Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: AHOY Comics will soon be releasing the first issue of your new superhero satire series, Justice Warriors. What can you share with us about the inspiration behind this series, especially in these challenging times?
Matt Bors: Justice Warriors is a lot of things, but at its core it is a buddy cop satire, between an unbalanced veteran named Swamp Cop and a naive rookie named Schitt. That they are both mutants who live in and police an unending slum with a case of bizarre characters, where any manner of cyborg gang or social media-inspired crime might take place, combines elements of The Simpsons with Robocop with an eighth of magic mushrooms. It’s a weird, visually overloaded world, where we can tell stories about why society is arranged the way it is.
Ben Clarkson: Justice Warriors is a satire not just of policing and its role in our society, but a satire of a society gone mad. The cops are just the arbitrage at the point of contact between the Bubble and the Uninhabited Zone. Those frictions give us plenty of room for very interesting stories, and lots of surprising turns on myths about how power and social forces affect our lives.
BD: Ben, your collaborative process with Matt is truly remarkable, in that not only are you co-writing the series, but you are also working to share the illustrative duties. How would you describe this shared creative process, and what did you find to be most rewarding/challenging?
BC: We have a lot of meetings, and we’ll talk a lot. Both Matt and I really connected over a view of the world, and we’ll explore concepts, forces, theory and ideas in some really lovely conversations. Social media has driven us both mad, so it’s nice to talk to a human. We took those conversations and plotted out a Pepe Sylvia conspiracy board of the first series with photos of JFK and some string. Real schizoid stuff. From there Matt does these almost finished drafts of a script and I’ll suggest edits, sometimes we go back and forth on a word dozens of times, sometimes we talk out an edit for a week or two and stick with the original draft. I take that script to layouts and we do the whole thing again but with panel design and poses. Matt literally does draw overs when he has better ideas. We’ll repeat that all the way to inks, where I am putting set ups and punchlines for the series in the backgrounds for eagle eyed viewers. There’s an entire secret plot in the book just in background jokes.
Working with Matt is not a challenge at all. I am used to collaboration, my entire artistic career has had collaboration at its centre, either from clients or the art collective I was in when I lived in a basement in Winnipeg. Listening to other people’s ideas and genuinely working towards a vision of something everyone is striving towards is a joy. It’s rewarding when everyone trusts one another and the soul of the work can really thrive.
BD: Matt, you have made an incredible career in political cartooning, garnering two nominations as a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. Do you feel that there was a seamless transition from political cartooning with The Nib to the sequential art format of a full comic book series for Justice Warriors?
MB: For me it was an easy transition, because I’ve been so steeped in comic books and genre stories since childhood. Getting around to doing a comic book series was something that I wish didn’t take me until I was 38, but my career kind of went full on into political cartooning once I started and I didn’t look back for a while. Once I did, I started thinking about all the other kinds of stories I’m not able to tell—can’t tell much of a story at all in political cartoons—and how maybe it’s even more effective to have the point recede to the background while the story is the main focus.
BD: Ben, you have likewise carved an amazing career pathway, garnering a finalist nomination for the International Lumen Prize in Digital Art, A Juno, and a National Magazine Award. How would you describe your transition to working on a comic book series?
BC: It wasn’t too difficult. I don’t like doing the same thing forever. I like learning new stuff, new skills, new tools, and new art forms. I had done a great deal of research on how to make a comic, and I have drawn a few for my own personal enjoyment. The hardest part is the publishing schedule which can set some pretty tight time constraints per page. One panel in issue 2 took me nearly 26 hours to draw, and I had to rearrange my entire life to keep that panel in the book.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Justice Warriors’ story will connect with readers?
MB: My hope is that a lot of people can find something relatable in a dark comedy about systemic inequality and online overload. If they can’t, I suspect it’s because they are the owners who live in the Bubble!
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
MB: Other than Justice Warriors, I run The Nib and we recently dropped our new print issue on Cities which I’m proud of. Incidentally (really), it features a kind of Bubble City on the cover, more akin to the Jettsons' variety, and the inside matter is all nonfiction (i.e., real cities).
BC: Everything other than Justice Warriors I am working on is on NDA. Matt and I are, however, already discussing what could happen in a second, third, forth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth series for Justice Warriors, and it only gets more wild from here.