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Rob Richardson and Laura Bailey have a conversation about everything DeMarco P 1 In the year 2000 AD


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    16th November 2023

    There’s a brand new Judge Dredd Megazine out this week and, amongst the thrill power inside, you’re going to see the return of everyone’s favourite ex-Judge turned gumshoe, Galen DeMarco in DeMarco P.I.: A Picture Paints, written by Laura Bailey and drawn by Rob Richardson.

    Created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquera back in 1997, Galen DeMarco’s long history certainly has its fair share of triumph and tragedy since she turned her back on the family money and became a rising star in the Justice Department. She survived the cesspit of corruption that was Sector House 301 – The Pit – and seemed destined for life as a top-notch Judge, but DeMarco’s emotions kept getting the better of her and, after one romantic indiscretion too many, she quit the Justice Department and set herself up as a private investigator.

    So far, this new life as a P.I. hasn’t exactly been plain sailing, but perhaps A Picture Paints will be a nice and easy, open and shut case for MC-1’s most famous shamus. Okay, probably not, but why don’t we find out directly from the droids as we chat to Laura Bailey and Rob Richardson?

    You can find part 1 of DeMarco P.I.: A Picture Paints in the latest Megazine, issue 462, out from 15th November and all under a perfect-looking DeMarco cover from Alex Ronald. Laura is quick off the mark with praise for the cover…

    LAURA BAILEY: To start off, before we even get to the questions, I feel compelled to say that I need to buy Alex Ronald a drink or something. His cover is everything I could ask for a Galen fan. Perfect snapshot of Galen working covertly in a blissfully unaware crowd. Yet she stands out to us, like a special everyman.

    Okay then, Laura and Rob, it’s been four long years since we’ve seen Galen DeMarco here in the pages of the Megazine and now you’re bringing her back for A Picture Paints. So, first question, obvious question – what’s A Picture Paints all about?

    LB: It’s a four-part story in which Galen is employed by Torridge Warehouses to investigate missing ammunition shipments. Torridge staff are constantly monitored with an oppressive face-identifying CCTV system, so if it was a thief they would’ve caught them already.  

    The title is a riff on the phrase ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ because collecting evidence is an important part of Private Investigation. This client in particular will only pay Galen once he has received photographic proof, and sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds…

    As readers will immediately see, Galen’s still wearing the scar on her face from the last time you wrote her – in An Eye… (Megazine 409-412), with art by Paul Williams.

    How DeMarco got that scar – from An Eye… by Laura Bailey and Paul Williams, Megazine 412, 2019

    That three-parter was really the essence of DeMarco, getting involved far too much, far too easily, caring too much, too willing to bend or break the law because she just can’t help herself.

    Are we going to see some comeback from that last tale here – or is that done and dusted and we’re just left to imagine which way it went?

    LB: Paul Williams and I agonised over Galen’s knife scar when we collaborated, looking at numerous gory stab wounds to come up with realistic placement and shape. There was always an intention for Galen to keep a scar as she doesn’t have the Judges’ advanced healing system anymore.

    Hopefully, we’ll build a sense of continuity for the character and show how private investigation impacts her life. As for comeback from the last tale, the only way to find out is to give it a read!

    ROB RICHARDSON:

    Galen’s scar is a nice visual hook and really adds to her character. Even if we’re unaware of her history, we know that she’s not had an easy time. That she unapologetically ‘wears’ the scar adds menace to this kooky (as I see her!) woman. It’s also relevant, if not fundamental, to this story.

    Oh yes, fair trade indeed – DeMarco and her scar

    Obviously, Laura, you find her fascinating – what is it about her as a character that you find attractive and so interesting?

    LB: The highlight for me is her interactions with Dredd and how she refused to believe falling in love with a Judge to be a crime. She’s totally right and wrong at the same time. Completely threw away her career, all for a completely emotionally stunted man who had zero interest in her. Yet she’s right:  why should she lose her job for feeling an emotion?  

    This is why I find her so interesting. At heart she’s a non-conformist operating against a hugely oppressive society, she’s very moral yet works in a very morally ambiguous job. Tough and capable but she’s also really quite naïve, often jumping into one huge mistake after another.

