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FOG! Chats With Creators Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson About Their New Comic, ‘Justice Warriors’

You know what’s better than one cop upholding the law in a a densely populated and vast slum where the majority of the mutant population actually lives?

Two cops.  Or even better.  Buddy cops.

In Ahoy Comics’ newest series, Justice Warriors, the veteran Swamp Cop is paired with a rookie partner, Schitt, after Swamp’s partner is killed in the line of duty (when he was run over by a self-driving city bus). The increasingly cynical Swamp Cop becomes obsessed with arresting or killing the bus, as he begins to suffer PTSD. Haunted by hallucinations of his dead partner, Swamp Cop is determined to show the naive rookie Schitt that you can only police the UZ by bending every rule that’s left.

Stationed inside the protective shell of Bubble City, the world’s first perfect city flourishes. It is a city of equality, diversity, and prosperity with no crime whatsoever. But outside of the Bubble lies the Uninhabited Zone, where Swamp and Schitt must contend with new forms of crime as the Bubble’s boom-and-bust economy creates waves of market panic, bailouts, and austerity. Amid the instability, a new cyberpunk gang rises to prominence using social media, good vibes, and anti-Bubble sentiment to wage war on the Prince, the mayor who is also a pop star.

Coming from the imaginations of Co-creators Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson, Justice Warriors is a mega-satire than is a must read for anyone intelligent comic reader.

I had the opportunity to chat with Matt and Ben about the genesis of the book, their influences and collaborating again after winning the Oscar for Good Will Hunting (Sorry, wrong Matt and Ben)

*  *  *  *  *

FOG!: Justice Warriors was initially envisioned as an animated series. How did that evolve into the comic book series and how did you both meet?

Ben Clarkson: Animated series require a huge investment to produce, even cheap ones. Whenever I told people about Justice Warriors they had a real issue imagining what it would be, what kind of stories could take place there, who would want to watch it. It’s a pretty out-there pitch.

Matt and I figured the best way to hook people on this world, like we were hooked, was to tell stories in this world, and fast! A comic is something that a team of two or three can produce without compromise. It was a perfect medium as a sandbox for what we had created.

Matt Bors: Ben cold messaged me in the summer of 2020 about writing and producing for this show as an animation. I’d never met Ben before, but loved this pitch and we hit it off. I think it quickly became evident we stood more of a chance of getting this made (while being paid) as a comic book and then go from there.

Matt, you founded the political cartoon / graphic journalism site The Nib and are a two-time Pulitzer Prize Finalist.  Had comic books always been part of your plan?

MB: Comic books were the first plan, my childhood dream and life long goal was to make them. In the process of growing up, I became very politically-minded and angry about what was happening at the time—the rush to war in Iraq in the post-9-11 environment of surveillance and civil liberties curtailment—so I expressed that in the only way I knew how: comics. I took to it more than I expected and had some success and one thing led to another and then it was my career for 18 years.

Over the years, I’d always think I’d get to a comic book or graphic novel in a few years or after my next project and it wasn’t happening. After the Trump era wrapped up with a grueling pandemic, I was so burned out from the weekly grind, and decided I needed a change creatively and it was time for wild, weird, violent comic books with mutants.

Ben, you’ve been primarily known as a filmmaker and illustrator. Were you always interested in comics and what unexpected challenges did you encounter when drawing Justice Warriors?

BC: Comics broadly, yes. I have been really into single panel comics for a long time and I tried unsuccessfully to make a living producing “fine art” gag comics, and very niche self published cartoon collections. It didn’t pan out.

I’ve never been super into comic books per se, mostly animation, but about five or six years ago I had a realization that they were probably the best medium for me to explore. I am a pretty fiercely independent artist. I have never had a job at a studio. I have always produced work on my own terms and the prospect of getting to produce feature films or narrative animation, independently, anti-socially even, was pretty dire. Comics are a medium where you can tell the story of The Incal or Ghost in the Shell without an outlay of hundreds of millions of dollars. So I started reading and drawing comics with the intention of producing my own stories eventually. Justice Warriors is the fulfillment of that 5 year plan.

