Orson Gage is out for revenge. Already damaged from a destructive career as lawman, Gage is going from broken to shattered as his wife is gunned down in a bank heist gone wrong. While the criminal gang that pulled it off is busy fighting amongst themselves about the blood-soaked rewards of their take, Gage is only looking for one thing: retribution.
It all begins December 11 as Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera’s Dead Body Road series premieres. As a creator-owned follow-up to his breakthrough hit Luther Strode, Dead Body Road trades in that series’ adolescent superhuman adventures for a modern Western story, mixing influences from Cormac McCarthy to Quentin Tarantino to Elmore Leonard. Newsarama spoke to Jordan about this bloody story with no heroes but only victims, how creator-owned fits within his career plans, and his inspirations that made Dead Body Road come to life.
Newsarama: Justin, let’s put all your cards on the table: what’s the big concept for Dead Body Road?
Justin Jordan: A man loses his wife in a heist and decides to kill everyone involved. Now that’s the basic version, as the plot starts getting more complex as everyone’s separate agendas start crashing together.
Nrama: The lead in this is Orson Gage, an ex-cop who’s looking for revenge in the murder of his wife, a policewoman. What can you tell us about him?
Jordan: Anna, Gage’s wife, was the one good thing he had left. He viewed her as the only thing that made him a good person. She stayed with him even when it hurt her and her career, and so he blames himself for her death during the heist.
Which for Gage means that he doesn’t have to try to be good anymore, and he has a direction to aim that rage and malice. One that probably deserves it. The problem is the people who get in the way that don’t.
Nrama: This may be just me, but after reading an advance of #1 it seems like Gage was already damaged even before his wife was murdered. Am I off on that?
Jordan: I’m glad that at comes across. Gage is not a good man seeking revenge for his wife. Gage is a damaged guy who found the one thing in the world that made him better and then lost it.
Nrama: But this doesn’t look to be just about him, but there’s other players seemingly involved and gunning for the take from the botched robbery – namely a gruesome torturer named Fletcher Cobb. Can you tell us about him, and who all is out for the booty from the robbery?
Jordan: There are basically three sides that want the booty; Cobb, who preys on other successful criminals, Rachel, Jimmy’s wife and the only person who knows where Jimmy actually stashed said booty, and Lake’s crew, who stole the damn thing to begin with.
Gage just wants to kill most of those people.
Nrama: And I can’t go without asking about Mr. Lake, who organized the robbery. Who is he and what’s his crew like?
Jordan: Lake is probably the biggest bastard in the book, which is impressive when you consider what Cobb does the first time we see him. But Lake is pure sociopath and supremely confident, which is not a good combination for anyone.
His crew is more of a mixed bag, ranging from murderous sadists to a couple that at least have some sense of loyalty.
Nrama: The “Dead Body Road” of the title; is that literal, or what are you aiming for with that name?
Jordan: Hah, well, there are a lot of roads and a lot of dead bodies, so it’s at least partly literal. But the name is more evocative of mood than anything.
Nrama: You’re still very early in your career, but already you’ve worked with a diverse array of artists from Tradd Moore to Riley Rossmo and even Ron Frenz and Patrick Zircher. Working with you on this is the very busy Matteo Scalera, whom is already well into drawing issue #3 I hear. Now that you’ve seen how he’s taking on your script, is there a “groove” going on so to speak?
Jordan: There is and I’m grateful and lucky for that. I’ve been really lucky with artists in general, because I’ve got work with people who are both great and with who I share the same sort of way of telling stories.
Which is good, because that not only results in a better book, but also makes me look better as a writer. Which is nice.
Nrama: You made your name on Luther Strode and have parlayed that into a key role at DC on some of their Green Lantern books, but you’re still coming back to creator-owned. How does creator-owned fit into your larger game plan for comics as a career and a life for you?
Jordan: My goal is to always be doing creator-owned, and I’ve been lucky enough for that to mostly happen. I’ve done two Luther Strode minis, and I have two other creator-owned books coming out in 2014, in addition to the third Luther Strode next fall.
The creator owned stuff is the bedrock of a career, I think. Mine, anyway. Those are the books where you can show people what your work is like and build a fanbase. It’s not that you can’t do that with WFH, but at the end of the day, many of the choices that are made on those books are made by someone else.
Nrama: This isn’t your first time at Image, but for this one you’re working under Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, and I read Robert’s the one that connected you with Matteo to do this. Can you tell us about working with Skybound, and how it differs from your earlier experiences?
Jordan: Image Central basically just publishes the book. Now I say just and that maybe marginalizes how big a job they have, but all of the actual creative stuff falls on the creators. So you need to put the team together, edit the book, and all the other stuff.
With the Skybound stuff, I mostly just have to write. They have an editorial staff and they make sure all the ducks are in a row. At the same time, Dead Body Road is pretty much just what Matteo and I have created – no editorial mandates involved, or continuity to be served.
So Skybound is kind of like a middle ground between the way Image works and the way most of work-for-hire gigs have worked. Which has been pretty pleasant, honestly, to just write something.
Nrama: This is squarely in the crime genre that has been on the upswing in recent years, but also has a bit of a western twang – evoking Justified or Sons of Anarchy. What are the influences you’re sitting on that this sprung from?
Jordan: Well, Justified and Sons of Anarchy are definitely big influences. Justified is probably my favorite show on television currently, since Breaking Bad wrapped up, and I’ve been an Elmore Leonard fan since I was a teenager.
But this is a modern western, in the same sense that No Country for Old Men was. And yeah, Cormac McCarthy would be another influence, although maybe more in tone than anything else, as I don’t go in for complex symbolism or multilayered allegories.
And for sure, there’s some Quentin Tarantino DNA in there too. It’s always hard for me to talk about influences because there are so many and they have all ended up chucked into the creative stew that occupies most of my brain.