British comic artist Warren Pleece has made a name for himself with a variety of work, primarily under the banner of Vertigo at DC Comics. His career started much earlier, back in the late 80s doing self-published satirical comics with his brother Gary called Velocity. Gary segued out of comics while Warren continued in comics working on such titles as Hellblazer, The Invisibles, True Faith and Kinetic. But now Warren has ventured back into self-publishing with the webcomic Montague Terrace and news that his brother Gary will be co-writing future installments.According to the promotional text, Montague Terrace is comprised of “unsucessful megalomaniacs, brain frazzled ex pop-stars, Special Ops pensioners, haunted children, writers, fighters, nervous magicians and magic bunnies. 1930s detectives, fake pet psychics, hounded inventors, randy postmen, landlocked seamen, diabolical architects and secret societies.” The first installment debuted earlier this year, with more on the way. To ring in the new series and Gary’s return to the comics fold, we talked to both Gary and his brother Warren about the series. Newsarama: It’s good to talk to you, Warren. How would you describe Montague Terrace? Warren Pleece: Montague Terrace is a kind of microcosm of society, crammed within the walls of a residential housing block somewhere in London. It's a kind of melting pot of characters and story ideas that can be really different, but somehow related. On the whole, we're looking through the windows into the lives of forgotten eccentrics, geniuses, mundane brilliance and hidden treasures like a voyeuristic Alfred Hitchcock. NRAMA: What can we look forward to in future installments? WP: We've got a retired Special Ops granny who's still plugging it to the man, a landlubbered sailor all at sea, inland, a magical, mystical bunny, a 1930s detective, a frustrated writer on the scent of an elusive diabolical architect, a brilliant inventor on the run, some haunted kids, a randy postman, a fake pet psychic, the return of the Puppeteer and a very large chicken.
NRAMA: How'd you come to decide to do this as a webcomic?
WP: In the past, publishing our own comics, we'd need the funds to pay for printing and distribution and we'd always insist on a high quality of production. What we have now, is the ability to access a wider audience for no print cost, just our time. Also, with something like Dean Haspiel's Act-I-Vate, we can tap into a well established network and comics reading community already used to seeing new, interesting material. That, and the fact that we don't have to water anything down or compromise the stories.NRAMA: Although it’s just Warren going solo starting out, Gary is pencilled in to join you on future installments. How is it going to work?
WP: For the first lot of stories from Montague Terrace which you can see at Act-I-Vate and on our blogs, http://warrenpleece.wordpress.com/ and http://pleecebrothers.wordpress.com/ I've written and drawn everything. Gary has some new stories starting in a few weeks that are the first we've worked on together for ages. In the past when we work together, it may be separately in classic writer artist mode, or sometimes together, where we rough out the plot and storyline together and Gary will write the finished script for me to draw. In the Velocity days, I'd write and draw certain stories-The Higsons, Master Twaddlethwaite- and we'd collaborate on other larger stories, or I'd leave Gary to weave his wicked wand in the privacy of his own room(?!).NRAMA: Like I said the first couple are Warren solo – when do you come in, Gary? Gary Pleece: Yep, can't wait to get going on this - Paul Gregory is my character and so is the story behind The Architect's Story. I think we've matured as storywriters and artist, but we still can't help but have a snigger at the ludicrousness of everyday existence. We still do that thing where you're sitting in a cafe and imagining everyone sitting there naked or just with their boots on.
I'm presently working on a couple of short stories for the Activate site and our website - here soon - and we have a graphic novel proposal out at the moment looking for a publisher which will include Paul Gregory and The Architect's Story. The Architect's Story has a subterranean world, full of sick Hogarthian caricatures, warped, deformed, unkempt and living a life outside of the slick and 5 a-day society that is constantly rammed into our guts. Cock fighting, bare-knuckle boxing, whores as big as whales, absinth induced psycho babble nu-rave tripped out nightmares. Those moments that you dream about and wake up with the pyjamas all wet through and then you're back on the bus and normality settles in again. So what if it didn't for a change...?
NRAMA: Wow – Scott Walker. I love that reference in the 2econd installment with the character Paul Gregory. Walker is also from a brotherly duo – am I reading to much into this, or should I ask if you're Scott Walker?
WP: I'm more Paul Gregory than Scott Walker, not that I look like him, mind.NRAMA: Will we be seeing more of Paul Gregory in the future? WP: Paul will feature in several longer epic feature length stories, The Elephant Dwarf and The Elephant Dwarf Returns, where the true nature and horror of his past comes back to haunt him in a groovy 60s Whicker Man in Carnaby Street kind of way.
NRAMA: So Gary, how is the collaboration with you and your brother going after all this time?
GP: We collaborate really well. To begin with we used to sit in our flat near Brighton seafront until the early hours, Shostakovich, Scott Walker and The Smiths on the turntable, and talk about all the people we hated until we had an endless list and then we'd lampoon them in the most vicious way possible. We toyed with them. Those comics are full of voodoo qualities. We used to frequent Brighton's less salubrious bars as well as the trendy watering holes and we had enough ammunition from all walks of life to cast our observant eyes and spin out of the ordinary tales around and about them.We both used to begin the writing process - it'd usually start with us using characters we knew or who had morphed into our heads from the seedier sides of town and then we'd set about ripping off our favourite American film noir or British Ealing comedy or Carry on films. We'd stick a blanket of darkness over it all and watch it all suffocate until the characters came out choking... or never came out at all. We had a lot of hatred in those days. But we also liked a laugh. If you look at the early stuff, it was all about the two colliding head on... NRAMA: You two broke into comics together with the self-published series, Velocity back in the late '80s. I'd love to see that back in print again. Any chance of a print collection or putting it online? WP: There'll be a best of anthology coming out later this year and we'll be previewing stuff from it online nearer the time. NRAMA: How'd you two end reuniting for this, Gary? GP: We never really wanted the relationship to end, it was more to do with us not really being business minded during the height of our 'fame' and cashing in on our 'success'.
I also enjoyed the rock and roll a bit too much which came with the minor celeb status, so lost focus... Also, the page rates in those days for writers were diabolical compared to the artists and so it would've always been about volume to 'survive' and we've never been good at that. We always created when the moment took us...Also, we signed a bum deal with Acme USA for the publication of Velocity at the time when we were Sat in front of one of the UKs best independent magazine publishers who said he'd make us rich, but only after he'd paid us enough for squirrel feed for the first 6 months of the deal. Subsequently, Acme went tits up and John Brown (the publisher) goes from strength to strength. Sigh. NRAMA: Before we go, I wanted to ask why we haven’t seen you lately in comics, Gary. What have you been up to? GP: I drifted out of comics around 1996 after 7 years doing quite a bit of writing and being in a band. I did a journalism degree, then set up a couple of businesses - having learned from my previous experiences. One I sold in 2006 and presently I own a brand consultancy, www.021creative.com and we specialise in brand/rebrand promotions, web design/development and strategy and strategic marketing. I'm hoping to bring some of these skills to the comics world and to the promotion of the Pleece Brothers Anthology, which will be out, all well and good, in the summer.
But it's great to be back and we plan to stay. I think you'll see a change in our output, but not that much, we'll still be writing about life's underclass, whilst sitting in cafes in nothing but our boots...