by Jarrod Jones. If you needed more swear-y words and the constant threat of physical violence in your wedding-themed rom-coms, Action Lab: Danger Zone will have you saying “I do” to Going to the Chapel this September.
The comedy series, from writer David Pepose, artist Gavin Guidry, colorist Liz Kramer and letterer Ariana Maher, is already drawing comparisons to the works of Quentin Tarantino for its unabashed crime trappings and absurdist wit. Only in Going to the Chapel, the smart-assed crooks have been lifted up from their lurid hideouts and moved into the arena of a Sturges-esque slapstick romantic comedy, infiltrating one of the most unlikely settings for a hostage situation: A lavish, high-profile wedding. I mention this to David Pepose, who tackles the comparison with relish.
“You’re definitely right about the Tarantino influence—I love the way he structures stories, particularly Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and the way he juggles comedy and action definitely has informed how I pace my work, even on an unconscious level,” he tells me. “I’d also say we’re channeling some major action staples, including Die Hard, Shane Black’s work on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, and the irreverence of Snatch. And we also drew from a lot of classic romcoms—particularly Bridget Jones’ Diary, When Harry Met Sally, and My Best Friend’s Wedding, as well as male-led wedding comedies like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers. But the biggest influences on this book? Probably Dog Day Afternoon and the 2007 British comedy Death at a Funeral.”
So Going to the Chapel‘s crew of rough-and-tumble criminals decide to slip into cheap tuxes and rubber Elvis masks and knock over a swanky wedding for the bride-to-be’s highly-televised diamond necklace. Easy. Or, at least, that’s what it’s supposed to look like; if you’ll but cast an observant eye towards the bride’s furtive glances towards the exit even before these would-be robbers arrive and her lack of excitement for the day’s nuptials overall, you’ll begin to get the impression that this rugged crew of lousy Elvis impersonators have more on their docket than a mere robbery.
It’s part of the irresistible charm of Going to the Chapel, a premise loaded with so much high-wire melodrama and sardonic humor that passing it by would be considered gauche. Come for the debut issue, out September 4, and stay for the duration of this killer new romantic thriller—and the cake. (DISCLAIMER: You have to bring your own cake.)
In the meantime, enjoy this in-depth interview with David Pepose concerning Going to the Chapel, its many influences, how it will stand alone as one of the year’s funniest comics, and the creative team that made it possible.
1. ‘Going to the Chapel’ is your first work following the Ringo-nominated ‘Spencer & Locke’, which seems designed to let you hone your comedic chops. Was this the reason why you decided to dive into this story, to step out from the dark alleyways of ‘S&L’? Why ‘Chapel’—and why now?
David Pepose: You know, it’s funny you say that, because for me, the bridge between Going to the Chapel and Spencer & Locke is that they’re both stories that happen when opposites attract. For Going to the Chapel, it’s about wedding a heist thriller with a romantic comedy—it’s the story of Emily, a conflicted bride with a serious case of cold feet, whose wedding is taken over a gang of Elvis-themed bank robbers. But when the heist winds up spiraling into a full-blown standoff with the cops, Emily’s going to have to play both sides to get everyone out in one piece, as well as to decide on her own terms what her happily ever after should look like. It’s all about the contrasts—I went from a gritty cartoon in Spencer & Locke to love and war in Going to the Chapel. While the tones might be different, at the end of the day, both books are about mashing wildly different genres and seeing what kind of sparks start flying.
That said, Going to the Chapel also came from certain muscles I wanted to build up as a writer, and to tackle certain genres I felt were under-served as a reader. Whereas Spencer & Locke was a pretty tight cast, I wanted to make it a point to write a script with a huge amount of characters, particularly with more diversity and representation amongst the cast. I also wanted to tackle a different genre, and I felt that romantic comedies were often criminally ignored in the Direct Market. Not only was I really excited about the human themes of the story, but like Spencer & Locke, it was almost a dare to myself—the more unlikely the story, the more determined I am to get it made and try to stick the landing with it.
