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05 March 2011 @ 03:32 pm
Comics writer Andy Diggle talks to Anna Martin about race and gender in comics, where he finds his inspiration, and his new book, Rat Catcher.

Find out where to buy Andy's work at the bookstore at his site.

Buy re/action Issue 2 here and read Issue 1 free online here!

Andy Diggle is probably best known as the author of The Losers, the comic the 2010 movie starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana was based on. He's currently under exclusive contract to Marvel and has completed a run on Daredevil with Daredevil: Reborn, drawn by Davide Felice, and a four-issue Astonishing Captain America series.

Andy has in the past worked for DC, notably on Green Arrow: Year One. Not a big fan of the superhero genre, Andy took Oliver Queen, a pretty hokey DC character, and gave his alter-ego Green Arrow a hard-edged, action-packed origin story involving genetically engineered drug crops and a new female villain in the DC universe, China White.

re/action sat down with him over a pint to chat...

So how did you get into comics?

How did I get into comics? I grew up reading stuff like Asterix and the Beano in my very early youth and that taught me the visual language of comics, even before I could read. But it was really 2000AD, which I discovered when I was ten, in 1980 or thereabouts, when I got totally hooked in a way that I hadn’t before. I guess it was in my tweens I was reading things like Commando and Warlord and Battle, kind of off and on, but not as a regular thing. But yeah, 2000AD was a massive, massive influence, kind of a seismic thing with me, to the point where I was trying to get my teachers at school to read it. And then I discovered Warrior a few years later, I guess that would have been about 1983. Warrior was very deliberately aimed at being for the older 2000AD type reader, you know, with things like V for Vendetta. I distinctly remember giving a copy of Warrior, with V for Vendetta in it, to my English teacher and trying to get him to read it, and he just dismissed it out of hand. And I remember showing them to my art teachers and they dismissed it out of hand. But I just felt that there was something there.

I love the immediacy of comics. I’ve always been a huge movie fan, and comics gave me the same kind of immediate, visceral punch that good movies do in a way that I never really got from American comics. You can pick up a superhero comic and I never got any kind of wow factor from it. It all just seemed so incredibly bland and uninvolving. Whereas 2000AD was like a punch in the face, you know? It was just a real grabby kind of hit.

You’ve always said you always gravitated away from superhero comics.

Well, I never really gravitated into them. My exposure to superhero comics would be in Junior School in Crystal Palace, when it was rainy at lunch time and we all had to play in the hall, and they’d wheel out this great big cardboard box full of Marvel UK reprints. They were all dog-eared. It was Marvel UK, Whizzer & Chips and stuff like that, so I always picked up the Marvel stuff just because it was the nearest thing I could find to a proper comic. And it would be like black & white Marvel reprints or black & white DC, and I’d read them because there was nothing else to do, but I just thought they were really bland and dumb, even as a kid—I guess I’d be 7 or 8 back then—and even then I just thought this is really just cheesy crap. There was one about Bruce Banner stranded on some desert island, and he hulks out, walks into the sea and punches out the foundations of the island, and then carries the island across the seabed back to America, and I’m like, okay, I’m eight, and you’re treating me like I’m five. It was just fucking dumb.

Whereas with 2000AD, when I finally discovered it a few years later, it was like, fucking hell, it just doesn’t treat you like an idiot. And simply not treating the reader like an idiot has become a serious part of my ethos when it comes to writing comics. You know, people talk about Hollywood being dumbed down, but the very premises of many famous comic book characters are inherently stupid.

Plus, my Dad was always into his hard science fiction, really old school Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov type stuff, where if it wasn’t scientifically plausible then it wasn’t proper science fiction. And he would always nitpick and pick holes in my favourite movies, like Star Wars and stuff as a kid, and it would kind of spoil it for me a little bit. But that filtered into my writing too, so that I always want to make sure it isn’t full of plot holes, and everything is watertight and it makes sense. So I can still have the visceral thrills that I’m enjoying from being a reader or an audience member, but without my Dad’s nitpicking voice whispering in my ear, saying “no, that would never work in real life!”

So you go for a very realistic edge to your work?

