead for over 20 years now and I’ve been to a lot of therapy since, but writing about my parents struggles during the ugliest period of their lives was emotionally devastating. This isn’t a story about how right or wrong either of them were, and much of the crime plot is fiction, but the characters and struggles are very real.

I also ended up learning a lot about traumatic brain injury and the fact that the father I grew up with was likely a product of his head injury. That was definitely a lot to take in.

FS: Following up on that, is there a particular frame of mind you have to get into when writing something so personal?

DH: You just have to think of them as characters and let the scenes play out. My mother’s voice is an easy one to write, but the mom I know now isn’t a 26-year-old going through hell. I have to write that character and live in those moments. Dad has been gone so long, it was a little easier to think of him in that fictional light. Inspired by my memories but not totally beholden to them.

The hardest part was the rewriting and editing process. That forced me to READ a story about my parents’ pain and suffering. I definitely did some crying to get through this book.

FS: You have a stacked creative team. What was the process working together to bring this project to life?

DH: I couldn’t have done any of this without the team. It was too much to handle alone. I conceived and wrote it in the middle of Covid lockdown without an artist attached initially. Tyler Jenkins is a friend and I knew he’d like the subject matter. I sent it to him to read for thoughts and notes… With my fingers crossed. His response, “Did you send me this for notes or because I’m the perfect person to draw it?” And boy was he right.

Then Hilary’s watercolors added the perfect sun-bleached rural Missouri to every page. Hass’s lettering makes my all-over-the-place dialogue work, so I would’ve begged to get him on this. And then Heather Antos expertly steered the ship like she always does. The book was absolutely blessed to have them.

FS: Do you have any other projects down the pike you’d like to talk about?

DH: I have another BIG project coming up later this year, but I can’t talk about it just yet. It’s a total departure from anything I’ve ever done and well underway.

FS: If you had one final pitch for the book, what would it be?

DH: Everyone I’ve shown this to has said She’s Running on Fumes is the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s the most genuine, personal comic I’ve ever written. It’s the kind of thing I would’ve made day one of my career if I could’ve, but it took 17 years to teach myself how. And somehow we got an art and production team that made it look and read better than it did in my head.

She’s Running on Fumes #1 goes on sale this Tuesday, February 6, 2024, from Comixology Originals.

From the official press release:

Inspired by his family’s real-life secrets, writer Dennis Hopeless (Spider-Woman, All-New X-Men) has penned She’s Running on Fumes, a 1980s rural crime thriller. Told in 6 fast-paced issues, She’s Running on Fumes features art by Tyler Jenkins (Grass Kings), a rich watercolor palette by Hilary Jenkins, lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and edits by Heather Antos. She’s Running on Fumes #1 arrives February 6, 2024 from Comixology Originals, Amazon’s exclusive digital content line.

“When I was 3-years-old my mother started a chop shop with a half-wit junkyarder named Corn Dog,” says Hopeless. “Dad was the criminal. Mom had never broken a law in her life, but with him brain-damaged, fifty-thousand dollars of cocaine gone missing and hospital bills piling up, grand theft auto was our only hope.”

She’s Running on Fumes is set during the summer of 1984 in the town of Deepwater, Missouri. When a small-time criminal by the name of Jody, gets his Monte Carlo t-boned by a Ford Bronco, the trajectory of his family’s life is forever changed. As hospital bills start piling up, and his young wife and mother of two learns he was involved in drug trafficking, she too must resort to illegal activity, doing everything she can to survive.

Hopeless continued, “She’s Running on Fumes is based on the true story of how my mom lied, cheated and stole her way through dad’s tire fire and the freedom she found out the other side. The story is based on family stories and my father’s near-fatal accident from when I was a toddler. As I grew older, details were added that made it clear my father was a criminal and many of the events of my childhood were driven by his criminal dealings. The seeds of the idea came from asking my mother about these old stories as an adult and getting the real dirt.”

Enhancing the story is Tyler and Hilary Jenkins’ watercolored artwork, giving the book a pitch-perfect rural 1980’s sunbaked feel.

Culling from his past, Hopeless tells a heartbreaking and eye-opening story about poverty, parenthood, and a young mother finding her strength at rock bottom.





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