Steve Pugh Talks Hotwire at Radical

Steve Pugh Talks Hotwire at Radical

Hotwire #1, page 3

Ghosts. The cities of the future have grown ankle-deep in them as they graze off the electromagnetic waste of a billion wireless Internet connections. Most can only drift, witless and lost. Rarely, though, something comes through with enough marbles to cause real trouble. And that's where Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist, comes in.

This week, Radical Publishing releases its newest title, Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead, written and illustrated by Steve Pugh from a story written by Warren Ellis. The four-issue miniseries takes place in a near-future when ghosts, or “blue lights”, roam the city streets. Most remain harmless...until a break-in at London's Maximum Security Necropolis triggers a surge of violent, brutal hauntings.

Steve Pugh sat down with Newsarama to discuss his new series, as well as answer the question everyone wants to know about his other series, Shark-Man.

Newsarama: Steve, on the credits for Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead, it states that it's from a story by Warren Ellis. What led from Warren Ellis first doing the story and then you coming on board to write and illustrate it?

Steve Pugh: When Warren had first been starting out, he created quite a bit of buzz amongst the British artists. It was pretty obvious he had something, and I, amongst others, had said to definitely give me a call if the chance to put something together ever came up. He'd previously had success with a strip called Lazarus Churchyard in Blast Magazine, and had been commissioned to do two more stories, one which ended up being drawn by Phil Winslade, and one which he offered to me. I said definitely, so he asked me what I wanted to draw. I said “girls, monsters and motorbikes”--and off he went, back to his ancient typewriter to create the magic.

NRAMA: I had previous heard about Hotwire long before Radical Publishing. Was this title supposed to be released by another publisher, and what happened?

SP: After the original publisher went under, before Hotwire was finished, the project was left in limbo, and we all went on to other things. But I've had bringing Hotwire back on my mind for quite a few years. Because I co-created her, I felt free to try out new things, art styles, and short stories featuring her. My plan was to re-draw Warren's original story and find a publisher, but he was worried about old work from his formative years being put out in front of a modern audience, which was fair enough. Not giving up, I asked him if he minded me having a go at writing Alice. He agreed, and I put together a five-page short story for an A1 horror special that came out a couple of years ago. It was an older, more confident Alice, but most of the concepts and characters that appear in this current story were first featured in it. The homeless hero "Filthy" is in it, and Detective Mobey is there too, but with a full head of hair!

Hotwire #1, page 8

NRAMA: What led to Hotwire being released by Radical Publishing?

SP: Dave Elliott! He was a big supporter of Warren in his early career, and was the original editor who commissioned Hotwire the first time around. He was the editor of the A1 special where Alice was featured in as well.

We had worked together on Shark-Man, and I had done a bit of script doctoring for the project. I gave Dave the idea that maybe it was time for me to try writing a full story and that Hotwire might be the perfect vehicle. Since Dave is now Editor-in-Chief at Radical, We took the project to Radical Publisher Barry Levine, he looked it over and we were in business.

NRAMA: For the main character, Alice Hotwire, was there a dramatic change from how Warren Ellis originally described her to the character that she is currently?

SP: Alice has changed quite a lot in tone; she's always been surly and aggressive, but in the original she was in a position of power, her colleagues respected her, even feared her. She was actually a bit of a bully!

In the new version she's still a bit of a jerk, but hopefully I've made her unpleasantness more sympathetic. Alice and her job don't have a position of respect in the police department, and it gives her a real motivation for the frustration and anger she feels. Also I've given her a partner in Mobey, an older, more centered cop, who can point out when she's being an idiot and speak for the reader when she gets too wrapped up in her technical jargon and theory.

She's changed a lot visually, too. I've tried to make her look more contemporary, and to make the city more real. I'm a big fan of big broad science fiction, but this needed a subtler touch. The world that she lives in needs to look like and feel like our world, so that the ghosts seem even stranger and out of place.

NRAMA: Do you see further adventures involving her once the four-issue miniseries is completed?

SP: Absolutely, I've got a folder full of ideas that I'm dying to storyboard out. The great thing about the ghosts and the world that we've created is that it can branch out in a 100 different ways: dramatic stories, comedy stories, action-adventures. Each “blue light” (which is what we call the ghosts) has its own motivations, its own personality and its own journey.

Plus, of course, we only get to see how one city deals with the ghosts in Requiem for the Dead. The blue lights are a worldwide phenomenon, where other countries may tackle the ghosts in very different ways, both with their technology and spiritually.

Hotwire #1, page 19

NRAMA: The setting for Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead, a near-future city where ghosts roam among the living, is a unique one. Where there any sources of inspiration you had looked to in creating Alice Hotwire's world?

SP: The main city is deliberately generic, I wanted it to be very recognizable as a place you could imagine living. The technology is cool but not fantastical, although I have thrown in some quite nice futuristic military aircraft and troops that show up to join the chaos. That's in contrast with the darker corners of the city. There's an area called Oldtown, which has been abandoned after some kind of natural disaster. All the data links, electrical feeds and communication cables are severed and it's been abandoned to the ghosts and the homeless. This was probably the most fun to draw--it reminded me of the derelict areas along the train tracks I used to explore when I was a kid. Spooky tunnels overgrown with moss, that sort of thing.

NRAMA: As you mentioned, you had previously worked on Shark-Man, a comic that has received a lot of critical praise. Do you see a new Shark-Man series coming out soon?

SP: Painting Shark-Man was a great experience, I learned a ton of new stuff, and I'd be very happy to go back and do more. I'm sure we will put more Shark-Man together. It's just a case of refinancing and locking down the story. The people at Thrillhouse Comics were top-class guys, and I really had a good time with them.

NRAMA: Finally, your artwork for Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead looks amazing, and looks to be a great fit among Radical Publishing's other titles. How has your style evolved over the years?

SP: Thanks, I'm trying my best!

When I was working on monthly comics, there was really no other choice but to use linework. It was fine, but I always felt frustrated that the artwork never looked as good in print as it did on the board. I've got a real obsession with texture and atmosphere, which was always hard to put across in linework. I tried loads of different ways of adding strange textures to the boards by using sort of "potato print" methods, but that just made it harder for the poor colorist to deal with.

Hotwire #1

Plus, I already had a very weird way of working. My pencils were very scant, and I did most of the work in Biro pen, which meant I had to do all my corrections with liquid correction fluid, and that made my pages thick and crusty. That made the job of the letterer harder, because they had to stick their adhesive word balloons to this mountain range of stuff over the artwork, so I was making no friends with them either.

Anyway, a few years ago I had the opportunity to work in full color on a comic strip written by Garth Ennis. Although it was hard work, the printed results were very satisfying, and I figured using what I'd learned along the way and using the new technology that was available, I could refine the technique and create color pages that I'd be happy with without completely killing myself. Actually, it's still turned out to be a huge amount of work, but I'm really pleased with how it's going and I really feel it's worth it!

Twitter activity