For our latest interview, we’re thrilled to be able to sit down and talk to acclaimed actor, director and writer Noel Clarke about his upcoming comic book debut, The Troop, coming this December from Titan Comics.
Clarke will be best known to many for his role as Mickey Smith in Doctor Who, but has also starred in the likes of Star Trek: Into Darkness as well as writing and directing films like Kidulthood and 18.104.22.168.
Described by Titan as “an edgy soap opera of violence and super-powers”, the Troop promised to bring a new, exciting fresh look to the world of superhero teen comics, and we were more than happy to chat with Noel about the series, his lifelong love of comics and the differences between writing for the big screen and the printed page.
Big Comic Page: Firstly, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.
Noel Clarke: No problem.
BCP: The Troop was originally announced at San Diego Comic Con back in 2014, but details have been fairly thin on the ground since then. For our readers who may not be aware, can you tell us a little bit about what the series is all about?
NC: I don’t quite remember when it was announced. Girl 1 was announced before The Troop and still hasn’t happened yet but these things take time. While doing everything else I was writing the issues then of course, Josh has to draw them. I guess it was new to me and I was still working out what I really wanted to get out of it.
But in short it’s about a group of teenagers who are trying to live their lives – and that’s the key, ‘real lives’ – who find out they have powers. They are part of something bigger than they realise and they’re being hunted, but of course they don’t know why.
BCP: It’s pretty obvious from the first few pages that you’re really looking to push the envelope with this one. Was it important to you that this comic have a darker, more violent feel to it?
NC: It wasn’t important as such, it wasn’t a ‘lets push the envelope’ mandate. I decided that this is what I’m going to do because this is what we as people do. People self harm, drink, get abused, stand up to abusers, get assaulted, find themselves, take drugs and f**k. I don’t agree with everything and none of us do all of those things, but like I did in Kidulthood, I just wanted to show what happens in real life but with a superhero teen team. Consequently, you get a book that should have happened years ago. Teen teams never went where they really should have, as a teenager I thought that and I still do. We have a character that self harms and whenever that character finds a way to deal with that issue and maybe stops doing it, hopefully it will help someone that is doing it in real life. Or the character itself might spark something in someone that shows him or her that they should stop. We don’t glorify anything, we show things how they really are.
BCP: You’ve made your career as an actor and a director. What made you decide to add ‘comic book writer’ to your resume?
NC: I’m not sure if I’ve made a career but I’ve scraped by for sure. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I started reading comics. You read things and think, what if there was a hero that did X or Y and you come up with your own characters. I want to leave things behind for my kids and grandkids. I want them to know that I did something. What I loved growing up were film and TV, that’s all I ever wanted to do. Comics and hero films were a massive part of that.
BCP: So you were a fan of comics growing up?
NC: Yes. I was a very big comic fan. I have boxes and boxes at my mum’s place and loads on my iPad now. I just love it, always have. It was something to escape the environment I was in. I was never a bad kid but as is (overly and boringly) well documented now, I was around bad things.
BCP: You’ve done a lot of screenwriting throughout your career. What main differences have you found between writing for movies and writing for comics?
NC: I found writing The Troop equally as challenging and don’t believe for a second that I’m brill at it but I worked pretty hard to create this story, and there is a whole history behind it that I hope gets to come out in this or a different title. I really had to learn to cut dialogue and make things a lot tighter than they were, which you do in film too but of course comics are an even shorter form. Also, ending issues on a cliff hanger was something I had to learn, but do feel like I got there in the end.
BCP: The artwork for this series is provided by Josh Cassara. How have you found Josh’s work, and how involved in the visual side of the book were you?
NC: Josh is amazing. I think the way he’s made the comic look is really the thing that makes it a must buy. His artwork is sublime, he just brings everything I’ve written to life and makes me care about these characters even more, hopefully readers will feel that way too. I was very involved in the style, I gave thoughts and designs and references to the way everybody should look and then I let Josh take it where he felt it should go. We got on really well and had he not been so great the comic obviously wouldn’t look as good as it does. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.
BCP: Do you see The Troop as being the beginning of a new branch of your career in the world of comics, or was it something you just wanted to try once in order to tell this particular story?
NC: I don’t know man. I 100% want to do more but it will have to fit with everything else. I guess some people would be aiming for DC writing or whatever but I just like creating and I love the freedom that Titan Comics gave me.
BCP: Aside from this series, what else do you have in the works at the moment that our readers should look out for?
NC: Obviously I’m still working on films and things but comic fans should look out for Girl1. That was weirdly announced first but will come out after. I think it will launch at San Diego Comic-con 2016 when the collected edition of The Troop comes out. Jennifer (Girl1) is the catalyst for everything, it’s a connected universe and none of the kids in The Troop would be around if not for her, even if they don’t know that.
BCP: And finally, if you could say just one thing to a reader out there who’s unsure of whether or not to pick The Troop #1 up in December, what would it be?
NC: Simply – GRAB IT!!!! You’ll love it.
BCP: Thanks again for your time, Noel. It’s much appreciated.
The Troop is set to go on sale December 9th from Titan Comics, and keep your eyes glued to the page over the next couple of days for an exclusive advance review of the first issue, an issue which Mark Millar himself calls “Fan-Bloody-Tastic.”
The first issue can be pre-ordered now using Diamond Code OCT151684 (for Joshua Cassara’s cover) or Code OCT151685 (for Elena Casagrande’s variant cover).