Going to the Chapel #1 hits stores September 4th from Action Lab: Danger Zone, but we got the chance to chat with writer David Pepose about how the series came together and what readers should expect.
Chapel has one of the best pitches you’ll see in comics today: it’s Die Hard meets Wedding Crashers by way of Quentin Tarantino. Pepose himself says it’s “if Julia Roberts starred in Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s about a gang of Elvis-themed bank robbers who decide to rob a wedding, and the bride who has to play both sides against the middle to get everyone out in one piece.
Joining Pepose on the series is artist Gavin Guidry, colorist Liz Kramer, and letterer Ariana Maher.
This is actually our third time interviewing Pepose (and it probably won’t be our last!). Previously, we’ve had the opportunity to discuss his Ringo-nominated series Spencer & Locke with him and artist Jorge Santiago, Jr., and more recently we spoke at MegaCon in Orlando about Chapel, Spencer & Locke, and the writer’s tips for aspiring comic creators.
Read on to see what Pepose has to say about Going to the Chapel:
(And make sure to read all the way to the end for an extended preview of the first issue!)
Monkeys Fighting Robots: So how does your girlfriend feel about you writing a comic with the tagline “love is the ultimate hostage situation?” I hope your couch is comfortable.
David Pepose: Did my mother put you up to this question? Blink once if yes, blink twice if the word “grandchildren” was used. (Laughs) No, I actually wrote GOING TO THE CHAPEL because I wanted to make a comic that delved into romance and heart and action and excitement — after being inspired after completely failing as Best Man at a friend’s wedding, I actually wrote this book with my girlfriend Claire in mind, to try to make something that could be considered the perfect “date night” comic for the two of us (and hopefully the rest of the Direct Market as well).
Our provocative tagline is just a teaser — but at the end of the day, GOING TO THE CHAPEL is a love story, through and through. But it’s one that doesn’t see romance as an endgame or as a prize, but as an ongoing journey filled with all sorts of twists and turns — and while Emily has more bumps in the road than most on her way there, when she does reach her final destination, it’s all the more satisfying because it’s so hard-won. So to take the long way back to your original question: Yes. I promise I’m safe. For now. At least until the next time I see my mom.
MFR: “Bank robbers invade a wedding” sounds like a great story in itself, but Going to the Chapel has a lot of other stuff going on as well involving family dysfunction. Why did you feel like this was an important element to include?
Pepose: I think group dysfunction is a key element of a lot of my favorite hostage thrillers — you look at Dog Day Afternoon, for example, and the line between Al Pacino and the bank employees he’s holding at gunpoint starts to blur very quickly, to the point where they’re all rooting for him as he’s shouting “Attica!” at the police. So with GOING TO THE CHAPEL, when Emily’s wedding is suddenly taken over by a gang of Elvis-themed bank robbers, I wanted to lean into the inherent absurdity of it all, rather than lean quite as dark as I did with SPENCER & LOCKE.
It’s that element of interpersonal comedy that is a straight throughline from Die Hard to Inside Man — when you’re trapped with a crowd for an extended period of time in an uncomfortable space, people start to get really weird, really fast. So establishing Emily’s bizarre, rich family in the vein of the Bluths from Arrested Development felt like a natural way to build out our supporting cast and get readers laughing. Like, when it comes to dysfunctional families, we’ve all been there, right? The Andersons are used to having things their way, so to have their cluelessness throw the Bad Elvis Gang’s smash-and-grab into such disarray is so fun to write.
MFR: Where did the idea come from to make the bank robbers in this story Elvis-themed specifically?
Pepose: The inspiration for that came from Point Break — I really wanted to give the bank robbers a theme like the Dead Presidents, and after talking it over with my friend Troy Brownfield, the idea of the Bad Elvis Gang felt like the perfect imagery. It really just evoked those dysfunctional quickie weddings in Las Vegas, and finding ways to differentiate the Elvises — particularly Romero, our zombie Elvis — really leaned into my comedic sensibilities. But moreover, Elvis was a heartthrob from the jump, and having that quality in this romance-driven action story felt like the right call, especially once we see how Emily and Tom’s unorthodox team-up plays out.
MFR: Going to the Chapel is about Emily Anderson, a bride with cold feet. How do you approach writing a female protagonist compared to a male one? Do you confer with the women in your life to make sure your character’s voice is authentic?
Pepose: This actually goes back to your first question — my girlfriend Claire is actually a magazine editor, and a voracious prose reader, and she’s been my first set of eyes and my storytelling compass since before SPENCER & LOCKE. So everything you like about my books and my writing, I learned from Claire, since I started writing scripts as a way of impressing her. (See, I’m a romantic at heart!) The thing is, I’m a huge comics reader, and Claire is not — which is a great way for me to make sure that my storytelling is accessible and is tapping into human, relatable themes, rather than falling into the trap of pouring on more spectacle at the cost of readership.
