First Comes Love, Then Comes the Heist: David Pepose on "Going to the Chapel"
Fresh off the heels of an explosive conclusion to "Spencer & Locke," indie creator David Pepose is teaming up with an all-new crew of talented comics craftspeople to walk us down the aisle in "Going to the Chapel."
We had the chance to catch up with David this past week to learn a little more about the book, including his inspirations for a wedding heist story, how he works with his creative team, a new jaunt with a female protagonist and a personal assurance that he's not the grandmother in this story.
We're pretty sure he's lying, because this granny? Total badass.
"Going to the Chapel"
Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Gavin Guidry
Colorist: Liz Kramer Letterer: Ariana Maher
COMIC BOOK YETI: David, thanks for your time, again! When we last chatted, “Spencer & Locke 2” was just hitting shelves. Now you and the team have a brand-new wedding heist story in “Going to the Chapel.” How’d you come up with the concept?
DAVID PEPOSE: Before I can tell readers about the story of the world’s worst wedding, I have to start by telling you about my real-life story of the world’s worst bachelor party — a bachelor party I actually planned as the world’s worst best man. (Laughs) Everything at that party was a catastrophe, from the AirBnB to the activities to me going to the hospital with a kidney stone 48 hours before the celebration was starting. I told myself, “thank God this didn’t happen during the wedding” … but being the horrible best man I was, then I thought to myself, “but what if it did?”
And that’s how the idea of "Going to the Chapel" got started. It’s the story of Emily Anderson, a bride whose wedding is taken over by a gang of Elvis-themed bank robbers, and how she winds up playing both sides against the middle to not just get everyone out in one piece, but also to figure out where her happily ever after truly lies. It reminds me of The Hangover a bit — just those hours and minutes before you say “I do” are naturally super-tense.
Literally, they literally invite guests to shout out if they have any reason why you shouldn’t get married. That’s so messed up!
So the idea of things going horribly wrong right on the cusp of this life-altering event — like if a gang of bank robbers decided to crash your wedding, simultaneously putting you in mortal danger as well as locking you in an enclosed space with the most dysfunctional people you know — well, it proved to be an irresistible concept.
"I wanted to prove that men, women, everybody could enjoy romcoms and not have to feel guilty or emasculated or dumb for it."
COMIC BOOK YETI: "Spencer & Locke" dealt with trauma, memory and loss through the device of everyone’s favorite comic strips. “Going to the Chapel” seems to be edging into some pulp film territory. What inspired you to write this comic?
DAVID: And we’ll definitely tap into some of those same themes — particularly those of memory and heartbreak — as the series progresses, as well. But as far as what inspired me to write "Going to the Chapel," I took stock in a lot of what I did in "Spencer & Locke," and wanted to try something that hit a lot of the same touchstones in terms of action and comedy, but approached it at a very different angle. For instance, given that "Spencer & Locke" was pretty intimate in terms of the size of its cast, I wanted to go big for "Going to the Chapel," with a sprawling and diverse cast of over 15 people, all trapped in the same single location. It felt like the kind of challenge that would really flex my muscles as a writer.
But most importantly, the idea of finding a new way to tackle romantic comedies felt long overdue in today’s Direct Market — there’s a reason why a lot of publishers don’t print these things, but I think there’s a terrible set of preconceptions about who’s “allowed” to like romcoms as a genre, when a lot of my favorite movies (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, About Time, 500 Days of Summer) are all twists on that same foundation. For "Going to the Chapel," I wanted to prove that men, women, everybody could enjoy romcoms and not have to feel guilty or emasculated or dumb for it — because I think romcoms as a genre have just as much versatility as sci-fi, superheroes or crime.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Gavin [Guidry] and Liz [Kramer] produce pages that’re deceptively cheerful and light. Ariana [Maher] brings additional calm with economical lettering. Tell me a bit about how the team came together and what your process is like on this book.
DAVID: Honestly, my favorite part about being an indie creator is putting together a team you might not have heard of, and then watching as they knock it out of the park. I found Gavin first, through his indie book The Night Driver — he’s got this style that’s right in that sweet spot between Jamie McKelvie and Doc Shaner, where he’s able to shift between expressive comedy and exciting action without missing a beat. He and I talked a lot during the thumbnail stage of the rhythm and tone I was shooting for in my scripts, and Gavin actually created a fully rendered, three-dimensional chapel that he was able to rotate and manipulate depending on the scene.
