Coming out of nowhere like a sniper's bullet to the head and exploding onto the scene like an atom bomb, rising star Justin Jordan first fell under comicdom's radar at Image Comics with his (and artist Trad Moore's) book, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. Strode skyrocketed to both critical and commercial success and is now halfway through its second equally acclaimed mini-series with The Legend of Luther Strode. Since then Jordan has become one of comic’s hardest working writers, penning Shadowman for Valiant Entertainment along with tackling both Superboy and Green Lantern: New Guardians for DC.
I caught up with Mr. Jordan at one of his book signings – which happened to also be his birthday – at All Star Comics and Games in El Paso, Texas, to discuss his inspiration for Luther Strode, his plans for Shadowman as well as his upcoming DC books, his birthday wish, and who he thinks would walk away from a one-on-one between him and Jason Aaron.
Justin Carmona for Comics Bulletin: Justin, you and artist Tradd Moore are in the middle of your second Luther Strode mini-series for Image, in addition you’re co-writing Valiant Comic’s Shadowman with artist Patrick Zircher, and if that weren't enough, you are gearing up to take over DC’s Superboy with issue #20 and Green Lantern: New Guardians at #21. That’s quite a workload. Did you ever think you’d be this busy after the success of your first Luther Strode mini?
Justin Jordan: No. I mean, I hoped that I’d eventually get to this place, but I did not expect it to happen so quickly. Luther Strode has been has been a pretty meteoric sort of thing. We went kinda from zero to a hundred in no time flat.
CB: What do you attribute this success to? Did you ever expect The Strange Talent of Luther Strode to be such a hit? You even got that first issue of Strode on the cover of Diamond Previews.
Jordan: That helped. I mean it’s one of those things that it is hard to quantify how much luck helps. That was an Image decision to put us on the cover of Previews and that meant that everybody that got Previews, which is every Diamond account, saw our book and [Image] also sent a poster for the book to every Diamond account so we got huge exposure, and that was solely down to the fact that Image really loved the book. They’ve been really supportive of the book from the get-go and they really put their push behind it. And if they hadn’t been this supportive, then we wouldn’t be here. That’s just one of those things. We got lucky. We put out a product that people liked. Image liked it, retailers liked it, and fans liked it. It all worked out for us.
CB: What was your inspiration for Luther Strode? He’s one brutal mother.
Jordan: I’m a big fan of the old school horror/slasher movies from the early 80s, of which Friday the 13th would be a [prime] example.
CB: Hence the mask.
Jordan: Hence the mask. And I got the idea that there were some superheroes like that already, like The Punisher for instance, who is basically a slasher with a gun. He comes after you, you can’t stop him, and he will kill you indiscriminately if he thinks you’ve done the wrong thing. And from a certain point of view there’s a moralistic element that some of the early slashers like Jason, [he] went after the teenagers that were irresponsible and left him to die and that kind of stuff. There was enough of a similarity there that I got the idea in my head, so when we designed Luther Strode, the mask that he wears was meant to be a mask that a teenager could actually make, not like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man were he does this outfit like a professional costumer’s outfit. You shouldn’t be poor if you could do that (Laughter).
But the other aspect of it is we were intentionally trying to harken back with this outfit, it was trying to keep mind of those slasher movies. We wanted to have that superhero meets slasher element to it. Those two things combined together is basically what gave me the idea for Luther Strode.
CB: Did you mention that in your pitch to Image, the whole slasher element?
CB: Where you always planning a sequel with The Legend of Luther Strode?
Jordan: Yes and no. When I was writing the first series really early in the process I realized there were other stories I could tell with the character and it kinda developed into a three issue thing, but comics being what they are and Tradd and I being complete unknowns, I designed the first Luther Strode that if it ended and that was all we did of it, it would be a story. People would not be… there’s a bit of a cliffhanger, but for the most part people would not be left wondering what was going to go on with that book.
And Legend of Luther Strode is a bit the same way. Legend is a better book if you read the first one, but you should be able, if I’ve done my job right, you should be able to go into it blind, read just that one and get a satisfying chunk of story.
CB: I got a sense of that by reading the first two issues of the new mini. And from what I’ve read of the new Luther Strode mini I’m sure it is going to be just as successful as the first series…
Jordan: More successful thus far.
CB: Nice. So are we looking at a trilogy here…?
Jordan: Yeah, we wanna do Legacy of Luther Strode either late this year or in early 2014, and that will be the end of it. We’ve only got that much story for it.
CB: In the second mini that’s currently out, Luther’s story picks up 5 years after the events of the first series. Will readers find out what Luther’s been up to all this time?
