A well known name in the UK, comic book artist Jock made a splash in the US comic book market when he and writer Andy Diggle introduced "The Losers" to readers. The series, produced under DC Comics' mature readers imprint Vertigo, was an instant hit with fans and critics alike, garnering effusive praise from mainstream publications such as "Entertainment Weekly." After three years on that series, fans weren't sure where Diggle would go next, but were excited to learn about a collaboration with another acclaimed scribe, Mike Carey. The "Lucifer" writer told CBR News of the project, entitled "Faker" back in January and said, "it's like a book which exists at the point where psychological horror and teen gross out comedy meet." The mini-series follows a group of university students in Minnesota, who have a wild party and wake up to a whole new set of problems. And no, that's not because of their special friends Jose and Jack. One friend ceases to exist in the minds of all his other friends, which is unfortunately only the start of bad things for him and, fortunately, of intriguing mysteries for readers to enjoy. CBR News recently spoke with Jock about his upcoming work and just why he decided to pursue "Faker" after "Losers."
"I did one issue of 'Swamp Thing' after 'Losers' wrapped (issue #26) and then Shelly [Bond] from Vertigo called to offer me 'Faker," Jock told CBR News. "She sent me the scripts and breakdowns and I can honestly say I was hooked two pages in. The premise is just fantastic. We have a cast of college students from Minnesota, rocking through their lives with all the highs and lows which come from that time in your life. The main character is Jessie - she'd like to think she's incredibly clever and scheming, which she is to a degree, but I think she'd definitely crack under pressure. She sleeps with her tutors then blackmails them for cash, so she has a nasty streak to her, particularly as she feels totally justified in doing so! I think we'll see her wake up to herself over the course of the series. There's Marky, a bi-sexual who enjoys as much sex as he can get his hands on. Yvonne, part of the gang, but is holding onto a secret she's scared to reveal. There's Sack, a sports jock who's in a pretty low place, and Nick, the other main character who everyone has a special connection with. Only they can't put their finger on quite why....
"Artistically, I'm just trying to make the series look as cool and fresh as possible, to reflect the nature of the characters and situations."
Most fans know Jock for his realistic work in "The Losers," but as his work on "Hellblazer (with Carey) and "2000 AD" has shown, the artist can cut loose and illustrate the fantastic. However, when it comes to "Faker," fans just may see a new side of Jock, as he explained, "I always try and accommodate a shift in style with each project, but actually, 'Faker' stays fairly grounded for a while... just a while! That's a good thing though, because when things really do start to go crazy it's all the more hard hitting - it really knocks you for six with a real 'what the f*ck??' moment."
While "Faker" and "The Losers" are both introspective tales, digging deep into the human psyche and the world around us, Jock explained that each book presents unique challenges for him. "It's still set in the real world so the same challenges apply that were always there with 'The Losers' - to make a believable world where unbelievable things happen. 'Faker' has a hallucinary quality to it which I'm really enjoying - there's a few scenes where the characters completely freak out into other worlds which are a blast to draw. But essentially, it's still business as usual - trying to clearly tell the story as dramatically as I can with appropriate and dynamic visuals."
From the moment fans saw the first promo for "Losers," it was apparent that Jock was well versed in the current look of the real world. From the shape of the jeans on characters to the width of the ties, and even the look of weapons, every character looked as if they'd stepped out of the house next door - but oozing much more of "the cool" (unless your neighbor used to be Steve McQueen). That dedication to researching his subjects helps to differentiate Jock from the pack and "Faker" will reflect that ambition. "'Faker' definitely has a different feel to 'Losers,' but as I said earlier, it's still 'real world' so requires the research to get it right. The movie 'Rules of Attraction' was mentioned by both Mike and Shelly and I've watched that a few times. Though I'm not the biggest fan of the film itself, it definitely had a lot in it to help the feel of life on college campus, with all the indulgences that go on."
Speaking of those indulgences, Jock is the kind of man who will sacrifice for his art and when CBR News asked him if he perhaps partied with some sexy co-eds for, umm, "research" purposes, he laughed and replied, "Hey, you know how I roll."
You might not think there's a downside to popularity, specifically the broad appeal of "The Losers" and Jock's work in that series, but some artists find that popularity can add pressure to the next project. "Nah, I soak it up!" exclaimed Jock. "I love creating books that you could show to anyone - something a comics fan would love, but also something you could hand to anyone and hopefully pique their interest. I'm loving it at the moment. I think 'Faker' simply is that kind of book, a story that would cross genders and demographics, so I'm relishing it. Any challenge is a good thing, as it pushes you onto new things."
The debate over the timeliness of artists has been back in the comic book news headlines, and while "The Losers" had some fill-ins, Jock is known as a very timely artist. Asked about the lateness of some artists, he said, "Well, I'm glad fans think I'm timely! ''Faker' is taking me a long time, but then I also think it's the best stuff I've done. Your question's a hard one. If I'm honest, I'd prefer a great comic less frequently than a mediocre comic every month. One of my big regrets was not getting to do every issue of 'The Losers.' I wonder how it would have been if we could have done it bi monthly. But then, at the same time, it was a decision we all made to have fill in artists, and it freed me up to take on other cover work which was also important to me."
Once Jock receives a script, the artist revealed a very unorthodox strategy for attacking the challenge. "A very superstitious habit of mine is to eat as hot a curry as I possibly can every week, to get the inspiration going," he said. "But to be honest, I'd do that anyway, new script or not."
And if Jock hits a road block, what does he do? "See above, add more beer," he laughed.
Having re-upped his exclusive contract with DC Comics, Jock made it known that he was not only happy with the publishing giant, but that it was the place best suited for his interests. "I love working with Vertigo," he explained. "I feel totally at home, and have my best friends in the industry there. I'm chomping at the bit to get my teeth into 'Green Arrow: Year One' with Andy Diggle for the DCU. The funniest abbreviation I've ever heard is 'GAY:1 by Diggle and Jock.' I think you'll agree. Beyond that, well we'll have to wait and see."
While all this mystical madness is fun for Jock, he's also pretty excited about re-teaming with Andy Diggle on the recently announced "Green Arrow: Year One" series, his first multi issue superhero work. "It feels like all the planets have aligned on this one! I'll be coming off the more leftfield 'Faker,' onto a main stream DCU book, but on our own terms. No continuity, no brightly coloured costumes, zero spandex - just Andy and I getting to amp up our own story, within a well known origin. We learnt so much working on 'The Losers' that we're trying to dilute what we learnt into an explosive but perfectly formed six issues - look out for it next year."
Still, with "Faker" set to appear in Spring 2007, Jock hopes you check out the book he described as, "A brilliantly written, totally original tale, which will hopefully look great (!) and have a very different beat to the 1001 other comics out there."