Spencer & Locke 2: An Interview With David Pepose

David Pepose is a tv, film, and comics professional who has worked for CBS, Netflix, Universal Studios, and DC Comics. Spencer & Locke 2, from Action Lab Entertainment, is set to release next week May 1.

I touched base with him about continuing his dark twist on Calvin and Hobbes, Sunday morning comic strip Easter eggs, and movie deals.

Tim Midura: Spencer & Locke 2 sees Locke suspended by Internal Affairs. It seems his inner struggles are affecting his external life. Can you touch on that?

David Pepose: Locke’s partner may be imaginary, but as he’s discovering, the consequences of his actions are all too real. The original Spencer & Locke explored Locke’s dynamic with his imaginary talking panther Spencer as a coping mechanism for his traumatic childhood, but in Spencer & Locke 2, we get to delve into what the implications of such a relationship might entail.

In our last arc, Locke uncovered the truth about Sophie Jenkins’ murder, but the body count he and Spencer left along the way isn’t going to go unpunished by the powers that be. With his career in jeopardy, everything else in Locke’s life is unraveling — he’s lost custody of his daughter Hero, and his relationship with Spencer is becoming more combative by the day. But even worse, Spencer and Locke have found themselves at an existential crossroads — they stood down their childhood foes in our first volume, yet have found no peace. They’re adrift in every possible way, because they’re learning catharsis doesn’t come from the end of a gun.

TM: Should readers expect a similar tone to the first series?

DP: The tone is similar, but the flavor and structure of the story is its own animal, if that makes any sense? Whereas the first Spencer & Locke was a pretty intimate investigation of Locke and his immediate family and associates, Spencer & Locke 2 is more of our big blockbuster follow-up, with Spencer and Locke’s psychodrama playing out across an entire city. With the expansion of our comic strip universe, there’s a lot of new storytelling avenues to explore — but at the end of the day, Spencer & Locke 2 shares a lot of themes with our first volume, particularly the exploration of how trauma shapes us, and how we try to move beyond the scars of our past.

TM: Spencer & Locke is known for parodying Sunday morning cartoon strips. What new ones are you introducing in the sequel?

DP: The main focus of Spencer & Locke 2 will follow Detective Locke and his imaginary panther partner Spencer tackling a scarred former soldier named Roach Riley, who is our homicidal riff on Mort Walker’s classic comic strip Beetle Bailey. While the meat of our story is going to be about how these three main leads square off, we’re taking the Fables-style approach to bring in as many comic strip characters as possible, including Melinda Mercury, Locke’s new love interest and our riff on Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr, as well as Hal and Lana Forrester, a political power couple and our spin on Hi & Lois. We’ll also have a ton of Easter Eggs and side characters from across the funny pages, parodying Dilbert, Nancy, Hagar the Horrible, Marmaduke, and much more. Eagle-eyed fans will definitely be rewarded reading this one.

TM: The villain in Spencer & Locke 2 is Roach Riley. Can you describe him?

DP: The sole survivor of his platoon overseas, Roach Riley is Locke’s dark mirror opposite — he’s survived just as much horror and pain as Spencer and Locke, but he’s done so in a much more accelerated time frame. We’ll see snapshots of Roach’s journey in our opening flashbacks, but without giving too much away, he’s come back with a particularly twisted view of the world — whereas Spencer and Locke struggle valiantly to escape their pasts and transcend their scars, Roach revels in where he’s come from and what he’s become. You could say Roach has found philosophy, or maybe even religion — and he’s going to use his superior strength, training and hardware to spread the good word to as many people as possible. Of course, he’ll pick up a strange kinship in Locke very early on, putting these two on a particularly brutal collision course.

TM: Can you explain your collaborative process with Jorge Santiago Jr.?

DP: The great thing about working with Jorge on Spencer & Locke 2 is that we’ve really gotten to know each other’s styles and strengths really well coming off the first volume, so our process was incredibly streamlined for this sequel. Jorge and I are both very cerebral, so we’ll often email back and forth during the thumbnail stage just to make sure we lay everything we need to make the page or sequence work — once we’ve established the foundations of the art, Jorge’s often off to the races, and he’s honestly leveled up in a massive way even just since our first volume. Just like we were able to inject different genre spins in the original Spencer & Locke, now we’re able to throw in war, horror, and a few other types of comic sensibilities in this crime story.

TM: The log line for Spencer & Locke was “Calvin and Hobbes meets Sin City.” What would you say the log line for the sequel is?

DP: If the first Spencer & Locke asked “what if Calvin and Hobbes grew up in Sin City,” you could sum up Spencer & Locke 2 as “hard-boiled Calvin and Hobbes versus hardcore Beetle Bailey.” This is our Dark Knight, our Empire Strikes Back, and I don’t invoke either of those trilogies lightly — count on the stakes rising exponentially, and the emotional fallout to be massive.

TM: Now that you have a movie deal, how much of writing this comic is now pandering to Hollywood?

DP: I dunno, you gotta ask my agent — he probably knows the exact percentage.

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