    The complexity of her life is very relatable, it’s more fun writing characters who are anything but perfect.

    Is there a familiarity by now with DeMarco – do you have her voice in your head so to speak?

    LB: Does it sound psychotic to say she lives inside my head?  When I start to write a Galen story and I’m coming up with ideas, it feels as if I’m catching up with her to see what she’s getting up to.  

    DeMarco getting the new gig – working with Walt Inverstigations (and all that glorious retro styling from Rob Richardson is a treat)

    And Rob, as you’re new to DeMarco, what experience do you have with her tales as a reader and how did you approach this new series?

    RR: I hadn’t read DeMarco prior to this, so I did my homework and went back to some of the older stories. It became apparent that what I needed to know was all in Laura’s script, and it absolutely works without the reader being familiar with what’s gone before – an ideal jumping on point!

    It took a while to find out who my version was, specifics such as how she walked and stood etc. There were a few panels where the character started coming together and I felt like I was getting a handle on things. I’m sure none of this translates onto the page, but it fills my head as I’m working!

    A Picture Paints part 1 sets it all up with a very downbeat air. Seems to me, as you give DeMarco yet another shitty case to keep her head above water, you’ve combined that love of the character with a real habit of putting her through the wringer.

    LB: Now she’s left the job security of being a judge and doesn’t have her father’s wealth, Galen is more exposed to the day-to-day grind of the Meg City life.

    Private Investigation is a gnarly business and sadly, I don’t think she’ll get any type of “reunite prince charming with Cinderella all expenses paid” type jobs.

    So where can we expect this DeMarco tale to go? (To be honest with you, I can’t imagine you’re going to make it easy on her here.)

    LB: I’d say sit back and enjoy Galen getting her hands dirty to earn a couple measly creds.

    Down on the streets, the proper streets, of Mega-City One, where the gleaming Blocks are almost a world away

    One thing that’s always great about Galen’s cases is that we get to have that different view of this great city, an on-the-ground, non-judicial look at MC-1. And in A Picture Paints, you really do go down to ground level, a grimy, lived-in, distressed look to it all, far away from the gleaming spires and mega-blocks of Dredd’s world perhaps.

    In fact, in both this and An Eye… it’s essentially a pulp noir detective tale, simple set-up, not really involving that many sci-fi elements in here.

    RR: The city plays a big part in establishing the tone. We’re down on the streets with the proletariat amongst old alleyways, warehouses, neglected buildings, and shopping centres. In the distance, there’s a glimpse of the hulking futuristic mega-blocks.

    There’s always plenty to work with when trying to set the scene. I love Will Eisner’s work, and there’s a lot of stuff in there absorbed from The Spirit and his New York-based stories.

    I wanted to play up the hardboiled crime aspect, and needed little excuse to delve into my Humphrey Bogart DVDs and soak up the atmosphere. It’s a favourite genre of mine and Laura’s story allowed me to explore classic tropes mixed with sci-fi weirdness.

    LB: I like to think of it as sci-fi on a budget.

    Is this something that you’re deliberately playing to in your DeMarco tales, the sense of a different location and different rules?

    LB: Personally, I want DeMarco stories to contrast the judicial world. The repercussions of Galen making her own decisions is all part of her story, there’s no badge for Galen to hide behind.

    Also, what kind of people can afford Private Investigation in the Meg? And why are these people coming to Galen instead of the Law? It’s a whole different world.

    Galen’s first glimpse of her new employer, the mysterious Mr Torridge – not a fan of 80s nostalgia

    Laura, working with a new artist here, have you had chance to see Rob’s finished pages yet and how did the collaboration work?

    LB: Rob kindly showed me all of his pages once he had finished, I can’t wait for you guys to see it all. In terms of the collaboration, I don’t like to interfere with the Artist unless asked really, I think if I had to spend hours, days, and weeks drawing, the last thing I’d want is some overzealous writer cracking the whip. 

    RR: I’d receive the scripts and get to work! We kept in touch, and there were a few details that I needed to check on before drawing, but by and large we worked independently. Everything I needed was in the writing. Laura creates amazing scenes and situations, and fills them with suspense, drama, intrigue, and humour. The characters are well-defined through their actions and dialogue, and it’s an absolute pleasure to work with her. For me at least, the writer/artist dynamic worked well!

