Long John is a comic a little over a year in the making. As a character, he is twelve years in the making. I didn’t lie in the “About” page when I first saw him in a dream in 2002––though he looked much different in my head than in the drawing I made when I awoke. In the dream, he was illustrated in a style that could best be described as a cartoonish Picasso painting with drifting facial features and chaotic proportions. But that was it; Long John was just a cowboy in his underwear.
Over the years since that dream, he has popped in and out, saying hi and leaving. One time––around 2005––he popped up again, asking a simple question. I opened my sketchbook and wrote it down in the top left corner, “Who would steal a cowboy’s clothes?” With that he became more than just a weird character; he became a story with plot and characters. In that sit-down, I created three pages packed equally with notes and drawings––a good summary of the type of creator I am. After that, though, Long John went away for a long time. It wasn’t until 2012 when he finally kicked in the door and told me he was ready to rock.
He looked different, but he looked serious this time. After another few years of hard work and even harder decisions, Long John has become what he is today.
Visually, he has always kind of been what you would get if you stirred together the DNA of Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger––a monolith of a man with a stare squinted from the sun. The only real changes have been his accessories. For awhile he wore leather chaps, but I dropped them because they seemed to be a pain to draw and they covered him up too much. He lost a gun at some point, too, especially when I decided his nickname existed before his predicament. All of the other elements are pretty much the same: his long, squared jaw; his flat, wide-brimmed hat; the always-in-shadow-eyes; the busted button on the butt-flap.
The two most recent developments are things that mostly inform the character even if they don’t really make an appearance in the comic proper (well, one anyway).
First, his last name is Walker. I’m a big fan of a 1968 neo-noir film called Point Blank which stars Lee Marvin and is directed by John “Deliverance” Boorman. The movie is based on the Parker series of crime books by Richard Stark, which are being adapted into graphic novels by a huge influence of mine, Darwyn Cooke. Though the character is only named as “Parker” in the novels, in the Boorman movie they puzzlingly renamed him “Walker.” Having seen the movie first, that character––a normal man who becomes an enigmatic force of nature––heavily influenced the story of Long John. So, I felt it was only fitting that my character would be named after Marvin’s.
Another super important aspect of the series is the clothes that Long John got stolen from him. They represent the man he is at the beginning of the story but once they’re gone he has to deal with who he actually is. With that in mind, I had to develop his attire, something that had to be at once (dare I say) iconic but practical. While I won’t share a picture with you yet, the best way I can describe the look I was going for is that it was guided by the idea that it was his “armor” in every sense of the word.
Developing Long John has been a surprising and rewarding experience and I’m still figuring a lot out about him as I go forward. But there are still small details (and broad strokes) that wink through the pages and show me the guy I met back in a dream in 2002