Ottawa illustrator Ronn Sutton has yet to meet the Hells Angels members who appear in the pages of his latest graphic novel.
But he has drawn “Frenchy,” the main character in Lucifers Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club, with a similar handlebar mustache and sideburns to real-life Hells Angels member and author Phil Cross.
Sutton is penciling in the panels to the outlaw biker’s written words, but he has never met the Hells Angel of over 40 years who lives in California.
Lucifers Sword is a fictional 1960s motorcycle club loosely based on Cross’s life. All the characters are based on real bikers – including Cross who appears as the club’s prospect, or rookie member. The story depicts the smuggling, heroin dealing, tough, tattooed outlaws, but also the less bad-boy aspects of the prospect’s job like cleaning the club’s toilet.
“I’m not slavishly trying to draw Phil so he looks like Phil. This is my guy because in the story he’s not Phil. He’s Frenchy,” said Sutton.
So in that sense, Sutton has almost complete freedom to draw what he wants. Cross’s people have sent the panel-by-panel script and it’s up to Sutton to paint the black-and-white strips.
The project came to Sutton from an agent’s recommendation. The author of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Honey West has been working 15-hour days pumping out pages in time for the January 2015 publication date.
He has been researching for the job – watching Sons of Anarchy, motorbike movies and reading books like Hunter S. Thompson’s “Hells Angels a Strange and Terrible Saga.” Tiny 1960s-era details in the panels include a Buddy Holly record and an old TV antennae.
But what’s lacking in the more-than half of the 87 pages Sutton has drawn are the motorbikes themselves. Sutton said that will be the most challenging part.
“What I’m trying to do is not make too many mistakes, mostly. This is going to go out, largely, to the hardcore biker audience.”
He suspects this will likely earn attention from anyone who’s a fan of the motorcycle club genre and there’s already talk of a sequel.