Scalped #48As Scalped heads toward its 50th issue in June, the series is reaching more than one milestone. Written by Jason Aaron with art by R.M. Guéra, the Vertigo series recently hit the New York Times Best Seller list, and it's nominated as Best Continuing Series in the 2011 Eisner Awards.
In June, new readers can check out Scalped #50, a stand-alone issue that's ideal for the uninitiated. The issue will feature several guest artists, including Igor Kordey, Jill Thompson and Dean Haspiel, with two historical stories by Aaron that are set in the Scalped universe.
For the comic's existing readers, the plot threads in Scalped have been building to a fever pitch over recent months, heading toward inevitable confrontations for its tortured characters. Because Aaron has always promised that Scalped is a finite series, the end of the series seems near, and the writer appears to be looking toward the 60-issue mark.
As Scalped #48 is released this week, Newsarama spoke to Aaron about what's coming in the comic, what he's doing once it finishes, and why Scalped #50 represents such a milestone in his career.
Newsarama: Jason, you've hit the New York Times Best Seller list with Scalped, you're nominated for an Eisner again this year, and you're two issues away from the #50 issue. Has it been gratifying to see the series become a success?
Jason Aaron: It's certainly been a success for me. I was brand new when this series started. I had only written two comics before I wrote Scalped #1. And honestly, when you look at a lot of other Vertigo books that started around the same time, there aren't many left. To me, it's incredibly gratifying that we've been able to make it this far. Obviously, my entire career I owe to Scalped and to Vertigo.
Nrama: Let's talk about Scalped #50. Since it's a stand-alone story, is this something anyone can read, even if they're not a regular reader of the series?
Jason: Yeah. Even somebody who has never read an issue of Scalped before can pick up issue #50 and enjoy it. There are connections and references that long-time fans will get, but it's still something that you could jump right into.
Nrama: You're doing two stories in the issue, and both are set in the past. What were your thoughts behind doing a history-related issue for #50?
Aaron: There are two stories in issue #50, and one of them, I actually wrote about five years ago. It was going to be for a Western anthology that Guéra and I were going to do, and it just didn't work out at the time. But it was something I knew I wanted to save and work into Scalped at some point. It just took awhile.Scalped #49 When it came time to do issue #50, I really wanted to do something stand-alone. I originally had very lofty ideas about what I wanted to do, which we had to kind of constrain. But I was able to work that story in.
It's a story about the history of scalpers and scalp-hunters, and it now has a direct connection to the world of Scalped. There's also another story that flows out of that. It's about one of Dash's ancestors. We were able to work in contributions from a whole host of different artists.
Igor Kordey draws a framing sequence, and Igor you may remember from a lot of the Marvel stuff he did years ago, like Black Widow and Morrison's X-Men. And he's actually one of the reasons Scalped came together the way it did, because he's friends with R.M. Guéra, and he's the one who suggested that Guéra send his work to Will Dennis at Vertigo. Will just happened to get Guéra's work and email right around the time we were looking for an artist on Scalped. One of those great karma moments. So we owe that to Igor. And Guéra had wanted for a while to get Igor's work in Scalped. I was always a huge fan of his, but we haven't really seen much of his work in the States.
And then we also have Jordi Bernet and Jill Thompson and Timothy Truman, which was a big thrill. And Brendan McCarthy, Dean Haspiel and a whole host of artists doing their interpretations of some of the characters from Scalped.
Nrama: There are two issues before we get to #50, and things seem to be really heating up for the characters, both in the bigger plotlines and in their personal lives. Was that your plan, to lay an ever-increasing amount of inner turmoil on them as the plot itself builds toward a climax?
Aaron: Yeah, the driving force for the story has always been the inner turmoil of these characters, as opposed to any real big plot mechanics. So yeah, as the story comes to a head, everything these characters have been going through will start to come to a head. But in different ways. Things are coming to a head for Red Crow that may not be obvious yet.
Nrama: It seems like you're tying up a lot of loose ends. I've heard you hint that 60 issues is the magic number. Are you trying to conclude the series in the next 12 issues?
Aaron: Maybe. I don't know. I haven't wanted to say for sure yet. But you're right that things are starting to wrap up. Some characters are getting their endings, and more will be coming in the next arc. And more will be coming in the next stretch.
Nrama: Let's talk about this current story arc, then we'll discuss what's coming next. We've been seeing a lot of Catcher, but in a role that feels like it's almost outside the plot the other characters are experiencing. The narrator in the last story was Catcher, right? Even though he was hardly in the story?