Realistic is not the right word, but plausible. You know, stretching the boundaries of plausibility. Something like The Losers, for example, is meant to be a piece of entertainment, it’s meant to be a big, loud, action movie type thrill ride, you know, so it’s full of exploding helicopters and gun fights and all this good stuff, you know, but at the same time, I still wanted it to be grounded in the real world. So that even if someone is having a point blank duel with stinger missile launchers in an abandoned church on top of an active volcano, it could actually happen in real life. It hasn’t actually got Godzilla in it. That would be too far, if it had Godzilla in it. So it’s kind of like the extreme end of plausibility that you get in like a Die Hard movie or something.

I wanted to ask you about your research for The Losers. There’s a great quote in one of the books – “In my thirty year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA.” Is that a real quote?

I don’t know. I researched that stuff on the internet, and there’s an awful lot of crap on the internet. The sources I dug up on the internet claim it to be a real quote, but in hindsight, I may have been naïve, it may have been some bullshit made up by somebody. Who knows?

But I did a lot of research in the first place, researching The Losers. I always knew it was going to be about the CIA’s history of drug smuggling. Originally I pitched it in South America, because that’s where the CIA’s strongest history of drug smuggling is, apart from obviously Afghanistan in the eighties. But the whole Iran-Contra, Nicaraguan rebels, all that stuff. There’s an excellent book called Whiteout—not to be confused with the comic of the same name—but Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs & the Press, by Cockburn & Sinclair, and that was very much the first book I read to research The Losers. It’s about how the CIA was using drug smuggling to fund black ops that Congress wouldn’t have financed had they known about them. And that’s exactly what Max [the villain in The Losers] is doing. So that was the starting point. And it’s exactly the kind of stuff that they changed for the movie. The whole heist sequence [in the comic] where they steal a truck with an electromagnet—that’s what I’m talking about when I say it’s ridiculous but it’s vaguely plausible—that truck was full of CIA drugs and money when they stole it, it was basically to confirm what they’ve been told by Aisha about Max’s plan, and once they knew that was true, they used the money to finance step two. In the movie, you’re not really sure what’s supposed to be in that truck, you know what I mean? It’s meant to be Max, then he’s not in it, and it’s like, really? Why? Okay. But his whole plan is all about some kind of bullshit science fiction superweapon that makes islands dematerialize, and I just have to ask, why the fuck? I mean, how much money did they spend on that special effect?

So all that stuff about the actual history of the CIA, what they actually have done, that I used to try and ground that implausible stuff, they took it all out and made it even more implausible. So they cut loose the foundations and it just kind of floated off. If you’re going to do extreme shit, you need to balance it out by grounding it. They took away the grounding, and they went even more extreme, so it just floated off into complete implausibility.

But they did go back to South America.

They did. I think actually for budgetary reasons as much as anything else, because there are huge tax breaks for filming in Puerto Rico, and it’s got mountains and jungles and everything they need, so everything was filmed in Puerto Rico. So it was a lot easier for them to film there than it would be to fake Afghanistan or something like that. Which I guess you could do in Arizona or something, but what the hell. I guess that’s probably what they did in Iron Man. But yeah, I was very pleased to see it go back to South America. It’s one of the things they changed in the movie that I was quite pleased to see. Originally the Aisha character, before she was called Aisha, she would have been a Columbian FARQ rebel leader. I don’t think I ever settled on a name for her in the original pitch. It might have been Fatima, but I might be making that up. Which is also a Middle Eastern name, but she was very much Columbian. Changing it to South America came very late in the development process of the movie script. I read like five drafts of that script where the origin story was Afghanistan. And then in the last one, the shooting draft, they changed it to South America. But they didn’t really change all the connecting tissue to allow that to make sense. So she’s from north Africa, but her Dad’s a South American drug lord. It feels like a rushed redraft. There’s lots of stuff in the movie where, if you try and think it through, it’s like, wait a second, who’s side is he on? Is Max CIA? Or not? Is he a rogue agent or not? It doesn’t really add up. You don’t really know what the hell is going on.

