Interview – David Pepose Talks SPENCER & LOCKE 2


SPENCER & LOCKE 2 Coming Soon…


If the first volume of SPENCER & LOCKE was “what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City,” SPENCER & LOCKE 2 goes full Fables across the funny pages, pitting hard-boiled Detective Locke and his imaginary talking panther Spencer against Roach Riley, our Heath Ledger-esque riff on Mort Walker’s classic comic strip Beetle Bailey.

We at Word of the Nerd are huge fans of SPENCER & LOCKE, so when we were invited to interview the guys behind it we jumped at the opportunity! We sat down with David Pepose to discuss the inspiration and what we can expect.

Read the Interview

S&L2 #1 Cover B (Maan House)
S&L2 #1 Cover B (Maan House)

Therese: We absolutely loved the original Spencer & Locke; what can you tell us about the new issue?

David: Thank you so much for saying that! If the first SPENCER & LOCKE took a dark, psychological thriller twist on Bill Watterson’s iconic Calvin and Hobbes, SPENCER & LOCKE 2 goes full Fables with our series, expanding Spencer and Locke’s universe across the funny pages. If you thought the adventures of hard-boiled Detective Locke and his imaginary talking panther Spencer weren’t harrowing enough, wait until you see them go toe-to-toe with Roach Riley, our Heath Ledger-inspired riff on Mort Walker’s classic strip Beetle Bailey.

The sole survivor of his platoon, Roach has survived with some serious psychological scars—he’s bigger, stronger, and meaner than Spencer and Locke, which means they’re going to have to dig deep if they have any hope of stopping his rampage. Whereas Spencer and Locke are trying to move on from a lifetime of pain and trauma, Roach revels in suffering and terror almost like a religion—and he’s looking to spread the good word as brutally as possible.

Therese: Can you give us a brief synopsis for anyone who hasn’t read Spencer & Locke?

David: The easy logline for SPENCER & LOCKE was “what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City?” The our first series explored the strange partnership between Detective Locke and his trusty partner Spencer—who happens to also be Locke’s seven-foot-tall imaginary talking panther. With the pair returning to their old neighborhood to investigate the murder of Locke’s childhood sweetheart Sophie Jenkins, SPENCER & LOCKE delved into Locke’s traumatic upbringing, showing the key moments of his life that led this gritty, hard-boiled cop to carrying his imaginary friend with him well into adulthood.

While Spencer and Locke survived a gauntlet of childhood enemies—including Locke’s crime boss father Augustus—they’re going to find that catharsis doesn’t come from just shooting your problems into submission. There are real and lasting scars that these two have endured over the years, and given some of the revelations they’ve discovered in our last arc, these two are going to be grappling with a deep, almost existential crisis of where to go from here.

Therese: The artwork is amazing and obviously very reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes; can you tell us about some other influences?

David: For sure! Classic Frank Miller was probably the biggest influence on the series, besides Bill Watterson’s iconic work on Calvin and Hobbes. The way that Frank would play around with story rhythm and panel composition—not to mention that unmistakable voice he would give his characters—really stuck with me as a young reader, and that was something I wanted to emulate with SPENCER & LOCKE. Devin Grayson and Roger Robinson’s Batman: Gotham Knights is probably my Holy Bible in terms of balancing action, mood, and heartfelt characterization—Devin’s take on Batman was a huge influence on how I approached Locke.

Other comics that were really inspiring include Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips on Criminal; Geoff Johns’ work on Green Lantern and JSA; Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on Afterlife with Archie; and in particular, I loved the way that Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr paced Moon Knight and Batgirl—I took a lot of lessons from their done-in-one stories. Plus there’s tons of movies and TV shows, from Chinatown to Memento to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to the first season of True Detective. I could go on and on about this!

Therese: What can the characters expect in the next installment?

David: This sequel is all about escalation—but more importantly, it’s also about consequences. While the first SPENCER & LOCKE was a fairly intimate psychodrama among Locke and his immediate family and associates, SPENCER & LOCKE 2 plays out across an entire city, with Roach’s arsenal of hardware making it impossible for the fallout to be contained. Everything has gotten bigger—and now we’re juggling three main influences, so it’ll be fun to see how to pivot to make sure everybody gets a fair shake.

The other thing about SPENCER & LOCKE 2 is that we’re trying to give our story weight by reinforcing the concept of consequences—it’s easy to forget, given the tropes of action movies that we’ve all been raised with, but violence doesn’t take place in a vacuum. If you get in a catastrophic car chase or murder a warehouse full of bad guys, you’re not getting off with a warning—society doesn’t work that way. So we’re also going to be exploring the costs of how Spencer and Locke do business, to find out if there’s any way for them to successfully navigate being cops, partners, or parents.

Therese: Roach Riley looks like a character you don’t want to mess with – what can you tell us about him?

Spencer & Locke - Preview Images: Roach Reveal (David Pepose & Jose Santiago Jr.)
Spencer & Locke – Preview Images: Roach Reveal (David Pepose & Jose Santiago Jr.)

