INTERVIEW: Si Spencer and Nicolo Assirelli on THE RETURNERS
New creative team talk about their supernatural series for the Judge Dredd Megazine set in the South America of Dredd's world
23 hours ago
Hola! Welcome to delights of South America's Ciudad Barranquilla - the poorest city in the world and one of the most corrupt, with the Judges just as dodgy as the Cartel bosses.
Starting in this month's Judge Dredd Megazine #394, writer Si Spencer and new 2000 AD artist Nicolo Assirelli venture into this hotbed of criminality and corruption in The Returners: Irmazhina.
Opening with a Justice Department city block disappearing from the face of the Earth, the six-part series takes four unlikely, and shady, characters on an adventure in a mysterious Mayan pyramid only they can see.
Richard Bruton talks to Si Spencer and Nicolo Assirelli about what we can expect from this latest South American sojourn in the Megazine...
Richard Bruton: Your new strip, The Returners begins this month in the Megazine #394. Can you give us a quick idea of what we have to look forward to?
Si Spencer: It’s set in Ciudad Barranquilla (CB), basically four very different criminals suffer a near-death experience at exactly the same moment that an entire Justice Department Block disappears. When they come round from their flatlines, it seems they're the only ones able to penetrate the force-field surrounding the wreckage. And they’re the only ones who can see the giant Mayan pyramid that stands in its place. The four perps – a dirty Judge, a streetgang boss, a polygender hooker and a murdering occultist – are offered an amnesty if they go inside the pyramid to find out what’s going on. It’s kinda Dirty Dozen meets Indiana Jones… but with a vengeful, murdering pre-Columbian goddess. This story’s a six parter but I think I’ve been pretty blatant with the title when it comes to looking for a second series.
Over the years, we've seen an awful lot of the Mega-Cities of the USA and the Sov Block, a fair bit of Brit-Cit and Sino-Cit. But Banana City hasn't exactly featured much in Dredd history. At most it's a corrupt Mega-City full of stereotypes and a mass of corruption. What was it that led you to Banana City for this tale?
SS: Basically it was ‘hey, who doesn’t like a spooky pyramid filled with traps and bloodthirsty goddesses? Where in the Megaverse would have such a thing?’
In MC-1, it's all very structured, rules in place somewhat for characters and writers/artists alike. Did playing in CB give you some more room to go further? Is there something of a sense of having a little more lattitude in what's available, what you can do, when setting a tale outside of MC-1?
SS: I’ve always tended to shy away from MC-1 during my various stints on the Megazine but I’m not sure why. It’s not really about avoiding structure and rules, cos usually the more restrictions I’ve got, the happier I am. To be honest, I think there are so many brilliant stories set there, I feel safer going elsewhere and avoiding being compared unfavourably to the greats. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to do all the homework, so setting stories outside the megacity is a cheap and easy way of not stepping too much on canon. Jeez, I knew that spiking myself with sodium pentothal before doing this was a mistake.
Given that the story sounds like it's mostly going to be set inside the Mayan pyramid, will we be seeing something of the delights of CB?
Nicolo Assirelli: Yes, we'll see CB, I tried to stick with the city design found in some pages by Carlos Ezquerra. The uniforms of the Judges are based on the design by Will Simpson, on the pages of “Banana City”.
The idea of the four perps locked in the pyramid obviously plays on the old story trope of the chamber-piece: Alien, Die Hard, The Thing... that sort of thing. It's a fun thing to read or watch, but what are you planning on bringing to The Returners to set it apart and stop reviewers and readers describing it as a 'Dredd-world Die Hard' in a pyramid?
SS: Without blowing our own trumpets too much, I think between us Nicolo and I have come up with something in that pyramid that you’re really not going to be expecting. I can’t say too much, but we’ve got us a damn-fine antagonist that’s hopefully going to give you serious chills. Not to mention some seriously unpleasant perps.
Nicolo, can you tell us a little about your process, and how you create the strip? Is it full colour? digital? painted? etc etc...
NA: I start with rough little layouts, than I pencil the page, print it in blue and ink over it. Then scans and some digital adjustments if needed. And finally, the wonderful Eva De La Cruz adds colours!
When did you first discover 2000 AD and what were your first comics? And what influences have really had the biggest effect upon your work?
SS: After starting with the standard British funnies – Monster Fun, Whizzer and Chips, Cor and so on – and the old black and white Marvel reprints in Fantastic and Terrific. I gave up on comics in my teens and only came back to them in my twenties, when Tharg got me back into comics around 1979/80. I loved the Britishness, the total punk anarchy, the uniqueness of the art styles, the dynamism, the radical approach to old ideas. Just beautifully British.
NA: I grew up and live in Faenza, a little city in Emilia Romagna, Italy. Playpress published some Dredd/Batman and Dredd/Lobo comics in the nineties, than it was the turn of Magicpress, with more stories focused on Dredd and now Editoriale Cosmo is publishing more! Unfortunately no other 2000 AD characters were published in Italy! I’d seen the Dredd Stallone movie when I was a kid and then discovered the comics' version in those team-ups with Batman and Lobo. More recently I read new stories and published sample pages on the 2000 AD forum sample section looking for advice. Reading the good feedback gave me a bit more confidence, so I sent the pages to 2000 AD and I was accepted. My first comic was Il Giornalino, with episodes of Lucky Luke, Ninja Turtles and stories drawn by giants like Sergio Toppi and Ferdinando Tacconi. Then Paperinik's new adventures, PK. Paperinik is the superhero alias of Donald Duck, created by Disney Italia in 1969 and the series PK was a revelation and a revolution in the italian comics. Aliens, cyberpunk, time travel in Disney stories, with a cast of amazing writers and artists!