The cover for the first volume of The Losers.
Though this isn't the image the movie poster was based on,
it's fair game for pretty much the same criticism.
Still, Aisha is pretty cool.

Speaking of story, at the beginning of The Losers, you have a great quote where you say that a story “downloaded” into your brain. So what is the process of writing, of building up a story?

People always ask that, “where do you get your ideas from?” And a lot of people just sort of sneer at the question. But it’s a really, really important question, especially for people who want to learn how to write. And I guess there is no sort of straight answer. I read a great thing recently—where was it from? Someone said, “Where do you get your ideas from?” “Oh, I subscribe to Ideas Monthly. But it’s only for writers. You have to have a certain proven track record. Once you’ve sold a certain amount of units then you can subscribe to it and register which ideas you want to use.” John Cleese says, “Oh, there’s a guy in my town, you see him on a Monday night on the corner, and you can go and get some ideas off this guy.” And I once asked John Wagner, who wrote Judge Dredd and is one of my writing heroes, where he gets his ideas from, and he said, “Teletext.” Just the news feed on his TV teletext—because it’s real kind of boiled down, just headlines—that’s all grist to the mill for him. He’s basically trained himself just to think, okay, there’s a story in there.

So that’s what I do. It’s the real world. Most superhero comics, they’re just stories about stories, they’re comics about comics. They’re about their own continuity in this rather incestuous way, and they’ve got nothing at all to do with the real world, or anything that I personally can relate to. I find that it’ll be the news, you know. Read the paper or watch the news, something in the real world. Even just a headline, I’ll be like, there’s a story in there. And once you just train yourself to say, “there’s a story in there,” then step two is, okay, what might that story be? The situation itself will suggest lots of stuff. For The Losers, my research generated story ideas. The hijacking, those tankers that were carrying nuclear material for reprocessing in France, that was from an article in the Guardian. There really were two tankers carrying nuclear material to France for reprocessing that had no kind of navy escort whatsoever. So they would have been very easy to hijack. And I was like, well, Max is going to hijack those ships, because he needs to get his hands on some of that stuff. So it’s very much that a headline would suggest the story. I always knew that Max’s plan was going to be about creating this new island state to force America to take control of the Middle Eastern oil reserves, but a lot of the specifics came to me as I went along. The volcano at Montserrat, that came from my honeymoon. We took a helicopter ride over the volcano that popped its top a decade or two back, and whole towns were completely swamped by this pyroclastic flow. Flying over it now, you see roofs sticking out of this sea of mud, and church spires, and it’s just disappeared. Some of it’s up on sort of jungle clifftops, and I thought, well, that would be a nice place for a penthouse. What if some drug dealer’s got a penthouse up there and there’s something extremely valuable in his cellar, but it’s under 50 foot of pyroclastic mud? That’s a great location for a caper. And we took this boat tour in the Caribbean, around Montserrat, in a catamaran, and the crew were a bunch of right old pirates, frankly. You know, they were real chancers. And I really liked these guys. And I thought, what if these guys got wind of that caper? That thing that’s in that basement? And then word got out and it became a big race? And that was before I’d even thought of The Losers. But I knew that one day I was going to write a caper story set on Montserrat where the McGuffin is buried under this mud in this town, and they could have jeep chases, and all that kind of stuff, and that ended up being used in the second Losers arc.

So where I get my ideas from is just the real world. I’ll see a headline and ask, what’s the story there, you know? What could that story be?

At the moment my head is buzzing with ideas for Africa. Africa is so full of amazing stories, and I really like the idea of doing a modern Western set in Africa. With basically no white characters in it at all, just about Africans in Africa. Because it is the fucking Wild West out there. You know, life is cheap and gunmen rule, and the equivalents of the railroad barons are basically fucking everybody over. In this case the railroad barons are the oil companies. There’s unbelievable savagery going on, but at the same time real, genuine, human heroism. I’m at the point where I’m compiling so many different news stories about Africa. I’ve come up with a character that I think is bigger than just one story. I don’t usually think of franchise characters, I usually think of a plot and then I populate it with the characters I need to tell that story and then I’m done. I don’t want to create a Batman or a James Bond where I can tell a million stories with that guy. But this guy, Mosi, I think I’m probably going to call him, it just feels like there’s too much interesting shit going on in Africa for just one story.

