Going to the Chapel, the sophomore effort from writer David Pepose is hitting stands this September from Action Lab: Danger Zone. The series, illustrated by Gavin Guidry, colored by Liz Kramer, and lettered by Ariana Maher, is described as “Half Die Hard / Half Wedding Crashers” and “if Julia Roberts starred in Dog Day Afternoon.” It follows a gang of Elvis-themed bank robbers who decide to pull of the heist of the year at a wedding. I had a chance to speak with Pepose about the project.
James Ferguson: You seem to have a talent for blending genres between Spencer & Locke and now Going to the Chapel. How do you approach a story with a mix of genres like this?
David Pepose: Honestly, taking the cross-genre approach for a book like Going to the Chapel is actually really liberating to me — the bigger the contrast in tone, the easier it is for me to switch gears when I’m stuck in a rut. I think it also lets us have the best of both worlds in terms of storytelling avenues — in the case of Going to the Chapel, we get to follow bride Emily Anderson as her wedding is taken hostage by a crew of bank robbers known as the Bad Elvis Gang. It means we get to have our (wedding) cake and eat it, too — we’re able to get the high-octane action of a heist thriller, but we’re also able to key in on these very human, relatable stakes thanks to the relationship drama at the heart of the story.
For me as a writer, being able to mix two genres speaks to the anxieties of being a new creator in the comics industry. (Laughs) You’re never really sure if this is a career or just a lucky set of breaks, so I always write like this is the last book they’ll ever let me write — and so there’s this instinct of not just trying to cover as much narrative ground as possible, but also to be as contrarian and avant-garde as possible, just to see what we can make stick. Being able to mash up two different avenues of storytelling and see where they naturally coincide winds up not just revealing some unexpected crossover, but it lets me check off my personal writer bucket list that much faster.
JF: The loglines for Going to the Chapel, like “If Tarantino did a romcom” are spot-on and instantly give you an idea of what to expect with the story. How do you come up with these?
DP: For me personally, I tend to write better when there’s a familiar emotional touchstone at the heart of the story — and I think I often take that same approach to the marketing side of the equation, as well. This goes all the way back to my first screenwriting professor, and then was reinforced back in the days I worked at CBS — but I think you nailed it. By packaging your story with some familiar touchstones in your logline, you’re able to prime your readers’ expectations more, to pique their interest to see if your story paid off the way you described it. It also helps me in terms of remembering my influences, and when I’m stuck in a particular scene, being able to go back to my inspirations for guidance.
Ultimately, for Going to the Chapel, our story is a human, relatable one — it’s a love story about commitment, and conquering the fears that come with saying “til death do us part.” (It’s also about communication among dysfunctional families, and what happens when you’re locked in a church with some seriously weird people for 12 hours. We’ve all been there!) But those are just the themes of the story — but I think the general execution is how we get readers to that point, and being able to evoke a fast-talking, action-packed Tarantino flick as well as the humor of Wedding Crashers or Runaway Bride, well, it winds up being the best of both worlds, and that winds up getting prospective readers curious enough to give us a shot. And honestly, once you see how fantastically artist Gavin Guidry and company have portrayed this world, once you give Going to the Chapel a shot, I think you’ll stick around for the long haul.
JF: There is something so awesome about a heist movie. They’re usually filled with unexpected twists and turns with an intricate plan that is slowly revealed over time. How did you plot out Going to the Chapel with all the various players and pieces involved?
DP: That was honestly both the biggest challenge of the book for me, and the thing that made Going to the Chapel such an attractive project to me in the first place — we’ve got a 15-person cast to juggle, each with their own distinct personalities, relationships and ways of doing things, so it felt like the right challenge to tackle after the comparatively small cast of Spencer & Locke. We’ve got our heroine Emily, for example, who stuffs down her anxieties about getting married into action once the Bad Elvis Gang takes over her wedding; Jesse, her fiancé, is a bit more mild-mannered, so his approach for trying to “rescue” his bride-to-be starts off a bit more indirect. Meanwhile, Tom, the ringleader of the Elvises, is a charming criminal with a big secret — and don’t get me started on Grandma Harriet, other than that she doesn’t take anyone’s lip, and that she’s going to be your new favorite character.
So for me, the actual plotting and planning of all these players was… well, it was a sometimes agonizing bit of trial and error. (Laughs) There are some scripts, like Spencer & Locke 2, where I’m a lot looser with the outline stage, but Chapel went through numerous drafts and iterations purely in the treatment stage. We had to be really precise with the pacing and structure of this story from the jump, which gave me a lot of freedom to start riffing with the jokes and character beats in the scripting stage once we had the general bones of the story set in stone. But the story math had to add up first.
JF: This book has some gorgeous visuals. How did the art team come together for Going to the Chapel?
DP: I actually found Gavin on Twitter more than two years ago — he had posted some samples online from his indie breakout work The Night Driver, and I could immediately sense his knack for expressiveness and physical comedy. What I didn’t expect, however, was how thoroughly he was going to populate the world of Going to the Chapel — down to him constructing a fully-mapped, three-dimensional church to make sure that the action sequences were based in actual reality. Gavin has such a great range to his style, and his star is only on the rise, so I’m glad Chapel is his Direct Market debut.
Colorist Liz Kramer, meanwhile, I think is our secret weapon — I’m a big believer that you don’t just need the right artist on a particular project, but you also need the right colorist to bolster them. I met Liz at C2E2 last year through my friend Mara Jayne Carpenter (of Jade Street Protection Services and Jupiter Jet fame), and was immediately blown away by Liz’s colors on her webcomic Threader. And to be honest, I think Liz has one-upped herself with the colors on Chapel. Mark my words, Liz is going to be the next Laura Martin, so I’m excited to be working with her on the ground floor. And finally, letterer Ariana Maher came highly recommended, particularly on her work on Nancy Drew and James Bond 007 over at Dynamite. She’s got more credits than the rest of us combined, and she’s been instrumental in not just making all my one-liners bounce, but for teaming up with Liz to make sure all our pages are proofed and print-ready. I seriously could not have done this book without them.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg — we’ve got Submerged artist Lisa Sterle and Spencer & Locke variant artist Maan House joining Gavin for covers on our first issue, and we’ll have a murderer’s row of artistic talent working on covers for the rest of this series. I honestly couldn’t have been luckier to be working with the artists we’re working with on Going to the Chapel — this book isn’t just funny and filled with action, but it’s one of the most beautiful books you’re going to read all year.
Going to the Chapel #1 is set for release on September 4th, 2019. It is currently available for pre-order. We’d like to thank David for taking the time to speak with us.