Every politician has something they don't want others to know about; personal demons, let's say. But what if a U.S. presidential candidate had an actual demon?
That's the story of the upcoming Image Comics series Citizen Jack by Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson. Mixing political comedies like Bulworth with darker stories like The Devil's Advocate, this new ongoing series takes the spectacle that's become American politics and pushes it even further.
Newsarama spoke with Humphries about this series which debuts in November, talking about the true depths a demon-backed politician would go, and where the idea came to give a candidate an actual dark side.
Newsarama: Sam, what can you tell us about Citizen Jack?
Sam Humphries: Citizen Jack is a horror-comedy for people who hate politics. It's about a presidential candidate who worships the devil. If politics alternately makes you feel terrified and amused, then this is the comic book for you.
When most Americans think of electoral politics, what do we think of? Iowa State Fair, kissing babies, and so forth. But what do we feel? Probably some emotional equivalent of elevator doors opening up, and flooding a hallway with blood. Or spying a clown with a knife in a sewer. Horror is cathartic. Humor is cathartic. As we steel ourselves for another election cycle, I think we could all use a little of both.
The timing couldn't be more perfect, but this has been in the works for over a year. Citizen Jack is about the dark underpinnings of all elections. Can a comic book succeed where McCain-Feingold failed? Probably not, but we're gonna give it a shot.
Nrama: And Jack Northworthy, even just the little bit I know about him from solicitations makes him out to be a bad man. How can he get into position to run for President of the United States?
Humphries: He's got a twelve foot tall death demon named Marlinspike, whispering in his ear, telling him he can be president...well, what would you do?
Jack Northworthy comes from a long line of political outsiders, dreamers, and wackos. Rob Ford, Sarah Palin, Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, LBJ, Ronald Reagan...even Eugene V. Debbs. This is a very long political tradition, it didn't start in 2015.
And Jack is from Minnesota, my home state, which has its own history of political upstarts from across the spectrum. Paul Wellstone, Michelle Bachman, Jessie "the Body" Ventura...Jack fits very well in his northern family.
Being a good candidate doesn't make you a good president. That's one of the central disconnects in America's toxic relationship with politics. Nor does being a good businessman. Being a good businessman gets you money, which gets you a campaign. The lines have been blurred.
Nrama: And what about Marlinspike -- what is he?
Humphries: All I can say for now is -- There is a demon at the heart of American politics, we're just bringing him out on the comic book page. We learn a lot about Marlinspike by the time the first arc is up, but for now....wait and see. And know that Marlinspike is a favorite character of both me and Tommy. We can't wait to show you more of him.
Nrama: Politics and demons. How'd this idea come to you?
Humphries: People always accuse politicians of being evil. I thought, what if one really worshipped the devil? Marlinspike is the malevolent demon behind Jack. Is there something about the state of our political system that would attract an ambitious, manipulative demon? It seems likely he'd feel right at home, maybe be more adept at gaming the system than the most seasoned real-life political operatives. What if he decided he wanted a puppet president? What if his candidate was a loud mouth corrupt politician from the middle of nowhere, with a history of dirty money and sex scandals? Could they pull it off? Under the right circumstances...would we let them?
Nrama: Some of us are political junkies, be it in real life and in fiction. How seeped in politics will this be?
Humphries: We don't use the words Democrat or Republican in Citizen Jack. We are nonpartisan in our satire. We don't address any real life issues. This is about scandals, king making, backroom deals, and corruption.
I am into politics, if by "into" you mean enraged by, afraid of, and disgusted by politics. And I am also "into" politics if you mean inspired by, awed by, and motivated into action. Citizen Jack is the action I decided to take after being enraged, inspired, afraid, disgusted by, and in awe of what politics has become in America.
I grew up in Minnesota, and one of my first political memories was watching the returns for the 1984 election -- Reagan's landslide against Mondale. They had the map of the U.S., and the whole thing was red, for Reagan. Only Minnesota was blue, and the tiny square of Washington D.C. Minnesota, all alone in a sea of blood red. That's when I understood that politics could be a farce.
How is Donald Trump doing what he's doing? That is the kind of question that drives Citizen Jack. Trump could be the next president, or he could flame out next week. Either way. Citizen Jack is bigger than Trump.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Tommy Patterson. How'd you two connect for this?
Humphries: We were hooked up by mutual friends Ryan Stegman and Nick Pitarra. Tommy is talented as hell, and his style on Citizen Jack is just mind-blowing. Jack to me wasn't a full character until I saw Tommy draw his face. But there is one main thing that makes me and Tommy great collaborators -- we both have a little bit of Marlinspike inside of us.
Nrama: Big picture, what can readers look forward to with this series?
Humphries: Just like Jack, we have our sights set on the White House. This isn't "Candidate Jack." Watch and see how far we go.