A big challenge for drawing the book is keeping the quality high. Once the ball is rolling on a monthly comic you don’t have a lot of time to draw the next issue. The level of detail in these issues is insane, and cramming my schedule to the brim with drawing time has been a top priority for my entire family to ensure I can do these spreads justice.

How did the project wind up at AHOY and what made them the right publisher for the book?

BC: They drove a Lambo full of money up to my apartment. After a fierce champagne negotiation we had sold the book!

MB: Hmm, this didn’t happen at my house? I was told the book would be produced on a shoestring budget, Ben was working for almost free… have I been had?

You both are very involved with all aspects of the book; what is your collaboration like and what do you think the other brings to the project?

MB: One thing I love about being a magazine publisher and editor is making comics happen that I alone could not create. I love collaborating and with Ben it’s really one of those fruitful, synergistic ones you hear about comics producing from time to time. We are both involved in writing and art at various stages. He’s really a visionary detailed artist and when people see what he’s bringing to page in some of these issues, I think it will make the book.

BC: Matt is one of the best political cartoonists of our generation. Some of his jokes in the series are some of the best jokes ever written down, while at the same time our engagement with the issues and genre elements stays razor focssed. Justice Warriors is as much his as it is mine, real conjoined brain mutant stuff.

We write and design the comic very closely together. We go over everything, everything, together several times and make decisions by consensus. We go farther together than I think either one of us could go alone.

Who or what have been the biggest influences in your work?

MB: Maybe the “what” is more interesting for me here. I’ve been influenced by dystopian fiction, leftist politics, grappling with technological change, violent early 90s movies, and skateboarding, which encourages you to see everyday structures in entirely different ways.

BC: David Lynch, Paul Verhoeven, Michael Bay, Kurt Vonnegut, Gary Larson, The Kids in the Hall, Robert Crumb, Moebius, and Goya. A very diverse bunch.

Now that Justice Warriors is coming to life in comics, do you feel that a graphic narrative is a better medium for this story than animation, or would you like to still see that happen?

BC: I want to co-direct a 800 million dollar CG feature film version of Justice Warriors with Michael Bay. I want to see Swamp Cop, shiny, beads of sweat pouring down his craggly orange skin, as he rides the bike from Akira, high on pills, directly into a hot dog stand.

Failing that, a big budget anime OVA would do.

I think we can do video games, card games, table top role playing, an animated show, toys, and comics. We’ve got spin off ideas. Bubble City is an amazing engine for telling stories and any way we can mainline those stories to hungry, preferably impressionable, minds the better.

MB: I’d love to work on both for a real long time. Ben comes more from the world of animation, but I love the medium and was fortunate enough to produce and write for some Nib animations with Augenblick Studios, who produce real top of the line work. To do something like that again but on a bigger scale with the ideas we have, would be a dream.

My first love is comics though and I have a real desire to create many volumes of Justice Warriors comics. I won’t be happy until this ends with a thick, heavy omnibus you can throw like a brick.

What are you currently geeking out over?

MB: I am geeking out over the materialist relations between megacities, their structures, inhabitants, and capital as it pertains to a world careening toward environmental disaster with no mitigation plan as told in Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change by Ashley Dawson. I’m also enjoying IDW’s Ninja Turtles run.

BC: I am reading the Three Body problem series by Cixin Liu, and it’s pretty outstanding. There are some mind bending passages that are both farcical and profound. It is a very different vision of human development and values than the ones presented in western fiction. I read some Pynchon before that, and before that a couple books on Chinese history. I go through a lot of books. I have a pile of comics that are all waiting for me to finish Justice Warriors.

It’s been pretty sparse for audio-visual media for me. I have a lot of drawing to do!

Justice Warriors #1 arrives in stores and via digital on June 8, 2022



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