This March, the epic space saga of Prophet will come to a close. This 1990s Rob Liefeld creation was given new life when Brandon Graham and a menagerie of imaginative cartoonists took hold of the concept in January 2012, and we’re just four issues away from the end of the series. But as Graham has told Newsarama in an exclusive reveal, it’s not the end of the story of John Prophet. Any of them.
We’re still months before the finale, though, and what comes next is January’s Prophet #42, which will see Graham welcome Prince of Cats cartoonist Ron Wimberly to Prophet to both write and draw the long-awaited origin of Diehard, which he calls “Diehard Gaiden.” Some of you who’ve read Liefeld’s Youngblood stories in the 1990s might think you know the secret to Diehard’s past, but you only know the first moments of his life. After talking together about ideas for the issue, Graham stepped aside from writing the series for this issue to let Wimberly take the reigns of the story.
Newsarama talked with Wimberly and Graham about next month’s Prophet #42, and then we stayed with Graham to talk about March’s finale of the series and the writer/artist gives us a glimpse of what comes next.
Newsarama: Brandon, Ron, thanks for doing this. Prophet #42 comes out in early January, and Brandon is stepping aside for Ron here to both write and draw the complete issue. This was originally going to be #41, but it was shifted around since it was initially solicited. What can you tell us about it?
Ron Wimberly: Hmm… I can tell you I am behind schedule! (laughs)
But seriously. It's a Diehard Gaiden. It's a window into Diehard's past, a family, a maturity ritual.
Brandon Graham: Something nice about working with so many artists on the book is that multiple issues can be worked on at once. We're doing 3 at the same time now. Ron's issue and one I'm doing with Dave Taylor and the main thread with Simon and Giannis.
Nrama: In this issue you're going back in time to see how Diehard first met the Earth Empire. Diehard already has a history in Youngblood, so how'd you go about dancing around that while keeping it Diehard?
Wimberly: I'm mainly ignorant… I have a computer and the internet, and when that doesn't work, I ask Brandon. He's a Prophet lexicon.
Also, I'm not too worried about fans being able to fill in the gaps. That's what I've always done.
Graham: There's certainly a lot of room to dance around in. The Empire came about long after Youngblood was over.
While Diehard knew the first John Prophet, this is the first time he's met these versions of his clones. (maybe he'd met other Prophets though when they were just being used as terraforming clones hmmm)
Nrama: How does this story fit within the larger sprawling story in the Prophet series as a whole?
Graham: In Prophet #39 we showed a lot of Diehard's life, but he's lived like 10 thousands years so there's a lot of ground to cover. Ron's issue, Prophet #42, is a nice excuse to focus more on Diehard's life away from humanity and show what he lived like beyond just a few pages.
It's fun to try and think about what someone who'd lived that long would be like. I imagine he would've had entire life times he just doesn't think about much. I feel like we could just do an endless number of miniseries of Diehard across time.
Nrama: Correct me if I'm wrong, but Prophet seems to buck the trend and instead of the art being in strict service of the story it works together with some strong give and take. What's that like for you two?
Wimberly: Wow, is that the trend? That's terrible! I think comics is supposed to be about that harmony of marks as pictures and marks as words. In the end it's a mark-making medium, a drawing medium. Brandon let me do what I want with this mostly but I am working in service of the spirit of the narrative that came before.
Graham: I can say that everyone who works on Prophet does draw and write. I feel like understanding both of those things is what comics is all about--its comic book language. I do see a trend of text running the show, which I'm sure works for some books but it's not how I think of comics.
One of the reasons that I send the guys I work with rough layouts instead of a text script is how much I've hated working off of just text in the past. I like that in making comics a lot of times things are learned outside of any set schooled rules, so we all have the chance to learn our own ways of doing things. When I started doing more collaborative books it was important to me to rethink how I would want to go about that. My ideal comics aren't usually collaborations but seeing guys like Naoki Urasawa made me think about how possible it is to do interesting things with multiple people on one book.
Nrama: Ron, in the solicitations it said you were co-writing this with Brandon as well as drawing it, but Brandon mention you were doing the whole thing. Set me straight.
Wimberly: Well, it started out that way, but then Brandon just gave me the reins mostly and just checked me. It was cool…maybe too cool. I was excited to work with Brandon, but I'm excited to do my own thing too. I am humbled and thankful that Brandon gave me the opportunity.
There are few writers whose work I'd want to draw. Brandon is one of them.
Graham: Yeah, this issue is all Ron. Initially I was going to write it and then as we got talking I felt like it made more sense to the book to give it all to him. I think I said, I don't want to be the Stan Lee to your Jack Kirby. It was clear that he had figured out a cool Diehard story on his own.
Ron is a guy who I really think comics needs. He's amazingly talented and well versed in the art form, but also in a lot of ways coming from places outside of comics. He gets fine art and literature and hip hop and punk-- he's a much bigger artist that we often get making comics.
Nrama: Brandon, after this issue you begin your march to the finale, Prophet #45. It’s still a couple months away, but I can’t help but ask about it. What’s coming up?
Graham: Yeah, #45 is the end of the ongoing Prophet. I've been thinking a lot of how readers think of a work once it's done – or if the success of a work has to do with what you leave them with – although, as I type that I'm thinking of the end of one of my favorite comics; Why I Hate Saturn that goes completely off the rails at the end. I still love the book. Either way, I feel like we've set up some threads in Prophet that should get tied off or at least answered to.
Nrama: Is this the end of it all, or is this turning into something else? The solicits do say "the story will continue..."
Graham: After #45 we're planning to do Prophet: Earth War that'll be a shorter series that wraps things up.
In Prophet: Earth War, Giannis Milonogiannis and Joseph Bergin III will still be working on it (with Ed Brisson still on letters). Simon Roy is gonna continue to help me with plotting and edits but not drawing it-- we've got Tim Wilkins and Ron Attinks (who has a back up comic in the December’s Prophet #41) both doing art in this new run. And maybe some more Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward too.
It's such a kick to be able to work with these immensely talented artists.
Nrama: Ultimately though, it’s the end. How do you look back on the work you, Simon, Giannis and the others have been able to do with the series?
Graham: Like I was saying, I think a lot of how I look back on Prophet is going to be based on how well we pull off the ending. Right now I think of it as a fun experiment. That's one of the joys of monthly comics is you get to take risks and you have to keep moving. I feel like it's been good on the job training for me – and hopefully for the other guys on the book too.