The Ultraviolent ‘Officer Downe’ of Joe Casey & Chris Burnham [Exclusive Preview]
Joe Casey and Chris Burnham’s new one-shot “Officer Downe” is solicited in this month’s “Previews,” and if you haven’t checked it out, you might want to do so, because it looks wild.
ComicsAlliance: So what’s Officer Downe all about?
Chris Burnham: Officer Downe is about the biggest and baddest police officer in the history of pop culture.
How’s that for an overstatement? In my mind it’s kindof a throwback/tribute/reinvention of the 80s ultraviolent right-wing action hero. RoboCop meets Toxic Avenger as played by Sylvester Schwarzenegger.
CA: From the pages that ran in this month’s “Previews,” it looked like “Judge Dredd” with the ultraviolence cranked up and the addition of a totally sweet mall cop moustache. Is that about right?
Burnham: That’s exactly right. It doesn’t really have the same tone as “Judge Dredd,” but they’ve got a similar character to them.
CA: Yeah, I was thinking about the uniform and the fact that he’s just totally stomping bad guys.
Burnham: Yes. Man, I certainly made life hard on myself by designing such a complicated uniform. When I was in 7th or 8th grade and doodling all over my notebooks, I would always draw Marshal Law and Judge Dredd. I got bored with drawing the simple costumes of Batman and Superman… It was a cool challenge to remember where all the little zippers and doodads were. Now that I do this for a living I realize what a goddamn nightmare is it to keep all those details consistent from panel to panel, especially when Officer Downe starts getting shot and chopped up. “Wait… does he have a bullet hole through his right lapel or left lapel?”
CA: You worked with Joe Casey before on a graphic novel called “Nixon’s Pals” (which was also gloriously ultraviolent, what with all the nuclear suplexes) about a guy who worked as a bail bondsman for super-villains. Is there any connection between the two?
Burnham: Not REALLY. There are a couple of “Nixon’s Pals” characters that make cameos in Officer Downe, but unless you’ve read Nixon 5 times, you’re probably not going to notice. They’re really more about keeping me amused than serving any sort of narrative purpose. You definitely don’t have to have read Nixon’s Pals to understand what’s going on.
CA: But people should probably read it anyway. I mean, like I said: Nuclear Suplexes.
Burnham: Yeah, if you haven’t read “Nixon’s Pals,” you are leading an empty and pointless life. You should be able to find it on Amazon. And it’ll be hitting the iPad this summer. And I can’t believe you left out the talking boobs.
CA: Wow, the iPad? Did you just break a story?
Burnham: I don’t think so. All sorts of stuff is on the iPad. I think it’s inevitable that just about everything is gonna wind up there. I don’t think it’s been announced, though.
CA: Well it is now!
Burnham: Hmm… maybe it’s not even official. Errrr…
CA: When you’re going so over the top with a story, how does the process work? Does Joe Casey come to you and say “I want an army of ninjas in matching ADIDAS tracksuits,” or is that something you guys come up with together?
Burnham: Ha! It’s a pretty collaborative process. Joe and I work Marvel style, and it’s pretty open. Joe had the name Zen Master Flash for the story’s main bad guy, and as I was monkeying around with character designs I hit on the idea of a hip hop ninja wearing a Run DMC style Adidas track suit (Thanks for catching that, by the way. Everyone thinks it’s a play on Kick-Ass).
We definitely bring out the worst in each other. At times he’ll be pretty specific, and at others he’ll just write something like “draw the most violent thing you can think of.” To keep myself amused I’ll throw in stupid sight gags… The first page of the book has a supercrook in his meth lab, but I thought it was a little tame. So I tossed in a corpse with its eyes gouged out and wearing a Colombian necktie. It’s never even referred to in the dialog, which in a way makes it more disturbing. This guy is so hardcore that murdering some poor schlub isn’t even worth mentioning!
CA: You mentioned before that doing more complicated costumes is basically creating a nightmare for yourself, but what about all the carnage? I mean, the cover alone has so much going on in it; is it a pain to actually draw, or is it fun to see how much you can cram in?
Burnham: Heh. Well, it depends. Drawing all those bodies draped over each other was a real pain in the ass. And as I’m drawing, I tend to zoom my eyes all the way in so that I’m focused on one square inch of paper, and then I step back and say “Oh, goddamnit! I thought I was done! I’ve got another 3/4 of the page to fill with those damn ninjas!” It’s no fun for me when I feel like I’m just drawing to fill up space, which sometimes is necessary. The fun part is coming up with the goofy little gags or finding fun solutions to problems. I love the Toxic Avenger’s mop stuck through Jason’s hockey mask, which I only stuck in there because I was sick of drawing those goddamn ninjas… So it really bounces back and forth from misery to joy. It’s all worth it when I can step back and look at the finished product, tho, which is why I keep doing it.
CA: Can you tell us what the most fun thing about the book was to draw, or would that spoil it?
Burnham: Hmm…. I think that might spoil it. It’s something I’ve wanted to see in comics or movies for a LONG time, a logical gory consequence that I don’t think I’ve ever seen taken quite as far as we did. Hold on, let me think of a runner-up.
OH! Zen Master Flash’s lair is one of the greatest design solutions I’ve ever come up with. He’s a ninja living in the Hollywood hills, so I made his compound a combination of the classic Hollywood Case Study houses and a zen pagoda. They mash up so perfectly that I’m a little worried that I subconsciously stole it from someone else.
CA: Oh man. I want to live there.
Burnham: I know! I’ve GOT to get invited to a party at one of those places!
CA: Maybe you’ll find out Jackie Treehorn’s a big “Nixon’s Pals” fan. Any last words before I let you go?
Burnham: If you guys like what you see, tell your store owner that you want him to carry the book. There are a LOT of books on the stands these days, and there’s just no way for most owners to carry everything. Hell, there are stores in Chicago that don’t carry “Godland” or “Jack Staff” or “King City,” all AMAZING Image books that you should all be reading. The only way for your local guy to know that it’s going to be a worthwhile investment for him to carry those books or “Officer Downe” is for you to tell him! Also, there’s some stuff in “Officer Downe” that made me ill as I was drawing it. This book will ruin your 11-year-old’s life. But it will blow your 13-year-old’s mind!
CA: I really hope that ends up being the tagline on the cover.