The following is an interview with writer/creator David Pepose on the upcoming release of the comic book series, Spencer & Locke 2, from Action Lab: Danger Zone. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Pepose about his return to the award-nominated series, his creative process in working with co-creator Jorge Santiago, Jr., what readers can anticipate from the sequel series, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Spencer & Locke 2 this April from Action Lab: Danger Zone! What can you tell us about your experience in returning to the world of Spencer & Locke, especially in light of your 2018 Ringo Award nominations for the series?
David Pepose: The reaction to the original SPENCER & LOCKE really exceeded our wildest dreams, so being nominated for five Ringo Awards for our efforts just felt completely surreal — I had to pinch myself when the nominations came in, because this was my first book! We had fans bombarding our Twitter accounts asking us for more stories with these characters, and the hardest part was keeping quiet about our plan… namely, that parodying Calvin and Hobbes was just the tip of the iceberg, and that our ultimate goal was to take aim at the entirety of the funny pages, starting with our new big bad Roach Riley, our riff on Mort Walker’s classic strip, Beetle Bailey.
But it’s definitely been a different experience this go-round. We’re bringing back the entire creative team, which means we all know each other’s styles better than before. But there’s also that weight of expectation — unlike the last arc, where nobody knew who we were, now we have that added pressure of raising the bar to make sure that SPENCER & LOCKE 2 didn’t just measure up to the original, but exceeded it. But it all goes back to the reception we were riding from before, and what these characters meant to us — it meant that not only could our characters grow and evolve, but so could our entire creative team as storytellers.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in collaborating with artist and co-creator Jorge Santiago, Jr., as well as the other talented members of the creative team, in bringing the second story arc to life? Likewise, what have been some of your creative influences?
DP: After four issues in the trenches with Jorge, colorist Jasen Smith, letterer Colin Bell, and variant cover artists Maan House and Joe Mulvey, I’d trust these guys with my life — we were so fortunate to get this team together, and I knew it was incredibly important to keep the band together for SPENCER & LOCKE 2. Since the buck stops with me as the writer and acting editor of the book, I keep in close communication with every member of the creative team, just coordinating with everyone what I was envisioning in the scripts and what elements we need to establish for the narrative to flow, and also to discuss how everyone can put their own unique spin on things.
As far as influences go, in addition to Bill Watterson and Frank Miller, we really looked to sequels like The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back as inspiration for SPENCER & LOCKE 2 — stories that raise the stakes and escalate the danger while also still keeping the central conflict feeling personal. Another huge influence on this series was Bill Willingham’s Fables — I think he was really ahead of the curve when it came to taking the shared universe model of a Marvel or DC and applying it to disparate fairy tales, and I’ve long thought it was a missed opportunity no one had done the same with newspaper comic strips.
BD: Given that the upcoming release will focus more on the mental health aspects of the story, what do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
DP: I think we’re continuing to peel back layers of our high concept here — because, first and foremost, we don’t want people to feel alone. If anything, I think as storytellers we’re trying to build consensus, to build empathy and consideration. But on the other hand, I think we’re looking to indict or even subvert some of the more violent or unhealthy coping mechanisms that we established in our first series — because Locke manifesting Spencer as a coping method is more ignoring his problems rather than tackling them head-on.
And our glimpses inside Roach Riley’s head I think are something else to consider — as the sole survivor of his platoon overseas, he’s really Locke’s dark mirror opposite. Whereas Spencer and Locke have had a lifetime to try to grapple with their trauma, Roach has absorbed just as much horror, but on a very accelerated track — and he’s come out the other side with this really frightening sense of nihilism. I think trauma sometimes can really twist people, just totally distort their own perspectives in order to lash out or redirect their pain onto others. And that’s a big thesis statement for our sequel — examining how much can we really justify using violence in the present to cope with the demons of our past.
BD: What makes Action Lab: Danger Zone the perfect home for Spencer & Locke?
DP: Given our high concept and subject matter, it would be very easy to imagine a publisher getting squeamish and forcing us to pull back — or worse, trying to push us our story into the realm of exploitation. Which is what has made Action Lab the perfect partner for us is that they really trusted us to tell our story the way we needed to tell it — no matter how combustible the materials we were playing with. It’s a luxury that we wouldn’t necessarily have anywhere else.
BD: The Spencer & Locke story is also being adapted into a feature-length film. What can you share with us about your experiences in working with the adaptation, and are there any details that you are able to share?
DP: While I can’t disclose too many details publicly, it has been a really thrilling experience working to bring SPENCER & LOCKE to the big screen. I actually put together the pitch document describing our characters and their world, which was a surreal experience, but one that I think also really maintains the integrity of this series. We’ve had some really cool conversations with some amazing talents out here in Hollywood, so I have fingers crossed that we’ll be able to disclose more information soon.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DP: Sure! I’m hard at work with Jordi Perez on our upcoming sci-fi series, GRAND THEFT ASTRO — it’s very much in the vein of The Fast and the Furious meets Back to the Future, with a dash of Star Wars for good measure. The series follows space racer Hakeem Henrikson who accidentally tears open a wormhole that sends him seven years into the future. With his friends and family and the rest of the universe having moved on without him in the blink of an eye, Hakeem will have to go on a high-speed heist with his (formerly) younger brother (who has since reinvented himself as an interstellar criminal) if he ever wants to get back to his home era. We don’t have a schedule on the series just yet, but it’s coming together nicely!
And then, I’ll be announcing another book out soon that will follow SPENCER & LOCKE 2 later this year — I can’t say too much about it, other than the art is gorgeous and that after spending the last few years playing with noir, I wanted to try my hand at another genre that I don’t often see in the Direct Market like… romcoms? Of course, it’s a romcom from the guy who wrote SPENCER & LOCKE, so that that as you will. (Laughs)
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Spencer & Locke 2?
DP: Readers can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — our accounts are all listed as “SpencerAndLocke” — and you’ll be able to see a preview of our series, as well as reviews, interviews, and our trailer video. And you can also follow me on Twitter at @Peposed — Jorge, meanwhile, is on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr at @jorgesantiagojr.
And like we’ve said, pre-orders make or break books like ours, so we really encourage all our readers to call your local comics shop to pre-order our series — you can give them the code FEB191309 for Jorge’s main cover, FEB191310 for Maan House’s variant, or FEB191311 for Joe Mulvey’s variant. We’ve got a plan for these characters, and once readers finish SPENCER & LOCKE 2, they’re going to want to know what’s next for our heroes — if fans want to see a SPENCER & LOCKE 3, the best way to guarantee that is to pre-order our second volume now!