Please sum up your book in 15 words or less.
A dark, wry, occasionally funny murder mystery intended as a homage to detective TV shows
This Harker fellow, your protagonist, what would you say are his defining qualities, best and worst?
Hmm... he's a terrific detective, very much in the style of a typical tv show cop, and very much a combination of Columbo, Sherlock Holmes, Morse, Inspector Frost etc - so he's sharp and intelligent, and his job is his life. He is, however, also extremely grumpy and irritable, old-fashioned, out of pace with the 21st century and rarely has a good word to say about anyone. He also dresses very shabbily and is unfit. So he's one of the great British eccentrics.
You mention some quintessential figures there; do you draw from or play around with archetypes in your novel?
We do, very much so. I'm a huge fan of TV detective dramas, and in adapting that typical format to comics as faithfully was we could, Vince (the artist) and I decided that we wanted to take specific elements from various stories and use them in our own work. So it's a deliberate homage, using anything from Holmes to Agatha Christie to Starsky & Hutch, all the way to Murder She Wrote. We pull it all in and play with it, to see what comes out the other end.
What is the process like, collaborating with an illustrator to bring the story to life? Does the result prove to be different than you expected?
I've known Vince a long time, so I generally have an idea in my head of how the art will look once it's done, but he does often surprise me. We tend to work on the plot together, working through each page, deciding what needs to be there, how much room we need for each scene etc. Once that's done, Vince draws the book without a script, knowing what each scene is meant to convey, and then I script over the artwork. It's a very old-fashioned way of making comics, but it gives Vince more freedom to add things along the way, making it much more of a collaboration than just my own vision. So it's fun, surprising and a huge pleasure to do. More comics should be created that way!
That seems like a very inventive and productive way of collaboration.
It's actually quite old-fashioned. In the comics industry it's called the 'Marvel method' - in which the writer creates a plot, the artist draws that and then the writer scripts over it. It's gone out of fashion in recent years, with most writers producing full scripts before the art is started, but Vince and I know exactly what we want to achieve and discuss the plot closely before he starts, so it seemed the easiest way to do it. It's not necessarily a way I'd always choose to collaborate, but it works for this project.
What sort of research did the two of you put into the creation of the book?
As for research - I've been kind of doing that all my life, watching far too many detective tv shows. Vince puts a lot of work into the locations and characters, but for me it's mostly just swirling around somewhere in the back of my head, waiting to be used. If we're going to deliberately echo a particular series (as we do at the start of the second book in the series, being playful with the abominably bad Murder She Wrote), then I'll rewatch a couple to make sure I have the style right. Our third book takes place in New York and features a long car chase, so I have Bullitt, The French Connection and The Italian Job all lined up on DVD to watch. It's a tough life.
Do you make any real life references to places/people in your book?
Places, yes. This first book is set in London, mostly in and around the British Museum, and it's an area I know very well, so all the locations are authentic, even to the point of getting the interior of a pub looking right, using the real interior. Book Two is set in Whitby, another place I know like the back of my hand, and again we use real places - slightly changed here and there for convenience of the plot, but mostly authentic. And again in book three, we'll be using real New York locations - mostly places I already know very well. The people, though, are all fictional, though both Harker and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Critchley, have certain similarities to me. Harker is probably my worst side, Critchley my best. Otherwise, everyone's made up.
Tell me about Detective Sergeant Critchley - if he were an animal, which animal would he be?
A cat, probably. He always looks good, so preens himself too much, he generally dresses in black and he likes the girls. So a black cat.
You mention book two and book three. How many volumes can we hope to expect in total?
Oh, hopefully it's ongoing. At the moment we have a three book deal with Titan Books, two of which are already finished, and the third of which we're working on as we speak. We're planning to keep going after that, though, if the books prove to be successful. There are also prose novels as part of the series, the first of which is again already finished, and the second in first draft form. So that's already five stories, with plenty more we want to tell.
Okay, I have one last question. It’s a tough one. Are you ready?
I think so. *exercises fingers*
What is the colour of awesome?
Pink. A deep, shocking pink.
That. Is. Horrific.
I know. I'm not too keen on the colour myself, but it's loud and brash and loves itself, so y'know... We never use the word 'awesome' over here. It's impossible to even hear the word in my head without hearing it in an American accent. Probably shouted by a 16 year old college kid pumping his fist in the air. We'd be more inclined to use something like 'lovely.'
Well thank you for indulging me this interview, even if you have left me slightly traumatised.
Roger Gibson is a comic writer and novelist, based in York, England. He reads far too many comic books and believes what they tell him. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter.