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Spencer & Locke-An Interview With David Pepose

Written by Tim Midura on Wednesday, February 15 2017 and posted in Features

Spencer & Locke-An Interview With David Pepose

This ain't your daddy's Calvin and Hobbes.

Source: Action Lab

David Pepose is a tv, film, and comics professional who has worked for CBS, Netflix, Universal Studios, and DC Comics. Spencer & Locke, out in April from Action Lab Entertainment, is his first professional comics work.

I had a chance to touch base with him about his dark twist on Calvin and Hobbes, finding the right collaborator, and keeping the tradition alive of using comics journalism as a stepping stone to comics professional.


Tim: The log line for Spencer & Locke seems to be "Calvin and Hobbes meets Sin City." Can you expand on that?

David: SPENCER & LOCKE is the story of Locke, a hard-boiled cop who returns to the scene of his traumatic youth after the murder of his childhood sweetheart, Sophie Jenkins. With the demons of his past coming out of the woodwork, there's only one friend Locke can trust to help him solve the case — his imaginary talking panther, Spencer.

Going back to what you said about our elevator pitch — "What if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City?" — it's definitely intentional to invoke these two classic comics properties. I've always been a diehard fan of Bill Watterson and Frank Miller, and from our very first page, Jorge and I wear our influences on our sleeves. We're a lot of things — a pitch-black parody, a love letter and an homage, but we've also taken great care to make sure that SPENCER & LOCKE also stands as its own work.

Tim: Locke is the classic noir detective protagonist, and Spencer may or may not be attributed to dissociative identity disorder. Can you elaborate on their dynamics as partners?

David: Spencer and Locke have that buddy-cop chemistry similar to Murtaugh and Riggs, Starsky and Hutch, or Cohle and Hart. They're best friends, and as Locke says in our preview pages, sure, Spencer has his idiosyncrasies — he's a talking panther, what do you expect — but c'mon, you probably have weirder friends.

But our cover says "His partner's imaginary... but the danger is all real," and I think that helps boil down Spencer and Locke's dynamic a bit more. Spencer is definitely the good cop to Locke's very, very bad cop, but at the end of the day, Spencer is imaginary — he's all in Locke's head. Which means that when these two walk into a dangerous situation, Locke's the only one in danger of taking a bullet. That kind of Fight Club-style dynamic gives their partnership a little bit of tension, because it reminds us that our hero is still an unreliable narrator at his core.

Tim: Locke came from a troubled childhood. Does Spencer act as a coping mechanism for a cop who feels he has something to prove?

David: Definitely. Outside of playing with much of the classic Calvin and Hobbes iconography, much of our series is about mental illness and depression, specifically the traumas of childhood and the lengths the mind will go to protect itself, and that's ultimately why Spencer and Locke need each other. Locke was a child who was forced to survive what many might consider unsurviveable, and the reason he was able to overcome years of abuse and neglect was because he had the love and friendship of his imaginary friend. Locke, meanwhile, gives Spencer meaning, in more ways than one — they share a very symbiotic bond, one that'll be tested throughout our story.

Ultimately, Spencer represents a lot of things to our hard-boiled hero — he represents Locke's intuition and instinct, the eyes in the back of his head, those keen animal senses that help string together the tiniest of clues (or, just as often, saves Locke's skin). Spencer also represents Locke's sense of humor, his sense of empathy, and his sense of decency. But underneath all that height and muscle, Spence is ultimately a nice guy — you'd be hard-pressed to say the same thing about his partner.

Tim: Will you be exploring Locke's experience with the police force in the future? I can't imagine a police chief condoning a detective carrying around a stuffed panther.

David: As far as the rest of the police force goes, Locke is a bit of a lone wolf in this arc, with Spencer acting as his partner and confidant as some unexpected characters from the past come out of the woodwork. But I do have some off-panel ideas of how Locke would deal with the politics of the police department, and down the road I'd love to explore that more. I like to think Locke has some friends at the top — he's very much the epitome of "he's a loose cannon, but dammit, he's the best we have!"

Tim: How did you hook up artist Jorge Santiago and how did you discuss the balance between the two art styles, the realistic and the Watterson-esque sections?

David: Jorge is really amazing, isn't he? He and colorist Jasen Smith just knocked this book out of the park, bringing their A-game to every single page. Jorge and I first got together because I was looking for up-and-coming talent that was as hungry and new to the game as I was, and I wound up modeling my artist search off the way that Justin Jordan found Tradd Moore for The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. Learning that Justin was a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, I wound up looking through SCAD graduates' portfolios to see if I could find the right partner to work with.

And boy, did I find the right partner — as you can tell just from our preview pages, Jorge is insanely talented, and a tremendously versatile artist, jumping from our cartoony flashback scenes to our darker, moodier noir scenes in the present. The idea of shifting art styles was something I wanted to do from the get-go, and it's something that Jorge really did a tremendous job selling.

