The Winners: Andy Diggle & Jock talk "The Losers"

"Entertainment Weekly" loves it. Every writer or artist in the comic industry who lists their favorite comics usually loves it. Every online reviewer can't stop praising it. Hell, even fans don't seem to be complaining.

Don't know what we're is talking about?

Then you must not be one of "The Losers"… specifically a fan of the book.

Since its debut last year, DC Comics/Vertigo series "The Losers" has been loved by everyone while writer Andy Diggle, along with artist Jock, has redefined the action/espionage comic. CBR News caught up with the duo for a quick look into the series and a small introduction.

"The first graphic novel collection has just come out, so now's a pretty good time to jump on board," says Diggle. "In a nutshell, the Losers were an elite Special Forces unit working for the CIA who were betrayed and targeted for assassination by their handler after they saw something they shouldn't have. But the Losers survived the assassination attempt, and now they've declared total war on the CIA, battling to steal their lives back and get a little payback in the process.

"In the first story arc, they try to steal some incriminating evidence from a major oil company which has been smuggling drugs into the USA to fund illegal CIA operations overseas. To say that things don't go as planned would be an understatement.

"The Loser comprise Clay, the stubborn and revenge-driven Colonel who leads the unit; Roque, his hard-nosed second-in-command; Pooch, an expert driver and pilot who's also a laid-back family guy; Jensen, computer hacker and also the youngest and least experienced member of the team; Cougar, the taciturn sniper who's still haunted by what he saw on the mission where the Losers were disavowed; and Aisha, a beautiful but merciless Afghan warrior who has joined the team for mysterious reasons of her own."

The second arc of the series has barely concluded, and while some creators might feel pressure following up a universally loved story, Jock says there isn't any real stress. "I think the first arc only really grazed the surface of what's to come. Like Andy says, it'd be a mistake to fall back on pyrotechnics all the time. But if you can tell a great, absorbing story and have the added element of the extreme action in there, I think that's a powerful mix. For us, it's all about constantly learning and moving everything forward, so hopefully that will stop the story ever falling back on lazy formulas."

"I think it'd be a mistake to immediately follow the first arc with just 'more of the same,' so I've tried to change pace for the second story, slowed things down a little so we can get to know the characters better and start to develop the wider conspiracy in which they've found themselves enmeshed," says Diggle. "After the two-part 'Downtime,' there's a gradual build-up to the next explosive confrontation with the CIA. It starts off fairly low-key, but ends up even bigger and madder than the initial 'Goliath' story. The scale of the underlying conspiracy and the level of action just gets bigger and bigger throughout the series.

"Is it hard trying to top the first story? Not really, because I already know where all this is heading. What is hard is being able to continually raise the stakes and the level of the action without turning the Losers into indestructible super-heroes. Whatever people may say, The Losers isn't The A-Team. When characters in this series fire automatic weapons at each other, people die. The Losers are human and fallible, and you can't always be sure that they're all going to walk out a confrontation alive - especially when the odds are so mercilessly stacked against them."

Speaking of the humanity of the Losers, on Diggle's own online forum, some have speculated that Aisha and Cougar might become something of an item. "Heh heh heh. You'll just have to wait and see..." says the British writer cryptically. Then again, the Scottish artist isn't much more help. "My pencils are sharpened and ready to go..." he says.

But one thing that both creators can agree on is their favorite character. "Jensen's probably the most fun character to write because he's such a blabbermouth, he gets all the funniest lines," admits Diggle. "I sometimes find myself acting out his dialogue as I write it; I just hope nobody walks in on me. Cougar is probably the coolest character, he gets some good moments; but on the whole I'd say Pooch is the guy I like most as a human being. He's a warm, laid-back guy who cares about his family. Of all of them, he's the one I can most relate to."

Jock couldn't agree more. "Yeah, Jensen gets me worked up and I have a great time drawing his scenes - he appeals to the incendiary nature in me! It's difficult to choose though, as they all bring something different to the table... which is a great reflection on the strength of Andy's scripts. Each has their own voice and individual nature."

In addition to Vertigo's other hit mature-readers series "Y- The Last Man" and "Fables," "The Losers" has helped redefine an imprint that was still in the shadow of Neil Gaiman's long ended "Sandman" series. "It is great that Vertigo has a wide range of material now - if readers are digging that, then I couldn't be happier," says Jock. "It gives us a chance to try new things and push things forward!"

