What if the U.S. President was elected through fights filled with blood and broken bones? Well that’s a reality in Image Comics’ On The Stump, as politicians are ranked by who can survive in the ring - but the violence doesn’t end there. In this world, politicians are able to get away with literal murder, but Senator Jack Hammer and FBI Agent Anna Bell Lister are on the case to bring this corrupt political system down.
Debuting this Wednesday, On The Stump hits stands just as the political season reaches a fever pitch - and if writer/co-creator Chuck Brown has his way, it'll continue long after.
Newsarama had the chance to speak to Brown and co-creator/artist Prenzy about the violent tale of On The Stump, how the two of them started their collaboration with each other, and what Bitter Root fans will enjoy most about Brown’s new title.
Newsarama: Chuck, how did you come up with the concept for On The Stump?
Chuck Brown: The 2016 election had a big influence. We’ve always watched and read about our two party systems and their bickering. I’ve always thought that the system was bizarre. They squabble while the people suffer. But the 2016 election was so much worse. I just kept thinking how much more ridiculous can politics become? So, On The Stump was born.
I tackle a lot of different issues and social injustices in the story. It’s mixed with a ton of bloody action and larger than life characters.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about the series’ main characters.
Brown: Senator Jack “the Hammer” fights to keep his seat in the house, earn a few bucks and numb the pain of his past.
FBI agent Anna Lister has seen this world’s political system become progressively worse. She’ll do whatever it takes to root out corruption. She needs Jack as a guide into the stump-fighting and he needs her to bring him back from the abyss.
Senator Thunder Bearer – A ruthless, cutthroat, congressmen that believes a battle on the Stump is spiritual and sacred.
Joe Doakes – One of many forced into gay conversation therapy military camps and tuned into remorseless assassins.
Cam & Kay Cee- These mysterious women will make you laugh on one page and cringe on the next.
Nrama: Prenzy, how did you approach the art style for this series?
Prenzy: I started with a cartoon style, which is dynamic and grotesque, with very clean lines. I tried then to make the drawing dirtier, including more blacks in the inking step. On one hand I created strong lights and shadows’ contrasts to increase the drama in the more intensive scenes thanks to colors; on the other hand, I used brighter and stained colors for the action scenes.
I also did a research work about pages’ composition to make them more endearing and in line with USA’s market products: it in fact differs from Italian classic style. I think it is a good mix, and I am really satisfied with the final result.
Nrama: Do you explore different styles of fighting/martial arts with On The Stump? How important was that research for you when working on the book?
Brown: I’ve always loved southern style kung-fu. I’ve practiced and researched it a lot. In the book most senators use a mixture of fighting styles, but there will be characters that specialize in one fighting style.
Prenzy: I spend a lot of time doing this! I always try to do as much research as I can before starting drawing. For On The Stump, my research was focused mostly on wrestling typical fighting styles, but I also studied weapons like swords, poniards, sledgehammers, chains…
Nrama: This book is very violent. Prenzy, how did you take this on from a visual perspective?
Prenzy: This is the reason why I love On The Stump! I really like action and splatter, and I enjoy to draw bloody scenes. I can exaggerate in straining bodies, and blood movement makes me possible to represent actions in an even more dynamic way!
Nrama: How did you want to relate this to our current political climate?
Brown: Everything that I’ve created may seem outrageous, but it’s all just a parallel of what’s going on in our current political climate. I don’t believe saying “current” political climate is really accurate. Politics was filled racism, violence and corruption before Trump came along. It’s just seemedc like some Americans don’t care how racist or corruptible they are.
Nrama: Why did you think Image was a perfect fit for your title?
Brown: Image has been extremely supportive during the production and marketing of Bitter Root. I knew On The Stump would be in good hands. Image has met and exceeded my expectations.
Nrama: How many issues do you want the series to run for?
Brown: Let’s say from issue #1 though forever! Seriously, I have a lot of stories I want to tell. I love mutants, conspiracies, and big bads to put our good guys through hell.
Nrama: For fans of Bitter Root, what do you think they’ll enjoy the most about On The Stump?
Brown: I think it’s their ability to entertain yet teach. Like Bitter Root, each issue of On The Stump will have an essay in the back.
Nrama: Do we see normal citizens fight/learning to fight or is this only for the elite?
Brown: It’s a violent world. It’s not uncommon in the world to see two grannies slugging it in the produce section of the grocery store. People would just whip out their phones and record until the winner is left standing.
Nrama: Prenzy, you're being quiet. How did the two of you connect to create On The Stump?
Prenzy: I first contacted Chuck in 2015, I was looking for a smart scriptwriter to work with, but I had just started drawing comics. My style was still unripe, I was not able to color and I did not have much experience yet.
Brown: I really liked his style but didn’t have anything for him to work on.
Prenzy: Almost five years later, I decided to contact him again after seeing his good job in Bitter Root, and I sent him my last work. He showed me his interest about my style, and he had a project ready to be drawn, On The Stump, indeed. We started immediately to work on characters’ and pages’ study, and a proposal to Image, which the reply was positive.
Brown: He reached out again and I was blown away by his recent portfolio.
Prenzy: I want to thank Chuck for the opportunity and the support he gave me, even if we have never met or have talked on the phone. In these months we have consolidated an esteem and professional trust that keeps being alive.
Nrama: What are you most excited for readers to see with the book's debut this week?
Brown: The personalities of these characters and the world they live. And Prenzy’s amazing artwork that breathed life into It.
Prenzy: I still don’t know, everything is new to me. I’ve created lots of books with Shockdom, my Italian editor, and now I feel like I am starting a new path. I am very excited and I can’t wait to see what the readers will think about it.
Working with Image has always been my dream, since I grew up reading their comics. I put so much passion and love in this project that I hope to bring something new, at least in minimal part. I hope the readers will appreciate my overall art, from the drawings to the colors.