And you could develop him into a series of stories.

Yeah, I think so. He’s kind of like the lone gunman in Africa. So he’s kind of an iconic Western type character but he’s an African gunman, with a very grim past. But we don’t know that at first. I know what his past is, but I’m going to, over the course of the story, mete that information out very very sparsely, as we learn more about him.

But the thing is, nobody’s going to buy that story. It’s not a Hollywood movie, nobody in Hollywood would make that. And if I did it as a comic nobody would buy it. You know, so it’s like, what do I do with it? I honestly don’t know, you know? I don’t really know what I can do with these stories, but it’s just there’s so many. Every time I see a news story about Africa, I follow links and find out as much as I can about it. There’s just so much interesting stuff going on. There’s like, toxic waste dumping, and these massive oil leaks. You know the oil leak in the Gulf [of Mexico] got all this coverage, but that’s happening all the time, every day in Africa, in the Niger Delta, and nobody in the West gives a shit. Down there, people have to live knee-deep in leaking oil. And you’ve got Somali piracy. And the idea is that this character can kind of link all of these things together, moving in that world, you know.

That was one thing that struck me about The Losers, actually, how racially diverse your characters are. Was that something you did on purpose?

To be honest, it was—this sounds really crass—but the truth of it is, to make them all look different. In comics, one of the reasons that superheroes all wear these kind of garish costumes is because when they’re being drawn by sixteen different artists, you know, it’s hard to make them all recognisable, because everybody looks very generic. In civvies, everyone looks generic. So they wear these very garish costumes. But obviously we weren’t doing that, you know, we were doing something based in the real world, so it’s a case of saying, okay, this guy’s bald and black, that guy’s Mexican and wears a cowboy hat, this guy wears little round glasses and he’s got sideburns. Everybody’s got a distinctive visual trait so that you can tell them apart. I didn’t want to have five generic guys and nobody knows which is which. Especially if there’s a fill-in artist, because sometimes you have to work with a fill-in artist, and you end up with generic guys and you can’t tell them apart. So yeah, it was purely to give them a different visual look. And also to give them different voices. You know, I couldn’t give a toss what race everybody is. It was because I wanted to give everybody a distinct voice, and it makes that easier. I often cast actors in the role, not to tell the artist what to draw—I let him draw them the way he wants—but so that I can hear their line delivery in my head, so I can write the dialogue. Like I always knew that Pooch, in my head, was Ving Rhames, because he’s got a very slow, very confident, very sure of himself kind of delivery. He’s like this big, slow-talking bear of a guy. And if Marcellus Wallace was the evil Ving Rhames, I wanted Pooch to be the good Ving Rhames. He’s the family guy. Whereas Jensen would be the absolute opposite of that, you know, Jensen is fast-talking and nervous, he’s like a ball of nervous energy, like he’s crackling, you know. And in my head he was Steve Zahn from Out of Sight. I could always imagine Steve Zahn really nailing Jensen.

I thought Chris Evans was really good.

Yeah, he was great, I mean, they were all great, it was a fantastic cast. I’m not saying anyone was miscast, just talking purely about line delivery, about how you make them all sound different. So the race thing was just part of that, you know, you want to mix it up a little bit. You don’t want a bunch of guys who all look exactly the same. You don’t want a bunch of five generic, middle-aged white guys. One of my big problems with crime fictions is that it’s always middle-aged white guys, who are single and have a bit of a drink problem. Obviously that’s what the market wants, but at the same time—I’m not a great fan of tokenism—but you want to mix it up a little bit.

There was no sense that tokenism was happening at all.

