As discussed in our recent blog post, this month marks the return of Scotland Yardie to comic pages after 20 years of dormancy. With institutionalised racism at an all-time high, the Metropolitan Police embark on their yearly drive to recruit more ethnic people in the police force. With little or no success they bring over Jamaica’s most feared policeman – Scotland Yardie, a ganja smoking, no-nonsense bad bwoy cop who breaks all the rules to enforce his own harsh sense of justice. But what happens when cultures clash? Will south London ever be the same again?
Author and creator Bobby Joseph took some time to talk about Yardie’s origin, how current events shaped the comics narrative and more:
First off, for those of us not in the know, could you give us a brief intro to the term ‘Yardie’?
A Yardie was once a term used to describe a Jamaican person back in the day. In the nineties – the press changed it and it soon became a term to describe Jamaican gangsters – which is obviously slightly disrespectful to the wonderful population of Jamaica. Obviously!
We know that Scotland Yardie originated as a strip in the ‘90s – can you tell us a bit about the atmosphere in the UK at the time how it inspired you to create this character?
It was a rawer time, a less politically-correct time. There were so many divides. I personally hated it and satirised it in Skank Magazine as best as I could. With regards to Scotland Yardie, I always wanted to do a bad bwoy cop, an antithesis of the UK copper – a streetwise Dirty Harry from a West Indian background. Lucky for me – it worked!
How does Scotland Yardie differ from your average bobby?
He’s an anti-hero that smokes dope!! That’s a tad different from your average copper. Ha! Scotland Yardie, as a character has no regards for the rules and will break them without a second thought. He also has a strong sense of right and wrong (even though, that line can seem blurred at times).
How was the character originally received? Was there any controversy?
While some characters crashed and burned in Skank (Boops anyone?), Scotland Yardie become one of the top characters in the magazine. Something clicked and it really resonated with our audience at the time. Was there controversy? Nah. He was universally loved.
How is the new edition different from the original strips? Does any of the old content feature in the graphic novel?
When we did Skank Magazine, it was in black and white. As a comic strip, Scotland Yardie was 17 panels per page and his stories were told over two pages. It was a restrictive format (and being a teenager, I also wrote fairly basic gags). Twenty years later, the character returned with an hundred page story and was upgraded to full colour (I tell my peeps that Scotland Yardie is now available in high definition!). For me, it’s a do-over. A reimagining of a character with a 21st century slant (and obviously, a more mature writing mindset when it comes to structuring gags). So even though, some of the story may have familiar beats from previous comic strips – it’s a completely new beast! One that I am very, very proud of.
How did you find the process of moving Yardie into the graphic novel format and what advantages and/or disadvantages did you encounter moving it away from a strip format?
The advantages was I could write better, layered jokes with really smart pay-offs. I didn’t find any disadvantages – I loved writing a graphic novel format. The graphic novel can be whatever you want it to be. It’s your canvas. And that’s the beauty of it.
When the comic was first announced, the Brexit vote had not yet happened. Did the subsequent result directly affect the direction you were taking the comic in?
Ha! Me and Joe had just finished the last bits of the graphic novel and then the world went completely bonkers!! The original script relied on the main bad guy being a member of the EU. It was a big plot point. Then Brexit happened. And I realised the book had to rewritten or otherwise it would be outdated before it came out – so I included Brexit… the book was current again and it was FINALLY ready to go to the printer. Then Cameron quit… then Teresa May got in… then Article 50 was announced for possibly March… the political landscape just kept changing and changing – it all became DAMN ridiculous!! It got to the point where my editor Tony Bennett got on my case, and stopped me fiddling with dialogue. ‘It won’t ever come out – if you keep updating it.’ He barked. He was right! Ha. And here we are in 2017 and it’s finally out!! Braap!!
Obviously a lot of the characters are drawn from pop culture and current events, but are there any characters who are based off your own experiences?
‘The biscuit is not a wafer’ bit was an argument that me and mates had (a very long, heated argument that has STILL not been resolved). Weirdly enough, both of the leads are based on me, as both characters represent different parts of my personality. PC Ackee-Saltfish’s repression is pretty much my insecure teenage years bar obviously, the weird, naked stuff! Ha! And I guess, Yardie… is how I pretend to be (or I imagine myself to be), a rule-breaker who doesn’t care about consequence.
Every panel and page is loaded with characters and activity from all walks of pop culture. How close to home is the making off strip? Joseph Samuels must have been exhausted at the end of the project.
I’ve got to give major props to my brotha Joe. My script really pushed him as an artist. I wanted Scotland Yardie to be crammed full of easter eggs and loads of gags within gags in the background (one of my missions with Scotland Yardie was to try and make near enough every panel funny). The book for me, had to be a visual feast. At the last count we had over 700 gags in the book. As a reader, reading it shouldn’t be an one time experience. So when I delivered the script to Joe – you could see the pain in his face when reading it. That said, Joe took it all on!! He challenged himself to the point where I drove him mad with my weird Kubrick type details and he STILL came up with the goods. Thankfully, Joe has forgiven me for what I’ve put him through. There are rumours he has finally regained feeling in his fingers. These, however, remain unsubstantiated!!
Scotland Yardie is out 12 January from Knockabout
9780861662517 – P/B £10.99
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