    Oh DeMarco, you just know this one’s going to take a bad turn at some point, don’t you?

    As far as your work at 2000 AD is concerned, we couldn’t have two more different paths into the Prog and the Meg with you two.

    Laura, you were the winner of Tharg’s script droid contest at 2017 Thought Bubble convention and we’ve talked plenty on that before I know – although I still do love your pitch plan…

    ‘I practised a lot beforehand with my friend Soph, she tested me to make sure I could pitch in under two minutes, then it was important to make sure I wouldn’t crack under pressure. She devised a method to make sure I could do the pitch under any conditions, had to pitch drunk while she heckled me and simultaneously played the Countdown music.’

    Yep, not sure if any other successful writers have done the drunk practice pitch idea but it sure seemed to work for you! (hmmm actually, let’s go with pissed practice pitch plan – oh, the alliteration!)

    LB:

    The quadruple P strategy haha! It honestly works!! Much harder to pitch drunk than sober. The trick to a successful pitch is to do it without notes and to practice like crazy, you get to know your story inside out and can trim anything unnecessary as it’s got to be under two minutes. Funny enough, I have just finished judging the 2000 AD script droid contest, I got quite triggered by Mike Molcher setting the two minute timer.

    Now, six years on from the win, you’ve firmly established yourself in 2000 AD as a writer. Looking back on it now, how have these last six years been?

    LB: Cannot believe it’s been that long, surely the Covid years can be condensed into one? The work I’ve done for 2000 AD has been a real positive part of my life.

    I can’t describe the feeling of winning the pitch and then seeing the Future Shock I created with Paul Williams in print for the first time. Or coming up with the character Quilli with David Hitchcock and seeing it on the front of the Prog. Even just the experience of going into a comic book shop and seeing your work on a shelf. There are worse ways to earn money aye?

    Just another quiet night’s sleuthing for DeMarco

    Rob, you’re new to DeMarco, new to working with Laura, and relatively new to the Megazine.  

    I’ve talked to you before, back in 2021, when you were a debutante with the Future Shock in Prog 2257, and we discovered we had shared history with the historic Brit comic shop Nostalgia & Comics, you working in the Sheffield branch and me in the Birmingham one – both of which had quite a history of 2000 AD droids either working or shopping at them!

    RR: There should be a documentary about that shop and the comics community around it! It’s crazy thinking back to how many well respected artists and writers would come in and hang out. Being in the Sheffield branch, we had The Human League in regularly, who celebrated Dredd in their song, I Am The Law.

    You talked there of a love of comics and how much it meant to you to be in 2000 AD, something you’d been reading since you were a kid – before the lure of making money took you into storyboards and illustration for advertising, TV, and games for 20+ years of your career.

    It was a combination of Covid and Nick Percival who brought you to 2000 AD. And since then you’ve stuck around with Tharg, with a Dredd in Prog 2267, and then your first big series, Devlin Waugh: Karma Police with Ales Kot in Megazine 449-455. You took over from Mike Dowling there (which was a big ask indeed) but your style soon gelled there and gave us something very dark and very introspective. What was it like getting that first Dredd and then that first big series?

    RR: Working on Dredd was a real feather in my cap, having pored over the classic stories when I was a kid. Mick McMahon, Ron Smith and, later, Brendan McCarthy really did it for me.

    Getting the Devlin Waugh series was both tremendous and daunting! Mike Dowling’s take on the character was, for me, a definitive version but our approaches couldn’t be more different. I had to focus on how I could make it work in my own way, being fully aware that people would be comparing us.

    It’s also a series that’s now inextricably linked to Ales, and early on they sent an email praising what I’d done which helped me to stop worrying about it. It was good to have a longer series that allowed tension to build slowly before things went a tiny bit crazy. In terms of deadlines it was a trial by fire, and I learned a huge amount throughout the process.

    And does it still feel as exciting to be here at 2000 AD?

    RR: It’s every bit as exciting! I still get nervous about doing a decent job but now, having a few pages under my belt, I can enjoy the process more.

    Are you still working elsewhere or have you made the move to comics full-time now?

