It's All In The Name: Jock talks 'The Losers'

[The Losers]When you have a mature readers comic from DC Comics/Vertigo entitled "The Losers," you might not imagine a high octane action series with intricate plotting and breakneck pacing.

That would, of course, mean you missed CBR News' interviews with series writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock earlier in the year. And that you haven't been reading the comic getting acclaim from, arguably, everyone.

With the heat on the series about to be kicked up the proverbial notch, CBR News caught up with Jock and was able to learn a bit more about his time on the book.

"At the time of writing I'm just getting started on the second major story arc, tentatively titled 'Island Life,'" explains the popular UK artist. "This follows on from the two part fill-in 'downtime', which gives us a chance to see a little more of the backgrounds of the characters. They are all very different and committed to the job in hand, so it's cool to see a different side to them... Then it's on to 'Island Life,' where things start getting hairy for the team again."

Wait a minute… fill-in? "Shawn Martinbrough is filling in on issues 7and 8... I can't wait to see what he comes up with!" exclaims Jock. "It'll be strange seeing someone else drawing my characters. Then I'm back on board for the next story arc taking us up to somewhere around issue 13."

Though the series is only five issues old, critics can't stop raving about it and the popular magazine "Entertainment Weekly" even recently ran a glowing review of the comic. "It's just fantastic- I still feel swept away with it all to be honest," admits the humble drummer. "It gives me a real kick to know people are enjoying it... but my main focus is still on improving."

He isn't letting all that acclaim go to his head- Jock's been working hard on honing his craft even further and he explains the results so far. "I think the sheer amount of pages I'm now doing is honing my storytelling in a big way. I don't have too much time to think about alternate ways of putting down layouts etc. I just have to go with my instinct and lay the drawing down as quickly as possible. I've spent a lot of time in the past considering what I'm doing, honing specific ideas and techniques, and now it's all spilling out! In some ways it's kind of scary, as I'm being thrown in at the deep end - it's a sink or swim scenario - but it's such an exciting time for us both working on the book that I've always got an extra reserve of energy when the pressure's on."

It's been frequently noted that Jock's layouts are full of energy and convey a sense of urgency, but he says it's all about being able to see the story with his mind's eye. "Pretty much what I said above - if I am successful, it's probably due to the speed and energy with which I draw the sequences. To me, drawing a decent action scene requires you to immerse yourself in the moment, particularly at the layout stage where I try and draw the action in as close to real time as possible. I find that when I do that, just throw down my first reaction to the script, it's often the closest I'll get to the right choices storytelling-wise. That slightly twisted scribble of someone being kicked out of an aeroplane often has far more energy and expression than laboring over the anatomy and design of a carefully rendered scene."

Speaking of Jock's aesthetic sense, two of the principle characters in the series- Rocque and Clay- have looked very familiar. Is this perhaps a play on the fact that both their names are related to earth or is there something more insidious going on? "I hadn't noticed both their names were earth-related!" laughs the Scotsman. "We've now found out that Roque betrays the team, so I wanted to show that they were different sides of the same coin, and the visual similarity was another way of showing that. Anyway, what are you talking about? Roque is much taller and skinnier than Clay! It's the shadows..."

Now that he's had some time to work with Diggle on an extended basis, one might think that Jock might have something good to say about the man, whose message board he frequents: no such luck. "It hasn't really progressed, I still don't like him. What makes him different? Well, I liked everyone else..." smiles Jock.

Getting serious for a moment, the artist says it's hard to explain the most fun part of working on this series, but he doesn't mind that. "Getting the opportunity to do it, working with Andy is always great, and the support of the editors is just invaluable. I would have expected restraints put on things when working on a book with this exposure, but it's been just the opposite - I'm totally encouraged to push myself, to try things out creatively, and a lot of that has been down to my editors Will Dennis and Zack Rau. Recently we've had Pornsak Pishetshote on assistant edits, and he's also great to work with... Just the whole experience has exceeded my expectations of working with DC. Oh, and I'm loving doing the covers!"

Jock has mentioned how it's different to work on American comics, with a larger page count and he says he's adapting. "I am absolutely faster than I was working for '2000 AD!' I've pretty much doubled my output - though the American format does allow a little more room for the pages to breathe. The British standard has each episode clocking in at 5 or 6 pages, so you have to put a lot more detail in there to make the story full and rich. 22 pages allows for a different dynamic where you can show (for example) a background detail on page 1, but then use it a little less on page 2 to allow the focus to be on the characters or whatever, then go back to it on page 3. In '2000 AD' there's much less opportunity to do that, as by page 3 we're already somewhere else in the story! I think that condensed mentality really comes across in Andy's writing, too - there's a lot happening in each issue, a lot of bang for your buck, and that comes from being used to moving a story along in five or six pages... Having 22 to play with is a real treat!"

You might have been lucky to meet Diggle and Jock at the Comic-Con International in San Diego this year and the penciller is happy to report that his first visit to the convention was great. "San Diego was amazing! Seeing the scale of it was fantastic. Over here the cons are much smaller... but with a much larger bar! It was great meeting everyone face to face, and generally soaking it all up."

If you're wondering what's next for "The Losers," don't ask Jock. "'Max'. Wait and see..." he answers cryptically.

The same could be said for his "2000 AD" work (where he made himself a household name with his Judge Dredd art), though he has a better reason for his vagueness. "Now that I'm signed exclusively to DC I won't be working on anything new for a little while, but I do have a pin-up scheduled for the end of year issue- prog 2004. It's a shot of an old 70's character called 'SHAKO- killer polar bear!" and if things go to plan it'll be a pretty gory piece… Andy and I still have some 'Lenny Zero' stories to tell, but they've been put on the back burner. There should be a collected trade of the existing stories sometime early next year, which I'm signed on to produce a new cover for, but that's the only new work for '2000AD' for now.

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