Steed And Mrs Peel #11 Writers Commentary by Caleb Monroe and Yasmin Liang

Steed And Mrs Peel #11 Writers Commentary by Caleb Monroe and Yasmin Liang

Posted by August 29, 2013 Comment

Caleb Monroe: This is it, the final issue we’ve been working toward! As always, SPOILERS AHEAD.

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From the very beginning, I planned to tackle STEED AND MRS. PEEL in year-long “seasons” (we started with #0, making this actually the 12th issue), so what we’ve got here is the Season 1 finale, which also made a pretty strong series finale. For me, as both a reader and writer, books are more satisfying with a planned beginning, middle and end, so I’m grateful we got to wrap up the story we wanted at the point we wanted at the pace we wanted. This is the longest series I’ve ever worked on continuously, and these last eight issues with Yasmin have been my longest run on anything with the same artist. It’s been a real pleasure learning each other’s quirks, styles and strengths, and watching her grow each month as both an artist and storyteller.

Yasmin Liang: I’m glad I made it! The kind of dedication an ongoing series requires seemed immense at first but it’s been a learning process that I very much appreciate. For instance, I’ve learned that no detail is small enough not to try to fix before print (I won’t mention how many times I had to e-mail our Editor, Chris Rosa, with a new revision because I’d put Steed’s buttons on the wrong side of his suit). I do feel like I’ve learned a few things about story-telling, my style and technique. I’ve very much enjoyed my stay on STEED & MRS. PEEL and I think #11 really brings it home.

PAGE 1

Caleb Monroe: I’m not sure whether the show ever gives Emma’s full name with the middle included. If it did, I missed it. But I wanted her to have three names here to balance Cartney’s three, so I used her maiden name of Knight. It wasn’t an uncommon practice for a maiden name to become a middle name, but of course Mrs. Peel is anything but a common woman. Still, she’s traditional enough to keep her married last name all these years, so I thought it’d be a safe move. Series colorist Ron Riley has done a fantastic job throughout, but I particularly like the way he handles Emma’s wedding dress in this issue being silver instead of white (When I chose to make her the Queen of Silver last issue, I was obviously thinking of the phonetic similarity to the Queen of Sin and of the color of Cartney’s cybernaut body—the two becoming one robotic unflesh, so to speak). A quick note on process: this page is a perfect example of why I prefer not to specify “camera angles” in a script. In my mind, as I wrote the page I pictured an angle from the POV of the audience looking up at the altar…basically the way we all end up seeing most weddings. But I didn’t put that in the script and when Yasmin read it, she had a better sense, showing the scene from the priest’s POV instead so we can actually see Emma’s and Cartney’s faces, as well as specific attendees like General Crampton, Jamie Treble/Nurse Green, Nurse Blue, etc.

Yasmin Liang: I got a bit distracted when I got to this page, mostly because I had a little too much fun thinking about what kind of wedding gown to put Mrs. Peel in. I went through a few versions before I realized that Mrs. Peel wouldn’t actually get to choose her own wedding gown – Cartney would! I went with something traditional and a bit stuffy. It worked out well though because Mrs. Peel’s constant motion in this issue gave her a strong silhouette concerning the fabric flowing behind her. I think it works great to keep the reader’s eyes on her. And yes, like Caleb said I moved the view around so certain characters could be seen and noted for future scenes.

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PAGE 2-3

Caleb Monroe: There hasn’t been a two-page splash in the series since my first issue (#1), when Mark Waid, Will Sliney and I nuked London. I therefore wanted to have a second one in this issue, creating a tiny bit of a visual bookend for my run. Steed and Peel’s cars always got a good deal of attention and screen time in the show, so I thought Steed and his Bentley made the perfect vehicle (pun intended) here for some big wide-screen action and a great alternative to the screeching-to-a-halt-in-front-of-the-church-and-dashing-inside-to-stop-it we get in so many narratives.

Yasmin Liang: This was probably my favourite two pages in the entirety of the series. I had a lot of fun plotting out how the reader would see this scene. I think the script implied that Steed actually slams his Bentley through the window while still on the ground but I couldn’t resist drawing him soaring through the air into the church for a good dramatic entrance. Just assume there’s a convenient ramp outside the window posed for just such an occasion.

Caleb Monroe: Those were great instincts, because I was also picturing the car in the air! I’m glad you ignored it if I gave another impression.

