After a string of nuclear attacks on 23 of the biggest cities in the United States, the survivors are left overwhelmed and under-prepared. In the small Kansas town of Jericho, the townspeople pull together (and in some cases, fall apart) as they struggle to survive on their own. In the wake of the attacks, Jericho is cut off from the rest of the world – and when they do eventually regain contact with the outside world, they see people and places more fractured and blood-thirsty than their own hometown. This story, chronicles in the recent television series Jericho on CBS, ran for two seasons and was canceled twice before not even fervent fan campaigns could bring it back to the television screen. But just as the show itself showed the tenacity of Americans in diversity, the show itself is fighting back – and fighting on, in comic book form.
This revolution will not be televised.On November 25th, Jericho turned from television series to comic book form courtesy of its producers and comic publisher Devil's Due. The television series, which starred Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James, was canceled one before, only to be resurrected thanks to a fervent fan campaign that went straight to the doors of CBS with truckloads of nuts – a prop taken directly from the first season's finale. But after the end of the second season and with no drastic improvement in ratings in sight, the series was cancelled again. But with an avid fanbase in view and a show staff that was invested in the story, they decided to follow in Joss Whedon's footsteps and bring the series to comic books.
"Both Jon and I couldn't be more excitedthat the characters and world we first conceived almost 5 years ago are still alive and kicking," said co-creator Josh Schaer. "The direction we've taken in the comic book series touches on the long-term arc we plotted out for Jericho, and its citizens, right from the beginning."
The six-issue Jericho Season 3: Civil War miniseries will delve into what would have been the third television series' story. At the end of season 2, jake and Hawkins had delivered the nuclear device to regional government in Texas, and a potential new American Civil War had been brewing all across the fractured United States.
"The comic book series opens almost immediately after the events of the show's season 2 finale," said Robert Levine, writer for both the television show and the new comic book. "Jake and Hawkins are in Texas to warn of the coming conflict, Paul Revere-style. They help forge an alliance between Texas and the Eastern States, but that union is quickly overtaken by a new catastrophe, which propels our heroes onto their next mission."
The end of the first season saw changes in the cast, so you have to wonder if having the third season as a comic would be any different. But with the appearance of Jake and Robert on the covers released so far, we know two who will be showing up.
"The story will definitely favor Jake and Hawkins, as they'll be the lens through which we'll see the world outside Jericho." said john Steinberg, co-creator and producer of Jericho. "The rest of our characters will definitely play an important role, as will the town of Jericho itself, as it takes on an increasing significance as the threat of Civil War grows. But because there's so much of the outside world we can't wait to explore, it'll probably mean that a good chunk of the story will be spent with Jake and Hawkins (and whomever may be out on the road with them...)"
Unlike some television and movie adaptations that come to comics, the people behind the book have made sure to be able to use the likenesses of the actors from the live-action series – in fact, the actors are promoting the book too; actor Lennie James, who played the character Robert Hawkins, appeared at the Jericho panel at Comic-Con International earlier this year.
"The actors are thrilled to be a part of the comic book series," said Dan Shotz, series writer and co-executive producer. "Jericho is one big family and this series has had such an impact on each and every cast member. They never want this story to end. They’re also extremely excited to see themselves with bigger muscles."
At the time of filming the last episode of Jericho season 2, the staff did not know if the series would be renewed or cancelled. With that uncertainty, they filmed two season finales – one if the series was continued, and one if it was not. Although the series was ultimately canceled by CBS, there were many ideas as to what the future story of Jericho was…. and the show's producers are continuing that, television show or not.
"The comic is pretty similar to the ideas we had for Season 3," said Stephen Scaia, a writer and producer of the series. "The trickiest part of re-engineering was figuring out how the ending that was aired (the originally intended ending was more of a cliffhanger, and can be seen on the DVDs) could link up with the story we had wanted to tell. Once we figured that piece out, we were back in familiar territory.
One of the constraints of live-action television is the budget – from the cast, to the time devoted to a scene, and down to the nitty-gritty of special effects and props. While a few television series are able to splurge on "blockbuster film-level" budgets for special episodes, the constraints are there for any show, including Jericho. But now as this world and these characters come into comics, the gloves are off.
"What's been really great about doing Season 3 as a comic," Scalia continued," is being able to let our imaginations run free...usually there's the "is this produce-able?" filter running in the back of your head that makes you second guess that action scene or tarmac full of planes. But since the only expense is imagination and artwork, we've really been able to enlarge the scale of the story we already had.
"Also, blow more stuff up," Scalia said matter-of-factly.
As Jericho transitions from television to comic books, there remains talk of a movie continuation of the epic story at some point. But whether or not that can happen is still up in the air.
"We are currently in early stages of developing a movie," said co-executive producer Karim Zreik," but we wanted to get the comic book series off the ground first. A lot of the ideas and characters you will see in the comic book will be used to inspire a theatrical movie plot."
Not many canceled television series spawn a spin-off comic book or talk of a feature-film continuation of the story; without the ardent fanbase that brought it back from cancelation once before, Jericho couldn't have made it this far.
" The great thing about our fans is they have formed their own community," said Matthew Federman, a writer and producer on Jericho. "I went out to Jerichon (the annual fan convention), in Kansas, to represent the show and met a lot of them there. But we all have stories of running into people all the time who find out we worked on the show and say "I sent nuts!" It's pretty funny. But moreso it's nice to know the show affected people in a positive way."
With a comic book in the works and a feature film on the drawing board, there's a lot to look forward to for Jericho fans.Jericho Season 3 #1 is in stores now