Young alum brings his passion for comic books to life
By Brian Klotz
David Pepose ’08 has always had a passion for writing and comic books — and this year, the longtime fan has made the leap as a newly minted comics professional.
Recently, at New York Comic Con, one of the industry’s largest and most popular events, Pepose and publisher Action Lab Entertainment unveiled his debut comic book series, “Spencer & Locke,” the culmination of a long-held dream to bring his ideas to print in the medium he loves.
Like the best superhero origin stories, however, his journey was not without its twists and turns, and featured a strong supporting cast — one with an enduring legacy at Brandeis.
His mother, Susan K. Feigenbaum ’74, P’08, P’17, and his father, Jay Pepose ’75, MA’75, P’08, P’17, met while they were both attending the University. Pepose’s younger sister, Morissa ’17, is a current student.
In 2002, Pepose attended the Brandeis Summer Odyssey Program, a precollege summer session for high school students. “I really fell in love with the campus,” he says. “Everyone was so welcoming and open. Even as a stranger, you felt like you belonged. I realized then that this was a place where I wanted to be, and a place that wanted me.”
Pepose, who majored in American Studies with a double minor in Creative Writing and Theater Arts, enjoyed being part of a school that encourages students to explore myriad interests. “My father is an ophthalmologist and my mother is a professor, so I was raised in an environment that valued learning,” he explains.
Throughout his writing career, Pepose has often found himself recalling the lessons of his Brandeis professors. “I took creative writing courses with Marc Weinberg, and even now, when I’m writing and editing, I can hear his voice in my head,” he says. “ ‘Spencer & Locke’ would never have become a reality if not for him.”
At Brandeis, Pepose directed two plays performed by the Undergraduate Theater Collective, became president of the Brandeis Comic Book Club, and served as news editor for The Hoot, developing skills that have proved a tremendous benefit for his future career.
After his senior year, Pepose interned with DC Comics, the publisher behind Batman, Superman and other popular characters, where he learned the process of creating comics under veteran editors. But as the Great Recession loomed, Pepose pursued a career in journalism after graduation, working at The Berkshire Eagle before moving to New York in 2011 for a position at CBS.
His passion for comics still burned, however, and on top of his day jobs Pepose served as the reviews editor for Newsarama.com, a premier website for comic book industry news. “These dual roles, it was kind of like having a secret identity,” he jokes. “I like having a balanced approach to life, and I tend to get bored if I’m not doing a lot of things at once.”
Creative by nature, Pepose also began working on a personal project: a comic of his own. The unusual premise for the noir-themed “Spencer & Locke,” came to him as he was musing on the idea of mixing genres.
“I began thinking of taking a kids’ property and ‘aging it up,’ making it gritty,” he says. Many of his initial ideas he discarded. “I didn’t want it to just be shock value.”
Then, it came to him. “It’s ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ meets Frank Miller,” he explains. The more Pepose thought about it, the more fascinated he became. Bill Watterson’s lauded newspaper strip about a troublemaking young boy and his imaginary tiger best friend was known for having philosophical underpinnings and strong characterization. Miller, a writer best known for works such as “Sin City” and “300,” is often credited with introducing darker, more realistic concepts to the world of comics.
“I thought ‘there’s something to this,’ ” Pepose says. “What kinds of traumas would make someone hold onto an imaginary friend deep into adulthood? And how would that shape and twist their lives? I realized I could use this to touch on some universal themes.”
Solidifying his idea as the story of a hard-boiled detective and his trusty partner — a six-foot-tall imaginary panther — Pepose connected with artist Jorge Santiago Jr., colorist Jasen Smith and letterer Colin Bell, who spent the next two years bringing it to fruition. The first issue of “Spencer & Locke” will be released in April, with three more issues and a collection planned for the subsequent months.
Today, Pepose lives in Los Angeles, where he is working in the film industry and developing a number of creative projects. Looking back at his journey, he wonders if destiny may have played a role.
“I think sometimes the universe works to move you in a certain direction,” he says, “and somehow you always end up right where you were meant to be.”