Talking With Matt Bors And Ben Clarkson About Their New Comic ‘Justice Warriors’ From AHOY Comics

by Olly MacNamee

This week sees the release of a new satirical sci-fi series, Justice Warriors. RoboCop meets The Wire by way of The Simpsons. And I got the chance to speak with the two creators, Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson ahead of its release on Wednesday 8th June from AHOY Comics. We discussed the influences being channelled not only into the story but into the futurescape of the two major environments presented in the comic. 

Olly MacNamee: It has often been noted that science-fiction stories often reflect the fears of modern society. But it’s also a genre suited to reflecting society’s problems too. And Justice Warriors seems to fit the latter with its satirical slant. Before we delve into the main cast of characters, tell me more about the very unequal society of Bubble City and what lies beyond its protective walls. 

MATT: The Uninhabited Zone is a crowded slum so vast that its boundaries are unknown to the residents. It’s a place of vice and desperation, weird trends, new drugs, and for the lucky few: grueling jobs that keep the industries controlled from the Bubble afloat. Inside the Bubble is very nice! It’s a place you’d absolutely love to live and spin up a rationalization for why you deserve to be there.

BEN: The Bubble is a clean, pristine vision of prosperity and diversity, there’s no discrimination at all as long as your portfolio is in good order. The UZ is chaos, with no boundaries or order to the lives of the mutants scraping by. It is the row houses in The Wire’s Baltimore but to the horizon and beyond, no end in sight. It’s a world very much about the apartheids of class, ideas, and environmental degradation. 

OM: You describe this new series as a “a mash-up of The Wire, Robocop, and The SimpsonsThe Itchy and Scratchy Show.” That’s quite the mix. From the police brutality and use of vox pops and media soundbites, I can certainly see the resemblance to Robocop. But what other targets are you going after in this series? The first issue alone is rich in satirical swipes.

MATT: Social media is very present in the series and its effects only grow, serving to fuel investment hysteria, anti-cop fervor, conspiracy theories, and gives rise to the main antagonists of the series, which I won’t give away yet. But you can see in the Chief already, she is obsessed with online drama while the Prince whines about his number of album streams. The people in charge are not well.

BEN: Matt and I spent a long time on the economics of what is happening in the series. I am a big Econ guy, I think it is a fascinating subject, and we crafted a series of ridiculous economic schemes and crises which give rise to hysterical activity through the story. The ambition of Justice Warriors is to be a satire not just of cops, but of our entire society while using the police as a framing device, which is where the allusion to The Wire comes in. 

OM: Right, onto the main… er, protagonists? Swamp Cop and his new partner Schitt. In many ways we have a classic buddy cop team up. Another classic trope to play around with across this series? Why pick this particular cop sub-genre as your inspiration?

MATT: In future volumes we plan more story templates and genre tropes we want to play with: Going deep undercover, murder mysteries, almost anything you can name, really. Ben and I already have almost a decade’s worth of ideas for this series.

BEN: I watched a lot of police procedurals in prep for Justice Warriors and they are all morality plays. There is a criminal who has a certain vice, or moral failing, and the virtue of the police eventually overcomes it. Economics, which is the engine of Justice Warriors’ story, grows out of moral philosophy. It just seems to make sense to create a type of twisted morality play with these hysterical economic bubbles, and combine it with the wanton violence of a Schwartznegger film. There’s so many places in this world to explore using Swamp and Schitt, and so many genre set pieces to riff on, that I get vertigo trying to keep track of all our ideas. 

OM: And, presiding over Bubble City, we have the mayor. Any contemporary equivalents you maybe challenging through this egotistical, money-driven character, or an amalgamation of a number of traits our current crop of politicians have on display? After all, Matt, your background was in political cartooning.

MATT: I think the two most current figures you can see clear elements of are Trump and Kanye, but it doesn’t end there. The Prince is less mean-spirited than both of them but more self-obsessed, if such a thing is possible. Everyone is working their angle in The Bubble. Visible public servants like Jen Psaki quickly parlay their public service into high-paying punditry gigs, while celebrities trade on their notoriety for public service—if only for a little while. In the US every few years we seriously flirt with whether Oprah or The Rock will run for office and simply become the next president based on overwhelming name recognition. Once someone famous enough makes that calculation, well, holding office is simply the best move you can make for your brand. 

BEN: I always imagine the Prince as being like a Hapsburg, a real medieval sicko. A big part of his design is based off a cross between Charles the second of Spain, and Elvis. He’s one of my favourite characters to write because the entire drama of the city, from his perspective, is about him. He’s sort of this buffoon completely unconnected from the consequences of his actions, who’s actual agency in the forces moving around him isn’t absolute. So the joke of mixing an absolute monarch with a pill head pop star is pretty spot on.

OM: And with both of you sharing writing chores, how is this split? Do you riff off each other over video calls or something more?

MATT: Lots of riffing. Things begin with us discussing ideas, politics, genre, theory, cool ways for people to die—and we start building our story from there. We go back and forth a lot, tweak art together, add last minute punch-ups during lettering. It’s extremely collaborative.

BEN: It’s a joy because writing by yourself is scary and confusing. Having someone come in and tell you a joke is funny or tie storylines together is calming. We’ve both got our fingers in everything. 

OM: Any influences on the diverse environments of Bubble City and the Uninhabited Zone? The police station certainly seems to be channeling the spirit of Frank Gehry.

MATT: In the Bubble I see some of Bregna, the technocratic state run by Trevor Goodchild in Æon Flux. It’s a place where everyone is a bit fashionable, distracted, and well-off enough to not really know what is outside the walls. The UZ has elements of different dystopian slums and mega-cities, but we wanted to take things even further. It’s not just populated by mutants and cyborgs, but sometimes living Toons like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

BEN: The UZ is an endless sea of the Baltimore row houses from the wire dwarfed by Neo-Tokyo sucking it dry like an alien tick. There’s a lot of manga, avant-garde architecture, fallout 2, cyber punk, Rococo decoration, and Robert Crumb’s psychedelic comics making up the bones of our world, and we spend a lot of time packing details to make it feel alive. It’s a very diverse set of influences which I feel like we’ve fused into something pretty original. 

OM: And finally then, guys, what are you hoping readers will get from the experience of picking up this book?

MATT: I want readers to feel like this comic is a treat, jam-packed with stunning art, weird characters, over-the-top violence and genre nods, with layers of jokes and ideas about this world and our own.

BEN: I want people to feel like they got their money’s worth. We worked very hard on this and it’s chock full of jokes about central bank policy AND poo. 

OM: Many thanks for your time and all the best for the debut of Justice Warriors on June 8th.

MATT: Buy and hold! You’re going to want to have a few copies when the next bubble bursts.

BEN: Buy two or more, just in case. 

Justice Warriors #1 is out Wednesday 8th June from AHOY Comics

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