Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Gary Phillips on the lesser seen Southland in his new comic book

by Julian Burrell and A Martínez | Take Two

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They call him The Vigilante.

An expert marksman and master of lariat.

He was created as a comic book character back in the 1940's.

Now, DC Comics is bringing him back.

They've commissioned crime writer and Southern California native, Gary Phillips to resurrect the hero.

Many writers have written stories about the Vigilante, with a different person taking up the mantle over the years.

In his comic book mini series "Vigilante: Southland," Phillips wanted to put a personal spin on the vintage hero, starting with the main character.

"Donny Fairchild, a young African American male in his 20's. Hes a baller. Tatted up. Somewhat of a .... semi-slacker, but he has a job and he has his medical marijuana card. A fantastic girlfriend. So life is great," Phillips told Take Two's A Martinez. "And then his girlfriend gets murdered. And everything changes."

A character that hits close to home

To create Donny before he transforms into The Vigilante, Phillips didn't have to look far for inspiration. The character bares a striking resemblance the writer's son.

"In terms of him being a baller and tatted up and kind of getting along in life, yeah, a little bit. There's a little similarity there,"

But rest assured, Phillips sees the similarity as a compliment. "I mean, Donny rises to the occassion. I think he'll feel alright about it. It's not like Donny shirks his duty. That's the important thing in the story."

A less seen part of the Southland

The character isn't the only thing that's changing.

Phillips says he wants the setting to showcase places in Southern California that don't always get the spotlight.

That includes locations like Vernon and South Gate.

"Having been a community organizer and Union organizer for a lot of years, I was very familiar with those areas."

"That's how the conversation [to create the book] sort of started. To show those areas of town that you don't normally see. Donny's world starts in South LA and South LA plays a big part in the story arc, but we'll also see boyle heights, other places back in East LA and out into the Palisades."

On tackling modern issues in the book

Issue number one of this series has a scene that's been seen in the news before 

"Donny and his buddies are balling on this neighborhood court. A police car stops by. The officer who is black says something to the guys. This is a somewhat common occurrence all throughout the Southland area."

Phillips understands the imagery he's drawing on. He says that it's all part of reflecting the reality that a lot of young black men face.

 "I present that to establish thisverisimilitude that this story is grounded in a reality. In Donny's reality as a young black male who is come of age down in south LA."

Phillips says, "My goal is to entertain you, is to make you think a little bit, maybe give you a sense that there's more to LA than just Beverly Hills and Rodeo drive ... So that there's more to LA than just that. There are people and environs that you may not know about, but they lead interesting and strange lives. With Vigilante: Southland I want to give you a little taste of that."

Issue No. 1 of Vigilante: Southland will be available Oct. 6th.

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