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Rucka Reopens the Case File on “Stumptown”

by  in Comic News Comment
Rucka Reopens the Case File on “Stumptown”

Many of the characters that populate “Stumptown” have been with the writer for some time now, growing and establishing themselves in an evolving world. Some, like the title’s protagonist Dex, began life as marginal supporting characters in other stories.

“Some characters, they come really very whole,” said Rucka. “Dex began life over a decade ago as a character who was designed to fill a role in a completely different story that I never ended up writing. But I liked what I had come up with enough that she never went away — Dex stayed, Dex’s history stayed; why she’s named Dex, how she was educated and how she came to be. Sometimes you can go into a work really with an ill-defined sense of who these people are, just knowing a couple things about them, and as you journey forward with them you discover more. Sometimes, you have a whole person. I find that if the idea is good and the character is strong they will manifest themselves very quickly and very wholly — I’m less concerned with plotlines, I’m concerned with what a character’s going to do in any given situation.”

One of the characters that factors heavily into the series is Stumptown itself: Portland, OR.

“I love this town,” said Rucka. “I love this town’s character. I love this town’s absurdities; I love this town’s sincerity — you always hear statistics about Portland. These are the statistics: we have per capita the most bowling alleys and brewpubs of anywhere in the United States, and the most churches… and strip clubs. Put those things together, that’s Portland — Portland has a lot of sordid, in its back-story — in where it came from, and much of it continues. I don’t think that’s any more so or less so than most major American cities, but I find Portland’s very compelling. It’s in the name, you know: we are a port city, that’s how it started. It’s in the nickname: Stumptown. This was a logging community — I don’t know if it’s so much that Portland says, ‘You gotta tell noir,’ as much as it is that I’m going to tell a PI story and set it in Portland, and it so happens that it works very well. At the end of the day, you ask ‘Why Portland?’ and my response is going to be ‘Because I love it here.’

“I love this town,” Rucka added, “and frankly one of the reasons I really wanted to do a car chase is because we have draw bridges! How could you be in a town that has drawbridges and not have a car chase!?”

Rucka has nothing but praise for the work artist Matthew Southworth has been putting into the series, and for the artist’s contributions to the story they are telling together.

“I think he’s done some beautiful, beautiful work on this,” Rucka told CBR. “Matt has continued to refine what he has been doing, and he continues to explore and try new things. It’s an even better looking book than the first one — he approaches everything so cinematically. The most important thing I find, in any comic book I put out, is you want the storytelling to be clear. Matthew Southworth is a great, great storyteller.”

In the first arc of “Stumptown,” Rucka and Southworth put Dex through the wringer. She faced down death several times and somehow managed to scrape by. She may not have to take quite so many hard punches, at least for a while.

“We did a story that was sort of heavier on her in the first arc,” said Rucka. “This one is a little lighter — You know, it’s a stolen guitar that Mim calls ‘Baby.’ You can only go so serious, go so dark with this one. One of the things we wanted was for this to be a little more fun, I think; at least I wanted it to be. The next story that I’ve got in mind is going to push her a little more.

“This is a beautiful Indian summer when this story is set,” Rucka said. “Weather will factor soon, trust me. You can’t have Portland and not have puddles.”

“Stumptown” Vol. 2 debuts September 12.