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Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson on crafting cynical dark comedy 'Justice Warriors'

Comic Books

Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson on crafting cynical dark comedy ‘Justice Warriors’

For fans of ‘Judge Dredd’ and toilet humor.

This week, AHOY Comics is launching a new satirical cop comedy from the minds of Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson. Justice Warriors series marks Bors’ first-ever monthly comic book, and the first-ever comic book work done by Clarkson. But these “rookies” have made something truly special with this irreverent, darkly comic miniseries.

The series follows a veteran named Swamp Cop who is paired with a rookie partner, Schitt, after Swamp’s partner is killed in the line of duty. The cynical Swamp Cop becomes obsessed with arresting or killing the bus that killed his partner, and sets out to bend every rule that’s left in his pursuit justice.

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If it sounds hilarious and twisted, you haven’t seen anything yet. To peek behind the curtain, Clarkson and Bors were kind enough to answer a few questions. We dig into the meaning behind the title, Clarkson’s approach to the visuals, and much, much more.

Justice Warriors Matt Bors Ben Clarkson

Courtesy of AHOY Comics.

AIPT: The elephant in the room has to be the title, right? Why is Justice Warriors the perfect fit for this title?

Ben Clarkson: The title is obviously a reference to the famous turn of phrase. It tells you that the book, on one level, is an action cop story, and on another level a winking satire on Justice and society. 

Matt Bors: They are warriors for justice. It’s simply describing their employment situation.

AIPT: To give readers a sense of your tastes, what were some comics you read as a kid, and what are some comics you read today?

MB: I was big on X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Image comics–all things that in one way or another come back in Justice Warriors in the form of ultraviolence, big guns, urban crime, and weird mutants. 

These days? Well, it’s X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Image comics. My tastes have expanded greatly though, maybe too much, as I am equally obsessed with nonfiction comics, mainstream superheroes, and indie fiction from publishers like Fantagraphics. I read a lot of comics.

BC: As a youth, I read a lot of the Far Side. I was a real Gary Larson head. That was basically it. Monthly comics were never a big part of my childhood, as much as movies.

I decided a few years back that comics were a great way to tell stories and I have taken up reading them, as well as drawing them. I really fell in love with Love and Rockets recently. Matt has sent me a pile of great comics over the years that I am still picking through. 

Justice Warriors Matt Bors Ben Clarkson

Courtesy of AHOY Comics.

AIPT: How did Justice Warriors get off the ground, and did you have this idea prior to getting this project set up at AHOY Comics?

BC: Justice Warriors has been bubbling in my head for about ten years. I decided to try to get it off the ground as an animated series so I had reached out to Matt to see if he would be interested in writing on it if I got it off the ground. He was hooked and we decided to do it as a comic, which we ended up pitching to AHOY.

MB: Yeah, Ben brought me on and we developed a comic pitch. A couple of places bit, but AHOY seemed like the right fit.

AIPT: What were some of the influences on the story and design?

BC: Design-wise it is Robert Crumb drawing a manga. The story is pretty unique, it’s a cross between police procedurals, Ghost in the Shell, The Wire, and The Simpsons. It’s a funky mix but we’re making it work.

MB: One thing we’re very conscious of and embracing is the influences on this series, which come from things Ben mentioned and more. This is a product of putting our movie and comics-ravaged brains in a blender and painting pages with the results in an attempt to answer questions about our world.

Justice Warriors Matt Bors Ben Clarkson

Courtesy of AHOY Comics.

AIPT: As a “mega-satire” how much of Justice Warriors is also a riff off Judge Dredd‘s Mega-City One?

MB: It’s an obvious reference point, and I’m a big Dredd-head, but I think we wanted to go in an even wilder direction with the society and its inhabitants. There’s a crucial twist in the setup in that the Bubble is a relatively small city surrounded by not a wasteland but… the rest of the city. That is crucial to what we want to say about the structure of things. Here, the cops don’t quite have a hold on anything and are mutants policing mutants—the only good job in town.

BC: My only knowledge of Judge Dredd was the Stallone movie, but some of the elements were seared into my mind at a young age. The cannibals in the wasteland, the law bringer, Rob Schneider. 

Justice Warriors Matt Bors Ben Clarkson

Courtesy of AHOY Comics.

AIPT: Matt, in press materials you said this is a book about “nothing changes and how almost no one is a good guy.” How much do you believe this to be true of real life, and does Justice Warriors offer an answer?

MB: I think it’s more true than the heroic narratives we’re bombarded with in movies and comics, which attempt to offer answers and model good behavior in trying circumstances. Justice Warriors isn’t just a world of might makes right, it’s a world of structures dictate outcomes, and we intentionally don’t offer easy answers. 

AIPT: Ben, not since Transmetropolitan have I been so captivated by a city and its people (and the refuse!). When it comes to world-building and environment design, what are you going for with Justice Warriors?

BC: I want Bubble city to feel like a real place, like Springfield. My approach to drawing is “more is more”. Every inch of Bubble City and the Uninhabited Zone are covered with characters, graffiti, posters, neon, ac units, surveillance camera, dirty syringes, and ads. There are so many details in each issue that eagle eye readers will be rewarded. 

Justice Warriors Matt Bors Ben Clarkson

Courtesy of AHOY Comics.

AIPT: If you were to describe Justice Warriors in one word, what would it be?

BC: Freeze!

MB: Signs 🙂

Justice Warriors Matt Bors Ben Clarkson

Courtesy of AHOY Comics.


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