    RR: Occasionally I’ll take small jobs on if time allows, but it’s been mostly comics for a couple of years. I’m happier making comics than doing anything else, so hopefully it’ll continue!

    And comics is happy having you!

    Taking a look at Rob’s process for DeMarco –
    page 1 of episode 1 of A Picture Paints, from roughs to pencils, inks to colours

    Okay then Rob, let’s talk a bit of process. How do you work? What’s the way that you put together a page?

    RR: I’ll read the script a few times to try and get a handle on what it’s all about, not so much the mechanics of it, but getting a feel for the tone, mood, and atmosphere. Then I’ll start doodling thumbnails, finding how to get the story to play, panel arrangements and compositions. This is the challenging part and I’ll spend ages  getting something I’m happy with.

    The process as a whole is a mixture of traditional and digital so I’ll end up with scraps of paper that need scanning, alongside digital thumbnails, then muddle them all together in Photoshop.

    For the pencils, again it’s part digital and part traditional. I can work directly over the thumbnails on the computer or, if I’m downstairs of an evening watching Married at First Sight Australia, I’ll print the thumbnails and work on top of those on semi-transparent marker paper.

    I stick to a clean line with no shading or hatching, as I’ll be inking them myself and prefer to do the heavy lifting with digital inks over a blue-line of the pencils. I’ve put a lot of work into my inking technique, mimicking how I do things with dip pens and brushes. I like to commit and get the line down boldly, no noodling, in an effort to get some energy in there.

    Colouring’s all done digitally, using very basic tools and techniques. I’ll be getting ideas for colours throughout the process, so it’s an integral part of the artwork.

    Page 2 of episode one of Demarco P.I.: A Picture Paints – again, roughs, pencils, inks, colours

    How would you describe the look and the style of this DeMarco work? It seems to me that you’ve gone heavy on your line here, emphasising the darkness of the locales and the story.

    RR: Lots of black and deep shadows were appropriate for this story, in keeping with the crime noir genre. I think my style is functional, not overtly showy, and designed to tell the story above all else. It’s relatively quick when I need to be, and not concerned with detailed rendering.

    Was it a change of style for you in any way?

    RR: My approach is the same, but overall it’s tailored to whatever story I’m telling. I’m getting more competent and constantly learning, so there is a progression from Devlin Waugh.

    Getting the hair just right – a great touch from Rob on the art

    Oh, and a mention for both DeMarco’s hair, which you do so well, and the fashions we see here. Again, it’s futuristic at times, but mostly it’s very familiar. I’m assuming this is all a very deliberate decision on your part?

    LB: just to interject, I loooooove the way Rob has done Galen’s hair. First detail I look for with Artists is to see how much care they’ve put into hairstyles and Rob did this for every single character. I got major hair envy when I saw Galen and as well as another character called Meatball.

    RR: Laura had thought of all these elements, so they were in the script and I needed to visualise them. Costume design’s really important, and getting little details in there such as precisely the right number of buttons, an adjustable buckle on the back of Galen’s collar, pleats down the back of her coat- all the things that you can’t actually see, but I need to know that they’re there!

    Walt wears an ill-fitting suit, and I pictured him having a romantic vision of himself as a Philip Marlowe/Sam Spade style gumshoe detective and trying to dress like them. In the Mega-City nothing is out of place because absolutely anything goes!

    Rob’s character and clothing design sheet for DeMarco

    As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a real noir sensibility to the art and tone of A Picture Paints. But on seeing this first issue, I was picking up elements of Charles Burns and bits of Warren Pleece in your art for DeMarco. Am I right, or is it just that I’m projecting my own artistic likes onto the work? [And reader, just as I’m setting this interview up and adding images, there’s one more very obvious look to Rob’s work as well, definitely a hint of Steve Yeowell in there – am I right?]

    RR: There’s nothing conscious there, but I do have a copy of Burns’ El Borbah somewhere in my work room, a luchador private detective no less, so perhaps some of that’s seeped in?

    We’ve talked before on influences but it’s always nice to circle back to it… so, Laura, Rob, what comics, what creators had that big influence on your writing and art?

