An Interview with a Vampire… I Mean David Pepose
I had the opportunity to chat with one of my favorite comic book writers, David Pepose. David is known for the amazing series Spencer & Locke, which you should look for the latest issue in Spencer & Locke 2 this week. His work has been a catalyst for me to get back into reading comics and finding a new appreciation for the medium. When I got the email that David was working on a new book, GOING TO THE CHAPEL, I was stoked. When I was told I’d get a chance to talk with him about his new book I had the biggest smile. Very rarely do we get a chance to talk to the creators that make the art we love. I couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste.
So here’s my interview with David Pepose. Hope you enjoy!
Got to say huge fan! Took a break from reading comics until I got to read Spencer & Locke 2. Honestly, haven’t had this much fun reading comics in a long while. That goes equally for your next project coming out GOING TO THE CHAPEL. I feel like I need to get the obvious question out of the way, but what inspired you while writing this book? Was there some old movies or comics that you kind of looked back to that gave you the thought you had a take on this what seems to be a romantic heist story?
Thanks so much! Actually, I think it was a lack of romance comics in the Direct Market that made me want to pursue GOING TO THE CHAPEL — and I think that’s ultimately due to preconceptions that people have about romantic comedies as a genre, and who is allowed to enjoy them. There’s a lot of people who think of rom-coms the same way people thought about superheroes 15 years ago — that enjoying the genre is somehow silly or weak when in reality love is something we all want in our lives. Some of my favorite movies, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 500 Days of Summer, or About Time, all just twist on the rom-com genre — it’s just as flexible as superheroes, science fiction, or crime.
So with this book, I wanted to take a different angle on romantic comedies that I thought would appeal to everybody — an action romance, sort of the ultimate “date night” comic book. GOING TO THE CHAPEL is the story of a wedding that is taken over by bank robbers, and the bride at the center of it all who has to get everyone out in one piece, while making a big decision about exactly what she wants her future to look like. It’s the kind of story that’s about empowering women, about treating relationships as an ongoing journey rather than a final destination, all while making you laugh out loud and keeping you on the edge of your seat.
When it came to the art and colors did you have that in mind? And what was the feeling you were going for?
It’s always an ongoing process. It’s kind of like what they say about the film — there’s the movie you write, the movie you shoot, and the movie you edit, right? Well, in comics, there’s the book you write, the book that’s drawn, and the book that’s lettered. So with GOING TO THE CHAPEL, I knew the rhythm and tone of the story, but part of working with an artist is about taking a leap of faith — you have to trust that there’s something special in their particular style that will elevate and transform your story. When I approached artist Gavin Guidry, for example, I knew he could handle comedy, expressiveness, and action, but he brought so much to the table in terms of design and tone and inspirations that added so much flavor to our book.
As far as colors, I wanted to evoke westerns, but also have that contrast with unorthodox uses of pink and purple — not colors you’d typically expect for an action story. But I also needed to make sure I found a colorist who complemented Gavin’s inks. Colorist Liz Kramer and I talked a lot about books like Matt Wilson’s Black Widow and Patricia Martin’s Secret Weapons, and she really went above and beyond in giving Gavin’s linework this delicate sense of texture that could ramp up into big, bold hues when the action ramped up. But so much of my editorial process is instinctive, feeling out what “works” versus what doesn’t, so we communicated a lot.
With the earlier panels showcasing the chapel that’s a reference to Kill Bill right? Because it’s some beautiful panels and that’s exactly what went through my mind.
There’s definitely some Tarantino in there, for sure — in particular, even more than Kill Bill, Gavin and I talked a lot about the intro to Reservoir Dogs when we put that scene together. There’s something to be said for starting GOING TO THE CHAPEL with something snappy, but I also wanted to challenge myself to see how streamlined I could write this series. Going dialogue-free and resting only on a musical hook felt like a cool way to start a comic, just a fun way to introduce tone and sound into a medium that is typically silent by definition.
Through your process of writing this book did you indulge yourself into crime/heist movies and soundtrack music for the book for more inspiration? Or do you take a hiatus from consuming other people’s work? Because I imagine you have an amazing playlist in the background during the process.
