Christos Gage - Talking Absolution at Avatar

Gage on Absolution at Avatar

Law enforcement officers are there to be the stewards between right and wrong – to protect and to serve. Outlined to follow the law directly, law enforcement has become a pillar of modern society. Something you can trust, for you know they're out to enforce the law.

But when one of those decides that the best solution lay outside the realm of law -- no matter how well intentioned -- things can get bad.

And then imagine them with superpowers.

That's the central premise of Avatar's upcoming six issue miniseries Absolution, created by writer Christos Gage. Originally announced at San Diego Comic-Con, Absolution is about a superhero who is pushed to the limit and decides there shouldn't be limits. He goes by the name John Dusk, and as the released poster suggests: "even a hero can be pushed too far". With the series scheduled to debut later this year, we talked with Gage to find out more about the series.

Newsarama: Thanks for talking with us, Christos. Let's get right into it – the poster released for this showed a person that the solicits have named John Dusk. How would you describe the superhero John Dusk?

Christos Gage: In a lot of ways, he's an everyman--at least, as much as someone can be who controls tendrils of unearthly force that he can use for as many purposes as the Invisible Woman's force field.

NRAMA: Okay, so maybe physically he's not everyman… but maybe in his thoughts and background?

CG: Yes. He comes from a family with a long, proud tradition of serving their country, and he has a strong sense of duty, of right and wrong. Like many cops and soldiers, he's a lunch-pail guy...he shows up, does his job and doesn't complain, no matter how hard it is. But in his time as a superhero, he's seen a lot of horrible things, from major disasters to murdered children. He's also seen that too often the guilty aren't punished, or at least not adequately. And he can't live with that any more. So he's decided to do something about it.

NRAMA: He's taking the law into his own hands, so to speak. What exactly leads Dusk down this path?

CG: That's a big part of the story and I don't want to give it away. But I will say that I've been thinking about what it would be like for someone to actually be a superhero and see horrible things on a daily basis. Psychopaths, sadists, tragedies and their victims. I don't see how one could avoid being affected by it. They'd probably experience some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. Real-life SVU cops (those who deal with sex crimes and child abuse) are transferred after two years, because the police department has determined that no one can handle what they experience, mentally and emotionally, for very long. John Dusk has been on the job a lot longer than two years...and it's getting to him. Which doesn't necessarily mean he's crazy. It just means he's had enough.

NRAMA: And so he's start killing this would-be criminals. What exactly are the kind of people that rile him up?

CG: Anyone who the system can't or won't touch...anyone who is likely to do it again...pretty much anyone who, as they say in Texas, needs killin'. We all know who they are...the child molester who serves his time and gets out, but you know he'll do it again. The guy who enjoys hunting animals a little too much and has taken to following young girls home from school, but hasn't done anything he can be arrested for...yet. People the world would be better off without. Who decides who falls into that category? John Dusk. He knows it's a bad idea to declare yourself judge, jury and executioner. He knows he's crossed a line. And he wants to be forgiven. But he doesn't want to stop.

NRAMA: Well, he's got one person close to him, his girlfriend Karen – a cop. What's their relationship like?

CG: It's good--at least at first. They understand each others' lives, the demands of the job, the challenges and stresses. But Karen copes with it better. She can, to a greater extent, leave work at work. As John Dusk progresses down the road he's put himself on, their relationship is affected by the secrets he's keeping...and his knowledge that, sooner or later, she might have to take him down, along with his friends and colleagues.

NRAMA: Let's draw back and look at this world in the big picture. From what I've read, the world of Absolution is one where superheroes are sanctioned and part of a new arm of law enforcement. How does that work?

CG: I wanted to keep this world grounded in reality, to the extent that's possible. There aren't any world-shaking superhumans...you won't see a Magneto or a Superman, people who can tilt the planet on its axis. I also came to the conclusion that the "masked vigilante" wouldn't really work here...the system wouldn't stand for it, and it would be too easy to take them down. But I do buy that people with extraordinary abilities would be incorporated into the system...treated like a special branch of the authorities...like a SWAT team, let's say. Essentially, superhumans (the "good guys", anyway--there's no shortage of "bad guys" as well) are trained by and responsible to the local authorities--the cops, the FBI, it depends on the individual. They have the same privileges, and the same restrictions. Batman-style dangling criminals off rooftops is not tolerated. It's these restrictions that are part of John Dusk's frustration. A friend of mine once told me how he came out of the Navy, where he was Military Police, and became a civilian cop for a year before quitting. When I asked why he quit, he said he couldn't take it any more--being called out to the same places every night, seeing the same scumbags who he knew were beating their wife and/or kids, having to call them "Sir" and let them go when the family wouldn't press charges, and knowing that sooner or later they'd kill someone, and that the best thing he could do for society was to put a bullet in the guy's head. He said he had to quit, or he was going to end up doing exactly that. His situation multiplied exponentially is what John Dusk is dealing with...except he's up against far worse than wife-beaters, and sometimes they have the power to rip armored cars in half.

NRAMA: What led to this series at Avatar?

CG: My being a total sketch hound! At Wizard World L.A. this year, I sought out the Avatar booth to get a sketch from Jacen Burrows, whose work I've long been a fan of. Avatar publisher William Christensen saw my name tag and said he'd been planning to find me at the show to see if I'd be interested in doing something with them. I think Avatar's been putting out some amazing stuff--not surprising when you work with the likes of Warren Ellis, Alan Moore and Garth Ennis on a regular basis--and I was intrigued by the total creative freedom William gives his writers. We talked and hit it off, and Absolution came out of that.

NRAMA: Before we let you off the hook, let's talk artwork. On the art side, you've got a bevy of talent here … Jacen Burrows doing covers, Juan Jose Ryp designing the characters and newcomer Roberto Viacava drawing the pages. How is it all shaping up?

CG: I was already a huge fan of Jacen and Ryp--I think they're two of the best in the business, and having them on covers and designs makes me feel unbelievably fortunate. Roberto's art impressed me a lot when William sent over his samples, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him cut loose on this book! Jacen is overseeing his work, functioning as something of an art director, so between Roberto's talent and Jacen's experienced eye, I know it's going to be great.

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