Comics Features Interviews

Wizard, Warlock, Soldier, Spy: In Conversation with Andrew Clemson, Writer of ‘Damsel from D.I.S.T.R.E.S.S.’

There’s something innate to the comics world that engenders a want to combine things. What if this was that but this! Crossover tees, dark and colourful re-imaginings of familiar tropes, and in our stories – one genre is never enough! I think Damsel from D.I.S.T.R.E.S.S. comes from that familiar want to experiment, and the welcome feeling when that combination just works. Damsel combines tropes of fantasy and spy stories to create a whimsical adventure story that stands on its own. We caught up with the series’ writer Andrew Clemson to speak about the upcoming series, currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

A Place To Hang Your Cape: What is Damsel from D.I.S.T.R.E.S.S.?

Andrew Clemson: Damsel is a 5 issue series focusing on a hotshot secret agent called Bec solving mysteries in a fantasy world filled of elves and espionage. It’s a cross between spy stories like James Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or Charlie’s Angels and fantasy stuff like D&D, Zelda and LOTR.

AP2HYC: What can you tell us about Bec and her story?

Clemson: Bec is an agent of D.I.S.T.R.E.S.S, an inter-kingdom agency in the vein of MI6 that exists to protect the fragile peace between the various kingdoms that make up her world.  Abandoned as a child by her adventurer father, she has followed in his footsteps and is now the agency’s premier operative. Because of her past and the backstabbing world she now operates in, she finds it hard to put faith in people, but during the events of our book she learns to let people in.

AP2HYC: You’ve described the setting of the book as a fantasy world of elves and espionage. What can you tell us about this world?

Clemson: Damsel exists in a world that wouldn’t seem out of place in your traditional fantasy book or film. We’ve got orcs, goblins, wizards and dragons, all that stuff. Most of the “canon” rules you’d expect from a story like this are still true, but there’s a somewhat modern vibe to a lot of the world at the same time. D&D-Punk, if you will. We also have this cool modern-style peacekeeping agency operating behind the scenes akin to MI6 or the CIA that lets us play with modern spy tropes, but give them that awesome fantasy spin.

AP2HYC: You’ve mentioned Dungeons & Dragons, James Bond, Charlie’s Angels, and Zelda as all being influences on Damsel. That’s a pretty diverse bunch, so how did you decide what elements to use and what elements to maybe subvert?

Clemson: There’s a lot more comedy in the book than you might expect from a spy book. Mainly because I can’t help myself. But also because, I think you need a bit of light-heartedness to really sell the poignant dramatic moments. Bec is a wise cracking badass just like Bond, but I wrote this book coming off Star Bastard, so I felt like it was important to go the opposite route and really have a strong female character take the lead. Keeping that in mind, the sleazy aspects of Bond or U.N.C.L.E went straight out the window, at least in regards to her character. My absolute favourite stuff in the book is mashing up elements of high fantasy or fairy tales with secret agent clichés. From pocket sized magic-mirrors as communication devices, to a talking toad as head of the agency. It’s huge fun poking fun at both genres and being able to throw in the odd orc related pun.

AP2HYC: Can you tell us a bit about the creative team on Damsel?

Clemson: I’ve written Star Bastard from Scout comics, Bete-Noir from Mad Robot Comics, and a number of anthology short stories. But in terms of the genuinely talented people, we’ve got a pretty tight team for the book! Artwork is from Costa-Rican artist Mauricio Mora, who works primarily in video games and concept design. But when I saw some of his sample interiors I was blown away and knew immediately he was perfect for this book. He manages to mix an almost Disney aesthetic with a punchy and fun kinetic comic book energy. The series is edited and lettered by the great Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, who has honestly turned the book from 24 pages of one liners to a genuinely fun and deep story about family. He’s also one of the absolute best letterers in the industry right now so I’m stoked he agreed to come on board for this journey.

AP2HYC: What can readers expect for the next 4 books of the story?

Clemson: The first issue introduces us to Bec and the world she lives in. Issue 2 onwards will expand on her backstory, introduce more of the supporting cast and see her investigate the mission she’s handed at the end of issue 1. The first volume is about Bec confronting the ghosts of her past and whilst it’s a fun action-adventure story filled with snappy one-liners, it is at its core a book about letting people in.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign for Damsel from D.I.S.T.R.E.S.S. here, and let us know what you think of the comic! Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Matthew Smith