“Spring Heeled Jack is the first ‘super villain’ for The Elephantman” writer Tom Ward talks Merrick The Sensational Elephantman: The Gamblers Cards
When we reached the end of Treves: A Restless Night (the recent spin off to Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman) it left us clamouring for more adventures of the Victorian sideshow superhero. And fortunately we have not had to wait long, as writer Tom Ward and artist Luke Parker are back, with a new two part story, The Gamblers Cards, on Kickstarter now. We catch up with Tom to find out if introducing the first super villain of the Merrick universe was any kind of gamble, or always a sure-thing?
You’re introducing a new character called Spring Heeled Jack in this arc, can you tell us a bit about him and his background?
Tom Ward: OK, so Spring Heeled Jack is an old Victorian England urban legend from the 1800’s. There were sightings of him all over England jumping around and terrifying the local population, which was eventually attributed to mass hysteria. He was in a lot of the old Penny Dreadfuls and has been featured in a fair amount of fiction since. Our take on the character is hopefully going to be pretty fresh. He’s something of a thrill seeking rogue gentleman adventurer for hire. He’s kind of presented here as the first ‘super villain’ confrontation for The Elephantman, which I think is part of the fun of our comic, mashing history together with classic pulp and superhero tropes. I’m really excited about doing something with his origin story but that probably won’t be for a while though.
The pages you’ve posted have a bit more of a pulpy action adventure feel to them, was that a conscious choice for this arc?
TW: Yeah, a lot of people have commented about how excited they are to see more Spring Heeled Jack after his appearance at the end of issue #4, so we thought for the Kickstarter preview we’d showcase him. The arc is actually kind of a ghost story though, taken from some local folklore so tonally is probably closer to the Treves one-shot.
We’re really going to pull the rug out from under the reader’s feet in classic Bronze Age comic style though for issue #6, which is also going to have a big action scene, I hope people dig it.
You’ve also produced spin off/prequel Treves this year, do any of the events in that story tie in to this arc? Or did you just develop the Treves story as a way to tell a slightly different story before getting back into the main part of Merrick? (Or do we just have to wait and see?!)
TW: The Treves book was something I knew I wanted to do as soon as I read his recollections in his book The Elephantman and Other Reminiscences on which it was based. We kind of jumped in the deep end when we decided to do a longform/ongoing series as our first comic and the idea of taking a break from that to do something that would be self-contained and complete was appealing. So as such it’s not really tied into the events in the main series yet, though it is very briefly referenced in issue #5. It more reveals some of the character of Treves, perhaps to make him slightly more sympathetic. We also used it as an opportunity to kind of regroup and bolster our position for moving forward with the main series.
You’re launching both issues at once on Kickstarter – what made you choose to do that rather than a Kickstarter per issue? Is this the voice of experience after Doc Dino and previous Merrick campaigns?
TW: I considered attempting to fund as single issues this time but decided that with the limited nature of the books we’d stick to arcs so people would definitely get the full story. It seems a shame to take a gamble every issue and maybe not make it to a nice finish point.
Not to mention the fact that so much work goes into a Kickstarter, watching my pal Chris Welsh fund Ness issue by issue just seems tough. We’re doing ‘patient’ tiers again where the books don’t go out till they’re both finished. This is mainly to tempt in international backers, sending out just one parcel and saving a fair amount on postage.
And finally, the inevitable, what’s next question? More Merrick? Another Treves? Or something else? And where and when will Merrick be available?
TW: The next release I’m featured in is the 2017 British Showcase Anthology put together by Adam Cheal and published by Markosia. I did a short western-horror story called The Hanged Man with the amazingly talented Phil Buckingham (@RobZomComics) on art duties. It’s launching at Thought Bubble next weekend I believe. I’ll have a limited amount of copies at my table (Armouries Hall, table 73-74a) and I think the Markosia table will have a big stock of them.
After Thought Bubble I’m going to take a break from conventions for a bit and concentrate on getting some more issues of Merrick out next year. Treves was just a one-shot so I’m not sure we’ll be revisiting that but I do have a vague idea for a Thomas Hardy one-shot that I think I’d like to do somewhere down the line.
In February 2017 I’ll also be releasing the long-awaited second half of Doc Dino, co-written with Chris Welsh, art by Mac Radwanski. I’d also love to maybe get another mini-series or something out but dang it takes a lot of time to make comics!