An Interview with David Pepose
Thank you for meeting today. Can you give our readers a bit of background about yourself?
David Pepose: I’m David Pepose. I’m the Ringo award nominated writer of books like Spencer and Locke, Going to the Chapel from Action Lab Comics, The O.Z. on Kickstarter, my new series Scout’s Honor at Aftershock and my new full-length story in the Big Hype Anthology: Roxy Rewind. I’m thrilled to be here and thanks so much for taking the time to chat.
With Project: Big Hype, how did you get involved with it?
David Pepose: So, I’ve known the project organizer, Doug Wood, for a bit. He is another Action Lab alum. He had a book that came out shortly after my book Going to the Chapel came out. Doug and I had been in communication with him asking questions like “This is my first book at Action Lab, how do I kind of navigate all this?”
And so, when Doug was talking about Project: Big Hype he reached out to me and said, “Hey do you have any stories that’d you want to tell?” and he told me that he would offer me a pretty big page count. It’d be twenty pages which is a full-length comic for most methods. I’d been thinking about it for a bit and I had a story that I’d been wanting to tell for a really long time. On top of that I had another series that I was slow at working at which was Spencer and Locke volume three. I wanted to do something with my artist and co-creator Jorge Santiago Jr just to fill up his time while he’s waiting for me to turn in more scripts.
This was a great way of kind of solving one problem with another in that Roxy Rewind has been a character; that you might even say she was one of the first I ever came up with. She predates Spencer and Locke by at least five years. So I realized this was the perfect opportunity to tell a self-contained story that if the response is good, we may extend it to something further. But Roxy has been a character that’s near and dear to my heart so I’m very appreciative of Doug for giving us an opportunity to tell our story.
Speaking of Roxy Rewind can you give us a summary of the story without giving too much away and where the idea came from?
David Pepose: Roxy Rewind is the story of a teenager Juniper Wells. Her mother is a carhop from 1954 and her father is a time traveling physicist from the year 2150. They decide to raise her in our present to split the difference. As the first ever child of two time travellers, Juniper has been born with a unique ability. She’s able to manipulate up to sixty seconds. But when a criminal from the future winds up attacking her father’s lab, Juniper going to have to conceal her identity as a roller derby loving superhero named Roxy Rewind.
That story, it’s been so long so forgive me if I get it wrong, when I came up with Roxy was a time I call my wilderness period. I was working at a newspaper in western Massachusetts, very rural area, and I was working the night shift. In the mornings I was moonlighting over at Newsarama but I was feeling pretty restless. So I decided to write a short script every single day. I did it for 90 days. I consider that foundational to how I became a comics writer. And Roxy was one of those ideas.
The idea came from Spider-Man, I’m a huge fan of Spider-Man he’s my all-time favorite superhero. I wanted to do something in that vein. But I think Roxy was one of the first times that the mashup instinct that has defined a lot of my books really kind of came to the fore. I was thinking you have somebody from the past and somebody from the future and you mash them together, what does that heritage look like?
There’s a little bit of the Superman immigrant story with Roxy in that she is a first-generation immigrant. It’s not that her parents aren’t from around here, it’s that her parents are from around now. It’s that they are the first cross temporal immigrants. I thought it was a really interesting and fun take.
There’s been a lot of iterations of Roxy. I wrote a short script and I really enjoyed it. There was a time before I dipped my toes into the comics writing pool that I even wrote an animated series bible for Roxy. I wrote a pilot episode, I got character designs made. And yet I quickly realized trying to get into animation is a tough nut to crack.
At the same time, I love comics, that’s my first love, that’s the industry that I’m known for. Superheroes are the bread and butter of the comics industry but they’re also a tough nut to crack too. If you’re not Marvel or Dc or Valiant, in a world that’s got Pepsi and Coke, you’ve got to make something really artisanal to stand out.
That’s where Roxy came from. It’s this idea of a teenage girl having two very distinct heritages and then trying to figure out a way to remix them and turn them into something of her own. The carhop meets the sci-fi angle felt like roller-derby to me. And also I found that there are some really fun things you can do in the comics medium, which is a static medium, with trying to figure out ways to illustrate time travel.
How do we illustrate that Juniper has frozen time? Some of that is told through the narration and some of that is told through art. Jorge did some really cool stuff with the grey tones and ben day dots to make sure it’s really clear that Roxy is using her powers, so the audience knows it. It’s been a real labor of love.
Most people know me and Jorge’s work from Spencer and Locke which is this ultra-bleak crime noir story. I always considered that to be a mashup of our creative ethos. I grew up on superheroes and he grew up on manga, but I feel like Roxy takes that collaboration in a very different angle. We’re still able to lean heavily into Jorge’s manga upbringing but still pay homage to the superheroes that I grew up on.