Well, funnily enough, when I first pitched The Losers, it was going to be like a World War II version, or a fifties version. I can’t remember exactly how it evolved, but there was going to be like a 4-issue version that was going to be set in Afghanistan. But once they asked me to expand it out into something longer, it moved to South America. This is when the Aisha character would have been South American, a Columbian rebel. And it was Karen Burger specifically who said, why don’t you move it to the Middle East? Because it will make it more relevant—her words—and she really liked the idea of the Aisha character being a Muslim woman. Now, she didn’t say this, but I suspect—I might be speaking out of turn here—but I suspect what she meant by the point of view of a Muslim woman, I think the point of view was, i.e., a victim. You know, “oh, isn’t it terrible, because they’re so sexist over there, and they’re forced to wear burqas, and oh, the poor dear,” kind of thing. And I was like, yeah, you know, she’s my boss, she’s signing the cheques, so I’ll play ball. I was glad to have the work and I didn’t want to kick up a fuss. And I could be completely wrong about why she said that, but I had this niggling feeling that that was where she was coming from. So I said, okay, well, I’m just going to do the opposite of that. So what’s the opposite of the downtrodden, burqa-wearing Muslim woman cliché?


Yeah. Okay, so I thought, well, she’s not going to wear a burqa. There’s this iconic scene, the first scene she’s in, where she kind of throws off the burqa and starts shooting guys left, right and centre. She’s not anybody’s victim. I made her an atheist. Like have you ever seen a Middle Eastern atheist character in anything ever? She does say “Go with Allah” or something like that because she’s rescued a bunch of devout Muslim women. She’s just being polite. We wanted to make her modern, we wanted to make her dangerous, and all the things that go against that stereotype. And I think, in doing so, I probably ended up stumbling into a bunch of other stereotypes, you know. But one of the things that bugged me about the movie was that they turned her into a seductress, into a kind of sex bomb, and that really bugged the shit out of me. Because Aisha’s meant to be a scary bitch, she really is, and basically, she’s not well in the head. The way I wrote her in the comic, she’s pretty much a monster. Without many, if any, redeeming features. And the fact is there aren’t any good female characters in The Losers. Good, as in, you know, a good person. And I do think about this occasionally and I do think about the fact that I write a lot of female characters who end up betraying the guy, you know, in the way that she kind of does at the end, if that’s not spoiling things too much. And now that I’m aware of it, it’s so hard to try to avoid that kind of cliché, when you’re working with company-owned characters where the clichés are kind of baked in over the forty years of the existence of the characters.

What's the opposite to a burqa-wearing muslim woman? A woman with a slit in her skirt right up her thigh, apparently.
Welcome to the West.

So it is something that you reflect on, then, in your writing.

Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I agreed to do this interview, actually, because it is something… I don’t agree with everything that’s said about, you know, the “victimisation” of women in media, yadda yadda yadda, but I do realise… I mean, I like writing tough guys. I grew up reading tough guy stories and I like writing tough guy stories. It’s fun, you know. But even regardless of gender, there are certain patterns I find myself repeating in my work. The last page where there’s a betrayal and suddenly somebody’s pointing a gun in your face that you didn’t expect. I’ve pulled that one so many times. Jock always does it really well, but the fact is that now I’ve realised that, god, I do that a lot, I need to find a new schtick, you know. And, yeah, the female betrayer thing. With Daredevil, that’s come up, and part of it was what I inherited, you know, but I can’t blame that entirely. It’s partly me.

One of the reasons I liked writing Dakota North in Daredevil, she’s a very minor character, she’s like a private eye in the Marvel universe, but Ed Brewbaker brought her into the Daredevil world, so she’s working as a PI for their law company, and I really like the way he writes her. I don’t think I’ve written her nearly as well as he does, and I’ve had a couple of moments where I was like, god, I’ve been trying to write a strong woman, I’ve ended up just actually writing a tough guy. You know, I’ve fallen into that. Which is a common trap. You try and write a strong woman, and you end up just writing a tough guy. You know, she’s not actually a woman, she’s just a guy with boobs.

Is that a problem, do you think?

Well, yeah, if you’re trying to write a fully rounded character, it is, yeah. But I really like the way he wrote Dakota North, because he wrote her as a strong woman, without being a tough bitch, which is a tough, for a guy—well, I don’t know, for a guy—but it’s a tough balancing act to pull off, you know, because that’s the trap you fall into. If you try and write a strong woman, you end up just writing somebody who is basically not very likeable, and is just very masculine. Being a strong woman isn’t about being masculine.

