ComicBuzz Chats With Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson

We got a chance to chat with Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson. Matt Bors and Ben Clarkson are the creators of Justice Warriors. Matt Bors is the founder of The Nib and has been twice named a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Ben is a filmmaker and illustrator. Their new graphic novel, Justice Warriors: Vote Harder from AHOY Comics, is releasing September 11th.


Hi, Matt and Ben; it is wonderful having you both with us again.


What can you tell us about Justice Warriors: Vote Harder?

Clarkson: There’s an election in Bubble City, probably the first many residents have ever seen, and allowing the mutant rabble living in the Uninhabited Zone a say in the operation of the city is proving to be wildly unpredictable. We go undercover with Swamp Cop who is on a secret mission to break up a fringe “democracy” ring – lead by a mysterious gang leader known as “Tanko.” Meanwhile Swamp’s beloved partner Schitt is hot on his tail, threatening to blow his cover. Vote Harder is bigger, badder and better than our original release in every way.

Bors: This story takes a few cues from the genre of paranoid political thrillers. Think Manchurian Candidate and The Day of the Jackyl cross-bred with an Adult Swim cartoon and you’re halfway there.


Is Justice Warriors: Vote Harder, new-reader friendly?

Clarkson: Absolutely. The reader is our best friend. Justice Warriors aspires to not get bogged down in “lore.” It stands alone as an introduction to Bubble City and its characters, though there’s some easter eggs in there for those who are already Bubble-heads.

Bors: If you have a passing familiarity with voting, you should have no problem voting harder.


What has the feedback been like for Justice Warriors?

Clarkson: Unbelievable. I’m totally floored that people are in love with this world and characters and can join Matt and I in a shared psychosis. Some critics called the original release one of the best graphic novels they’ve ever read. They are in for a treat with the next one which is an absolute showstopper.

Bors: Many will recall the savage “Restock Riots” where several fans were trampled trying to get their hands on the first volume after being out of print for months. We have learned from those mistakes and will have many more cops on hand for crowd control this time. We want a calm and orderly launch day. One per person!


Justice Warriors: Vote Harder is being released as a graphic novel; was that something you two wanted to do, or was that a suggestion from AHOY Comics?

Clarkson: AHOY pitched us on the idea, arguing that, since our satire turns out to be very timely (I hear there’s an election or two?), it’d be great to release the whole storyline at once. We definitely tried to stick to a disciplined approach to the writing, keeping everything structured like floppies, little episodes. We keep everything moving at a brisk pace and having regular arcs and story beats while keeping to a page count when possible. It turned out rather well.

Bors: I love single issue comics and serialized stories, but the market has spoken and we obey market signals and trends. As one must! Graphic novels are desired by many savvy consumers. Just be careful not to read it all in one go—this is potent stuff.


When we chatted with you both last time, you told us about how the art process on Justice Warriors was collaborative; is this the case on Justice Warriors: Vote Harder?

Clarkson: We both contributed layouts, ideas and pages to Vote Harder. It’s a blast to work so collaboratively filling out the art for the book, which really pushes it to another level. We both contributed art as well as writing it much more tightly as a team this time around. Vote Harder is an amalgam of both our sensibilities.

Bors: It’s an absolute blast to work with Ben and send scripts and pages back and forth. We revise, refine, refute, and redraw until we are excreting pure crystalline Justice story, bagged and twist tied, ready for street distribution. Chop it up with your credit card to snort all in one go or micro-dose it through your day.


What can you tell us about The Prince, Stuffina Vippix IX and Flauf Tanko?

Clarkson: During Vote Harder the Prince finds himself deeply unpopular after needlessly squandering public resources during the “meatball riots”, meanwhile his cousin / ex-girlfriend Stuffina Vippix IX has been scheming to take his place as the supreme leader of Bubble City. The UZ, however, has thrown a wrench into everyone’s plans, again, by trying to run their own fringe candidate Flauf Tanko. She’s shot up in the polls after promising dignity, food, and total war on the Bubble.

Bors: Flauf Tanko is a property tax tank operator. For those not familiar, these are city tanks which collect delinquent poverty tax under the threat of laser abatement and a giant cannon that can re-value our property with one shot. After a violent encounter with a rogue homeowner’s association, Tanko asks the question many of us have asked ourselves: should I quit my soul-sucking job and get involved full-time in politics?


How would you describe Bubble City and the Uninhabited Zone in Justice Warriors: Vote Harder?

Clarkson: It’s like taking acid while watching the news, but everyone on the news is also on acid. Your best friend turned into a monster, but it’s fun.

Bors: Whoever wins the US presidential election, be it Trump, RFK’s brain worm, Biden, or Biden’s more cognizant replacement, I think it will feel like we have our finger on the pulse… of a dying rambling mad citizen who once held hopes for a better world.


Will readers of Justice Warriors see any other familiar faces in Justice Warriors: Vote Harder?

Clarkson: The whole gang that survived the first book is there, the Chief has a new haircut!

The world of Bubble City is a lot like Springfield, a huge cast of characters all playing out their parts. We very consciously want to reuse good characters, and have little arcs for even bit players. As the Bubble City saga continues we hope these characters can resurface to play more roles (but no LORE!)

Bors: The anti-lorists on our team have made their voice known and sabotaged efforts to complicate this world with confusing canonical contrivances. But sly readers will see some characters from the first volume pop up here and there. Look—it’s the snail guy!


What can you tell us about the state of mind of Swamp Cop and Schitt?

Clarkson: Swamp Cop is unhinged and dangerous. He’s been mixing pills, alcohol and a head wound with unpredictable results. Meanwhile Schitt is balanced and plays his part as a family man and a breadwinner. Both of these headspaces have drawn them into the dangerous world of assassination, state repression and parapolitics.

Bors: The dynamic of this story places Swamp and Schitt on different courses for their… let’s call them election duties. They don’t know it yet, but they are going to crash into each other before the votes are tallied and it’ll be messy. That’s democracy for you.


Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

Clarkson: Vote with your dollars! Buy Justice Warriors: Vote Harder!


A big thank you to Matt and Ben for chatting with us; we would like to wish them both the best of luck with Justice Warriors: Vote Harder.

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