Liz, meanwhile, I met through our mutual friend Mara Jayne Carpenter, who did some terrific colors on Jade Street Protection Services — when I saw Liz’s work on her webcomic Threader, I was incredibly impressed. Liz’s colors look unlike anything else in the Direct Market, and her unique palettes of gold, pink and purple let us evoke romantic comedies as well as dusty action thrillers like Breaking Bad or Hell or High Water. Liz and I talked a lot about colorists like Matt Wilson and Patricia Martin, but she really went above and beyond for this series. I’m already excited to start work on another book with her, she’s really incredible.
"Even if you haven’t been held at gunpoint, I think most people can think of at least one family event that’s felt more like a hostage situation."
COMIC BOOK YETI: The book opens with Emily navigating a stressful wedding day, including horrible relatives and a hefty amount of doubt. Things quickly take a turn or two, and by the end we’ve got a hell of a bottle episode on our hands. Without going into spoilers, how weird are we going to get in this story?
DAVID: Ah… very. (Laughs) I mean, it’s one of those kinds of things that feels so weird, it’s kind of surprising this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often? It’s so specific that it’s almost convincing, having your wedding be the site of some random bank robber’s entrepreneurial streak. Plus, I think everybody’s got some dysfunctional family members, so it’s easy to imagine that time where your tough-as-nails grandma decided to sass a gunman to his face.
But I think that overlap between crime and romance — particularly, the use of our culture’s wealth of wedding imagery — is what yields a lot of laughs and a lot of the big “wow” moments in "Going to the Chapel."
People already get tense when the bride throws the bouquet — what happens when that pitching arm is used for a Molotov cocktail? And if you thought shopping for gifts was hard, imagine thinking about how you’re going to weaponize the wedding registry. (Laughs) My mind sometimes goes weird places, so our readers get to ride shotgun with me. But ultimately, it all comes from a very human core — even if you haven’t been held at gunpoint, I think most people can think of at least one family event that’s felt more like a hostage situation.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Emily doesn’t seem to have as much externalized trauma as Locke, but there’s clearly a lot going on under the surface. What’s it like writing a female protagonist, and does she have a past?
DAVID: It’s funny, because the vast majority of the scripts I’ve written so far have actually had female protagonists in mind — "Spencer & Locke" just happened to be the first thing to get published! I attribute that to the strong, intelligent, funny-as-hell women in my life — particularly my mom, who is five-foot-even on a good day but absolutely will wreck you if provoked, or my girlfriend Claire, who is not only way smarter than me, but she’s my first reader and general storytelling compass for everything I write. Basically, everything people like about my books is their fault, so I wind up gravitating often to writing female characters to emulate them.
But as far as Emily is concerned, she does have a past, which we’ll get to delve into more as the series continues — while she definitely isn’t as traumatized as someone like Locke, we’ll get to learn more about Emily’s romantic history as "Going to the Chapel" heats up. Suffice to say, she’s got some stuff in her past that she’s going to have to face up to and resolve before she can move forward with her life, no matter what direction she eventually chooses.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Your work incorporates a lot of pop culture and media references, but none of them seem superfluous. How much media/music/movies/TV do you consume while you’re working on a project?
DAVID: I use a lot of music to get myself in the right headspace for writing — there’s usually a lot of pop, hip-hop and indie rock just to help me tap into the right pacing and energy, and in the case of "Going to the Chapel," a lot of retro stuff as well to help me settle on the right tone. Bobby Vee’s “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” The Doors’ “Break On Through,” Toto’s “Hold The Line” — my Spotify got a good workout with this one! (Laughs)
"Going to the Chapel" in particular drew a lot of influences from movies as well — I watched a ton of heist and hostage movies to help me plot out arcs for all the supporting characters, and figure out how to keep all these moving pieces accounted for as the caper started to spiral out of control. I went from standards like Die Hard and Inside Man to oddball choices like The Ref and Toy Soldiers — in particular, though, my biggest influences on this were Dog Day Afternoon and Death at a Funeral. Those movies in particular really encapsulated that tone I was shooting for with "Going to the Chapel" — they both straddle that line between super-tense situations and the funniest, most dysfunctional dynamics that come out of these bizarre situations.
COMIC BOOK YETI: You and your team put together a great cast of colorful characters. Emily has relatives we can all relate to, even in their humorous extreme. Have any names been changed to protect the guilty?
DAVID: …Yes. (Laughs) I love my family, but they are extremely weird people. Clearly they would have to be, for me to write a book like this. The real litmus test is for readers to guess which character was based on me! Spoiler alert: it is not the grandma. I repeat: I am not a grandma.
... yup. Definitely the grandma.
But seriously, David's work so far has been fun, heartfelt and unique, and this one's primed to be a banger. Check out "Going to the Chapel" when it hits comic shops in September, and pick up the two-volume adventure "Spencer & Locke" in the meantime.