Road to Las Vegas or How I Created an Ex-magician Card Cheat who Repos Exotic Animals

A little advice for new parents: the perfect way to get your newborn to fall asleep is by binge watching 70’s era private eye tv shows. Stick to TV shows, though. Clint Eastwood’s Magnum seems to be too loud for a 3-week-old regardless of the volume on your set. Also stick to the 70’s. Imagine my surprise when I found that the good people at FX would create a show with a cute title like “Terriers” yet fill it with potty-mouthed low-lifes (By the way, Terriers is the greatest single season of television ever and I will fight anyone who says different*). My daughter gravitated towards the grandfatherly nature of Mr. Peter Falk as Columbo, squealing with delight when he would enter halfway through the episode and drifting off before he asked his ‘one last question’. For me, however, there is only one true God-King of the underdog detective and that is Jim Rockford played with a strange brew of alacrity and cantankerousness by the inimitable James Garner.

I had been a fan of Garner’s since I was a kid even though the majority of his oeuvre was created before I was born. The Great Escape seemed to be on at all times on one channel or another and I would sit and watch all 16 hours of it every time. Later, I would discover the under-appreciated and under-watched pseudo-series Support Your Local Sherriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter. My father, a homicide detective for over twenty years and a connoisseur of TV cops, would carve out time whenever a The Rockford Files tv movie was set to air. We were sent to play in the basement so he could “concentrate”. So, it was not until my early thirties that I discovered the rumpled PI that lived in an RV down by the river…er, ocean.

My little girl and I watched all seven seasons of Rockford and then, because she would still only sleep when I held her, we watched them all again, and again, and again, ad infinitum until my mind melted into some dimension of liquid-crystal nirvana. At this moment the James Garner, alight in a warm aura, appeared as my spirit guide and told me I should write a comic book set in the 1970’s starring an ex-magician cum con man cum repo man, cum private detective. So, I did.

That last part may be an exaggeration, but I did want to write a Rockford story. Unfortunately, there was no longer a Rockford for whom to write. I was reminded of a, probably apocryphal, story about Steven Spielberg wanting to direct a James Bond movie and being told only Englishman could do so. In response he created his own James Bond, with the help of some nobody producer named George, and that Bond came to be Indiana Jones. Taking this tale to heart (again that story is probably bull), I decided to create my own Jim Rockford and I came up with Floyd Burbank a man so down on his luck that he needs a ladder to get up to misfortune. I set it in the Seventies because the Seventies are awesome and mysteries are better when Google is no available to the characters. He would track down lounge act props from delinquent acts by day and solve murders by night. Alas, the ideas were too out-there for the conventional novel. The traditional publishing world was just not ready! And also, I was busy doing other stuff. It seemed that Floyd Burbank would forever kick around the recessed of my mind along with my idea for a driveway that shovels the snow off of itself (patent pending).

But that was not to be Floyd’s fate. I was lucky enough to receive an email from Ted Adams of IDW Publishing asking if I was interested in writing a comic. I was interested and I already had the perfect idea. A few emails later and Floyd was ready to be birthed into the zeitgeist with a little help from the incredibly talented Miguel Ruano and Mr. Adams superb editorial skills. And now he is here in all his funky glory. My daughter just turned 4 and I have not yet told her about the role she played in helping me create one of my favorite characters. I may tell he some day, but right now I’m still catching up on all that lost sleep.

 

-Shaun Harris

 

*I will not fight anyone. I’m a father for Pete’s sake.

 

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