The story behind how this near perfect example of a hard boiled, dark, noir styled comic came to be is almost as entertaining as the comic book itself. Every once in a while magic happens, the planets align and all elements come together in a perfect storm creating something unexpected.
Johnny Scotch is just such a creation.
Touring musician John Dover was stuck in a cheap hotel in a nowhere city in 2013 and was lamenting the lack of good scotch to be had to his band mates. He went on and on until his friends stuck him with the nickname Johnny Scotch. The nickname planted a seed in his mind that he kept to himself and that eventually blossomed into a concept for a story. John had never considered himself a writer before but as he told me “All good musicians are story tellers.” He kept the project to himself for months not showing anyone.
When he did share the idea of the noir character Johnny Scotch, hard drinking righter of wrongs battle personal demons and haunted by his past the response was universal.
He had something here. But that something was also missing something. Illustrations.
His bass player’s twin brother had a tenuous connection to one Dan Schaefer, a long time veteran of the graphic arts industry whose work includes project for DC, Marvel and all the rest of the comic companies as well as being a story board artist for the hit TV Show Grim. Dan is also a talented writer, director and an almost annoying laundry list of other skills.
John reached out to Dan not expecting much more than a polite referral to another artist but lo and behold the project caught the illustrator’s interest and the two began working together on what would become the Johnny Scotch series of comics. That is when the magic began.
Johnny Scotch shouldn’t work as a comic, the very process of producing it breaks every rule of how comics are made. Instead of John Dover providing a script and Dan Schaefer illustrating it he writes the prose out as a short story which Dan then adapts into a comic. It is straight up dark noir, no paranormal or super human elements come into play. The main character hits all the stylized conventions of the genre yet manages to elevate the material in a way that I can’t describe.
The writing is superb, there simply is no other word for it. The sentences are eloquent and bluntly brutal in the same breath. Raymond Chandler, Dashel Hammit and their peers are not spinning in their graves over this comic, instead I picture them raising their glasses of single malt and giving John Dover a slow nod of approval at what he has done here. I all but wept at some of the lines out of sheer envy that I didn’t write them. The comic is worth buying for the writing alone but the magic doesn’t end there.
Dan Schaefer takes the prose and adds breath taking illustration that not only conveys the story but enhances it. You can smell the cheap booze spilled in the dive bars he draws, you can smell the perfume on the beautiful dames he draws with particular skill and you can all but hear the slow jazz jam that plays in the background.
Issue one of this astoundingly good comic debuted at Salt Lake City Comic Con in 2015, issue two debuted at the same con in 2016 and plans are for issue three to debut there in 2017.
Buy this comic, no seriously stop whatever unimportant thing you are doing and go buy this comic right now. Johnny Scotch is on a long slow beautiful quest for justice and you should definitely tag along for the ride.
That justice shall be served neat.
Five full bananas on the scale because that is as high as the damn thing goes!