[Interview] David Pepose & Jorge Santiago, Jr. of Action Lab: Danger Zone’s SPENCER & LOCKE 2

His partner’s imaginary…

…but the madness is all real.

SPENCER & LOCKE, Action Lab Entertainment‘s critically acclaimed 2017 crime series under their Danger Zone imprint from writer David Pepose and artist Jorge Santiago, Jr., is returning with a second volume! The Ringo Award-nominated saga is returning this April with the entire creative team back as well, with colorist Jasen Smith, and letterer Colin Bell continuing to bring their signature styles to the series.

Having already been optioned for film by Hitman film producer Adrian Askarieh and his company Prime Universe Films (you can learn more about it at The Hollywood Reporter), the second volume is coming at you bigger, harder, and even more explosive. And that’s just from our early look at the first issue of the upcoming four-issue run.

PopCultHQ had the privilege to speak with the creators of SPENCER & LOCKE 2, writer David Pepose & illustrator Jorge Santiago, Jr.. Learn more about Detective Locke’s evolution as a character, how old-time classic comic strips play a role, and the increased threat thanks to the volume’s new, nihilistic antagonist!

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 Solicit Info:

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 - Cover A
SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover A


Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Colorist: Jasen Smith
Letterer: Colin Bell

Cover Artists:
Cover A – Jorge Santiago, Jr.
Cover B – Maan House
Cover C – Joe Mulvey

In Shops: Apr 24, 2019
SRP: $3.99

Suspended by Internal Affairs, Detective Locke grapples with the demons of his past alongside his trusty partner, his childhood imaginary panther Spencer. But when Spencer and Locke face a scarred soldier named Roach Riley, will this unlikely pair finally meet their match?


PopCultHQ Interview:
David Pepose & Jorge Santiago, Jr. of
Action Lab: Danger Zone’s “Spencer & Locke 2”

PopCultHQ: SPENCER & LOCKE 2 looks to take on a much darker approach, not only with Detective Locke exploring his own mental health issues and schizophrenia, but a more disturbed panther sidekick, and a hellbent antagonist on a violent crusade, if you will. Would you say this new arc is more emotionally-charged than its predecessor? Both internally and externally?

David Pepose: The first volume of SPENCER & LOCKE was all about revisiting Locke’s traumatic history, and exploring how his unique coping mechanisms — namely, his imaginary talking panther Spencer — helped shape him into the man he is today. And with SPENCER & LOCKE 2, we still wanted to keep an eye on the past, but also wanted to make sure we had the present pounding on the door, too. So much of our first arc was Locke deciding whether or not he could even move forward from his harrowing childhood — but in our second volume, now he’s going to have to ask himself, can he possibly function as a cop, a father, and as a friend, given everything he’s endured?

A lot of the emotion that is drawn from SPENCER & LOCKE 2 will also come from our expanded cast. In particular, Spencer and Locke are going to have do so some major soul-searching to stop our new villain, Roach Riley — our murderous analogue for Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey. The sole survivor of his platoon overseas, Roach has all the same scars as Locke but on a much more accelerated timeframe — and as a result, he has some very specific opinions about heartache and pain. Ultimately, Locke’s struggle against Roach is going to be a war of ideas — in a world of pain and suffering, does Roach’s nihilism have a point? But Locke is also going to navigate changing dynamics with his partner Spencer, his daughter Hero, as well as Melinda Mercury, a hard-hitting reporter who finds herself drawn into Locke’s broken orbit. The friction between these characters will either kill them or make them stronger — if not both.

Spencer & Locke 2 preview page

PopCultHQ: Jorge, in this first issue, you seem to really have fun with the panels, offering different illustrations and techniques for the Beetle Bailey homage, the intensity in the action sequences, and emotions found within the storytelling. It almost feels as if we should expect the unexpected when it comes to the interior art. What can fans and newcomers look forward to in SPENCER & LOCKE 2’s illustrations throughout this new arc?

Jorge Santiago, Jr.: I’m so glad you said that, my goal with any comic is have it become an intense reading experience. My hope is that fans and new readers will find themselves rooting for the heroes as the stakes rise even higher than they were in volume 1.

PopCultHQ: In Detective Locke’s struggle to understand himself and become a better person (to Hero and in general), what kind of demons or pitfalls will he encounter or have to face along the way? How do they add to (or take away from) his character in this new story arc?

