Raiding WildStorm's GARRISON with Jeff Mariotte

Lester Garrison is by some accounts, one of the most dangerous men in the world. Described by some as the kind of guy you’d find at a tractor pull on a Friday night, Garrison is undoubtedly a bad man. He’s the cause of countless death, including the incineration of a town full of people – and for some reason, two rival intelligence agencies are looking for him. But all is not as it seems, and that’s what the upcoming miniseries Garrison aims to find out.

Originally announced at the ComicsPRO retailers meeting back in March, Garrison is scheduled to debut in late 2009 / early 2010 as a six issue miniseries from DC’s Wildstorm imprint. And it’s by a familiar face to the Wildstorm imprint: Jeff Mariotte, former Senior Editor who went on to pen several Angel novels and comics as well as the popular Presidential Material: Barack Obama oneshot from IDW.

But this tale is no supernatural vampire book or a presidential biography: Garrison is a near future action-epic following Lester Garrison, whom Mariotte called “the most dangerous man in the world”. Mariotte is joined by artist Francesco Francavilla, who just finished an issue of Scalped published earlier this year.

For more on the title, we spoke with Mariotte by email for this interview.

Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us, Jeff. So what is Garrison about?

Jeff Mariotte: Since for several years I was VP of Marketing for WildStorm Productions, you'd think I would know better than to create a miniseries that can hardly be discussed for fear of revealing answers to the many mysteries contained therein.  But that's the case here.  Genius, huh?

The line I used when pitching it to WS was “What if the most dangerous man in the world looked like someone you'd see at the tractor pull on Friday night?”  But that doesn't tell you a lot about the story.

Rather than giving away too much, let me say this…when we meet Lester Garrison, he's walking away from a town that he has just burned to the ground, with everyone inside.  And he's the hero.

NRAMA: And just who is Lester Garrison?

MARIOTTE: That's one of the central mysteries of the story.  He doesn't even know who he is.  He would kind of like to stay alive long enough to find out, but that proves complicated.

NRAMA: This can't be just Lester running around on his own. Who else is in the story?

MARIOTTE: Other people want to know who Lester is, too, most notably National Bureau of Surveillance agent Jillian Bracewell and Homeland Intelligence Agency agent Clarke Sullivan.  There's a cast of hundreds, if not thousands, and some of them-not many, but a few-are still upright by the end.

NRAMA: This is said to take place in the future - but just when it is, and what is it like?

MARIOTTE: It's set at an indeterminate date, but about 10-12 years in the future.  It is a future, in fact, that's a pretty easy extrapolation from the present.  The U.S. is involved in a war, or possibly multiple wars, in faraway places we can't necessarily pronounce, using soldiers we don't like to think about.  The country is under extreme surveillance, with cameras everywhere recording everything.  You know, maybe it's set 15 minutes in the future, after all…

NRAMA: The artist, Francesco Francavilla, has said this is the most action-packed book he's ever worked on. How would you describe the action he's talking about?

MARIOTTE: Insane.  That's really the word that comes to mind.  As mentioned above, Lester Garrison doesn't have an easy time of things.  The second issue, for example, kicks off with a major bar brawl.  Issue #4 includes a massive chase scene through an apartment building that's pretty much uninhabitable by the end.  And issue #6…well, I can't even go there.  Remember the town that Garrison torched in the beginning?  That's nothing.  I'd be surprised if there's another miniseries this action-packed in comics this year.  And yet, at the same time, there are cute little bunnies and fawns…oh wait, no there aren't!  Just more action.

NRAMA: How did the Garrison project come about?

MARIOTTE: The initial idea was the visual of Lester in his cowboy hat, T-shirt and leather vest-a guy you just would never in the world expect to be so hellaciously deadly.  From that came the scene of him walking out of the burning town, and the question of why he torched it, and how do I, as a writer, create sympathy for a guy who is so casually bad-ass.  The next thing was the idea that we're not really seeing Lester “first hand,” but seeing him on surveillance video being watched by someone else who would like to know just who this guy is and what does he think he's doing, and the story kind of fell together from there.  

I pitched it to WS editor Shannon Eric Denton, who not only liked it but managed to bring Francesco on board, which is perhaps cooler than I could have hoped for.

NRAMA: You're working with artist Francesco Francavilla. How's his art influencing the story?

MARIOTTE: Francesco is flatly amazing. We've seen some great work from him already, but honestly, nothing like we'll see when Garrison hits the stands (well, okay, I've seen it already, but you haven't).  The black and white pages are brilliant, with gray tones in them-the whole thing could be published in B&W and not lose a thing (Absolute edition, anyone?), but they look terrific colored, too.

His main influence on the story came when I found out how much he was enjoying the action sequences.  His enthusiasm prompted me to keep upping the ante, to make sure the next action bit topped the last one.  I hate to keep harping on this, but if you like action comics, you need to check out Garrison.  Period.

NRAMA: Reading up on your on your website, I discovered your father worked for the U.S. Department of Defense. That sounds pretty intriguing - did any of your father's experiences color what you write, whether in this book or other books you've done?

MARIOTTE: His work wasn't particularly romantic or exciting, not a spy or anything like that-he was one of the many civilians who work to make sure that the money appropriated by Congress actually goes toward keeping the military fed, equipped, trained and ready to do what needs to be done.  I haven't tapped into that for any of the books or comics I've written.  What has probably informed most of them in some way is the sense of being uprooted, having to move from place to place, country to country, leaving behind friends and familiar places.  Garrison shares that to a degree, since he doesn't know who he is or what he's doing here, and his very survival might depend on finding out.

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