Article by Johnny Destructo
Johnny Destructo here, and I had the pleasure of briefly chatting with David Lapham. If you know good comics, surely you know him from his hard-boiled STRAY BULLETS! If you haven’t read that, may I suggest you go do that right after finishing this interview? David is also responsible for YOUNG LIARS and has worked on books like DETECTIVE COMICS, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, SPIDER-MAN, DEADPOOL MAX, PUNISHER MAX and, most recently, on CROSSED: PSYCHOPATH and DAMAGED from Radical Comics! Thanks again to David for taking the time!
JOHNNY DESTRUCTO (JD): Well, I’ve had a chance to check out the advance copy of issue #1, but for those who aren’t so lucky, why don’t you give us a taste of why they should pick it up?
DAVID LAPHAM (DL): Because it rocks. Seriously, the art alone that Leonardo Manco is doing is worth picking up. Then add in that it’s a great story with a lot of meat on its bones and that makes it a great read. The basic story is about two brothers who were San Francisco cops in the seventies. There was an incident that tore them apart and sent them on different paths. One became the ideal cop, the other a vigilante. Now they’re near the end of their time and the vigilante brother has returned to San Fran to clean up the city his brother failed to and he’ll use nearly any means to do it. The series is about how they try [to] pass their ways along to a younger generation while at the same time trying to make that one final push to shape justice as they see it. To boil it all down… lots of people die, lots of things get blown up.
JD: What was the genesis of DAMAGED, thematically? Was there a specific event or moment that made you realize you had to explore these characters?
DL: It started with John and Michael Schwarz. They had the idea and wrote a treatment, then ultimately asked me if I would be interested in writing it and shaping it. The subject played into things I like to do and the treatment was full of great ideas. First and foremost was that it was very character-based. It explored vigilantism and justice on different levels from the point of view of four different characters, each with their own stories and tragedies. I knew I could do a lot with them and also make it cool. These are hard men, the older guys even more so than the younger. That was another thing I loved. You just don’t get a chance to write characters who aren’t in their prime. These guys are at the end— kind of DARK KNIGHT RETURNS territory. So they know things. They’re sharper and smarter than you, but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes it’s just too late. I liked the challenge of writing that.
JD: So, the giant elephant in the room is sitting its huge ass on my feet. One of the main characters in DAMAGED feels… familiar, what with all his vigilan-tastic punishing of criminals. Did this story come along because you had something to say about that type of character specifically, or did that archetype just happen to fit into what you have to say about intrafamilial differences?
DL: The Punisher is definitely a staple of this genre in comics. Yeah, that’s a part of this, but the Punisher is almost the flip side. He’s a force of nature and when he’s done his best—as you see in the Garth Ennis stuff– he’s the central figure that other people’s stories revolve around. In DAMAGED, even the character Henry, who is more that type, is someone we get inside. The story is just as much about how he is damaged and has to deal with that as it is any of the other characters. And in that way, there’s a strong tone of seventies films like DEATH WISH and DIRTY HARRY. I remember growing up there was a strong conservative sense from my father’s generation of tough guys and John Wayne types. “Walking Tall” and Bernard Goetz. The sense that sometimes a man just needs to take matters into his own hands and that’s okay as long as you’re in the right. This is comics, so the Punisher’s a strong reference point, but there’s a lot I know I’m bringing to the table here. But yes, if you think the Punisher is cool and badass, I think if you just read the opening sequence in issue #1 you’ll find that Henry more than satisfies.
JD: The artist on this series is Leonardo Manco. Was he provided by Radical, or was he a personal choice of yours?
DL: I wish I could claim him. No, someone at Radical blessed me with this man. If you’ve seen his work, you know he’s in the elite class in this form. Your Steve Rude, David Mazzucchelli, god-like level. I seem to be getting very lucky in the art department in a ton of my projects lately.
JD: Steve Rude, eh? That’s some high praise! Certain writers, when they know who they’ll be teaming up with, write for their artist’s specific strengths. Do you write for your artist?
DL: In this case, they found an artist tailored to what I wrote. I draw a lot of tone from 60s and seventies film for this book and Leonardo’s work completely plays into that. It’s very grounded in the grime of reality. It’s very cinematic.
JD: Sam Worthington (from TERMINATOR SALVATION, AVATAR) is listed as the Executive Producer for DAMAGED. How did Sam get involved?
DL: Sam is part of Full Clip with John and Michael. They’re all friends and partners in crime.
JD: Throughout the daily flimflam of your life, where would you say you come up with the most story ideas?
DL: If you’re looking for the “in the bathroom” answer, that would be wrong. Ideas happen anywhere. The nuts and bolts of an idea happen right at the keyboard when I take the idea and “sketch it out.” Bring it to life. My treatments tend to be long, as I work out a lot just free-form writing. But for the idea part: the germ of a story, either an original idea or the meat that I’m going to revolve a story around, probably the most productive place is driving. Which I guess isn’t the safest place to be drifting off into my imagination, but I haven’t killed anybody yet.
JD: Are there any current comic series or creators that you’re enjoying, preferably not while driving?
DL: Recently, I’ve been reading SCALPED, which is brilliant, can’t recommend that enough.
JD: Oh, good holy hell, SCALPED is amazing! You’ve had quite a bit of experience with different publishing avenues, having self-published STRAY BULLETS through El Capitan, you’ve written for the Big Two, and are currently also writing CROSSED: PSYCHOPATH over at Avatar. What are the benefits in deciding to put out DAMAGED through Radical? Are there different perks for publishing through different companies?
DL: Well, as far as DAMAGED, since the genesis was from Full Clip, that’s where the project was. They’d send Worthington to hunt me down if I stole it and went to Bongo. In general, I’m a freelancer, so I go where the work is. Yes, there are advantages to certain companies. Like with the Avatar work. They do a certain thing. Extreme horror. So the type of book I can do there is best done there and the fans know what to expect. Other ideas don’t work out as well. I did SPARTA, USA with WildStorm. I did it there because I pitched it several places and they were the first to say yes. I love that idea and am proud of the book, but in retrospect, they folded and the book didn’t sell as well as I would have liked and now it’s gone. Maybe another home would have been better, maybe not. To me, I worry about the work more than the home. I worry about if can I do the best job and what artist can the company bring in to make the best book.
Now, all that goes out the window with STRAY BULLETS and El Capitan. When Maria and I were doing El Capitan, there was nothing better. That was ours. To tweak your question a bit, we were a two person team. A small press, not a self publisher. Maria was the publisher and did a god-like job as one person getting BULLETS out there and noticed on a level with the biggest names and companies in the industry. I got to live in my special little box and create comics all day. No editors to call, no proposals to write. Just making comics.
JD: Seriously, what the #@%k is up with STRAY BULLETS? I miss it.
DL: Me, too. Greatly. I made a decision that I didn’t want to do STRAY with another company. Only El Capitan, so unfortunately that means it has to wait until we’re ready to take on that challenge again.
Look for DAMAGED from Radical Comics, out August 17th! Be sure to pick it up!
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