When you’re dealing with a city that’s populated by demons from Hell, winged warriors from Heaven, cybernetic assassins and all sorts of other freaks, the last two people you’re going to worry about are the fat guy and the nerd. According to Todd McFarlane, that would be your first and last mistake.
While detectives Sam Burke and Maximillian “Twitch” Williams have their obvious physical shortcomings, McFarlane insists that these two characters form one of the single deadliest pairs in comic books – something that fans can get a taste of for themselves in “Sam & Twitch: The Writer,” the four-issue Image Comics miniseries from Luca Blengino, Luca Erbetta, Fabio Bono and Flippo Rizzu. “The Writer” focuses on a serial killer who physically writes an ongoing story on the bodies of his victims, leaving Sam and Twitch with the task of stopping him or her from continuing his bloody tale. The fourth and final issue of “The Writer” hits comic book stores on June 23, and in honor of that, CBR News spoke with McFarlane to discuss the inner-workings that make make Sam and Twitch tick.
Despite sporting what McFarlane described as a Laurel and Hardy appearance, the whole “looks can be deceiving” rule very much applies to Sam and Twitch. “Sometimes they’re treated like buffoons, when in my mind, these guys are very, very capable cops,” McFarlane told CBR of his general view on Sam and Twitch. “There’s this sort of bosom buddy fun stuff in there, but it’s not at the expense of their skill or of who they are. It’s too easy to write them as caricatures – they’re good cops.”
McFarlane said that despite their physical appearances – Sam’s obesity and Twitch’s thin frame -Â these two men of the law are as deadly as they come. “When you get down to it, Sam is as street smart as they come and is very intuitive,” he said. “Twitch, although he’s a little more clinical and almost like an accountant at times, he has sort of a different way of approaching things. But he’s also the best shot in the house. If you’re going to fuck with anybody, you don’t want to fuck with the accountant. He’ll put one between your eyes. They start to get into a bit of a Vulcan mind meld where the bad guy’s got a knife up to Sam’s throat and Twitch is a hundred feet away. Even though Sam’s got a knife up to his throat, he gives a look at Twitch and a slight nod then moves his head one inch. That’s all he needs, and the bad guy’s down.”
One reason that Sam and Twitch are interesting characters for McFarlane is not just their physical differences, but also their different beliefs. “There’s the juxtaposing that Sam works from his gut, if you will, his instincts, which is a little bit why he looks like he does. He doesn’t believe in religion or any of that other stuff, where Twitch is the opposite: he needs hard evidence, but he’s an overly religious man,” he explained. “It almost makes them hypocrites in their work and private lives. Sam goes, ‘Why is it that you need to have empirical data before you believe it, but for God, you can just make a leap of faith?’ Twitch can turn around and say, ‘Well, you trust your gut and your feelings, but when it comes to religion, you’ve got to have hard facts.’ You start putting these pieces of these characters together and there’s lots for them to do and bounce off each other.”
Of course, Sam and Twitch aren’t entirely without humor. Beyond the fact that their physical differences cause some chuckles, the two actually share plenty of mutual jabs at the other’s expense – as long as no one else is looking, that is. “When written right, if you actually watch, they rarely joke with each other when there’s anyone else around. It’s sort of like messing around with your brother and when someone else walks in, it’s over. They don’t make jokes at each other’s expense when anybody else is watching,” said McFarlane. “It’s a piece that people haven’t really paid attention to, but I know, given that I’ve written them more than probably anybody else, I’ve been consistent with it. Twitch is more sarcastic than he is funny – a lot of the stuff he says goes over Sam’s head, because they’ve been doing it for so long that they’re almost like a married couple. But even if they’re jabbing at each other, as soon as someone else walks into the room, it’s over. You know why? Because it’s time to be cops.”
McFarlane said that when it’s time to be cops, the success of Sam and Twitch all boils down to just how different they are from each other. “They probably understand that as much as they drive each other crazy with their differences, they know that those differences combined are almost lethal. For whatever Twitch lacks, he knows that Sam has this other wiring in him. Between the two of them, they’re pretty tough,” he said. “Even though they look like Laurel and Hardy – and here’s where that comes in – even though it looks like they shouldn’t be taken seriously, the first mistake you make is underestimating these guys. That’s mistake number one: boom, you’re done. I could argue that they don’t really necessarily want to convince people that they should be treated with more respect, because they realize, ‘It almost helps us that they think we’re dumb-ass farmers, because then they’re not going to be paying nearly as much attention to us as we are to them.'”
Although “The Writer” is almost at an end, fans have not seen the last of Sam and Twitch by a long shot. In fact, McFarlane said that he and “a big time producer” are currently developing a live-action hour-long “Sam & Twitch” television series. “It would be an hour-long drama with a little bit of the mystique stuff in it,” he explained of the developing television proposal. “Twitch, more than Sam, sort of understands that there are odd things in New York that come as a byproduct of the melting pot. Everybody brings their culture and their beliefs and their superstitions with them, so part of their job is to wade through what’s fact and what’s fiction, because people get worked up over things. Every now and then, the stuff that they come across is inexplicable. But Twitch, to me, is the kid from ‘The Sixth Sense,’ now grown up. He’s now an adult and has to deal with seeing things off and on his whole life, so now he sort of understands it. Sam still doesn’t quite go for the ride, but because he has so much respect for Twitch, he’ll trust Twitch when he says, ‘I’m telling you something.'”
McFarlane told us that the proposed TV series would feature teases at some supernatural elements, but not in the same overt manner as a show like “The X-Files.” “At times, we’ve gone in and pitched it as sort of ‘Hill Street Blues’ meets ‘The X-Files’ without it being that crazy and that obvious. It’s not that kind of stuff,” he described. “It’s the stuff where you go, ‘The room was locked and the windows were locked and everything was locked from the outside. Somebody couldn’t get out, but we found a dead body on the 21st floor and the autopsy says that they drowned to death, and by the way, it’s salt water. What the hell does that mean?’ Sam and Twitch are the ones that get sort of these goofy, freakish [cases] and everybody in the precinct thinks that they’re these losers. ‘Yeah, you take the one with the salt water in the lungs.’ Sam and Twitch will see whether or not there’s something a little bit odder [to the case] or if someone’s just taken some superstitions and made it seem a little more dastardly than it really is. If you go to the parts of New York where there’s a bunch of people from Jamaica, let’s say that voodoo is a big part of it. You can sort of get people worked up without it having any real sort of reality base to it. But in some cases, there will be some real head-scratching stuff where they go, ‘Nobody has the answer to it.’ But Twitch understands that as just part of being in the world – this stuff will happen from time to time.”
“Sam & Twitch: The Writer” #4 arrives in stores on June 23, 2010. Stay tuned to CBR News in the coming weeks for further McFarlane madness!