2. The story of ‘Going to the Chapel’ is centered around Emily, who’s moments away from tying the knot with a successful architect seemingly to appease her wealthy, domineering family. She’s about to step into a new life she’s not sure she wants to have… and then four armed bandits bust open the nuptials. Clearly, the timing is suspect. How do you plan to rope romance around this caper?
DP: Love makes people do crazy things—whether that’s romantic love, the love between family, or the love of your job—and that’s something that will always play front and center in Going to the Chapel. Emily was just about to embark on the biggest chapter of her life before the Bad Elvis Gang cuts in—but as we can see just in the preview pages, Emily’s having some doubts, and as we’ll see over the course of the series, it’s not just her being flighty, but that she has some things in her past that she’ll need to face head-on if she wants to have any kind of future.
But that romantic streak will also permeate the rest of the cast—love can be a scary thing, but it can also be incredibly empowering, especially when the chips are down among a high-stakes hostage situation. Imagine what a parent would do for their child, or what a groom might do for his bride-to-be. I will say that while Spencer & Locke took a fairly pessimistic view on most of humanity, Going to the Chapel takes the opposite approach—there’s a lot of fun moments across the cast where we get to see ordinary people step up and be their best amid the craziest action sequences you could imagine, all in the name of love.
3. The iconography of ‘Going to the Chapel’ is familiar, with Elvis-themed robbers (‘3000 Miles to Graceland’) and a wedding set in an isolated church which quickly turns into a crime scene (‘Kill Bill’). Criminals, radio standards and a whole bunch of sass—comparisons to Tarantino are inevitable. Were you looking to hearken back to a particular pop culture moment with ‘Chapel’? Is there an homage at play here?
DP: Oh man, are you ready for a lengthy list of influences? [Laughs] So you’re definitely right about the Tarantino influence—I love the way he structures stories, particularly Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and the way he juggles comedy and action definitely has informed how I pace my work, even on an unconscious level. I’d also say we’re channeling some major action staples, including Die Hard, Shane Black’s work on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, and the irreverence of Snatch. And we also drew from a lot of classic romcoms—particularly Bridget Jones’ Diary, When Harry Met Sally, and My Best Friend’s Wedding, as well as male-led wedding comedies like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers. But the biggest influences on this book? Probably Dog Day Afternoon and the 2007 British comedy Death at a Funeral.
So you’re probably asking at this point, what does a classic Al Pacino movie about a hostage situation and a British comedy about the world’s worst funeral have in common? It’s because there’s that element of comedy that comes with prolonged periods of uncomfortable proximity. When we’re in our natural environments, it’s easy to be ourselves—it’s easy to sort through your feelings and navigate communication issues with one another. But when you’re stuck in an unfamiliar place with people who have certain expectations about your behavior, it’s hilarious watching people turn themselves in knots rather than say what they’re really thinking.
4. If you would, please share how you came to work with your creative team, artist Gavin Guidry, colorist Liz Kramer, and letterer Ariana Maher. Were they a part of your original pitch?
DP: The thing nobody tells you about making comics is that getting a good creative team together is hard enough—then you’ve got to juggle everyone’s schedules! [Laughs] So Going to the Chapel definitely had several iterations in the early stages, before we finally locked in Gavin, Liz and Ariana as the core creative team. But the thing is, once you’ve got that killer team in place, it’s impossible not to get excited—the energy just pops off the page.
I found Gavin’s work on Twitter following his indie breakout book The Night Driver, and was immediately taken with how expressive and funny his characters looked—he’s got a style that I describe as a cross between Jamie McKelvie and Evan “Doc” Shaner. I knew that we’d need someone who could thread the needle between comedy, action, and emotional beats, and so I was very confident Gavin would knock Going to the Chapel out of the park.
