What do you do when your five-time Ringo Award-nominated comics series comes to an end?
If you’re David Pepose, you write the next chapter.
It’s been about two years since the Comics Experience alum and his creative partners introduced Spencer & Locke, the neo-noir story of a detective and his imaginary panther partner. The series won accolades from talents like John Layman and Scott Snyder, racked up five Ringo nominations, landed on multiple Best-Of Lists, and earned the creators a contract with a film producer.
Now, David and team are gearing up for the launch of Spencer & Locke 2, the follow-up arc to their successful debut. The sequel pays loving tribute to classic strip comics, pitting hard-boiled Detective Locke and his imaginary talking panther Spencer against Roach Riley, the creators’ murderous riff on Mort Walker’s classic strip Beetle Bailey.
Spencer & Locke 2 features art by Jasen Smith and Jorge Santiago, Jr., with covers by Santiago, Maan House, and Joe Mulvey. It’s available for pre-order now at comics retailers everywhere, and arrives in stores on April 24, 2019.
We talked with David about the challenges of writing a multi-part story, attracting and retaining readers, and more.
What can returning readers expect to find in Spencer & Locke 2
— and what makes this a good jumping-on point for new readers?
Following the fallout of his last investigation, hard-boiled Detective Locke has found himself in a particularly bad place — he’s been suspended by Internal Affairs, his bid for custody over his daughter Hero is in jeopardy, and he’s continuing to struggle with the demons of his abusive upbringing. The one constant in Locke’s life? He’s still got a partner to watch his back — who just happens be a seven-foot-tall imaginary panther named Spencer. But these unlikely heroes are going to find themselves in over their heads when they face a murderous former soldier named Roach Riley, our pitch-black parody of Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey.
As far as jumping-on points go, I think we’re taking our original series’ high concept to the logical extreme — if the original Spencer & Locke asked what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City, Spencer & Locke 2 is going to be declaring all-out war across the funny pages. But even if you aren’t familiar with Bill Watterson or Mort Walker’s iconic work, we get readers up to speed quickly on Locke’s horrifying past, as well as his unorthodox partnership with his imaginary friend — at the end of the day, we all have memories we don’t like to think about, and it’s that foundation that I think makes Locke such an engaging and accessible character.
At what point did you know there would be a Spencer & Locke 2? What prompted the decision to launch the second arc?
I’ve had the idea for our second arc really since the beginning — since we started off with a base of taking a gritty, adult spin on Calvin and Hobbes, it felt like a natural progression to take our show across the funny pages, particularly with Beetle Bailey, whose military background made him a perfect candidate to continue exploring our story of violence, suffering and PTSD. And it’s really to our publisher Action Lab’s credit, because they asked us fairly early on in our first arc if we’d be interested in continuing on with the series — and given how fun Spencer and Locke were to dive into as characters the last time, it felt like a no-brainer to say yes, so we could start putting together this bigger and bolder new storyline.
What advice do you have for creators who want to plan a series with multiple story arcs?
The biggest thing I would say is just not to put the cart before the horse — it’s easy to get wrapped up in this idea of a 60-issue epic, but even for the most seasoned of creators, that longevity isn’t always (or even usually) viable. You want to make sure your first arc is as strong and self-contained as possible, because it’s only by establishing trust with your readers and your publisher that you can really justify getting multiple story arcs.
And by building up your first storyline, you’re really doing yourself a favor in terms of being able to take a step back and figure out the best way to expand your high concept, your themes, and your character arcs for future installments. It’s good to have some ideas in your back pocket, so you can position your story to head in a certain direction if you’re given more runway, but ultimately your series is only going to be as strong as the foundation you build it upon.
Anything else you want to tell us about Spencer & Locke 2?
The Spencer & Locketeam was nominated for five Ringo Awards for our work on our first arc, and early buzz is saying that Spencer & Locke 2 is even better than the first. I think there’s such depths we can explore with these characters, and such a sense of empathy that we can bring to our readers, alongside all the action and excitement. This is our Empire Strikes Back, our Dark Knight, and I’m not invoking either of those trilogies lightly. If you like psychological crime thrillers with a genre twist — or if you’re a fan of books like Criminal, Moon Knight, Afterlife with Archie, or Blacksad — then you’re going to love what we do in Spencer & Locke 2.
Spencer & Locke 2 is available for pre-order at the following links or from your favorite retailer. It will be in stores starting April 24, 2019!