Jordan: Not a whole lot more than what you see in the first issue. He was basically killing dudes for five years. It’s pretty much all he’s gotten up to in that interval. The reason there is a five year gap is because we wanted to have him have a long dark period in his life, and for a lot of stuff to have gone on, and that’s kinda what he did. He’s fallen into this hole where he basically thinks he is a monster and he thinks the best he can do is direct his impulses towards bad people. And that’s why he’s killing criminals when we start off with Legend.
CB: Do you see any more creator-owned stuff down the pipeline?
Jordan: Oh yeah. Hopefully. I got two things I’m pitching right now. I’ve actually got more than two things, but I’m waiting for word back on some stuff right now. As soon as I can get green-lit I will be all about the creatoriowned. I love doing creator-owned and I have a personal goal for 2013 to have a creator-owned book out every month, so we’ll see if that happens or not.
CB: Excellent. Now, is this gonna be with Tradd or is this going to be with a different artist?
Jordan: Different artist. Tradd and I can only do the Luther Strode stuff. I wanna work more with Tradd once Luther Strode is over because I really enjoy working with him and we get along really well. But for the duration of [Luther Strode] we’ll be working on that until we get to the end of Legacy.
CB: In addition to your creator-owned work, you are also co-writing Valiant Comic’s new Shadowman series with artist Patrick Zircher. How did that gig come about?
Jordan: I basically sent a pitch to Valiant, to their head of submissions email (Laughter). I said who I was and what I had done and Warren Simons who is the Executive Editor, asked me to send him my book and I sent him the individual issues [of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode], since the trade had not come out. And he liked those and I also got really lucky – also, again luck – because Patrick Zircher had read Luther Strode and had liked it. He was already on board the book to draw and he said, “Have you heard of Justin Jordan?” and Warren told him, “Yeah, I got a pitch from him right here.” And Patrick was a fan of my work and that was really one of the key factors in me getting the gig.
CB: When you came on board were you originally solely going to handle the writing chores or was co-writing with Patrick already pretty much in place?
Jordan: The co-writing thing was there from the get-go. Patrick’s been in the industry for a fairly long time now and he has wanted to write so this was an opportunity for him to kind of get into that aspect of things.
CB: And not to take away from his writing, but Patrick’s art on the book is simply gorgeous. He is such an underrated artist.
Jordan: I think he is a tremendously underrated artist. And he has continued to get better all throughout his career which is impressive for a career that has been twenty years or so.
CB: So do you guys bounce around plot ideas and then you handle the scripting? What’s the writing process for a book like this?
Jordan: We usually kick ideas around and then he’ll write some dialogue and I’ll write some dialogue and re-write dialogue. Some of the pages he’ll write and some of the pages I’ll write. It depends. We’re still evolving the process to see what works best for us. We’ve tried a lot of different stuff, but it is definitely not co-writing in name only, it is very definitely a co-written book.
CB: X-O Manowar is entrenched in Planet Death, while Bloodshot and Harbinger will be battling it out in the Harbinger Wars. Can fans expect any type of self-contained mini-event within the pages of Shadowman?
Jordan: No. Not right now. We want to get into that stuff sooner rather than later. I mean, it won’t be forever, but we do want to establish the chunk of the world that we’re working on in Shadowman is kind of different than the rest of the Valiant Universe so we want to get the ground work and rules established for that and we wanna make sure people understand how it integrates with the universe before we get full on into the crossover and stuff.
CB: Let’s talk about your relationship with DC. As most of us know, a few months back Rob Liefeld severed his relationship with them and had been very vocal about it, posting some rather unpleasant things about DC Editorial pulling creators in ten different directions at once. Not to mention the whole fiasco with DC pulling Gail Simone off of Batgirl only to be reinstated days later. What has been your experience with DC as one of their creators?
Jordan: It’s been fairly pleasant. The thing is… one thing you have to consider about DC is they are putting out a tremendous number of books each month and there is a lot of coordination between them. And so, there’s gonna be some growing pains with that kind of stuff especially since the New 52 is not all that old yet. The other thing is that it’s kind of a thing where there are a lot of moving parts in these books. You know, when I was doing Luther Strode, Luther Strode is self-contained to Luther Strode whereas when I’m writing Team 7, what I write in Team 7 resonates in like four or five other books, so that gets tricky.
It’s like any job. It’s been good, but there have been some bumpy parts, but for the most part I’ve had a pleasant experience. I keep working with them and they keep working with me, so I think it’s been a productive experience on both ends.
CB: And with the news that Team 7 and Deastroke, books you are both currently writing, are getting canceled, are you trying to find a way to give both titles a conclusive ending that will leave fans with a satisfying finale?