Liz, meanwhile, I met through our mutual friend Mara Jayne Carpenter (the colorist on Jade Street Protection Services) at C2E2 last year, and I was so blown away by her webcomic Threader. While Gavin sets up the foundation for this book, it’s Liz’s colors that help sell our tone—not only does she have a great mastery of palettes, but she’s both a genius and an incredibly hard worker. Mark my words, Liz is going to be the next Laura Martin.
As far as Ariana, I’d been a huge fan of her work on the Nancy Drew book she did with Kelly Thompson and Jenn St-Onge over at Dynamite, and I was thrilled she was able to bring her level of expertise to the team. Similar in the way that filmmakers often make three different types of movies—the movie they wrote, the movie they shot, and the movie they edited—I think comics are the same way. There’s the comic you wrote, the comic that was drawn, and then the comic that’s been lettered. So Ariana’s been a big lifesaver in that regard, in terms of making sure my one-liners bounce, as well as all the narrative elements add up in the final cut.
And this doesn’t the incredible cover talent we’ll be announcing down the road—we’ve got Submerged artist Lisa Sterle and Spencer & Locke variant artist Maan House joining Gavin for covers on our first issue, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Given that I’m a man writing a female-led book about marriage, I felt it was important to open our book up to as many talented women artists as possible, and let me tell you—we’ve got a real murderer’s row here.
5. A sizeable chunk of the characters in ‘Chapel’ represent the nuclear-grade, worst-case-scenario type of guests every wedding could possibly have: The randy mother, the drunk priest, the perpetually pissed-off dad, the conga line of would-be suitors for the maid of honor, etc. Tell me about the work you put into making each character stand out with series artist Gavin Guidry, from the wishy-washy Emily to the pyromaniac flower girl.
DP: Great question. Gavin and I talked a lot about what went into these characters, just in terms of their physical descriptions, their outfits, their personalities—even if some of these details don’t wind up making the final cut, you learn a lot about characters and how they relate to one another when you add in details like “Emily has a ladybug tattoo on her ankle that she hasn’t told her parents about,” or mentioning actors that you think would be similar to these characters, like saying that Emily’s groom Jesse could be played by Sterling K. Brown.
The great thing about weddings is that there is a natural hierarchal structure to them that lends itself well to archetypes, which you can then subvert—you’ve got the best man who’s a coward, you’ve got the take-no-crap maid-of-honor, the cutesy pyromaniac flower girl, the grandmother of the bride who keeps talking about conjugal visits she had while in Khe Sanh. So much of this comes out in the visuals, so by having those personality traits already down on paper, that meant Gavin really nailed these characters just in the initial sketches.
6. I want to know more about Tom, the would-be leader of this series’ crew of bandits. “In this day and age, not even diamonds are forever anymore.” Tom has a bit of a “doomed romance” streak in him, doesn’t he? How does he factor into the series going forward?
DP: Tom is the leader of the Bad Elvis Gang, and he’s the kind of charming criminal that it’s hard not to like him a little bit. He’s not a bloodthirsty guy like Hans Gruber—this is a guy who had a very clear plan in mind for this heist, but unfortunately, those plans only work when you’re dealing with rational actors, which the Anderson family very clearly is not. As a result, he’s going to forge a very unlikely partnership with Emily in an effort to try to salvage this smash-and-grab gone wrong without losing any of his crew—and it’s that dynamic that I think is the most fun part of the series. We’ll see that Emily is a bit more of a natural-born criminal than she might have realized, while Tom has a sensitive side that you might not expect from a bank robber.
What also sets Tom apart is his entourage—namely, the Bad Elvis Gang. His crew—Vegas, Motown, and Romero—are trained professionals, but that only means something when you’re dealing in an actual professional setting. But like I was saying earlier, lengthy proximity can tend to blur the lines a little bit, and watching these hardened criminals interact with Emily’s entitled wedding party yields some of the funnier moments in the script. It’s a lot like Dog Day Afternoon, in that regard—once you spend a lot of time trapped in a room with somebody, your relationship with them starts to change, and you start to exhibit each other’s traits a bit.