Tim: You seem to apply the darkest aspects of the book inside those Watterson-influenced panels. (Thailand, ear-biting, girl kissing.) Was that a conscious decision?

David: The thing about a premise like SPENCER & LOCKE is that if you aren't careful, things can get bleak fast, so we made sure to leaven our story with injections of humor in both our dialogue as well as our Bill Watterson-style flashbacks. But where Calvin and Hobbes was always smart, we wanted to make sure our flashbacks weren't just sharp, but serrated — it's not enough for Locke to be a stinker in the mold of Calvin, but we also wanted to remind people that he doesn't come from that safe, suburban world. Locke is a kid with not just some rough edges, but sometimes a full-on vicious streak — and much of our story explains how he got there as both a child and an adult.

Tim: What's the long-term plan for Spencer & Locke? Ongoing? Mini-series?

David: We have four issues of SPENCER & LOCKE in the queue so far, but if fans respond to the series and order our first four issues, I have ideas for at least two more storylines. Without giving too much away, there's a much wider universe for our heroes to explore — and I already know what their next case will be. If I had to sum up our first arc in one word, it would be "scars." But if I had one word to sum up what I'd want to see in a second arc, it would be "consequences."

Tim: How has working with Action Lab been?

David: Action Lab has been great throughout the process, and has really believed in SPENCER & LOCKE since the beginning. (I remember sending our pitch to our creative director, Dave Dwonch, who emailed me back an hour later asking what our timetable would be to finish the series!)

But I think one of the pluses of working with a publisher like Action Lab is that they're open to boundary-pushing material like ours, and have really stepped back and let us tell our story the way we wanted to tell it. I'll also say it was a big career highlight to get an email from Dave after the book was finished, telling us we almost made him cry (twice)! I'm excited for our team to play with people's expectations, and Action Lab has had our backs since the beginning toward that goal.

Tim: You're a writer for Newsarama. How do you feel about blurring the lines between fan and professional? And do you have any advice I can pass on to the current Outhouse writing staff who want to write comics?

David: I've actually even blurred them longer than that, since I got my start as a DC Comics intern! But I think that you don't make that jump from fan to professional without having that passion and love and dedication for the industry — making comics isn't easy, and making good comics is even harder than that! But I think the overall evolution in my career has always been a question of how do I want to contribute to an industry that I'm so passionate about? So I think my time at Newsarama and at DC really helped shape my voice and tastes as a comics reader and, subsequently, as a comics writer. The more you read, the more you learn, and reading and writing for sites like Newsarama has been a tremendous and consistent learning experience.

For anybody who would want to become a comics writer, I'd give the following advice — start small enough that you can actually finish. Then write through the crap (and it will be crap). Learn from your mistakes. Learn from other people's mistakes. Write again. Repeat. And the other advice I'd offer is pick the right partners for your project — ideas in comics are a dime a dozen, but if you're not working with the right artist with the right style, you might as well start from scratch.

Tim: What's next for David Pepose?

David: More books! I can't say too much just yet, but I've got a crime/hostage drama that I am incredibly excited about, and I've been tinkering away at a sci-fi story that I think has a little bit of that remixed pop culture DNA that I seem to gravitate towards. But ultimately, I'm also just excited to see how people respond to SPENCER & LOCKE — hearing some of the enthusiasm that people have shown just from our preview pages has been kind of surreal, and I'm excited to see how people react as our story gets darker from here. Ultimately, SPENCER & LOCKE has a redemptive arc that I hope people stick around for, because now that I've spent so much time with these characters, I can't wait to tell more stories with them!


Stay updated on Spencer & Locke on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then check out the solicit information and trailer for the comic below! 


Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Colorist: Jasen Smith
Letterer: Colin Bell
Cover Artists: Main Cover by Jorge Santiago, Jr., Variant Covers by Maan House and Joe Mulvey

What if Calvin & Hobbes grew up in Sin City? Find out in SPENCER & LOCKE, a dark four-issue crime thriller from Action Lab Entertainment's Danger Zone imprint. Written by David Pepose and illustrated by Jorge Santiago, Jr., SPENCER & LOCKE follows Detective Locke, who returns to the scene of his horrific upbringing when his grade-school sweetheart, Sophie Jenkins, is found dead in a lonesome back alley. But when Locke's investigation dredges up menacing figures from his traumatic past, there's only one person he can trust to help him close the case — his childhood imaginary panther, Spencer. The twisted nostalgia of SPENCER & LOCKE comes to comic shops and digital devices in April 2017!



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About the Author - Tim Midura

Born in the frozen tundra of Massachusetts, Tim Midura has long possessed a love for comic books and records. After stealing the beard of Zeus and inventing the pizza bagel, a much more heavily tattooed and bearded Tim Midura has finally settled in San Diego. He's the world's first comics journalist who doesn't want to become a comics writer. Find him on twitter, facebook or by email.

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