After recently both reading and loving the series Revenger: The Shadow Constabulary from creator Warwick Fraser-Coombe (read my review here) I decided to reach out to him and ask him about this incredibly well made and interesting book.
His answers make very interesting reading.
downthetubes: What sort of stuff inspired or influenced you? The Punisher would be an easy (although often a little watered down) reference for me but I see if more growing out of movies like The Exterminator movies or books like the Mack Bolam/Executioner series? Am I close?
Warwick: I haven’t seen those movies actually, but now I’m going to have to check them out. Obviously the Punisher is in there as an influence but I think much more so, was Marshal Law, by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.
But also just the whole idea stems from that the comics industry has built a huge conceptual edifice that celebrates and glorifies violent vigilantism, the whole super hero, crime fighting genre, (an alternate justice system that completely bypasses the rule of law and due process – that goes after street criminals, ignoring, for the most part, the corruption and white collar criminality that happens at the top), without really ever stopping to consider what such a vigilante might look like in the real world.
downthetubes: You reference a lot of real life villains and events throughout (high profile paedophile rings, the Black Block, Anonymous and certain newspapers). How much of this was an angry reaction to the current state of the UK today?
Warwick: Roger Blandy, my Revenger character first appeared in a short story I had tried to get published, way back in 1999 or 2000 I think. I was exploring the idea that in the real world, Batman, or someone similar, would bear a closer resemblance to a serial killer, or a domestic lone wolf terrorist than anything that appears in mainstream comics. The idea that a lone male, with a propensity for violent deeds, who has fallen out of step with reality puts on a mask and goes out to “change the world”. In the movies that’s Batman, in the greyness of the real world, you’re more likely to get someone horrible like Donald Neilson, the UK’s Black Panther. In more contemporary times, it would be someone like Anders Brevik, or some other similar lunatic.
Add to that the concept that a lone man fighting crime is essentially ridiculous, that a vigilante must hang around in random alleyways and on rooftops, in the middle of a modern industrial city with a population of millions, waiting for a mugging to happen just so he can pounce. I can’t think of a more futile endeavor. Without the apparatus of a higher power, emergency call lines, access to state secrets, criminal records, or state support, he’s essentially useless. He has nothing to go on.
I wrote a synopsis on a scrap of paper, (that became the template for the whole of The Shadow Constabulary), did some preliminary sketches, concept covers which I put on my website and then promptly forgot about it for another year or as other commitments took over. Then, when I began going to comic cons, doing the whole portfolio review shuffle, meeting other creatives and thought that I might as well get on with it and actually do my comic.
downthetubes: How much do you want the reader to see this as a fantasy in The revenger’s mind? Is it meant to be read as a reaction from PTSD or the abandonment of military men returning home from war?
Warwick: As to whether it’s all a fantasy in Roger’s mind, I’ll leave that to the reader to interpret, obviously he’s hallucinating a lot of the time, he’s a lone gunman. He’s suffering PTSD. But he’s being steered.
Warwick: I’d write up a full script from my template synopsis, as it’s best to have a proper script to work from.
Then I thumbnail the whole issue, try to work out the layout, the breakdown of the frames, the pacing the splash pages etc. Just by visualizing little elements, I’d find better ways to represent story elements or come up with better ideas than I’d had when I’d scripted it, so it’s an evolving process. If a better idea comes to me half way through an issue I’ll go with it. There were whole scenes and elements that weren’t there in the initial script, the whole anti-aircraft gun sequence in Raptor Investments in issue 4 being something that came into being at the last moment.
Then I’d take a lot of photographs, I use a lot of photo reference in my work and I think there is a bit of me that is probably a frustrated film maker, so I’d try to set up most of the shots, angles, add locations. Sketch all the elements together. Then ink it all on paper. Scan it and paint it digitally on Photoshop, replicating, as much as I can using all my custom brushes, and layers and textures, the way that I used to paint, only about ten times more quickly.
So then I’d have this rough cut issue, which I’d show to some very good friends who I’d ask for any advice, what bits work, what bits don’t etc., and if needs be I’m make changes, including redrawing and repainting perfectly good frames and even entire pages again if needed.
Lastly I do a final pass on the dialogue and text on the page and call it good.
downthetubes: What are we seeing next from you?
I have got a couple of pitches I’m working on, which I want to take around to a couple of publishers, but at the moment they’re in the incubation stage, still growing and not yet ready for viewing. Besides I’m due to have my second child in just over a month, so comics will go back onto the back burner for a little bit. Chances are they won’t be Revenger stories though, I have an idea for one more book with him, a shorter one, but for now he’s in suspended animation as I want to try out some new things. Likely horror comics.
downthetubes: Where can people get a copy of the comic and where can they see you appearing next?
Warwick: At the moment, the only way to get hold of the book is directly from me, it’s £10, plus £2.90 postage and packing (UK only, worldwide rates will vary). The best way is to drop me an email warfrasAThotmail.com and we can go from there.
downthetubes: Warwick, thank you.
There you have it. This is a great book and well worth a few quid. Pop by and see Warwick at Thoughtbubble this coming weekend or email him for a copy.
• Warwick will also be at the upcoming Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds between 14 -15th November – he’ll be in The New Dock Hall at Table 186
• Revenger: The Shadow Constabulary, 140 pages, of full colour mayhem. Collecting the first five issues. Available now direct from Warwick (email warfrasAThotmail.com for info). £10 per copy plus £2.90 postage and packing (UK prices only. Worldwide delivery will vary). Contains scenes of violence, sex and cuss words- in other words, not for children!) Read our review here
Many thanks for reading.
All images © Warwick Fraser-Coombe 2015.