Interview: Barlow and Parker Take R.I.P.D. to the CITY OF THE DAMNED

Fresh on the heels of the announcement of the R.I.P.D. film, Dark Horse Comics announced it would be publishing a prequel series, City of the Damned, reviving the R.I.P.D. franchise from a few years back. The publisher tasked writer Jeremy Barlow and artist Tony Parker with taking these characters straight into the City of the Damned, something the creative team seems to be pretty ecstatic about doing! Barlow and Parker recently took time out of their schedules to discuss R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned with Comicosity and what readers can expect from the upcoming series.

Aaron Long: Best to start at the beginning: how did you both become involved with R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned?

Jeremy Barlow: Editor Patrick Thorpe approached me about it. He, artist Tony Parker, and I had recently collaborated on a short story in Dark Horse’s Savage Sword and really hit it off. We didn’t know it at the time, but the story we did together — another strange western — was a test run for City of the Damned.

Tony Parker: Dark Horse approached me with a blind offer, saying they can’t say what it is, but that I would love it. They were right. 😀

AL: Will City of the Damned be tying into the original R.I.P.D. series? Will readers recognize characters from the first series or is this R.I.P.D. featuring a whole new cast?

TP: Yes. It starts off with the dynamic dead duo, then goes back to the beginning of Roy. After that, a whole bunch of new crazy characters. I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that. Jeremy does a much better job than I do of describing them. And I hate spoilers.

JB: It will connect with the previous series and the upcoming film, but City of the Damned is set 100 years prior to both of those stories, so it also stands on its own. We bookend with a modern day sequence featuring Nick Walker and Roy Pulsipher (the movie characters), and then transition to telling Roy’s story and how he came to join the Rest in Peace Department.

AL: Can you provide a high level take on what the R.I.P.D. will be up against in City of the Damned?

TP: Oh, if I only could. Anything I say would just spoil Jeremy’s pacing and his reveals. However, I can say I’m loving what I get to draw.

JB: The R.I.P.D. exists to ensure that God’s creation continues to run smoothly; they police the afterlife and round up the stray souls that don’t want to move on or to face their eternal judgment. In City of the Damned they discover a mysterious force pulling this system out of balance — that millions of souls are going missing — so Roy and his senior partner, an intense Puritan called Crispin, are put on the case. What they find shakes their values and beliefs to the core.

AL: Tony, the first looks at the artwork look fantastic. Without giving away too much, what has been your favourite part of City of the Damned to pencil?

TP: I freakin’ love that first page of the series. A city sized steampunk machine surrounded by circling thunder clouds and lightning? Pure fun. That was followed up by the RIPD offices. Ancient Roman walls, Edwardian steel bridges, Victorian electric lighting, Japanese temples, the original Colonna di Marco Aurelio as a support column, all populated by legendary heroes from time immemorial? It’s one of those “took too long, but would have loved to work on it longer, and let’s make it a quadruple page spread” kinda things.

AL: The series will act as a prequel to the film that hits theatres in 2013. Have you seen the script? Being that you were writing the prequel, have you had a lot of interaction with the studio?

JB: I read the script before starting, and executive producer and original series creator Peter Lenkov has been involved with City of the Damned every step of the way. He’s been wonderful to work with.

Beyond that, we’ve made an effort to keep City of the Damned it’s own thing. It stands on its own, but taken together with the film both works build off of each other. It’s the best of both worlds!

TP: I’ve only seen what everyone else has seen, but since I’m not having to coordinate the writing, I’m cool with that. I’m sure that Jeremy and editorial are having to shield and communicate with them, but it’s been pretty easy for me. I can’t make any of the characters look identical to the movie actors, but I’m cool with that. I try to balance the visuals between the actors and the source material, and see this amazing book as a bridge between the two. I figure that if I don’t get a lot of requests for corrections, I’m at least partially doing my job. I personally can’t wait to see the movie, to see how everything interacts. 🙂

Click here to see a preview of R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned, in stores November 28, 2012.

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