Ring of Roses is a vast conspiracy thriller of murder and corruption festering at the heart of an alternative history world, the themes of which seem more prescient as time passes. Created by Das Petrou and John Watkiss, the story has steadily gaining in reputation and creative impact since its original release between 1992-1993, now is the perfect time for the Titan’s brand-new lavish reprinting of this classic graphic novel. I chose this as a perfect time to talk to Das and John about the research involved in a story like Ring Of Roses, and their experiences bringing it into the world! – Owen Johnson, Senior Marketing & Press Officer

Why comics? 

DAS – I fell in love with comics soon after I learned to walk!

I owe the medium everything, my hunger for reading, of drawing (I went to art school) and love of all the visual arts – including film. From about the age of 5 I was snapping up Beano, Topper and Beezer every week, until I discovered American comics. At first it was Curt Swan’s Superman, World’s Finest, Batman, Detective (Carmine Infantino’s work especially) but in just a few years I graduated to Thor, FF, Spiderman, and the whole Marvel Pop Art Revolution. Steranko was my Michelangelo. Then when Miller and Moore came along I knew I had to join the bandwagon – because their approach was exactly what I wanted to do. These days comic books have become respectable, but in my year at school there were only two of us (out of about 150) who were into comics, and we’re still good mates. (We’re also both working in the advertising industry).

JOHN – Well I’m a bit younger than Das, and I started buying stuff in the mid 70s. Things like Rima the Jungle Girl, by Nestor Redondo, and the Savage Sword of Conan, especially John Buscema when inked by Rudy Nebres. In fact I like all those Philipino artists. Somehow though I ended up discovering the really old stuff like Rip Kirby, by Alex Raymond (1946 onwards), and the work of Frank Frazetta. I also loved Gene Conan on Tomb of Dracula and Frank Bellamy, on Dan Dare and Garth. But the work of Alex Raymond was what I aspired to the most. Incredible stuff. I tried to draw like these guys as a young teenager, and discovered the artists they’d learnt anatomy from (George Bridgeman and Andrew Loomis). I learned so much from comics. They got me into drawing – but they also fired my imagination.

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Das, how did you come up with the idea for Ring Of Roses?

DAS – I started out intending to do a comic book version of Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague – but relocating it to modern day London. As I was piecing together the plot I was reading a book by Kingsly Amis called, The Alteration. It was set in a modern day London in which the Catholic Church was the dominant political power in Britain and Europe. I loved the idea of that, and I evolved it to fit my purposes. I also read a book by David Yallop (In God’s Name) about the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I (who was most likely murdered by a coalition of the mob, Freemasons and the CIA). Other material was rattling around in my head, inspired by The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail (Leigh, Baigent, Lincoln, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (Stephen Knight), and more. By infusing the story with ideas from all these books over a period of months I came up with the plot of Ring of Roses.

John, how did you come up with the drawing style for Ring Of Roses?

JOHN – Das came up with the story of Ring of Roses fully formed and he brought me into it after he did that. So my input was to develop the visual look of the characters and the setting and capture the atmosphere. We both love the movies of Orson Wells – obviously there’s Citizen Kane, but also Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil. The mood came from me trying to capture that essence.

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What can readers expect from the book? 

DAS – If you enjoyed True Detective you’ll get a good feel for the different layers of story and the characters. Plus the darkness. This is Comic Book Noir.

JOHN – Enlightenment about things that perhaps really do go on in the world. Machevellian scenarios of politics that have existed since the dawn of civilization.

What are the key influences on the writing and art of Ring Of Roses? 

DAS – Definitely Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, and the novels of Albert Camus and Raymond Chandler. The film of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose was another source of inspiration, as was the film of The Third Man.

JOHN – Alex Raymond, Charles Dana Gibson. Strong graphic resolve for the graphic medium Alex Raymond defined for me for illustrating in b & w for comics

What does creating this comic book mean to you both? 

DAS – This was a very difficult project to get off the ground. We worked very hard for two years on it while working in our day jobs, and the material was not of its time. We were producing something we wanted to create in total defiance of the needs of the market. To get it published in the first place was something of a miracle. But to see its impact growing over the years gives us both a great sense of satisfaction. Having this colour edition that Titan have put together is incredible. It’s what we always wanted it to be. The colour helps the reader feel the scene changes and atmosphere much more intuitively – and clearly.

JOHN – The work I did on Ring of Roses taught me a tremendous amount. It allowed me to bring together a style that I would not have otherwise put together, and develop into the graphic artist I am today. We really did put so much into it, and we were disappointed that Dark Horse did not push it more, especially when the first print run sold out in the first week. I feel this time round it has a great opportunity of getting the recognition it deserves.

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Story by: ​Das Petrou​
Art by: ​John Watkiss
144 – HC – FC – ​$22.99 / $25.95 CAN / £16.99 UK​
On-sale: July 15th
– Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, Secret Service)“A FINE COLLECTION!”  – Down The Tubes
London 1991. But not the London you may be familiar with. Imagine an England under Catholic rule – a rule so iron-fisted that science and technology has been set back decades. Lawyer Samuel Waterhouse investigates a ghoulish murder mystery set in alternate history London of religious mania, secret societies, and the plague.
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