There always seems to be one writer killing it at certain times across publishers. If you were to ask me I’d say Jason Aaron would be the one killing it right now with major titles for Marvel (including the ever primo Star Wars) and Image Comics with a new title called The Goddamned hitting comic shelves November 11th. Spoiler alert: it’s freaking awesome. We pick Jason Aaron’s brain on that title and more below.
AiPT!: You recently signed an exclusive deal with Marvel. How does that affect your titles with Image? Does that affect The Goddamned at all?
Jason Aaron: No no, I just re-upped with Marvel so it’s just an extension of what I already had, so my creator owned stuff continues on the same as before. Southern Bastards and The Goddamned—neither one will be affected at all.
AiPT!: That’s good to hear because I really liked The Goddamned #1.
Jason: Thanks. I feel like I get the best of both worlds, you know? I’m really happy with the stuff I’m doing at Marvel right now but I always want to be doing creator owned stuff too.
AiPT!: Is it hard to juggle so many titles at once?
Jason: Sometimes. I mean I’ve got five books right now, which maybe sounds like more than it is—I mean, Southern Bastards and The Goddamned [aren’t] books that are gonna come out twelve times a year. We’re not doing a strict monthly schedule on either one of those. And stuff like Thor I’ve been writing for quite a while now so I’ve got a pretty good handle on that, and Star Wars too. I’m certainly busy but I’m not pulling my beard out or anything.
AiPT!: I was just reading this fascinating article on Forbes about a CEO of two companies who managed his time by doing a set thing on Monday, a set thing on Tuesday, like marketing Monday, design Tuesday. Do you organize your work in that way at all? How do you manage all your work?
Jason: No I’m not nearly that organized. I wish I was. I’m usually just chasing whatever the next deadline is. From week to week there are very few days I’m working on the same scripts, which is nice in that it keeps me from ever getting bored, you know? I’m rarely sitting down and writing two issues of something in a row. I’ll write an issue of Star Wars and then I have to turn around and do an issue of Southern Bastards and do an issue of Thor so I’m always kind of getting to flex different creative muscles. And then in the midst of that, finding time to do lettering drafts or corrections or, Jason Latour and I are also writing the pilot for the Southern Bastards TV show.
AiPT!: Oh my lord, that’s a lot. [laughs]
Jason: Yeah, yeah and we’ll see. If I make it through Christmas I’ll be okay. The good thing is I get to just sit in my office in home and do this all day, which is a great gig. You wind up working longer hours than you would working a 9 to 5 job but it’s something I enjoy doing.
It’s cool to get the hard files in my email and look at the pages from these amazing artists I get to work with and it’s great when you see the completed thing [that’s] on the shelf and you can talk to fans and get their response to it. But for me the best part of the whole process is the actual writing of it. It’s kind of a selfish job in that you’re really just sitting down and doing this for yourself. I still really enjoy that part of it. It’s hard at times but it’s fun.
AiPT!: It has to be when there’s so much of it too.
Jason: Right it better be! It better be or you’ll drive yourself crazy.
AiPT!: Right. So after reading The Goddamned I got a western vibe, would that be accurate?
Jason: Sure, yeah I think we were going for a bit of Italian western, a bit of samurai story mixed with a heaping helping of caveman adventure story. I think there’s a lot of different elements, different genres kind of mixed up in that. Of course Sword and Sandal genre, some Conan…a little bit of a lot of stuff.
AiPT!: You mention Conan; are there any books or movies specifically you drew from or thought about while writing?
Jason: I love the old school caveman adventure comics which we haven’t seen in a long time. You used to see quite a few of them… at least there seemed like there were. The story of prehistoric man fighting dinosaurs and struggling to survive in the harsh environment. I love those books. Joe Kubert did
AiPT!: Is it meant to be a mystery who the protagonist is in The Goddamned?
Jason: Initially we got his name on the first spread when he’s walking naked towards the village. But that was actually my editor Sebastian Girner’s idea to hold that until the very end which we thought was a cool idea. As you’re reading you probably should figure [it] out before you get to that point because he’s telling you a story, but I still thought that was a cool reveal.