You practically answered my next question about the tone of Roxy as compared to Spencer and Locke. How’d that change come about?
David Pepose: There’s a reason for that tonal difference. I love Spencer and Locke, don’t get me wrong. A lot of the stuff I write comes from a place of bleakness and the story becomes the redemptive climb out of that pit.
At the same time, I was tired of not having something on my table to sell to children. Whenever conventions come back, so many kids come up and they love Spencer and Locke. Spencer in particular. And I have to be the jerk who says, “You can’t read this, if your parents want to buy this for themselves, maybe they will give it to you when you’re older.” So, I wanted to have something that I could give to anyone from ages eight to eighty. Roxy is the tip of the spear as far as that goes. There will be other stuff coming down the pipeline that will be more all ages accessible.
Beyond the tone of it all, writing it was very similar to Spencer and Locke. I think it’s in part that I’m working with Jorge. I know Jorge and how his style works at this point. He knows how my style works at this point. We’ve got a good working tempo. I love working with him. So, the idea of writing this fun, high power, high action story with the narrative caption floating through the background that felt a lot like Spencer and Locke.
I think we may play it a little more traditionally as far as the structure goes and I think that’s by virtue of us having twenty pages to tell a story in. So, we start in the middle of the action and cut backwards to see how we got there. It was really fun getting to work with Jorge again. I’ve said I’ll work with until the wheels come off. I was so thrilled that he was available to do this project and he really just knocked it out of the park.
You mentioned while it does have the length of a twenty-page comic, right now it is just the stand-alone story as opposed to a series like Spencer and Locke or Scout’s Honor. So, how’d you go about a more self-contained story?
David Pepose: I cheated a little. I considered this to almost be a pilot episode, where it’s a self-contained adventure but we leave threads open to have the possibility to tell more if we could. That was in part when I spoke with Doug, he was very clear that the anthology would not own rights to any of the stories. If creators in it want to tell this story and run with it elsewhere, they are more than welcome to do that. I thought that would be a great launch pad for this story.
I have a vague arc for this as I had thought of an entire season of stories for Roxy. For Big Hype it was a matter of how we can tell a fun, fulfilling self-contained chapter of a story while still opening the door for more stuff. I think we really nailed that.
When I was reading comics and when I was writing my first scripts twenty-two pages was the norm. Now you see twenty pages as the new metric. You would not believe how hard cutting that ten percent is. I’m always sitting there wanting that two more pages. With Roxy I think we were really able to tell the story in a compressed way. There’s no fat on these bones.
We get to meet Juniper, we get to meet her parents, we get to see her day-to-day life but also what happens when all hell breaks loose. Suddenly she’s got one directive which is: you cannot reveal the family secret. We are cross temporal immigrants, and we have to maintain that secret. So, that is the reason she puts on the costume. She was going to go try out for the roller derby team, so she has a costume and a wig which sparks the idea of what she is going to do next.
I think this story, in certain ways, was inspired by my sister. My sister is the youngest in our family and the youngest of triplets, as well as the only girl. My brothers all grew up reading my comics and they had something that was tailored for them. I always thought “What if there was a superhero tailored for my sister?” and that’s where Roxy kind of came from. Roxy’s heart has a lot in common with my sister. It’s nice to see Roxy as she’s existed in my head and my scripts for so long. It’s a kind of relief that I didn’t expect, the ultimate thorn out of your paw. You didn’t realize how much you needed that out. I’m super thrilled that people are going to finally be able to see it.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell our readers about?
David Pepose: Scout’s Honor is currently coming out with issue three and four available for preorders. Beyond that, the Kickstarter for Big Hype begins February 17th. I’m working on Spencer and Locke Three. We’re also working on the Kickstarter for The O.Z. which should hopefully be out soon. Pages for that are being drawn and we’re almost at a good critical mass for that. There’s a lot of things in the pipeline that are very TBD and I’m not sure when they are coming out.
The art for Grand Theft Astro is coming together and scripts are already written. I’m working on my first horror book with a really fun artist who is putting together pages on that right now. I also have another comedy book that I’m working on which is going to be a lot of fun. There are a few other things that are running the gambit like another horror story, that has been really twisting in my brain for a while. And one more YA thing that I’m currently artist hunting for. So, lots of things in the pipeline.
Where can our readers find more about you on social media and the web?
David Pepose: : you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @Peposed. I’m on Facebook at David Pepose Comics. You can subscribe to my newsletter on my website davidpepose.com.