Monkeys Fighting Robots talked with David Pepose at MegaCon 2019, where the writer discussed his series Spencer & Locke and offered up some advice for aspiring comics writers.
Check out the full interview with David Pepose here:
On Roach Riley, villain of Spencer & Locke 2:
“That was sort of the toughest part about writing our sequel: I wanted to make a villain that was just as worthy as our lead characters. Because our first arc was sort of “what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City?” and it was a story about PTSD and trauma and mental illness and what are the lengths that the mind will go to protect itself from harm. So i was thinking, what’s the opposite of all that? And it took me a little while to get into that headspace.”
“Spencer and Locke, their trajectory, it’s a redemptive kind of arc, and what’s the opposite of that? Roach thinks, once you’ve had the worst day of your life, that’s it, nothing else can touch you. I looked to Heath Ledger’s Joker as a huge inspiration. Also Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter. So once I got into that head space, the whole story kind of clicked for me in terms of its themes and how Locke would react to things and how Roach would slowly start taking control of the situation. He was kind of a hard character to stay in long term, but it was so rewarding to write.”
On his upcoming series Going to the Chapel:
“The easy log line is: it’s like Die Hard met Wedding Crashers. It’s about a wealthy bride who’s dealing with a serious case of cold feet, but before she can say anything, her wedding is taken over by a gang of Elvis-themed bank robbers. So she’s in it to play both sides against the middle, she wants to get out in one piece. It’s a love story! It’s a story about commitment and dysfunctional families and what does it take to say till death do us part?
I feel like rom-coms always get a bad rap… There’s a preconception of who’s allowed to consume and enjoy these things, and I think that’s nonsense. A lot of my favorite movies are twists on the rom-com genre… I think rom-coms are just as flexible of a genre as crime or science fiction. And so I wanted to write something that I thought I would really like to read, that both men and women would enjoy and have a lot of fun reading.
People said it’s like if 90’s Julia Roberts was in a 90’s Quentin Tarantino movie.”
On what advice he has for aspiring comic book writers:
“Don’t get discouraged. There are going to be so many roadblocks that happen to you in comics… Things will fall through. It’s just the nature of the business. People get busy, they have family things come up, they bite off more than they can chew, and the things that writers have to remember is: you have it easy. You can write five scripts in the amount of time that one artist can draw one issue… So you have to kind of manage your expectations a bit. And when you find somebody who can go the distance, you really have to hold on to them tight.
On top of that, it takes time. It’s a marathon. It took nine months for the pitch for Spencer & Locke – just the pitch – to get put together. And then it took another six months to get an offer for it. And then it took another ten months to complete it! So when you start thinking of it like that, especially when you’re starting out in the creator-owned scene, these things aren’t fast. And the higher quality you’re shooting for, the longer it’s going to take.
My biggest suggestion for any writer out there is: learn other elements of the business. For me, I started as a reviewer, so I was able to articulate what I liked about comics art and what I didn’t like and the kinds of shots I liked, so I could discuss with an artist in the thumbnail stage what I liked. I took classes at Comics Experience online for coloring and lettering, and that helped me out in a BIG way, because if you’re able to look at your pages and be able to go in Photoshop and say, “hey what would it look like if we did this?” then you can convey that to your colorist and you guys can go back and forth about what would look best for this book to stay true to your vision but also do something that the colorist feels they’re a part of.
It’s a lot of communication. It’s a lot of back and forth. And it’s a lot of trial and error. No two teams work the same way.”
“Making comics is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most worthwhile. Anybody out there who’s thinking they want to do a comic, do it. Start small, if you want. You don’t even have to start making the artwork. If you’re a writer, start with some short scripts until you feel confident enough that you can do a full issue script, until you can do a four issue art, you can do a six issue arc. A lot of people think, “oh I’m going to do 60 issue epic” and that’s not how it works, guys. Publishers don’t know who you are. Publishers are also naturally risk-averse. They’re very conservative with the choices they make, because of course they’re not looking to go into debt. They’re looking to at least break even on their books or hopefully bring back some sort of dividend. And so being able to say, “I have a self-contained story, it’s got a beginning, middle, and end, here’s what it is,” DON’T hold on to your twists, tell your editors exactly what this book is going to be, they know that you’re not biting off more than you can chew, they know that you’re not crazy, they know that maybe you can write. These are all things that publishers want to know.
And then once you start working with them, once you start turning in scripts, then they can know “oh ok they’re easy to work with, they can hit a deadline, they know how to write, they’re not crazy,” these are all things that go a long way to help your career in the long term.”
Spencer & Locke 2 is going on right now, and Going to the Chapel will be here later this year – add both to your pull list!
Thanks again to David Pepose for taking the time to talk with us.