    RR: I’m mostly into older stuff, with Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff being my top two. Alex Toth is a big inspiration, and many of the E.C. guys. I grew up on Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema and that wave of artists in the 1970s, then discovered Frank Miller when I was 8, and he made quite the impact on me. David Mazzucchelli blew my mind, especially with his Rubber Blanket books. He let me have a go on his brush pen at UKCAC around 1993!

    Oh yes, Rubber Blanket, absolutely criminal that we’ve never seen a collection of that one.

    LB: This is one of those questions which I could spend paragraphs and paragraphs writing about. If it was to whittle it down to three, my influences are Alan Moore, Junji Ito, and Viz’s the Fat Slags. They are all equal parts of the equation.

    A perfect triumvirate there Laura!

    More of that great DeMarco art, more great hair, and definitely that Steve Yeowell style that I was mentioning

    When did you both first get into 2000 AD and what strips or characters had the most impact on you?

    LB: Dredd naturally was my introduction to 2000 AD and I’d say he was the first comic book character that I ever became a fan of. Even as a child I had zero interest in Heroes, I can’t and never have related to black and white perspectives of good and evil. When I finally was introduced to Dredd, a character who is very much warts and all, it was an immediate hook.

    Most impactful is Halo Jones, another character that is so real and relatable to me. I like that I can’t separate where Alan Moore starts and Ian Gibson begins with the body of work, it’s a seamless mesh of the two. I love collaborations like that

    RR: I was reading 2000 AD from the beginning and, as a kid, Strontium Dog was the best! Robo-Hunter, Zenith, and The Ballad of Halo Jones really drew me in. Behind me now is a five-foot-tall wooden Halo Jones shop display that I salvaged from Nostalgia & Comics!

    One man’s salvage… another man’s steal!

    A favourite bit from this first episode of DeMarco, so much detail and atmosphere in Rob’s artwork

    As a fun one – what’s the one character you’d really like to tackle. No limits, feel free to pitch the impossible series!

    LB: You know what, I just approached John Wagner for the first time this weekend at Thought Bubble. We spoke of Dredd of course and I mentioned how I was a little intimidated about ever writing a story for the character. He was having none of it and gave me some friendly encouragement. In light of this let me put out into the world, I’d love to write a Dredd one off and especially would like Anna Morozova to draw it.

    RR: The greatest series ever created is Flaming Carrot Comics, so I’d go with a Flaming Carrot story scripted by his creator, Bob Burden.

    As for the future of DeMarco, any more tales already planned?

    LB: Watch this space. I will write more if they will have me!

    RR: Are we allowed to reveal that there’s a new DeMarco story on its way from Laura and me?!

    Oh yes you are – the official word came down from his Thargness to allow us to tell you that there’s going to be a new four-part Demarco P.I. tale entitled Smoke to be published in the Megazine in the first half of 2024!

    And if you had a completely free hand, have you got that definitive DeMarco tale in mind? If so, feel free to tease us with what it might involve!

    LB: That is my ambition every single story god dammit! I will say, I’d love to have a closer inspection on Galen’s origins…

    Tharg? Tharg? You paying attention? And for both of you, what have we got to look forward to from you, both for his royal Thargness and elsewhere?

    LB: I’m working on a few things and I’m too superstitious to say anything till it’s confirmed.

    RR: If Tharg’s reading, I’d love to continue drawing stories for the Megazine and 2000 AD.

    And there we had to leave it. Thanks so much to Laura and Rob for taking the time to answer questions – particularly difficult timing as it was Thought Bubble weekend and at least Laura was there (she did apologise for a combo of drunk and hungover writing  but if it was good enough to practice her winning TB pitch years ago, it’s good enough for us!)

    You can find the first episode of DeMarco P.I.: A Picture Paints in the latest Megazine, issue 462, out 15 November from everywhere Tharg’s monthly Meg is sold, including the 2000 AD web shop.

    We’ve previously talked to Rob about his Future Shock debut here and chatted to both Laura Bailey and Paul Williams about their 2017 Thought Bubble wins here.

    And now, presenting the full DeMarco process pages from Rob – pages 1 and 2 of A Picture Paints part 1 – thumbnail, pencil, ink, colour, and finished pages…

    Sources


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