David Pepose: The thing is, in our first volume, Locke faced a lot of the demons of his past — his father, his mother, the secrets of his abusers and loved ones alike. But contrary to what action movies tell us, you can’t really shoot your problems into submission, you know? So Locke is definitely still grappling with his inner demons — just because he faced down his enemies doesn’t mean he feels better. And that tenseness, that sense of restlessness is being reflected throughout his subconscious, manifesting in a much less cuddly Spencer.

Spencer & Locke 2 preview page

Yet we’re also complicating Spencer and Locke’s status quo from the last arc, as well. Locke learned he had a daughter, but is he necessarily somebody you’d trust raising a kid? Hell, with a gun and badge? We’re opening our second arc with Locke on investigation for all the carnage that he sparked in the first arc — and neither of these hard-boiled cops do well on the bench. All that pressure has to be a lot for these characters… and that’s before Roach decides to paint the town red.

PopCultHQ: Roach Riley, described as The Deer Hunter meets Heath Ledger’s Joker, is a terrorist with some seemingly big, nefarious plans. From where did the concept of the character arise for you? Just how menacing is this new threat, not only to Locke but to the entire city (if not beyond)?

David Pepose: When I was first outlining SPENCER & LOCKE, I thought about the different threats that cops face — and while our first volume dealt with street-level drug pushers, I asked what could be the most punishing, crippling threat that one detective could face? The idea of terrorism — of a horror so massive in scale that you can barely comprehend it — really interested me, and the idea of Mort Walker’s lovable slacker Beetle Bailey being transformed into an unstoppable killing machine couldn’t help but make me laugh.

Roach Riley

But as I’ve delved into the character of Roach Riley, the more excited I became. There’s a twisted psychological calculus going on in his brain, rooted in the terrifying things he endured overseas — when I described the character to Jorge, I called Roach an apostle of pain. He really thinks he’s doing us a favor, with all this carnage, all this bloodshed. And he happens to be really, really good at spreading the word. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, Roach has a wicked sense of humor, but he’s also deadly and unpredictable — he’s the kind of guy that can not only go toe to toe with seasoned scrappers like Spencer and Locke, but can totally wipe the floor with them. He’s the type of villain who just feels magnetic — you can’t take your eyes off him.

PopCultHQ: You’ve mentioned that fans can expect nods to classic comic strips (Beetle Bailey being the most obvious in the first issue). Can we expect plenty of Easter eggs throughout this new arc? And, without giving too much away for future hidden gems, what made you decide on these particular nods to include in the series?

David Pepose: I read every Calvin & Hobbes strip while I was developing the first arc of SPENCER & LOCKE, and the biggest challenge I had was figuring out which Easter eggs to cut. Thankfully, with a second volume, we’ve been able to include a few more of the winks and nods to Bill Watterson that we couldn’t fit in the initial series — bits like Calvin’s killer bicycle, the boys’ expedition up north in “Yukon, Ho!,” and one of Calvin’s other alter egos that is probably the highlight of the entire arc for me. I’m incredibly pleased with everything we’ve fit into this second arc.

But the major hook to SPENCER & LOCKE 2, in my mind, is that we’re taking a Fables-style approach to this world, drawing inspiration from across the funny pages. In addition to our nods to Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey, we’ll have nods to Bloom County, Marmaduke, Hagar the Horrible, The Family Circus… and that’s just on one page! Some of our homages will be blink-and-you-miss-it, while others, like our Brenda Starr analogue Melinda Mercury, will play a big role in the overall story.

PopCultHQ: Taking on the interior artwork is demanding by itself, but you are also back providing cover work as well. Will you be continuing to produce covers for SPENCER & LOCKE 2 in addition to your interiors?

Jorge Santiago, Jr.: Yes I will, I’ve already completed covers for each issue of SPENCER & LOCKE 2 and our collected volume. Covers are a little trickier for me to make than pages, but I think the covers for this volume turned out very well!

PopCultHQ: What are you most excited about producing or tackling in this second adventure?

Jorge Santiago, Jr.: Fitting for it being volume 2, this time I was very interested in duality. Without giving too much away, I was aiming to create visuals that had a deeper meaning to the destruction that will happen in the book. Explosions are fun, but I think by issue 4, we’ll have people holding their breath with each page turn, which is always my hope!

PopCultHQ: How many issues are slated for S&L2? What plans have you made (or intend to) for this new season? Any special exclusives, variants, appearances, etc.?