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PAGE 4

Caleb Monroe: The green words Steed’s using here are the personality-restoring trigger words we established in the opening scene of issue 3, implanted post-hypnotically in both Emma and Steed as a sort of “system reboot” if either of them has their personality altered (a pretty common theme in the original show). The last two trigger words are “HUSBAND” and “PETER” (the long-missing Peter Peel is her husband, for those readers wondering why there’s a “Mrs.” in front of Emma’s name—it’s also why Emma was less worried about the marriage to Cartney than perhaps she should have been: any marriage where one of the parties was already legally married to someone else would be illegitimate). We never cover what Emma’s words for Steed are. I leave that to your imaginations, though it’d be fun to hear your suggestions here in the comments or through Twitter. Steed’s toaster line in panel two is an oblique reference to the closing scene of the “Return of the Cybernauts” episode, where Steed “fixes” Emma’s automatic toaster and it launches through the ceiling. Back on the previous page, as I was deciding on the issue title, it, Emma’s line here in panel 3 and her line on page 18 all sort of popped into my head at once. The injuries she references are on Steed’s back, where Jamie flogged him with a whip in our previous issue.

Yasmin Liang: I think I got a bit carried away with Mrs. Peel’s gown here but I really wanted the motion of her gown to contrast with Steed’s solid figure. I do believe it changes length between panels. On an additional note, I was very sad to be drawing a beaten up Bentley even though I had just drawn it smashing through a window previously.

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PAGE 5

Caleb Monroe: Panel 1: She generally doesn’t act like it but, lest we forget, Emma’s a successful former CEO of tech giant Knight Industries and quite rich, which is why she can afford to spend her time helping Steed instead of working. The “rematch” the general’s referring to here is the chess rematch the two of them never had in issue 2. The final line refers to the famous 19th-century British chess player William Lewis. I wrote the line first, and then did some research to find an appropriate British name to fill it in with. I was in luck: Brit Lewis was the first chess player ever to be described as a Grandmaster of the game. In Steed and Peel’s chess game in #2, the checkmate was achieved by the black queen taking the white queen (For you chess-heads, I found and reproduced the final 7 moves of an actual endgame from 1796 between George Atwood and Joseph Wilson, disciples of Philador, to achieve that end), which foreshadowed the conclusion of that issue and Emma’s transformation into the brainwashed Queen of Sin. Here we get checkmate by the white queen instead: Emma in her right mind.

Yasmin Liang: I very intentionally tried to lay out the first panel of this page like a master painting of some kind of historical battle, which are usually dramatized for the sake of the aesthetic. In this case, I’d say this would be the calm before the storm. Also another favourite page because I always love drawing Mrs. Peel being a badass, especially in a wedding gown.

PAGE 6

Caleb Monroe: These rocket launchers are what were in the crates we saw being carried into Cartney manor on page 18 of issue 9. The original ending of that issue involved Cyber-Cartney on an operating table being outfitted with the launchers, the acoustic mind-control device from issue 4 and the time goggles from issues 5-6, a kind of clothes-make-the-robot scene meant to thematically reflect the way that issue opened on Savile Row. But Editor Chris Rosa caught and pointed out that we’d be ending with a story beat too similar to the previous issue’s final scene. He was right, so I wrote the new heartbeat ending, which was much stronger. Some of that “outfitting” scene made it onto page 20 of the new ending, but the rocket launchers worked better being introduced in action here.

PAGE 7

Caleb Monroe: As established several times in the TV show, Steed is quite the cricketer. Back in May, I wrote a PEANUTS script where I had Charlie Brown reference the great cricket player Jack Hobbs. The Briticisms of Steed and Peel had obviously sunk pretty deep into my brain. We changed the Charlie Brown reference to a baseball one, obviously, but a month later I finally got some cricket onto the page here.

Yasmin Liang: Having grown up with certain cricket fans in my family, I knew exactly how I wanted to draw Steed in this scene. Not sure if it’s clear in the final version, but he’s definitely got one eye closed as he lines up for the rocket.

PAGE 8

Caleb Monroe: Just a little goggle-based time-jumping. Which of course means that, though we can’t perceive it, the time entity from issues 5-6 has been following Cartney since issue 9, being attracted by his attention.

PAGE 9

Caleb Monroe: The final appearance of Mortimer’s suicide serum, first introduced in issue 7, the formula for which Joan obtained from the incarcerated Mortimer last issue. This is also where we learn why Cartney’s only daughter isn’t at his wedding.

PAGE 10

Caleb Monroe: The return of the Dirigent’s acoustic mind-control device from issue 4. As you can see, all the chickens are coming home to roost, bits and pieces of all our previous stories appearing here in these final 22 pages.

PAGE 11

Caleb Monroe: The serum kicks in!

Yasmin Liang: Hilarious!

PAGE 12

Caleb Monroe: The unmistakable “WHPPPPP” sound of a cybernaut’s arm swinging was perhaps their most distinctive feature in the show. Comics, of course, are not an auditory medium, but we did our best to translate it to the page. Series letterer Ed Dukeshire does a fantastic job throughout of having the sound effect trace the swing of the arm. Having experienced it themselves in #7, Emma and John have obviously deduced what’s been done to Cartney.

