Comic book writer, Bill Williams, is the creator of Punchline. No, not that one. He writes for Bleeding Cool,
Once upon a time, I was scrolling instead of writing Punchline scripts, and I landed on an article that revealed the bones of the plot for the new James Bond film. In the story, Bond was replaced by a younger agent. Daniel Craig has been a wonderful Bond, but the baton is being passed.
Being a writer and having a full plate, I spent time wondering how I would fire a secret agent and install a younger replacement. In a few minutes, I hit on a solid opening with the replacement spy breaking the older agent out of a mental facility where he had been in a chemical coma for some time. Now the awakened agent wants revenge while his rescuer has other plans for him. I liked that germ of an idea too much to throw it away, so I wondered how I could rewrite that cold opening and use it in the Punchline Universe. I titled the thing Secret Service and started hammering the story into place.
Dropping a fully powered costumed hero into a spy story would blow up a good genre adventure, so the lead character would have to sit this one out in favor of a supporting character. Mel used to be a costumed hero, but after being fired by her supernatural benefactors, she's charged with training her replacement. It rubs her wrong, so Mel has little side adventures where she works to get her old costumed life back. In this story, bringing the agent back into the family of spies would get her the key to the spy agency's Top Secret Archives. I'd use that secret knowledge later to drive more stories.
The rescued agent wants revenge against whoever stuck him in the coma, plain and simple. Talking sweetly to his old boss is not high on his to-do list. Putting up with a mouthy rescuer is one more complication he doesn't need. Now, the two leads are working at cross purposes, creating friction between them as well as their enemies.
With the motivations in place, I just had to fit as many spy story tropes into 22 pages as possible. In some circles, the word 'trope' is a dirty word because it is wrongly substituted for the term 'cliche.' In this case, I made a mental checklist of recurring themes or sequences I expected to see in a spy story.
Secret Service starts with a shootout with security guards as Mel breaks the agent out of a medical facility. Mel considers the guards working for an evil outfit to be fair game, so she punches a bloody path through the armed security guards.
A car chase was cut to fit the story into the 22-page format. Since I would be inking the story, going over the standard comic length would break up my schedule for the rest of the year.
Along the way, Mel asks the agent the last thing he remembered before taking his very long nap. He says that he was in a casino in Macao before they go separate ways. They both end up at the casino as the agent searches for the person who betrayed him. Mel's drinking doubles as she helps him find and face the final villain.
The villain of the piece is a monstrous villain. He's been voluntarily undergoing experiments with stem cells from something not human. He looks like you and me, except for a wicked bit of body modification.
Once the villain is confronted, a cool gadget is used to escape the consequences of the carnage that Mel has done to the villain and his henchmen. Once the fighting is done, and the heroes have slipped away into the night, there is one last trope of the spy genre to drop on the readers.
Is there a sex scene in the story? I'll let the art give that little secret away.
I want to thank my excellent penciler on this job, the super talented Leandro Oliveira, for producing some beautiful pages to ink. Tiago Barsa provides solid colorwork that ties the story pages together. Now, I have to dash off and letter the thing and send it off to Antarctic Press.
Punchline #11, Secret Service, ships in November 2020 from Antarctic Press. The Diamond Comics Distribution order code is SEP201103 for the regular cover and SEP201104 for the Buff and Buffy variant cover. Punchline back issues can be ordered directly from Antarctic Press.