AiPT!: It felt like the nameless man concept you get in the westerns.
Jason: Right right. The guy who spent over 1,000 years trying to run from who he is and what he’s done and he feels he has failed all of humanity but the ultimate escape of course, is that he wants to die, to end this once and for all and he can’t; that’s his curse.
AiPT!: There are a lot of compelling things going on there. Did you have to do a lot of research as far as reading the Bible or anything like that?
Jason: Not really. I grew up in the south and I grew up in the church so I was already really familiar with the stories from the Bible. This is something that I’ve been working on for quite a while too. I first pitched the original version of this story to Vertigo back when I first pitched Scalped, so that was probably 2005 or so. I pitched it to Wildstorm too. When I first pitched this to Vertigo all those years ago Will Dennis was my editor on Scalped, he actually liked it but Vertigo already had a Bible series which was Testament. What are the odds? It’s like the one time anybody’s published a comic series about the Bible and I pitched another one. It’s not a hot topic. And of course the take on it that we’re doing is very dark bloody and violent and reverent. It has kind of been on the back burner ever since and something that I always knew I wanted to come back to. This is finally the right time and Guéra was the right artist.
AiPT!: His work is amazing. It’s cinematic; the whole page itself, not even thinking panel by panel, looks gorgeous.
Jason: Most people will be familiar with his stuff from Scalped. But I think this is on a kind of different level. He and I started talking about what we wanted to do next pretty much as soon as Scalped wrapped up. We talked about a few different ideas but really wanted to do something that was very different from Scalped. We didn’t want to do another crime story in the traditional sense so eventually we settled on this.
When I first announced it at the Image Expo I said, “if you ever wondered what it would be like if the guys that did Scalped did the Bible.” I like the fact that it does seem new and different. I don’t think there’s another book on the shelves that’s quite like this. At the same time, if you enjoyed Scalped then you’ll like this. You’ll get some of the same kind of characters, some of the same themes that we had in that book, just in a very different setting here.
AiPT!: By any chance have you read Cormac McCarthy’s book Blood Meridian?
Jason: Yeah, yeah I love Cormac McCarthy.
AiPT!: He’s amazing, and I got a vibe from reading The Goddamned of chaos and living in a world where are no rules and anything can happen.
Jason: Sure, or The Road too. I was thinking about The Road as I wrote this. I love Cormac McCarthy so you can probably see that influence in a lot of stuff that I do.
AiPT!: Speaking of The Road, Cain in The Goddamned is putting one foot in front of the other…what is motivating him to keep walking even though he wants to be dead?
Jason: He mentions at one point he’s looking for something. He wants to die of course, so he’s walking looking for anything that could possibly put him out of his misery. If such a thing exists he hasn’t found it yet. One thing in particular that he inquires about are Giants. So he’s searching for Giants. I think he even uses the word Nephilim so if you know the story of Genesis you kind of know there’s a whole backstory to that we’ll get into as we go forward. Who are these Giants he’s searching for? What’s special about them other than being really big? Why does he think that they can help put him out of his misery when nothing else has? Those are all questions.
AiPT!: It kind of reminds me of the Noah movie that just came out. Those were giants right?
Jason: Yeah those were, those were those big rock creatures?
AiPT!: Yeah weren’t they like, angels or something?
Jason: Yeah those were the Watchers, which were like fallen angels. Helping Noah build the ark, which is one of those kinds of questions. With the Noah story how did this guy and his son build a boat big enough to put all these animals in? So as you can see in The Goddamned #1 we sort of give a different answer that; maybe Noah had some nefarious means to get those animals and build that boat.
AiPT!: Speaking of Noah’s band, he had a couple beasts driving carts and stuff and it made me wonder did you look into the Bible as far as specific creatures and monsters to implement in The Goddamned?
Jason: Not specifically. Guéra and were thinking the sky’s the limit, we can kind of do whatever we want. A lot of that was up to him. If he wants to draw stuff that looks like a T-rex that’s great. If he wants to draw something that comes completely out of his imagination that’s great too. You’ll see some things that look like really dark disturbing version of a Dr. Seuss menagerie.
