The most recent issue of Strontium Dog fanzine Dogbreath, #24, contains a five-pager by myself, artist David Broughton, and stalwart lettering-god Bolt-01 (who not only designed Impetigo a fittingly blistered logo, but who also did a superlative job with my overblown dialogue on the Doctor WTF strip, leading the eye across the page with incomparable skill. For that, my thanks.) Here’s some of the thought processes behind Impetigo Jones – ‘The Big Scab’.
|Ambush on Smiley's World - Carlos Ezquerra|
I’d long been a fan of the bad guys of the Strontium Dog universe – those lowdown verminous scum that served either as Johnny Alpha’s rivals or his quarry (or sometimes both.) Particular favourites were of course Max Bubba and his gang of outlaws: when I was younger, I’d customised a Warhammer miniature to look like Max, complete with a moulded Milliput head. Of Max’s reprobates, however, the one I always liked best was Impetigo Jones, who first appeared ambushing Johnny and Wulf in ‘Max Bubba’ / ‘The Ragnarok Job’. It must have been his bandaged aesthetic that did it, the pseudo-cowboy gear and the slightly mummified look being very visually distinctive, and, to my mind, damned cool. (I always liked bad guys with a cavaderous quality to them – Doc Death was another favourite.)
Having decided to inflict Impetigo on the Dogbreath readership, the first thing that came to mind was the punning conceit that Impetigo would have to be a scab-worker, breaking some kind of picket-line. From there, I was on a mission to cram in as many skin-condition related puns as possible. Somewhere, I’ve got a bit of paper reading ‘rash’, ‘itch’, ‘scab’, ‘scratch’, ‘flake’, ‘crust’ and so on. I got most of ‘em in too. I couldn’t see Jones working for a corporation for fun though, so I suspected he must have been blackmailed into it. Having established this, to make the adventure specific to him I realised he had to be working for a company that made skin products. At first, I thought the company might be mining for rejuvenating minerals, like a sort of intergalactic Body Shop, but that seemed a bit mundane, though I liked the subterranean aspect. Instead, I made the leap that the products were derived from the glandular secretions of giant moles. I have always found moles simultaneously endearing and alien – eccentric little velvet-furred gentlemen of the deep.
|Hanging loose - Sag Kaden|
Apart from moles, I needed Impetigo to face off against a foe who would have similar issues with cosmetics companies. Sag Kaden, his enemy for this piece, was very loosely inspired by a character from Philippe Druillet’s 1970s graphic novel, ‘Lone Sloane: Delirius’. In this story, intergalactic outlaw Sloane plans to rob the treasures of Delirius, a planet devoted to vice, from the vault of its governor, Kadenborg. Kadenborg was a bloated, saggy, dull-witted lump of a creature, so I felt he should lend part of his name to my anti-norm activist. David Broughton did a great job of giving Sag Kaden a malevolent, piggy-eyed, but rather dim countenance.
Of course, Jones and Kaden would probably argue that the real bad guy of the piece is Mike Muldiworp, corporate CEO of Topoderm. I saw Mike as the Victor Kiam of the story, the kind of chap who liked the product so much he bought the company. As you may have noticed, I like cramming linguistic gags into my strips, so Mike’s surname derives from the word ‘mouldywarp’, which is an archaic term for a mole (hailing in turn from the German ‘moldeworpon’ or ‘earth-thrower’.) And ‘topo’ is Spanish for – yup, you guessed it, ‘mole’ again (along with ‘derm’ for epidermis / skin, of course). So he’s Mike Mole of the Moleskin corporation that milks moles. Try saying that six times fast.
|In need of a lift - Impetigo descends.|
As noted earlier, art for this story was by the talented David Broughton. The range of facial expressions he brought to Impetigo in particular were great - by turns, Jones is angry, frustrated, fed-up, murderous, duplicitous, vengeful and victorious, and David hits every one of those notes. In fact, under his skilled penmanship, Impetigo reminds me hugely of a chap I went to school with, who spent most of his time grimacing and scowling horrifically, but whose eyes used to light up with pure evil whenever he saw the chance to do something wicked.
David also does good worms. And tech. And tunnels. And pretty much everything, really. I love his backgrounds to the panels – their detailed nature (but not overwhelmingly so) gives the strip a real sense of place and authenticity, anchoring the action very believably.
Anyway, it was good to dip into one of the darker corners of the Strontium Dog universe: I usually find the B and C-list characters of established strips the most interesting to come up with scenarios for, in part because their histories are underexploited and rife for expansion. It’s a theme I’d certainly like to return to.
Get your copy of Dogbreath #24 at the Futurequake Shop, along with various other fine publications from Futurequake Press.