Jordan: Yes. That is easier to do with Deathstroke than it is with Team 7. Deathstroke, from the beginning, I had been writing as kind of a series of two issue arcs because honestly, it was pretty clear the book was going to be cancelled. They [DC] didn’t tell me that, but I can read sales numbers so I didn’t want to get into the midst of a storyline that I didn’t think I would be able to finish, but we do have a really big finale for Deathstroke planned. Team 7 is a little trickier because with it we had a kind of meta-arc that would have spanned twenty-five issues and probably six individual arcs. It was a lot of story which would have covered a lot of ground in the history of the DC Universe and quite frankly with three issues left you can’t do most of that, but you do get to see the big finale we had planned. You get to see the bones of it and it ends in a fairly conclusive way. You’ll know what happened to Team 7 by the end of [the series].
CB: And from there you’re going to be taking over writing duties for Superboy starting with issue #20…
Jordan: I am.
CB: I know you can’t get into too much detail about your plans for the Boy of Steel, but can you give us a little something to whet our appetite?
Jordan: I can’t get into it a whole lot. One thing we’re trying to get to is, we’re trying to get to a point—Superboy has reached a point in his life where he is trying to define what his life is. He has kind of thought of himself as a living weapon for most of his run. He’s trying to get away from that and find out what his place in the world is and what his role in the DC Universe is and what his role in the Superman family is. Kind of the same thing that teenagers go through when you’re trying to feel out who you are and what you want out of life and we are gonna be seeing that written on a large scale.
CB: Are you planning to have the book heavily intergraded with the rest of the Superman F
amily of books?
Jordan: Yes and no. It’s not going to be a constant crossover, but he is part of that family and that is something we want to acknowledge and at the same time I also want to make sure that Superboy has his own cast of supporting characters and that he has his own villains and that he is his own character and that he is not fighting Superboy versions of Lex Luther or Braniac. I want him to be his own thing, but at the same time he has a relationship with Superman, which has not been revealed, murky as it is. He is going to interact with him, it’s going to be that kind of thing. That’s the thing that we have to acknowledge.
CB: And you’ve also been announced as the new writer of Green Lantern: New Guardians. How did that come about?
Jordan: They asked me. [Laughs]. Matt Idelson and Chris Conroy [Editors on New Guardians] liked my work on Team 7 and Deathstroke and they wanted to give me a shot at New Guardians, which I was happy to have because I kind of dig that big… I’ve kind of had a hankering to do kind of a big sci-fi book. A big space-cosmic thing to let out my inner Jim Starlin basically, so this is an opportunity to do that.
CB: We look forward to that. I wanna close you out because I know you have big plans today, since it's your birthday. Happy birthday by the way.
Jordan: Thank you.
CB: Real quick, who are your influences as a writer? Who does Justin Jordan look up to?
Jordan: You know, it kind of varies. I really… oddly enough a lot of my influences come from non-comic book things. Like with dialogue I try to keep in mind Elmore Leonard stuff and like the television show Justified is based of course on an Elmore Leonard work, and they do a very good job of his dialogue. I’ll try and watch that show and read his novels and I’ll try to think, “that’s what I want to do with dialogue.” I wanna make sure that people are saying things in a way that is interesting and in a way that is true to the character at the same time which is tough. It’s tricky to get that kind of balance right.
I kind of draw stuff from movies. Quentin Tarantino actually is a pretty big influence, but even going back into the more classic stuff like Peckinpah and that kind of stuff. Within comics I’ve really looked up to Warren Ellis. I don’t really write like Warren Ellis, but I kind of admire what he tries to do with comics and what he did with Planetary and The Authority. Especially with Planetary, he was looking at stories through kind of a different lens. Sometimes superheroes and sometimes pulp and sometimes other stuff and that is something that I think is worth doing. And there’s actually a little bit of that in Superboy, trying to look at why superheroes do the things they do.
CB: Birthday wish. What would be your dream assignment?
Jordan: Batman. Unfortunately Scott Snyder has got that locked up and he is also got that locked up doing it better than I could, so you know, it would not look good for me, but man, yes… I would love to write Batman. I have bugged DC about letting me write Lobo, but unsurprisingly everybody that writes for DC apparently wants to write Lobo, so there is a lot of competition (Laughs).
Jordan: Oh yes. [Laughter] Everybody loves Lobo, but I have tried to get them to let me write him, so we’ll see how that goes.
CB: Finally, if you weren’t writing comics what would you be doing with yourself right now?
Jordan: Cult leader. I didn’t grow this beard to not start my own cult (Laughs).
CB: I wanted to ask you about that. Have you had the chance to meet fellow scribe, Jason Aaron? He’s got a pretty damn impressive beard himself.
Jordan: I have. I walked up to Jason Aaron and I kid you not… his first words were, “Nice beard.” And I went, “Yeah, you too.” So I consider us beard friends.
CB: Beard death-match. Jordan versus Aaron. Who walks out of Thunder Dome alive?
Jordan: Me. My beard alone could destroy Aaron. That man doesn’t have a chance.