AiPT!: Ohhh I can’t wait for that.
Jason: Which is great; again, I think the way we’ve approached this whole story is that it’s certainly based on a story we know and based on characters we know but we’re not beholden to that. We’re doing a different version of that story.
AiPT!: Well it’s exciting and epic and I think there should be more stories like this. As you said, there isn’t anything like it out there. I wonder why?
As long as we’re having fun and as long as people are buying it while we still have stories to tell we’ll keep going.
Jason: I don’t know. If you take the story for what it is, the whole idea is that humanity has gotten so completely out of control that god was compelled to commit genocide, wipe everybody out and start over. That was what always fascinated me was the idea of that world. Doing a world that’s gone to hell so quickly. 1600 years removed from Adam and Eve and humanity has already made a ruin of the Earth and of themselves. That to me seems like a great setting for the kind of stories Guéra and I like to do.
AiPT!: It’s dark and it can infuse some twistedness into it.
Jason: I compared this to the way Brubaker did Criminal in that each arc will feature different characters and a different part of this world. Very different stories that will weave together in different ways and we’ll see different characters appear, but there is an overarching story that has to be told. The second arc will be very different from this one.
AiPT!: How far out do you foresee this series going in the perfect world?
Jason: I don’t know. I never like to say. With Southern Bastards we really don’t have an answer for that either. We’re three arcs into that at this point. I always kind of know what the ultimate goal is and where we’re headed but never know exactly how long it’ll take to get there. As long as we’re having fun and as long as people are buying it while we still have stories to tell we’ll keep going. But I do have grand plans for things and where they will go and I will just say this… expect the unexpected. It’s a book [where] we’re only bound by our imaginations so there are a lot of different places we can go.
AiPT!: If they held a gun to your head and said you had to wrap this story up, how many issues would you need?
Jason: [laughs] uhhh, I don’t know. The great thing about Image is I don’t have to worry about that. Nobody is going to ever hold a gun to my head. With Image it’s really just a couple of us sitting in a room putting this book together ourselves. You know? The amount of freedom is really cool to have.
AiPT!: Speaking of freedom, how much freedom do you have writing Star Wars? Is there a braintrust checking all of your ideas and stories?
Jason: Yeah with Star Wars we work with Lucas Films. There’s a Lucas Films story group that oversees really everything Star Wars. All the movies, novels, video games, cartoons, comics… everything, so their job is to oversee all that and make sure everything fits together. We work really closely with them. They review scripts, outlines, art everything.
AiPT!: Talk about an opposite working process.
Jason: Yeah, it’s very different. Comics always feel like you have a high level of freedom. Even at Marvel they usually have a small group of people kind of hunkered down making a comic. The response to the book has been overwhelming and I’ve been really happy and excited about the big beats we’ve put into that book. Gillen and I didn’t want to do a book with throwaway, unimportant stories, we wanted to capture the vital part of these characters’ journies. We’ve tried to grab for the biggest moments we could so we’re really happy to do a bunch of those and we’re excited for the stuff we got going on.
AiPT!: I’ve been reviewing all the issues and I keep saying, “can we just have Jason Aaron and Stuart Immonen write Star Wars forever? We don’t need movies. It’s amazing to me you guys can nail it so well.
Jason: Thanks. Stuart is amazing he’s one of the top guys working in comics. It’s been a blast to get to work with him for the first time. But thanks, from the get go the idea was to make this feel like the Star Wars we all know and love. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, I just feel like we follow the original movie and this is the next part of that story.
AiPT!: I think I might have used those exact words in my review of the first arc. It felt like an action scene George Lucas would direct.
Jason: That’s cool. Thanks, that said we also don’t want to pick the bones of those same stories. We want to do new stories. Take the characters to places they haven’t been before. Filling in the gaps between the movies we’ve all seen a million times, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still sprinkle in some surprises in there from time to time.
AiPT!: Oh my god, the hubbub over Han Solo being married? It was insane how the internet broke in half over that.