It’s also one of the reasons I wanted to make sure we had as many women on the creative team as possible, with colorist Liz Kramer, letterer Ariana Maher, and our murderer’s row of cover artists — I wanted to make sure that at every stage of the process, someone could ping me if I was missing the point. (And I will say, I have to give a special shout-out to my friend Sierra Kagen Zanghi, who gave me some great advice at the jump that really helped inform how we wanted to promote this series as far as our cover imagery was concerned.)
MFR: The comparisons to Die Hard and Tarantino flicks makes me think that the story is going to be largely confined to the chapel (outside of flashbacks). What are the benefits and drawbacks to telling a story with one main setting? I feel like that’s a prime way to build tension.
Pepose: Every time I start a new project, there’s usually a certain set of challenges I set for myself, and with GOING TO THE CHAPEL, it was not only figuring out how to juggle the largest, most diverse cast possible, but figuring out if it was possible to do it in just one location. (One of my favorite comedies, Death at a Funeral, did this nicely — it’s like GOING TO THE CHAPEL, only minus the guns and taking place at the world’s worst funeral.) And let me tell you… it was definitely a challenge! (Laughs)
There are some scripts that I write pretty loosely, like SPENCER & LOCKE 2, and others, like GRAND THEFT ASTRO, I have a pretty firm outline already in place, and CHAPEL was definitely in the latter category. I wrote and rewrote the initial treatment at least a dozen times, because when you’ve got a cast of 15 people, you need to know where they are at all times. My artist Gavin Guidry kept me honest in that regard, as he actually designed a fully rendered, three-dimensional chapel on SketchUp, which required us to really commit to all the major plot points early — but as a result, once it was locked, the scripts came together incredibly fast.
MFR: What kind of direction did you supply Gavin and Liz to capture the tone/atmosphere you had in mind, and how did they take Going to the Chapel from the idea you had in your head to the book readers will have in their hands?
Pepose: Gavin and I clicked pretty early on in terms of general visual influences — stuff like Reservoir Dogs, Breaking Bad, Baby Driver — but ultimately, I felt his style was going to be what sold so many of our comedic and action scenes. I wrote down some pretty detailed descriptions of each of the characters, with reference images for outfits, their personality traits, what actors they might be similar to, and he basically nailed it on the first try. Then we’d go back and forth just in terms of page layouts and composition, which was anchored by the digital chapel Gavin built — Gavin pencils digitally and inks traditionally, so it was a very streamlined and fast process.
Liz, meanwhile, really was the person who was going to make or break selling our tone — and I think she did a magnificent job at it. I’ve been impressed with her work since I read her comic Threader at C2E2 two years back, and she’s got such a wonderfully textured style. We talked a lot about Patricia Martin’s work over in Secret Weapons, as well as Matt Wilson’s work on Black Widow, but I think Liz did a superb job at making those palettes her own. I’m usually work pretty closely with my colorists to fine-tune our pages, but with Liz, I found myself just approving page after page with no notes. She’s going to be the next Laura Martin, I know it.
MFR: You’ve tackled neo-noir in Spencer & Locke, and now you’re in the rom-com/western space with Going to the Chapel. What other worlds are you itching to explore?
Pepose: As many worlds as possible! I’m hard at work on GRAND THEFT ASTRO, my upcoming sci-fi series with artist Jordi Perez over at Top Cow — we’ve been getting everyone’s schedules together, but I’m in the final stretch on the last scripts, and I’m really excited with how it’s coming together. Beyond that, I’m wrapping up promotion on my other Action Lab series, SPENCER & LOCKE 2, which you can preorder the trade paperback collection now — we might be able to share some cool news about that series very soon.
And beyond that, I’m just excited to keep stretching my muscles as a creator, and to keep exploring new genres and seeing what kind of stuff I can dig up — I’ve got an epic fantasy story in the works that is just crackling off the page, a pair of sci-fi pitches that I’m excited to find a home for, and a scrappy little horror concept that I’m hoping to find some time to dust off soon. And I’ve got another crime story that, if I can pull it off, might be the biggest book of my career. It’s exciting just to keep taking these big swings, and I think it ties into GOING TO THE CHAPEL a lot — it took me a long time and a lot of soul-searching to figure out my path in life, but thanks to having a wonderful partner at my side showing me the way (not to mention a top-tier art team), I’m on the path where I’m supposed to be, and I couldn’t be happier.
Are you planning to pick up GOING TO THE CHAPEL? Let us know in the comments! And pre-order the book today at your local comic shop using the following Diamond codes:
GOING TO THE CHAPEL #1 (OF 4) CVR A LISA STERLE – JUL191409
GOING TO THE CHAPEL #1 (OF 4) CVR B HOUSE – JUL191410
GOING TO THE CHAPEL #1 (OF 4) CVR C GUIDRY – JUL191411