There’s one thing about The Losers, when I was reading it, I did think, you know, pretty much any of those characters, of the guys, could have been a woman.

Yeah, but it wouldn’t have been plausible. It wouldn’t have made sense, because you don’t get female special forces soldiers, you know. You can get into the gender politics of why that is, but the fact is, you don’t get and you will not get female special forces soldiers. So if I’d made one of the actual Losers themselves a woman, that would have been pure tokenism. It would have been just wildly implausible. You get into bullshit GI Joe territory there, you know.

You’ve said before that you tend to avoid writing directly for a specific audience.

Yeah, that would be pandering. I basically write for myself. I try and write stuff that I want to read. It’s that simple.

Marvel and DC, that’s not what I tend to gravitate towards, you know, for the most part. I love Vertigo, and I love 2000AD, but the superhero stuff is not what I gravitate towards. So I don’t really claim to understand that audience or their tastes, you know. Their tastes are not my tastes. And I figured if I tried to give them what I think they want, I’d end up just doing a copy of a copy and it would be phony, you know, it would be insincere and phony. So what I try to do is figure out how to make it mine. Green Arrow Year One, I think, was the most creatively successful example of that. I took this inherently hokey character, which I always thought was really cheesy and laughable and just crap, and thought, well, okay, how would I turn that into an Andy Diggle comic? And I realised that no one’s ever done the origins story before. And I could basically turn it into what I like writing, which is action movies on paper. The Losers is an action movie on paper. It was always meant to be that, you know. I’m not apologetic about it. And with Green Arrow Year One, I realised that a) no one had told that origins story for about thirty, forty years, whatever it was, and b) it’s a hunted man thriller, rather than a superhero story. There’s no spandex, there’s no superpowers, there’s none of that. It could happen in the real world. But it’s still completely faithful to the DC Universe. That takes place in a world in which Superman is busy battling Lex Luthor over Metropolis, which has been stolen on giant nuclear-powered rockets, or whatever—that could be happening right now. But on this little island, where my story is taking place, none of that is allowed to impinge. I think the one slightly science-fictional thing I allowed to creep into it was when I suggested that the bad guy—the bad woman, in fact, China White—was growing genetically modified heroin. Because the whole island turns out to be just like an opium farm. I was quite pleased with that, actually. It’s an extinct volcano, so the inside is like just one giant, fertile bowl, but it’s completely shielded from the outside world so nobody knows it’s there. I thought that was quite ingenius. Because you see when he climbs up over that cliff on the volcano bowl and when he looks over, there’s this reveal. It was a good idea.

So yeah, so the suggestion is that it’s genetically modified. But we have genetically modified crops, so it doesn’t seem completely implausible. That was the one little tip of the hat, you know, to “this takes place in a sci-fi universe.” Well, that and the fact that China White basically is a supervillain. She doesn’t have any superpowers, but again she’s another example of this kind of monstrous female character. And she is a cliché. She’s a stereotype. She’s totally the Dragon Lady stereotype. I’d never even heard of the Dragon Lady stereotype, but once I heard about it I was like, oh, god, I totally did that.

But I tried to balance that out by also having a strong feminine female character. Taiana.

Who has a baby in the middle of the action.

Yeah, I wanted her to kick ass whilst eight months pregnant.

And she did. So, what about your future work? You had something coming out this January?

Yeah, Rat Catcher. It’s a crime graphic novel from Vertigo Crime, which I’m really excited about actually. It was an idea that came to me a few years back, and I was thinking of writing it as a spec screenplay, because I’ve always wanted to write movies. And then the Hollywood Writers’ Strike happened, after which basically nobody in Hollywood was buying speculative scripts. It completely nuked the whole spec market. I can’t spend six months writing something I know I’ll never be able to sell. So it just kind of went on the back burner. But it’s a very filmic story. And then when Vertigo offered me the opportunity to write a crime graphic novel, like a 180-page self-contained graphic novel, they said, “how would you like to write a crime story?” And I said, “well, it just so happens…” And it was like it just dropped into my lap. It was perfect for it. And it took me a long time to write. They don’t pay a lot for the Vertigo Crime books. I think we get better royalties and back end type stuff than you normally would from DC, but the downside of that is they don’t actually pay a huge page rate. So it took me a long time to write it because I had to fit it in between other stuff that paid better to pay the mortgage, frankly. So it was a bit of a long trudge actually getting it out there. And once I’d written the damn thing I never wanted to see it again. But recently I got the advance copy through, now it’s all drawn and lettered, and it was like, you know what, actually, this isn’t half bad. I usually hate my own work. It’s like pulling teeth. I hate writing! It really is work. But I think if I didn’t hate it, I wouldn’t really trust my output. If I was just knocking it out without any due care or attention, I’d be a hack, you know.

