When viewers were introduced to Vic Mackey in FX's "The Shield," all those years ago, it seemed like he might be the ultimate cop you love to hate. Turns out he has some competition in the form of Joe Canelli, another corrupt cop living in a corrupt world that's disturbingly similar to our own. When deception, betrayal, and base emotions are the norm, life is sure to twist you in strange ways, as the warped Canelli can attest. In "Kickback," the new graphic novel out this week from Dark Horse Comics and "V For Vendetta" co-creator David Lloyd, Canelli's tale is brought to life with Lloyd both writing and illustrating the thriller. CBR News spoke with Lloyd about the book and he began with a description of the book itself.
"'Kickback' is a good crime thriller that has a mix of moody, noir-style, big-city tough detective stuff, blended with a psychological drama about guilt and corruption, and topped with an action finale," Lloyd told CBR News. "I'd say it was like a great meal without the dessert."
Joe Canelli isn't going to be your typical corrupt police officer: it's not going to be easy to hate him and he's not going to be a moustache twirling caricature. "He's a corrupt cop in a corrupt force, but he's just an ordinary guy," said Lloyd. "And he's corrupt because that's the 'way things are.' He's on the take because all his buddies are on the take, and it's expedient to be so in a city where drug-money pays for more firepower than the police can tackle, and a total war against crime is impossible to win. It's the sensible route to take. It's wrong, it's immoral, but it's sensible."
Being a corrupt cop in a corrupt force naturally comes with some peril. Canelli's haunted by nightmares of powerlessness, but doesn't initially understand what those dreams meant. When his partner is brutally murdered and he's betrayed by his colleagues, those nightmares begin to make a little sense and Joe discovers what it is he must do -- turn against the very people and life he once was a part of himself.
Expect to sympathize with Canelli more than you might like, especially when you realize who inspired the character. "It's based on us," revealed Lloyd. "We're all corruptible. In fact, we're all corrupt. Well, most of us. When we vote, do we vote for the welfare of society as a whole, or do we vote for the candidate who'll do us most good? But we're just ordinary guys, aren't we?
"I'm interested in why we're so corrupt as a society. Joe's one of us. It's important to emphasize that. In a lot of similar stories, someone goes astray or is threatened by the possibility of doing that, or someone is very bad and then they repent (though that's heartwarming stuff). But in 'Kickback,' I want to emphasize that corruption is the normal ground that's being walked on - it's not seen as a wickedly crooked path. I'm convinced that guilt lies at the core of our generally corrupt behaviour as a community. If we felt better about ourselves, we'd be better individuals. If you feel like a criminal, it's easy to act like one."
Besides Canelli, "Kickback" will be populated with a number of unique characters, which Lloyd detailed for CBR. "There's Joe's grandfather, Carlo, who spends a lot of time regretting the way the world has gone to hell - which seems to him to have crashed and burned at the same time his dreams of an airship company turned to flames after the Hindenburg caught fire," he said. "He's Joe's guardian, who's been looking after him from the time his parents were killed in a car accident.
"Chief Bronski, an archetypal classical cop boss, who's an instant ready-mixed version of every shirt-sleeved, open-vested, police squad manager you've seen a thousand times, down to the coffee and donuts on his desk. Except in this universe, he's a Chief and not a Captain.
"Kupperman - the solid partner. Been a buddy of Joe's for years. Older, but not necessarily wiser.
"Candy Ryan is Joe's girlfriend - the Chief Warden's PA in the penitentiary - who tries to help Joe at a distance when memories of buried trauma threaten to cripple his ability to stand up to the crime forces he eventually decides to go up against.
"Tiny Capino - a gang runt. The kind of guy who's left on the bench when everyone's been chosen for a team, who proves be the key witness to a massacre that destabilises the long-standing arrangement of convenience between cops and criminals, and threatens to plunge the city into bloody chaos…"
The inspiration for "Kickback" as a whole comes from a place you might not expect, but when it comes to Lloyd, it's rare that he travels the beaten path. "It's kind of weird, but it grew out of just a title 'Axial Walkway.' I saw a doc on TV about airships, and that thing was mentioned in it. It's the name of the central maintenance platform of a rigid airship. It struck me that if you were on such a walkway, inside an airship, there'd be nothing to show you what direction you were going in, or whether it was the right one. Even on a plane - if you can't see out of the windows, you don't know if you're going backwards or forwards. So I had this image of someone being taken somewhere by something, and kind of lost in the middle of it. Having to go in one direction on the walkway, without actually knowing what direction he was going in outside of that enclosed space. It's a metaphor for the situation Joe finds himself in. He's going the wrong way and he's got to wake up to it."
"Kickback" isn't the only project in Lloyd's future, but don't expect him to put all his cards on the table quite yet. "Not sure for long-term projects," he admitted. "Short-term, I hope to bring out a limited edition print - a serigraph - that is kind of like a picture that tells a story. More later, if it happens. Otherwise, I'm spending as much time as I can telling everyone about 'Kickback,' because it's something I'm very proud of and want people to know about."
If you'd like to meet David Lloyd, he'll be hitting a lot of conventions this year. "I'm doing a tour of East Coast conventions starting from Orlando on the 19th-20th, diverting to WorldCon in Anaheim, California, on the 25th-27th, then Atlanta on the 1st-4th, Baltimore on 9th-10th, and then Big Apple on the 16th-17th," Lloyd added.
Staff Writer Arune Singh contributed to this story.