David: Roach is Locke’s mirror opposite, what might have been in another universe. Whereas Spencer and Locke are grappling with their childhood traumas—and as such, have had a lifetime to develop coping methods, no matter how unorthodox or unhealthy—Roach has absorbed just as much horror in a much more accelerated time frame. And as a result, Roach has come back with a vicious homicidal streak—or as he might describe it, he’s had a revelation about the nature of pain and suffering. So whereas Spencer and Locke are trying to transcend their scars, Roach revels in them—he’s almost an apostle of pain, and thanks to his unique training and frightening intelligence, he’s looking to spread the good word as far as he can.

Therese: Spencer & Locke delves into discussions on mental illness, which is fascinating; what can you tell us about this type of discussion in number 2?

David: Spencer isn’t just Locke’s imaginary friend—he’s also been Locke’s coping mechanism for all the horror and heartbreak he’s had to endure over the years. The twist in SPENCER & LOCKE 2 is that maybe that coping mechanism isn’t necessarily the healthiest one on the planet—Locke may be a high-functioning schizophrenic, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t suffering from schizophrenia, you know? As we’ll see from the jump, Locke is already resistant to the idea of traditional therapy and treatment, despite the body count from his last adventure mandating a psychological evaluation. Plus, Locke’s internal turmoil is going to transfer to Spencer, who is going to be a little less warm and cuddly than before. Like in the last arc, Locke is hanging onto sanity by his fingernails—what happens if he happens to slip?

Therese: What have been your favourite parts of the process in working on S&L2?

David: My favorite part has always been playing around with the characters’ voices—there’s a little bit of trial and error that goes into keying in on Locke or Roach’s unique points of view, but once I cracked the code, that’s where all the best moments and most fun lines start popping out. It’s probably a little twisted, but I also love writing the tearjerker moments for Locke in particular—there’s a lot of heartbreak in his life, but I think when we experience it with him, we can’t help but love him a little bit more, you know? And action sequences—I love writing action sequences, the more improvised the better.

Therese: Has there been anything particularly hard in this process?

David: For me, the hardest part was just juggling all of our supporting characters and Easter eggs, to make sure that everyone involved got to grow and experience a satisfactory arc. Especially since this arc I plotted much more loosely than I did the regimented outline of the first. Thankfully, I’ve known for a long time where I wanted all of our characters to wind up, so that took a lot of pressure off, and let me play around with some different angles I might not have considered before. In particular, Locke’s daughter Hero had such a positive reception last time that we’re really expanding her role in Volume 2 — but the loose plotting meant I was able to call a last-minute audible that I think makes her whole arc really fun.

Therese: You both work together so well and the collaboration looks seamless; does that come natural at this stage in the development?

David: With four issues under our belt, I think Jorge and I—not to mention our colorist Jasen Smith, letterer Colin Bell, and variant cover artists Maan House and Joe Mulvey—all really got to know each others’ styles and preferences really well. Plus, I think the critical reception we received in the media and at the Ringo Awards got us all feeling really excited to do a sequel, and inspired everybody to not just bring their A-game, but to set the bar even higher than before.

S&L2 #1 Cover C (Joe Mulvey)

Beyond that, it all comes down to communication and having a set vision in mind—I always tried to write my scripts with an idea of how the page could break down, and Jorge and I would discuss page layouts, composition, and character designs before we even got to the pencilling stage. Beyond that, it was just keeping each other in the loop as far as the storytelling rhythm would go, and making sure we established any key information on the page—the thing about working with someone as talented as Jorge is that you’re never worried if the page won’t look good, because he’s such a professional that it always looks incredible. Not only does he never back away from a challenge, but I’ve found that the weirder and most abstract I get, the more he hits a home run with the art. He’s pretty incredible!

Therese: Any Hollywood updates you’d like to tell us about?

David: I can’t say too much publicly yet, but we’ve had some really cool conversations about SPENCER & LOCKE on the film front with some really talented people. I’m based in Hollywood, and seeing how people have really taken to our series has been incredibly encouraging. I hope to have some news I can share in the coming months, but I think 2019 is going to be a good year for our hard-boiled heroes.

Therese: Finally, thank you for creating Spencer & Locke! Is there anything you would like to say to anyone currently creating and putting their work out there?

David: No one ever said it would be easy to put your work out there—in fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s some of the hardest, most intensive work I’ve ever done—but it is absolutely worth it. Keep pushing ahead, and remember that the only race you’re running is your own—if my path into comics is any indication, even the people you think are overnight successes have been years in the making. Just keep doing the work, keep reaching out to your peers and your potential readership, and keep refining your ideas and your technique until it becomes too good to ignore. If you can deliver work that you are truly excited and believe in, everything else is just a matter of time.

Thanks Again

We at Word of the Nerd would like to thank David again for taking the time to speak with us and we wish them all the best for SPENCER & LOCKE 2, which is due in April 2019.

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About the author

Therese Walsh

Thérèse is an Anthropologist, Klingon enthusiast and bookworm. She's second generation nerd with a passion for everything Star Trek, Star Wars and generally everything! She's based in Ireland and lives with her husband and two fur babies Yoda the Dog and Zombie the Cat

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