Jason: [laughs] It did, it did. I thought that was great. The response to that story has been really cool. And of course that’s still unfolding and developing.
AiPT!: Did you see that coming?
Jason: No, I never worry about that kind of thing. I get excited about the stories and again for me that’s the part that really matters. That’s the part I can control. That goes back to what we were talking about how it’s a very selfish job—you’re kind of sitting at a desk making up stories that make you happy. That’s the part I get excited about. Getting a big response is always great, but I’m just happy to get to tell the stories I’m getting to tell.
AiPT!: What talent or superpower would you like to have, not including flight or invisibility?
Jason: [laughs] Uhh, probably super speed. I’d be the Flash so I can write faster and get more done during the day. If there was enough time to read as much as I want. There’s always a half dozen TV shows I hear are awesome that I haven’t watched yet. I have a family of course that’s always nice to hang out with. If I was the Flash I could get all that done.
AiPT!: What is your favorite method of procrastination?
Jason: That’s a good question too. Hm. Probably just dicking around on the internet like everyone else. My son who’s 10 turned me on to pro wrestling a couple years ago.
AiPT!: Who’s your favorite wrestler?
Jason: Right now, I really like Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, I like Finn Balor a lot who’s in NXT, the Young Bucks who are in New Japan Pro Wrestling are great. I literally hadn’t watched wrestling for like 25 years, since I was a kid. I mean, he got me into it and I kind of became a big wrestling nerd so now I spend a lot of time reading stories on wrestling blogs and filling up the DVR with five different wrestling shows. Drives my wife crazy. It’s a big way of procrastinating.
AiPT!: My editor writes a weekly RAW review…it seems to get rated 5 or 6 most weeks. I keep wondering, “Why are you still watching this?”
Jason: [laughs] Yeah, there’s a lot of similarities between hardcore wrestling fans and comic fans. A lot of comic fans are buying a book even though [they] don’t like it, Just because [they’ve] been collecting that character for 30 years.
AiPT!: That’s well put.
Jason: It’s the same thing [with wrestling]. The people who watch Raw and complain about the three hours they just wasted…there’s a lot of good wrestling beyond that too. I really like Lucha Underground; the first season was really great. The New Japan Pro Wrestling stuff is really good. They have a show on AXS TV which shows older matches and I’ve even subscribed to their Japanese streaming network. I can’t understand anything anybody is saying, but the wrestling is awesome. There’s a lot of good stuff out there.
AiPT!: Have you seen the Star Wars trailer?
Jason: Yeah of course yeah. My kid and I were counting down. Looks great. I don’t need to see anything else. Don’t show me another second of footage of anything. I’m good. If I was walking in to see it tomorrow I’d be happy. I don’t want to know anything else.
AiPT!: I have friends who are outwardly saying they’re on a Star Wars fast starting now. They don’t want anything else—no posters, no pictures, no reactions from the actors. No quotes.
Jason: [laughs] I think that’s good. I think it seems like they get that. It seems like there are times when trailers go too far. I’ve seen too much of a movie. By the time I go sit down, I loved the Avengers but those Avengers trailers showed a lot of that movie.
AiPT!: It seems trailers these days give you the first second and third acts. You can kind of piece it together.
Jason: Right. I’m all for less is more. I don’t need to see too much before I go see it. Sometimes even when you don’t want to see spoilers you can’t avoid it. Those trailers are all over the place.
AiPT!: What’s wrong with the public that they want to see a three minute version of a two hour movie?
Jason: We’re always hungry for spoilers right? We always want to know what is going to happen for some reason, I don’t know. I’ve read spoilers about some stuff sure, but when it’s something like Star Wars I’m so excited to see it [so] I don’t want to take away from that experience—I still love the experience of going to the theater and watching the movie with a packed house who are all excited to be there. You can’t replicate that watching it at home.
AiPT!: Well I’ll tell ya, it was an experience reading The Goddamned; I really really liked it and I wish you well with that series.
Jason: I really appreciate that, thank you.
You can follow Jason Aaron on Twitter @jasonaaron.