Anyway, back to Rat Catcher. It’s being drawn by Victor Ibañez, who’s a great upcoming Spanish artist from Barcelona who I think is going to become a megastar, frankly. I was really, really lucky, because most of the Vertigo Crime books, they put the budget on the writer, and they can’t afford to get the real top names in the art. That sounds a little undiplomatic, doesn’t it? But the fact is that I was really lucky that this guy, Victor, who I’d never met before, just happened to be looking for work. And because he’s new to the game, you know, they could afford to hire him for this. But I think once it comes out, they won’t be able to afford him to do another Vertigo Crime book, because he’ll be drawing The Avengers or something, you know. He did a really good job. The characters really act, you know? He knows where to put the camera and he knows how to make the characters act, and the storytelling was all clear and crisp. He nailed everything. Nothing had to be redrawn in 180 pages.

So Rat Catcher is another hunted man thriller, about an FBI manhunt for a mythical assassin known as the Rat Catcher who supposedly specialises in silencing Mob snitches who’ve gone into the Witness Protection Programme. But because he always either makes it look like natural causes or lures people out of the programme for breaking the rules, to their own demise, the Marshals Service don’t believe he even exists, they think he’s just an urban myth. They’ve got a 100% perfect success rate in preserving witnesses, you know. But he’s on the edges of all that. So the story starts off and there’s a burning safehouse in the badlands of west Texas, and a wounded man staggers out of the house and runs off. And then you find out a few pages later that that was an FBI safehouse. A major mob witness was about to be handed over from the FBI to the Marshals Service for witness protection. But everybody’s dead. What the hell happened? So it becomes about a hunt for the guy who staggered out alive. You know, is the Rat Catcher real? It’s kind of cool. And I tried to give equal screentime to the hero and the villain. There’s this old timer whose partner always believed in the Rat Catcher but he didn’t quite buy it. But now it seems as if, damn, he was right all along. And the wounded man who’s just staggered of the house. I don’t want to spoil where it’s all going, but I tried to give equal weight to the killer and the hero. It’s a bit like Heat. I mean, it’s not as good as Heat, obviously, because Heat’s brilliant, but in the way the hero and the villain are kind of mirroring each other. They’re given equal weight in the story. I wanted it to be like that, have them kind of spiralling towards each other.

That sounds cool. Now, final question. You’ve mentioned before to me that you’ve seen fanworks based on the Losers, including slash. How do you feel about that?

Yeah, someone mentioned it to me that there was Losers slash fiction out there. I can’t remember where I heard it now. I was like, really? Losers slash? So I googled it and I was like, whoa, I’m not reading any more of that! I didn’t need to see that! Stop reading now. I don’t want to read about my characters fucking each other. I really don’t.

But you’ve no problem with people writing it, or how do you feel about that?

I don’t have a problem with it, no. They’re not even my characters, they’re DC’s characters. I don’t own The Losers. But no, if people want to write about Batman fucking Superman, then fine. Whatever.

So on the Joss Whedon to Anne Rice scale, you’re more towards Joss Whedon? Anne Rice won’t allow any fanfiction based on her work, but Joss Whedon is fine with it.

Yeah, I’m totally fine with it. And give me Joss Whedon over Anne Rice any day, frankly. Let’s put it this way, I’d rather read about Joss Whedon characters fucking each other than Anne Rice characters fucking each other.

And on that note, thanks Andy.

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Striking artwork from Daredevil: Reborn by Davide Gianfelice.