I watched a ton of movies and listened to a lot of music to get into the headspace for GOING TO THE CHAPEL — in particular, Dog Day Afternoon, Die Hard, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Death at a Funeral was the four movies that really influenced this book the most. Dog Day Afternoon is just a classic that really straddles that line between a tense hostage situation and the surprisingly funny moments that happen when you’re caught in a life-or-death scenario, and Death at a Funeral is just the deliciously bleak comedy about the world’s worst funeral, and how this deeply dysfunctional family can make an already awful situation a thousand times worse.
Music-wise, I listened to a lot of oldies, or songs with that sort of oldies sensibility, Bobby Vee’s “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” There was also some more recent stuff like Portugal, The Man’s “Feel It Still,” Meghan Trainor’s “NO,” Ciara’s “Love Sex Magic,” Lake Street Drive’s “Good Kisser,” just to keep the energy and tone up. And LMFAO’s “Shots,” of course. (Laughs) Who wouldn’t listen to that song when writing a crazy crime book set at a wedding? But yeah, for me, a big percentage of my process is just putting a song on repeat or tuning out to a movie or TV show and finding out what images pop out at me.
This what I’m super curious about. When building out the team for the book how did that go? Because being a huge fan of S&L2, I got so used to that dynamic and that feeling of the book, seeing the difference in writing and just feel of the story, which is just as amazing, what was the process there?
People talk about social media and networking to get jobs in comics, but it’s also so much a part of how I put creative teams together. I found Gavin on Twitter, following the release of his indie breakout book The Night Driver — and because I had just wrapped on the first volume of SPENCER & LOCKE, it was easier to show that I was serious about getting this book made. I met Liz, meanwhile, at C2E2 through our mutual friend Mara Jayne Carpenter (colorist of Jade Street Protection Services, among many other fine books). Ariana, meanwhile, I just flat-out cold-called, just because I was so impressed with her work on Nancy Drew over at Dynamite.
As far as a difference in style with the writing, thank you for saying that! Honestly, that was a big goal for GOING TO THE CHAPEL — I wanted to try to flex different muscles than I did with SPENCER & LOCKE, so I set some challenges for myself with this script. I wanted to juggle a big cast, and quickly settled on the idea of isolating them in just one location; I also wanted to write without narrative captions, because those can sometimes be a crutch. And I wanted to tackle a different tone and spirit than the hard noir from my previous books, so the idea of an action-packed romantic comedy felt like a natural spin-off of what I had done before.
Why Elvis masks? Lol, I feel like I know why, but there are so many great crooners from the ’40s, ’50s, and 60’s, there had to be a moment you said, “Got to go with the king!”
The Bad Elvis Gang came from me wanting to do something in the vein of Point Break, to just give these bank robbers their own sort of imagery. The idea of Elvis-themed quickie weddings in Las Vegas just wound up becoming the perfect motif to tie into this action rom-com that happened to be set in a chapel. Plus, taking different spins on the Elvises — particularly Romero, our zombie Elvis — was another fun way to inject comedy and character into the mix.
Would you say this book is more Die Hard or Wedding Crashers? Because either way don’t tempt me with a good time, sir.
Hmmm… Die Hard, by a nose. We’ve got a lot of action in this series, but I think we’re able to give it a lighter touch thanks to all the one-liners and with some… we’ll just say “creative” use of the wedding-day venue. So Wedding Crashers in tone, but Die Hard in execution.
The final question I like to ask everyone for a bit of fun. If you were stuck on a desert island and your food situation was solid, you’re not going to starve, and the only literature you had with you was the Harry Potter series, the GOT series and yet somehow you have the unfinished books, Lord of the rings along with all the other work revolving around Middle Earth… which series do you use to feed the fire? Now, this doesn’t mean you like or dislike ones more than the other. I’m talking readability, emotions, which one will last longer to start more fires, etc. What do you choose and why?
Trick question — I’d spontaneously combust in the desert sun way before I’d have time to pick any one of these series. Why do you think I got into this writing business in the first place?
It’s safe to say David’s writing inspires me to continue my own writing and keep pushing forward. So here’s to you David and thank you for putting out inspiring work! Who’s your favorite creator right now? Any comic series inspiring you right now? Let me know down in the comments.