Aaron: Yeah, that was Catcher. I think most of the stories in this arc have been, or will be, narrated by Catcher.
Nrama: It's almost like we've been looking at all the characters in Scalped as pieces on a chessboard, and this arc is emphasizing that Catcher sees them all that way too.
Aaron: Right. That's always the role he's been playing, if you go back and look at it from the beginning. But he's always been in the background. Now, he's starting to come to the forefront more and more, particularly in the last year or so.Scalped #50 He's still got a role to play. He's still got a very definite ending, just like all the characters. Everybody is moving toward a very particular ending point. Some of those, we've started to see. Like Lawrence Belcourt, the character who's in prison -- we've seen his ending. He's done. We won't see him again. So we're starting to get to some of those.
Nrama: It sounds like Catcher's story is going to wrap up in the next couple issues.
Aaron: It's not an ending for Catcher, but it's certainly a major turning point for him and Dash. [This week's] Issue #48 and [next month's] #49 flow together, and there will be a turning point.
Nrama: Is Dash's turmoil with his mother's death going to come to a head, now that Catcher has entered the scene?
Aaron: In some sense. There's a moment in issue #49 where we have Dash and Catcher together, driving through the middle of nowhere. It's kind of a continuation from the ending we had a couple issues ago where Catcher showed up in Dash's house and told him he wanted to help him find and kill the man responsible for killing his mother. The continuation of that scene sees the two of them alone in Dash's truck, driving through the Badlands.
Something happens that I hadn't planned on doing, and it was kind of surprising to me. I had to stop and think a second and say, "Can I do this?" And then I realized, "Well, sure I can! Nobody else is writing these characters, so I can do whatever I want to do." So there's a pretty big, shocking moment in #49.
There's a big, huge turning point for Red Crow in issue #49 as well, and it really sets the stage for issue #51. And it represents a huge challenge for Red Crow.
Nrama: Issue #51 starts a new storyline titled "Knuckle Up." What does that title refer to?
Aaron: "Knuckle Up" will be a more action-packed arc than I think we've seen in awhile. A lot of shit comes to a boil for Red Crow. A war on the reservation that he did not want, and he finds himself embroiled in it.
Things start to heat up for Agent Nitz and Sheriff Karnow too, the two lawmen who both had issues focusing on them before the current arc. Those two guys had their sights so narrowly focused on Red Crow, and they both start to come after him in a big was in issue #51. But Red Crow is also having to deal with a completely different war.
And I think we've been teasing for a while this confrontation between Dash and Shunka. We've been building toward that for a while, and that explodes in the midst of this arc. It'll be a much more action-filled arc than we've seen in awhile, and one that not everybody is going to survive.
Nrama: Uh oh. Can I make a personal request? Please don't kill Dino Poor Bear. You've already maimed him and broken his heart. Don't hurt him again.
Jason Aaron: I can say I won't kill him. He'll be around.
Nrama: Is there a chance you'll visit these characters again after the end of Scalped, whenever that may be? Or the world of Scalped?
Aaron: I never say never. There will be stories that we won't be able to get to, and there are other stories that I wanted to do, but I was never able to find space or make them work. Those may be stories that just go untold, or maybe they're stories that I do down the line. But Guéra and I want to work together on other stuff.
Nrama: Do you think you will? Soon after Scalped?
Aaron: I expect that, as soon as Scalped is done, we'll be moving right onto the next thing. It's not going to be something with the same scope. It won't be another ongoing series. If we're going to jump right in, I imagine that it's going to be a graphic novel or a mini-series. But we've already talked about different ideas. Just talking with Guéra, there are five or six genres we'd love to do right now. It will be a matter of figuring out a time frame and where we want to do stuff. But certainly, you'll see us working together again on something that's in the same vein as Scalped, even if it's not in the same world.
Nrama: That's good to hear, because I know there are some of your fans that suspected you would walk away from Scalped because of your Marvel work.
Aaron: No, I'm not going to walk away from creator-owned stuff. Marvel is keeping me busy, and next year will be even busier. As long as I'm in comics, I want to be doing my own stuff.
There are already talks underway about what my next creator-owned project will be and where it will be. Something I would like to have coming out around the time Scalped ends, or you'll hear about it and it will be in the works by then. So there's already other stuff in the pipeline, that's for sure. I love Marvel, but I want to be able to do other stuff too.