Diggle also feels proud to have "The Losers" holding its own alongside the other Vertigo series mentioned. "Good fun! The fact that it's shone such a bright spotlight on me so early in my career is slightly unsettling, as I'm still finding my feet and making all my mistakes in public. But of course I couldn't be happier with the way the book's been received. I think it's cool that they can keep broadening the range of genres like this at Vertigo, it prevents things from stagnating. I'm hoping to pitch some creator-owned ideas this year, a whole range of stuff from contemporary political thrillers to all-out sci-fi action, so it's nice to know they're open to all kinds of genres. Fingers crossed!"

There's an air of "coolness" permeating "The Losers" in both writing and art, one that the duo make seem effortless. While aware of the "feel" of the series, neither claim they are trying to be anything they're not. As Jock says, "I think anything that tries to be cool simply isn't... you can smell it a mile off. Andy's right that you can't take it all too seriously. Definitely put the cool stuff in there, but it'll all get pompous very quickly without some quirky human touch or a wry sense of humour..."

"I think there's a degree to which it should be cheesy - at least, just a little bit. I wouldn't want people to think I take all this posturing too seriously," says Diggle. "But yeah, I do try to give the characters these cool little moments to shine every now and then, a "hero shot" with a snappy payoff line or whatever.

"'Cool' should be effortless, so if you try too hard you've blown it. And you can't do it too often, or it get boring fast. So now I'm trying to undermine that expectation a little - give the characters these little moments, but occasionally have them backfire. Things won't always be so easy for them. They're only human, after all."

There's been one big benefit to become DC exclusive creators, but Jock and Diggle say it isn't the flaming hot Indian curry that the DC salary affords them. "The social life is definitely the best part of this job," says Diggle. "Since working in comics I've made a lot of good friends - mostly artists, as writers tend to be miserable bastards like me. Getting together down at the pub with Jock every now and then and putting the world to rights, that's the business. Can't wait for Bristol!

"I'm still new enough to all this that just seeing my name in print still gives me a huge buzz, too. I've just received my first copies of the 'Losers' and 'Judge Dredd/Aliens' graphic novels, and I've been grinning like a loon ever since. My name! On the front of a graphic novel! I feel like a proper grown-up writer and everything."

The social life also affords Jock the chance to reinvigorate his creative powers each week with his secret weapon: "I still have a vindaloo hot curry once a week.. It works wonders for inspiration!"

Talk to either creator for a minute and you'll learn two things: the duo will never do a Transformers comic and they'd love to do a Batman comic. Some have proposed the Losers searching out "corrupt" businessman Bruce Wayne and creating a crossover, but the two have their own ideas. "It's funny, I always scoffed at superhero comics, but after all this gritty realism it'd be a pleasure to just let rip with some over-the-top superheroics. 'The Losers' categorically does not take place in the DC Universe, but I've never tried to hide the fact that I'd love to write some Batman stuff one day. Bruce Wayne versus Lex Luthor, that's a story I'd love to tell. Two megalomaniac industrialists trying to destroy each other... by any means necessary!

"I think Jock would totally rule drawing Batman - you can just imagine how menacing and monolithic he'd be, all those deep black shadows. But that won't be any time soon - we have to finish 'The Losers' first."

And apparently DC also thinks Jock would be great on Batman, as the artist reveals. "Funnily enough, I've just signed on to do three covers for 'Batman' - it'll be part of a summer event that's planned... Stay tuned! Andy and I have talked over Batman ideas many times... Maybe at some point in the future we can get them cooking. Bruce Wayne versus Lex Luthor does sound like a cool idea. Though, apart from the 'Batman' covers I'm all tied up with 'The Losers'."

With rumors of Diggle revamping more DC properties, the writer isn't able to say too much about his future projects, but what he does tell will whet some appetites. "Obviously I've got 'Swamp Thing' out now, which is incredibly exciting for an old fanboy like me - Alan Moore's 'Swamp Thing' was the series that got me into American comics in the first place. After that I have a few irons in the fire at DC and Wildstorm, although nothing I can talk about yet. Let's just say that all-out, balls-to-the-wall sci-fi action-adventure features fairly heavily in the stuff I'm putting together. I'm done with exploding helicopters and buildings - it's time to start blowing up some planets!"

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