David Pepose: SPENCER & LOCKE 2 will be a four-issue arc like our last series — whenever possible, I like to keep the story lean and the pacing tight. In addition to Jorge’s main covers, we’ll also have variants by SPENCER & LOCKE veterans Maan House and Joe Mulvey for each issue — and let me tell you, it’s like a free-for-all for who can draw the best covers, they all look so terrific. As far as the convention scene goes, Jorge and I plan to make as many appearances as we can — there are a few cons that are up in the air right now, but for sure I’ll be doing at least Long Beach Comic Expo, C2E2, Denver, Baltimore, and Rose City again, as well as adding HeroesCon to my schedule. And of course, San Diego and New York Comic Con, as well.

Spencer & Locke 2 preview page

PopCultHQ: Jorge, how has it been for you working alongside colorist Jasen Smith and letterer Colin Bell? Do you find it easier this time around working again with the same creators? How do they influence your work?

Jorge Santiago, Jr.: Having a colorist and a letterer is a new thing for me, having self published most of my career so far, and having collaborators as talented as Jasen and Colin is a dream come true. I can be very exacting on how I envision specific sequences, but it feels great to just send them pages and know that they’re going to put their mark on them that eclipses what I had in mind.

PopCultHQ: In your own words, why is SPENCER & LOCKE 2 the series not to be missed this year? Why is it a must-have for people’s pull lists?

David Pepose: The first volume of SPENCER & LOCKE was the Evel Knievel stunt jump of my career — this time, instead of just launching ourselves over a canyon, we’re going to be jumping 25 cars, while going through a ring of fire, while doing it all blindfolded. People used to ask us, “How do you bring together Calvin & Hobbes with Sin City, and pay respect to both?” Now the question is, can we do it again — and bring in all the classic icons from the rest of the funny pages as well? It’s the kind of risky dare that doesn’t always stick the landing — but the reason I’m so confident is that my creative team has only gotten better with time.

Spencer & Locke 2 preview page

Fans of our last series I think are going to be really happy with how our sequel unfolds, and what kinds of actual consequences we push upon these characters — because pain and violence don’t happen in a vacuum, but they instead leave lasting effects on perpetrator and victim alike. If you’re looking for over-the-top action, stirring heartbreak, captivating characters, and a partnership you’ll never forget, you’ll add SPENCER & LOCKE 2 to your pull list. I promise you won’t regret it.

Jorge Santiago, Jr.: SPENCER & LOCKE 2 is our Empire Strikes Back, or The Dark Knight, or the Godfather Part 2. The first volume of any good story is about establishing the good and evil of their world, but the second volume is about evil taking root. Roach Riley is if you made the deadly sin of Wrath into a person and put a hat on his head and explosives in his hands. You don’t want to miss the clash between Roach and Locke, because this is a fight neither of them can afford to lose.


Special thanks goes out to David and Jorge for making the time to speak with us at PopCultHQ. NOW is the time to pre-order your copies of SPENCER & LOCKE 2! Given the success of the first volume, and the series being optioned for film, this new volume is sure to make a huge impact this year. Don’t sleep on it! Pre-Order NOW (info below)!

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 - Cover A
SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover A

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover A
Order Code: FEB191309

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 - Cover B
SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover B

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover B
Order Code: FEB191310

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 - Cover C
SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover C

SPENCER & LOCKE 2 #1 – Cover C
Order Code: FEB191311

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Be sure to follow the creative team!







Writer – David Pepose

David Pepose has worked for numerous entertainment companies around the country, including CBS, Netflix, Universal Studios and DC Comics. When not developing properties for comics, TV and film, David has also written and performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Gotham Comedy Club and PUNDERDOME 3000. A St. Louis native and a former New York City transplant, David now resides in sunny Los Angeles.




Artist – Jorge Santiago, Jr.

Born on the desolate planet of El Paso, Texas, Jorge Santiago, Jr. began training in the Comic Arts at 17. After self-publishing for years, he left for the planet Georgia, where he earned his MFA in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has been practicing making the perfect comics. He graphic designs by day and makes comics by night, and is best known for his popular webcomic, CURSE OF THE EEL.




Publisher – Action Lab: Danger Zone






About Jason Bennett 7241 Articles
Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ's chief editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. One with the Force. Browncoats Unite! So say we all! Follow Jason on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @TahoeJBennett