7. Synopsis material for ‘Going to the Chapel’ talks of “one relentless sheriff” but we don’t see too much of him in issue #1. Who is this hombre? What elements did you want to make sure were put into his character?
DP: Sheriff Walter Reagan is a grade-A, take-no-prisoners, pure Texas badass, and he represents the ticking clock that adds a lot of external pressure on this particular hostage situation. Walt is the kind of guy who seems too intense for a sleepy town like Rockford County, but he’d argue that’s the reason there’s no violent crime in the city limits to begin with. The thing about Walt is he’s very smart, and he’s even more tenacious—even coordinating the hostage response outside of the chapel, he’ll find some clever ways to get the jump on the Bad Elvis Gang. The problem is, Walt’s the kind of guy who shoots first and asks questions later, which is not a great place to be if you’re a hostage standing in between Walt and his chosen target.
8. Liz Kramer’s colors bring a classic matrimonial style to the book, very clean and proper. But that’s indoors. Outdoors is a different story, with its high-noon golds and relentless, shadowless copper—fit hues for a hostage yarn. How did Kramer’s work influence the moods you wanted to convey in ‘Going to the Chapel’?
DP: I consider Liz to be our secret weapon. We discussed early on a lot of influences that I wanted to include in this book—in particular, Patricia Martin’s work on Secret Weapons and Matt Wilson’s work on Black Widow—but Liz really took those cues and did something that was completely her own with Going to the Chapel. In particular, Liz has this great sense of texture that I think lends itself well to this high-class wedding that transforms into an action story—it’s very painterly and delicate, but she’s able to shift gears at the drop of a hat when things start to rev up. I can’t say enough good things about Liz, she’s just terrific at selling our irreverent tone—I’m already bugging her about what our next project is going to be together.
9. ‘Going to the Chapel’ is an ensemble situation set in one location, barring the odd flashback here and there. A story confined to a single space brings its own unique challenges—how did you go about making this work?
DP: I’m so glad you asked this question, because it’s my favorite behind-the-scenes story for Going to the Chapel. It’s a testament to Gavin’s skill as a designer and his dedication to verisimilitude to this project that he actually designed a fully rendered, three-dimensional church for the series, with every single room and location mapped out. And because he uploaded it to SketchUp, it meant that he could manipulate every single angle of the chapel, to make sure that the entire story played out in a fully realized space.
But that meant we had to lock down all the major set pieces before we actually started work on the project—which wound up being a scary process at first, but at the end of the day, I think was absolutely crucial in making sure every member of the cast was accounted for in every single scene. Having the chapel be as detailed as it was kept me organized when juggling the sprawling wedding party, and I think it really helped sell the setting as its own character as well.
10. Hit us with your worst-best real-life wedding story, please.
DP: That’s actually how Going to the Chapel got started—I was the best man at my oldest friend’s wedding, and let me tell you… the bachelor party did not go well. At all. The AirBNB was completely trashed on arrival. The backyard sumo equipment I rented wouldn’t fit in a backyard that was basically at a 45-degree angle. We had a couple groomsmen bail at the last second to try to get out of paying their share of the expenses. (Pro tip: Always get the money in advance!) Oh, and did I mention I got hospitalized for a kidney stone 48 hours before the party was supposed to start, making me miss the party I had spent weeks coordinating?
It was a complete mess—but I thought to myself, no matter how cursed the bachelor party was, at least it didn’t happen during the wedding. But the next thought, of course, was… what if it did? That’s really the ultimately kernel of how Going to the Chapel got started. Because as bad as it would be for the father of the bride to hire a couple of leg-breakers before the wedding, it would be infinitely worse if the bride suddenly backed out of the wedding. But at the end of the day, love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a choice—and while that decision can sometimes be fraught with anxiety, it’s ultimately because who you love can be the best choice of your life.
‘Going to the Chapel’ #1 hits stores September 4. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: JUL191409)
Check out this 8-page preview for ‘Going to the Chapel’ #1, courtesy of Action Lab: Danger Zone!
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