We’d like to give a huge welcome to David Pepose on behalf of all of us at On Comics Ground. David is a Ringo-nominated writer, best known for his work on Going to the Chapel, Grand Theft Astro, and Spencer & Locke, respectively.
Once again, welcome to On Comics Ground, David, and thank you for taking the time to discuss Spencer & Locke with me.
Alec Thorn: What has it been like to work on a project as ambitious and unique as Spencer & Locke, and what drove you to work with Jorge Santiago, Jr.?
David Pepose: The response to Spencer & Locke has been truly unbelievable, and it’s been really validating for me as a creator, especially because this was my first book. I appreciate you calling the book ambitious, because we absolutely wanted to take as big a swing as possible on a book like this – for our first title, it’s the definition of high-risk, high-reward, but when you’re working with a team as talented as Jorge, colorist Jasen Smith and letterer Colin Bell, you’ll find that’ll make a true believer even out of someone as self-doubting as me.
As far as how Jorge and I first connected, I found his portfolio online when I was searching various art schools for talent – I remember thinking about Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore on The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, and I thought to myself that I wanted to find the next Tradd Moore. Checking out SCAD graduate portfolios, Jorge’s artwork immediately grabbed me – he’s so fluid and energetic with his action sequences, but I was also so impressed with the emotion and expressiveness he gives his characters. Jorge and I both really enjoy the tearjerker moments the most, and I think we egged each other on with this series! (Laughs)
AT: With the characters of Spencer and Locke being based on Calvin and Hobbes in a dark, satirized manner, and now with Roach Riley in the sequel coming into the mix as a dark satire version of Beetle Bailey, what other classic comic strips would you like to incorporate into future series?
DP: That would be telling! I’ll just say that we have big plans, if there’s enough demand for us to get a Volume 3. The universe for Spencer & Locke is as wide as the funny pages that birthed them, and I will say just like parodying Calvin and Hobbes was just the tip of the iceberg, now that we have Roach Riley in the mix, it’s just the beginning of what could be a very deep dive.
AT: With a Spencer & Locke film adaptation announced, who would you pick to play the characters, and why?
DP: That’s a tough question – I think my answers change regularly! (Laughs) I’d love somebody like Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal or Robert Pattinson to play Locke – that last name being relatively new on my list, but did you see Robert Pattinson in Good Time? The man just radiated killer instinct, it was phenomenal.
As far as Spencer, I’d love somebody who can bring a larger-than-life presence to the role – somebody like the Rock, Idris Elba, Jason Momoa. Or if you want someone more sardonic, I could see Bryan Cranston tearing it up with that role. And Jorge mentioned this to me when he sent me his initial character designs, but now I’d give anything to see Matthew McConaughey as Roach Riley.
AT: Why did you want to write something like Spencer & Locke, and what inspired you to do so?
DP: First off, thank you for saying that! Spencer & Locke was born out of a combination of two impulses: the idea of making our comics debut with as loud and audacious – and hopefully as human – a story as possible, as well as the idea of paying homage to Bill Watterson and Frank Miller as two of comics’ most pioneering creators. And I think Jorge and I have been really fortunate and really lucky that we were able to find each other and pull that off.
As far as inspiration goes, I’ve been a big fan of classic Frank Miller for a long time – his work on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear was the book that made me realize as a kid that real writers and artists make comics. So I wanted to try a mashup with that kind of tone and sensibility – a lot of the initial ideas I came up with felt very shock-oriented, but when I thought about Bill Watterson’s work on Calvin and Hobbes, the light bulb went off, that there was a very interesting story to be explored about a grown man whose imagination hasn’t just run wild, but has actually veered into actual mental illness the face of some truly harrowing trauma and abuse.
AT: Childhood trauma is dealt with in a very unique and bold way in this story. How did you approach dealing with these topics, and what more would you want to shine a light on?
DP: For me, it’s just treating your characters with as much empathy and humanity as possible – Locke’s just an ordinary guy trying to make sense of his past in the same way I think a lot of people are. It’s easy to linger on bad memories – they often make us who we are, and I think that’s a universal concept. But I never wanted to treat Locke’s mental illness as a joke or as a liability – I think treating him with compassion and dignity was really important
AT: What has been your favorite moment, page, or issue that you’ve written so far?
DP: So far? Probably Spencer and Hero at the end of Issue #4, or Locke’s flashback at the beginning of Issue #4. “A panther always keeps his promises.” Those are the two scenes that always make me feel a little teary, even though it’s been a few years since I wrote them. But we’ve got some doozies in Volume 2 – Roach has some choice speeches that were a blast to write, and I’d say readers should keep a close eye on Hero. She’s more important than you know…
Once again, thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure to have you here on our site. To everyone reading, feel free to follow him on Twitter at @Peposed!
Spencer & Locke Volume 1 is available now from Action Lab: Danger Zone, and Issue #1 of Volume 2 has just released. Feel free to also follow the official Twitter account at @SpencerAndLocke for updates. This title is something truly special that we highly recommend!