PAGE 13

Caleb Monroe: The cybernauts are the show’s most-recurring villains, having appeared in three episodes: “The Cybernauts” (‘66) and “Return of the Cybernauts” (‘67) during the Peel years, and “The Last of the Cybernauts…??” (‘76) during the Gambit (given how many character names the X-Men borrowed from The Avengers, you don’t suppose…..nah. The most famous, of course, is that Emma Frost gets her first name from our very own Emma Peel.) and Purdey years. Hence Emma’s “all our villains seem to” crack. On a side note, the Cybernauts appeared the same year as Doctor Who’s Cybermen. Apparently there was something in the air. The shows shared some common DNA: Sydney Newman, who created The Avengers, also co-created Who a couple years later. Of course, in 1966 the shows were completely independent of one another. Page bonus: avian humor!

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Caleb Monroe: Again, she’s quite modest about it, but one of Emma Peel’s many talents is that she’s a world-class chemist. In her first scene on-screen we learn she’s just finished a paper for Science Weekly and her scientific acumen returns throughout the show. Steed, however, prefers his chemistry a bit more…hands on.

PAGE 16

Caleb Monroe: The reappearance of the aging powder featured prominently in their first case in our series, the zero issue by the incomparable Mark Waid and Steve Bryant.

PAGE 17

Caleb Monroe: There was a temptation here to have either Steed or Peel tip the frozen Cybernaut over with a single finger, an image that recurred at least three times in the first couple Cybernaut episodes, but I didn’t want to overdo it. We got some similar imagery in with Steed’s umbrella. Cartney’s spasms are really quite violent here but, other than a couple fingers on his left hand and some basic breathing control, he’s paralyzed, so we had to try to convey what was happening through those two things.

PAGE 18

Caleb Monroe: The return of our issue title and Emma’s line from page 4. For the second time, Emma, in the mantle of a Queen persona, presides over the death of John Cleverly Cartney from above.

PAGE 19

Caleb Monroe: The return of Inspector Tolhurst from Scotland Yard, last seen in issues 5-6. Steed’s final line here is another variation on our issue’s theme of identity defined by action: the same reason the younger Cartneys’ “totem skins” in issues 8-10 were and always would be lacking any real power.

PAGE 20

Caleb Monroe: Arranged by Joan, Cartney Jr.’s tombstone bears both his false and real names and both his relationships to her. Joan is still driving her black version of Peel’s powder-blue Lotus Elan (namesake of Emma’s second personality-restoring trigger word). Stephanie Wilkes, as we saw on page 6 of our previous issue, is Joan’s last name. We leave it to you whether she decides to knock on that door or not.

Yasmin Liang: I think one of the more powerful and quiet moments of STEED AND MRS. PEEL thus far. I’ve grown quite attached to this character without realizing it, especially after the truth about her and the brother/husband came about.

Caleb Monroe: Ditto. Joan was the first villain I created for the series, because I wanted a long-runing female character to offset Emma. But as the book progressed I grew more and more fond of her, which is why she’s the only villain who got the possibility of a happy ending. It’s a long journey from her vindictiveness in issue 2 to this complex character beat. Of course, we HAD put her through hell, so maybe it was just my way of apologizing.

PAGE 21

Caleb Monroe: Champagne! They consumed plenty of other alcoholic drinks in the series, but champagne, which was featured prominently in the ’67 season’s opening credit sequence (as well as the U.S.-only opener for the ’66 season), became their signature drink. All together, we feature or reference it in 8 of our 12 issues. You’ll notice in panel 3 we spell it “fetishising,” not “fetishizing” (which is the U.S. spelling). I’m not sure anyone picked up on this during the series, but I did my best to “anglicise” the spelling as a visual means of giving our characters their natural British accents. It all goes back to what I mentioned regarding sound effects on page 12, to trying to find printed means of representing auditory information–which, of course, every comic has, even those without sound effects. They’re called word balloons, and that’s why I disagree with the “no sound effects” stance some comics creators take. Word balloons are sound effects.

Yasmin Liang: I actually drew this page quite early on in the process and had to go back to edit it because I hadn’t realized that this took place quite immediately after the previous scenes. It’s not much, but they did have different outfits on!

Caleb Monroe: I really like those different outfits, too! Now I’m a bit sad we didn’t get to play out an entire scene in them…

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PAGE 22

Caleb Monroe: It was important to me to end the series on an intimate character moment. So often in the TV show they would ride off on some sort of moving vehicle, but I wanted to end here with something a little sweeter and a bit less active. So they’re still “riding” a machine, they just aren’t going anywhere. These two pages essentially wrote themselves, which was bittersweet: it was suddenly all over and I was saying goodbye to John Steed and Emma Peel. And could they ever end any way but in each other’s arms? I’ll miss them.

Yasmin Liang: Ron’s colouring really makes this page. The colours he used just give a great sense of a closing and satisfying ending to the book. I’m going to very much miss drawing these two.

 

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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(Last Updated August 29, 2013 4:14 pm )

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