(Courtesy of Action Lab Entertainment)
Villain Media has an exclusive interview with writer David Pepose, who talks about the highly anticipated return of Spencer & Locke 2 #1 (Action Lab Entertainment). Pepose opens up about what readers should expect from the next stage of the upcoming Spencer & Locke series!
Spencer & Locke follows Detective Locke as he continues fights crime. In his never-ending battle, he doesn’t have to do this alone. Locke has the help of his partner and childhood imaginary friend, Spencer, a talking panther.
Arriving in stores on May 1st 2019, writer David Pepose discusses how Spencer & Locke 2 came about and how Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey comic strip plays a major part in the action-packed narrative. Because we’re Villain Media, we also talk about why we’re so excited about the Big Bad — this critic is rooting for Roach Riley — of the sophomore run. So join us as we head into the writer’s studio and dive into the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: How did the idea for Spencer & Locke 2 come about?
David Pepose: The toughest thing about the first volume of Spencer & Locke was not telling people that this was just the tip of the iceberg! If our first volume asked what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City, then our sequel takes the Fables approach across the funny pages, pitting hard-boiled Detective Locke and his imaginary panther Spencer against the deadly Roach Riley, our murderous riff on Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey. We wanted our sequel to have that sense of escalation, for the stakes to rise exponentially, and opening up Spencer and Locke’s world just felt like the most organic way to do that — all these comic strip characters lived on the same page in the Sunday Funnies, so why not have them operating in the same shared universe?
VM: How did you want this second run to be different from the first volume?
DP: Beyond just opening up the Spencer & Locke universe to include parodies of every comic strip possible, we wanted this sequel to have a different flavor than the original series — while our first volume was an intimate and fairly self-contained mystery, Spencer & Locke 2 is our bombastic blockbuster return. This book is no longer just Spencer and Locke’s psychodrama being played out with their immediate family members and childhood associates — Locke and Roach’s war is going to play out across an entire city, putting everyone they care about at risk. And speaking of those nearest and dearest to our heroes, we also wanted to expand Spencer and Locke’s supporting cast, not just with new villains and new threats, but also seeing how Locke’s loved ones — including his new love interest, Melinda Mercury, as well as his young daughter, Hero — step up in the face of Roach Riley’s rampage.
VM: What I loved is how the story recapped certain events and moved the relationship forward between Spencer and Locke. Was that a challenge to tell a new tale to new readers and keep the premise intact?
DP: Honestly, I felt like we had unfinished business with these characters, so expanding their story actually felt really natural and exciting for me. We’re able to take a lot of the elements that we established in the first Spencer & Locke, that readers were able to accept at face value — and with this sequel, now we get to go back to these themes of coping mechanisms and violence and interrogate them a little bit more. Locke may have invented his own best friend to get him through the crucible of his abusive childhood, but is that necessarily a viable method of getting through life as an adult? And can you avenge the scars of your past with violence, or does that simply beget more pain and suffering and misery? And beyond that, just exploring Spencer and Locke’s dynamic as partners and friends — no relationship stays static forever, and watching these two evolve and change has been particularly fun for Jorge [Santiago, Jr.] and me as creators.
VM: At Villain Media, we root for the bad guys. Tell me how the antagonist, Roach, came about.
DP: When I had the idea of taking the Fables approach for Spencer & Locke 2, I wanted to make sure we gave Spencer and Locke a villain that they could really give them a run for their money — and as I was thinking about other comic strips from my childhood, Beetle Bailey immediately came to mind. While Mort Walker’s strip never saw his loveable slacker private see any action, the idea of a soldier being Locke’s next adversary felt like a perfect fit, given how easily we were able to tap into advanced weaponry and PTSD as part of Roach’s military background. If organized crime was the focus of our first series, the idea of two street-level cops having to deal with the threat of terrorism felt like the perfect escalation for our series, and as I started to dig into Roach’s headspace, I felt there were some really powerful themes about how we process pain and grief that we could explore.
VM: There are references to Beetle Bailey and Calvin & Hobbes. Tell me about the nostalgic feel of referencing these comic strips.
DP: For me, writing scripts is just as much about rhythm as it is characterization, so jumping back and forth between our hard-edged present scenes and our cartoony flashbacks was a really powerful tool. Sometimes our flashbacks skew pretty bleak, which I think leverages readers’ nostalgia against themselves — but other times, our flashbacks provide a much-needed dose of levity, to keep our story from becoming monstrously oppressive. But outside of just scripting, our flashbacks also provide a great platform for Jorge to really showcase his versatility as an artist — not to mention allowing us a way to give a salute to trailblazing creators like Bill Watterson and Mort Walker, without whom this industry would be a very different place.
VM: I don’t want to say too much about the twist at the finale. But was that always how you wanted this first issue to end?
DP: Without spoiling too much, yeah, I settled on our first issue twist pretty early on — it’s going to sound terrible, but so much of writing is also about withholding! [Laughs] It’s about striking that balance of giving readers enough information to feel invested and excited, but also holding things back to keep readers on their toes. There’s more to Spencer, Locke, and Roach than meets the eye, and every new reveal is going to make this conflict even more explosive.
VM: How did Spencer & Locke change you as a storyteller?
DP: Spencer & Locke has been such a validating and encouraging experience for me, especially since our first volume was my first book — I think it proved to me that there’s something to be said for making your characters as engaging and sympathetic as possible, and that treating your characters — and your readers — with empathy will go a long way towards making people fans for life. And I think by expanding this series to a second volume, we get to measure our growth as creators, finding new storytelling avenues to explore just within our previous work. In some ways, it gives us opportunities to correct our stories from the past, while in others, it gives us opportunities to add new meaning to this series’ already incredible success.
VM: What are you working on now?
DP: Artist Gavin Guidry and I are wrapping production on my next Action Lab series, Going to the Chapel, which I describe as Die Hard meets Wedding Crashers — that will be hitting stores shortly after Spencer & Locke 2 wraps. I’m also working on scripts for my upcoming sci-fi heist series Grand Theft Astro, as well as a few other projects in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror spheres that I’m excited to talk about soon. And who knows — if our order numbers are strong for this series, who’s to say we don’t have plans in store for Spencer & Locke 3?
Punishment is a dish best served cold—call your local #comics shop to preorder @SpencerAndLocke 2 #3 with the code APR191274 for @JorgeSantiagoJr’s cover, APR191275 for @MaanHouse’s variant or APR191276 for @JoeMulv’s variant! (You can also preorder Issue #2 until FOC on 5/6!) pic.twitter.com/NUTNmOwigv— Preorder SPENCER & LOCKE 2 (MAR191329 & APR191274) (@Peposed) April 1, 2019
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]
Spencer & Locke 2 #1 arrives in stores May 1st, 2019.