At this weekend's Kapow Comic Convention in London, British comedy writer/actor Peter Serafinowicz announced his first comic book project, "Nelson," in collaboration with acclaimed "The Losers" and "Detective Comics" artist Jock. The pair expect to complete and publish the series in late 2012 or early 2013.
Teased in advance of the convention as a "secret world-famous Batman artist," Jock said upon arrival at the early morning panel he hoped fans wouldn't be too disappointed with the reveal of his identity. Serafinowicz, however, was effusive in his praise of the artist, declaring "The Black Mirror" to be one of his favorite Batman stories.
Serafinowicz introduced "Nelson" by explaining the project originated as a TV pitch to networks including FX and HBO. The idea came to the writer, most famous for appearing in the cult British TV series "Spaced" and for providing the voice of Darth Maul in "Star Wars: Episode I," while working on his BBC sketch comedy series "The Peter Serafinowicz Show." "I was doing these sketches where I play Darth Vader," he said. "I was wearing platform boots that made me 6'8," and I had shoulder pads and a cape on. Between takes I took my helmet off, and I was striding around, and it just felt amazing! I just thought, 'Wow, this must be what it feels like to be a superhero!'"
This led to the creation of "Nelson's" titular lead character, a super-human created by mutation. "From an early age, he's got these huge muscles. He's kind of got the build of the Hulk -- he's huge, but he's plausible, you know? He's the Credible Hulk!" Serafinowicz joked.
Nelson is a police chief in an alternate London, which the writer described as "kind of like a Gotham City version of London." "He operates a zero tolerance policy towards crime, so London has the lowest crime figures of any big city in the world -- and everybody loves him for it," Serafinowicz said. "He's a celebrity, kids know who he is -- he's got a bit of David Beckham about him. He often walks around patrolling the streets of the city. I guess he's sort of like Batman, but he doesn't have a secret identity."
If this all sounds like a light-hearted take on superheroes from a writer best known for comedy and parody, Serafinowicz was quick to dismiss the notion and explain the project's darker side. "When he was thirteen, Nelson's twin brother was abducted and killed by these awful child-killers -- and so later in life, when he's in the police, that is the one sort of crime he cannot bear." He explained how the character blurs the lines between law and revenge-fueled justice, while a suspicious reporter investigates the link between Nelson and the disappearance of a number of known child killers. "The theme of the comic is about what 'justice' really is -- and especially as a parent, what would you do to the sort of people who hurt kids?"
Jock and Serafinowicz first met on a radio show where the artist was discussing the movie adaptation of "The Losers," the Vertigo comic series he worked on with frequent collaborator Andy Diggle. They ended up talking about Serafinowicz' script -- which by now had been rejected by the TV networks as too expensive to produce -- and the idea appealed to the artist. "I liked the idea of a very British spin on the superhero -- working in tabloid newspaper culture, or the fact that he's got adverts and brands all over his costume. There were all sorts of little seeds which I responded to."
With the floor opened to the audience, one of the first questions was whether Serafinowicz might want to try again to launch the concept as a TV series should the comic prove successful. He explained that while that might eventually be appealing, at the moment the pair just want to produce "an amazing comic book," with Jock pointing out that there are many things a comic can do that can't be realized on TV -- citing an example in the script of a London Underground train being derailed.
Jock was asked whether, in light of the admission that the original TV pitch was intended as a vehicle for Serafinowicz himself to appear in, the character would be drawn to look like the actor. He said designs were still being worked on, but it wouldn't be a "vanity project" featuring a specific likeness. Serafinowicz did briefly describe the character's costume, which he called "kind of like Iron Man, but a bit shit! He has to charge it up with a plug."
Asked if any particular comics inspired "Nelson," Serafinowicz described a love for characters including Batman, the Hulk, and Superman. He also mentioned "Criminal," and that he was currently reading "Irredeemable." "My passion for comics was reignited by reading on the iPad," he said. "I love that an analogue artform like comics is thriving so much in a digital medium." Jock, meanwhile, said Serafinowicz' script reminded him of the sort of stories published by "Deadline," the 1990s British comics magazine for older readers -- but that generally, they were deliberately not looking at other comics for inspiration and hoped "Nelson" could stand as its own thing.
Finally, Serafinowicz said there's currently no publisher attached to the project, but they are in discussions with several companies. Asked about a planned released for the series, Jock jokingly replied "2019?" The artist plans to start work after "Snapshot," his current series with Diggle, finishes in September -- so the comic may start to arrive by the end of the year.