Order Up: An Interview with Jed McPherson
We recently corresponded with Jed McPherson, writer of Deadbeat and the Show, to discuss his crime comic, Cuddles, the differences in writing for prose vs. comics, along with a killer list of crime stories for you to check out.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Jed, thank you for joining me today to talk about this wicked comic you, Marco [Perugini], and Shan [Bennion] put together. Personally, the crime genre is one of those genres I never seem to get enough of. What is it about the crime genre that sparks your interest as a creator?
JED McPHERSON: I think at my heart I’m a character writer and, at least to my mind, a good crime story is character-first. You’ve got all these interesting characters with conflicting loyalties, personalities. Then you put them into hyper-stressful, life-or-death situations and see how it plays out.
CBY: What was the initial idea behind Cuddles?
JM: It actually came from the opening scene. I had this idea for a scene with a tough guy having a really bad customer service experience. Something about the idea of an absolute killer being stymied by a jobsworth, knowing that he could just reach across and kill the guy and choosing not to, appealed to me.
From that, I had to work out what kind of character would act that way. The rest of the story just came from that. It’s rare that a story is as effortless as that, but it’s always nice when it happens.
CBY: How would you describe your collaboration process with Marco and Shan?
JM: There’s a lot of trust. I write a full script because if I don’t offer at least one solution to a page, I don’t feel like I’m doing my job properly. But I like to think I give Marco and Shan a lot of leeway in how they tackle the book.
There’s a ton of pages where Marco has added things or cut a panel, and it always makes the book better. And Shan is constantly surprising me with their colour choices. It’s never what I’d have imagined – it’s better.
CBY: The prose side story at the end was one hell of a read. Do you approach writing prose any differently from how you tackle your comic scripts?
JM: Thank you. I was a little worried everyone would skip the prose, but most of the people I’ve shown the book to seem to be reading it.
Yeah, it’s a little different. I’m much less experienced as a prose writer than I am with comics, so it takes a little longer to get the ideas down. I also tend to do a few more rewrites when doing prose. But it’s real fun.
CBY: At the time of this writing, you’ve blown through your Kickstarter goal, which, congratulations! What lessons have you learned from crowdfunding on Kickstarter?
JM: Thank you. It’s been a helluva ride. I think I’ve damn near worn out my F5 key hitting refresh all that time. You’d think reaching our goal would have calmed me down but I’m even more of an anxious mess than I thought I was. I figured running a successful Kickstarter would be a breeze, but there’s so much pressure to keep the momentum going.
I think if I learnt anything, it’s that when it comes to Kickstarter, a good launch is everything. It’s much easier to keep the momentum going than it is to jumpstart a stalled campaign. Plus, it’s easier to keep yourself motivated if you’re seeing results. I know that’s a little like saying “just be successful” which is less than useless but there are a ton of things you can do to build hype before you launch.
I’d actually recommend anyone that’s thinking about launching a Kickstarter to check out Dave Cook’s (of Killtopia fame) Kickstarter guide. He breaks down each aspect in much more detail than I could.
"When it comes to Kickstarter, a good launch is everything. It’s much easier to keep momentum going than it is to jumpstart a stalled campaign."
CBY: What are some of your favorite crime stories in other media besides comics?
JM: Oh man. How long have you got?
The Getaway by Jim Thompson is one of my favourite novels of all time, crime or otherwise Thompson’s prose is sparse but brutal and, without spoiling the ending, it goes places you wouldn’t expect.
I also love Charles Willeford’s Hoke Mosley books and pretty much anything by Elmore Leonard. I tend to like crime stories that focus on criminals rather than the “good guys” and Leonard writes scumbags like no one else.
Oh and The Wire, obviously, but I’d also recommend checking out David Simon’s true crime books the Corner and Homicide: Life on the Street.
Justified is a really good example of how great characters can elevate a what could have been a ho-hum crime-of-the-week kinda show.
CBY: How would you like to see the crime genre evolve in comics? Are there any creators you’d like to see give it a try?
JM: I’m not 100% sure. I think the crime genre is in a real good place at the moment. You’ve got new series like That Texas Blood and Write it in Blood are absolutely killing it. Brubaker and Phillips are doing interesting things with Reckless. I’ve seen rumblings that Gorham and Brisson might be bringing The Violent back. And it seems like every other day, there’s another cool-looking crime comic hitting Kickstarter.
Gun to my head? I’d really like to see more graphic novellas and one-shots. OGNs and ongoings are great, but man, there’s something so satisfying about a short comic done well. That may seem a little self-serving, seeing as I’m trying to hawk a one-shot, but I think the format really suits the genre.
As for creators that I’d like to see give crime a go, well, I’d love to see Rick Quinn write something in the genre. He’s one of the smartest, most compassionate writers in comics and I’d be very interested to see what his take on crime would be.
Artwise, it’d be interesting to see Martin Simmonds do something. I’m loving what he’s doing with The Department of Truth and I think he’d have a really interesting take on the genre.
CBY: Are there any upcoming projects that you can tease for us? If you’re not able to say, which of your previous projects would you recommend readers pick up next?
JM: Well, Cuddles was always sort of designed as a stealth pilot for a Last Chance Crime series. The idea was to wait and see how well the Kickstarter went and then take it from there. Now, I’m not promising anything but I may have started writing the next Last Chance Crime Story… It’s not, strictly speaking, a sequel to Cuddles, but it’ll have a few characters in common.
As for my other projects… I’d guess Transmissions would be the most relevant if you liked Cuddles. It’s by the same creative team, and it’s also pretty damn good if I say so myself. Or, if you want crime, you can grab Deadbeat by me and Chris Shehan. And if you want something completely different, you can check out The Show (with art by Robert Ahmad and F.P. Sioc Jnr)
And, as an added bonus, they’re all available as add-ons on the Cuddles Kickstarter.
CBY: When’s our deadline to order ourselves a copy of Cuddles?
JM: The Kickstarter runs through until the 6th of June. But once that wraps, I’ll throw it on my store.
CBY: Where can readers find you on social media?
JM: I mostly hang out on Twitter, though fair warning, it’s mostly just me tweeting about my Kickstarter at the moment. I’d maybe give it a couple of weeks before you hit that follow button.
If that’s not your speed, then I’ve got a newsletter, in theory, it’s supposed to be monthly but I’m not the best at keeping up with it. I’ll always send something out when I’ve got a new project.