By David Pepose
A hard-boiled detective. A brutal murder. And the only friend he can trust? His talking imaginary panther.
That's the high concept for SPENCER & LOCKE, my upcoming crime series with artist Jorge Santiago, Jr., which is now in Previews from Action Lab Entertainment (FEB171047). Our high concept — "What if Calvin & Hobbes grew up in Sin City?" — is a bold, maybe even audacious pitch, starring a cop so irrevocably scarred by his past that he had to invent a best friend to protect him.
My name's David Pepose, and I wrote this pitch-black parody for your entertainment. But you might be asking, how did we turn a classic comic strip into a dark and twisted crime saga? And perhaps even more importantly — why?
There's more than one answer to that. The first is Spencer and Locke themselves. There's Detective Locke — a scrappy gumshoe with a mean temper, a meaner past, and an even meaner way of meting out justice. They say you can't go home again, and in Locke's case, coming back to the old neighborhood is the last thing he'd ever want to do — but when his childhood sweetheart, schoolteacher Sophie Jenkins, is found dead, Locke has no choice but to return, to follow the mystery surrounding her death to the bitter end.
And that's where Spencer comes in — sure, he's got his idiosyncrasies, but what do you expect? He's a giant talking panther. But just because he's imaginary, you couldn't find a better partner than Spence — he doesn't just represent Locke's compassion and intuition, but the keen animal instinct Locke needs to survive as a detective. He might be seven feet tall, but make no mistake, Spencer is as soft as the fluff inside his chest, the good cop to Locke's very, very bad cop. Don't judge — you probably got weirder friends.
But why did I do this? I did it for me — and we did it for you. Just because this is my first published comic doesn't mean this is my first rodeo — I got my start interning at DC Comics, then spent eight years at Newsarama, all while working jobs in journalism, TV and film. You spend that much time reading, talking, breathing comics, you're liable to catch yourself an opinion — and during the summer of 2014, I felt something. An emptiness. A growing dissatisfaction with events, with decompressed storytelling, with shallow characterization that made comics disposable and toothless.
So I made a promise to myself to step up. To produce the comics I wanted to see in the world. So I sat down and I wrote, drawing from the deep and rich iconography of masters like Bill Watterson and Frank Miller. And when I finished writing, I looked for the best artist I could find — and when I met Jorge Santiago, Jr., I knew I had my co-creator and my partner-in-crime. Our team grew. We found a publisher who believed in us. And then we got to work.
It wasn't easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. And there is something worthwhile to SPENCER & LOCKE, a deeper message than just the shocking high concept. Because while there's plenty of action and danger for our heroes to survive, this isn't just a popcorn thriller — this is a book about darkness, and a book about hope. This is a book about the traumas of childhood, about depression and mental illness, about the power of friendship and the lengths the mind will go to protect itself. This is a book that balances heartache with humor, a book that acknowledges that we all have scars — but do we have to be defined by them?
It's a story for you, and it's a story for me. Nothing's ever guaranteed in this business — certainly not a second book — and so nothing was left on the table for SPENCER & LOCKE. If we only produced one book in our lives, what would we want to have in it? Everything. We have fistfights, gunfights, car chases. We have alien worlds, raging dinosaurs — we blur the very borders of reality. There's a whole world to explore for this unlikely duo, from the seedy back alleys of the old neighborhood to confronting the demons of Locke's violent upbringing.
It's a dangerous world out there. But with friends like SPENCER & LOCKE, you're never truly alone.
David Pepose's first comic book series with artist Jorge Santiago, Jr., SPENCER & LOCKE, is available for preorder now, and will be available in comic shops and digital devices April 2017 from Action Lab Entertainment's Danger Zone imprint.