Just as the last government documents tied to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy are released this week, IDW is releasing its own conspiracy theory-of-sorts in The X-Files: JFK Disclosure #1.
After the story links the assassination to Agent Mulder's father, the two-part special explores how Mulder will have to decide which is more important: his belief in his father or his belief in the truth. And according to the issue's writer, the plot is not only connected but it pays homage to its unusual structure.
The book, which pays homage to the fan-favorite X-Files TV episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man," features painted art by Menton3, who's usually featured as the cover artist on IDW's X-Files series. The X-Files: JFK Disclosure is written by Denton J. Tipton, an IDW editor on such titles as Orphan Black and Star Wars Adventures, in addition to being an editor on X-Files.
Newsarama talked to Tipton to find out more about this latest JFK conspiracy theory, why he thinks The X-Files TV show concept has continued to endure, and why the news in the headlines about documents related to the JFK assassination played a role in this week's release of The X-Files: JFK Disclosure.
Newsarama: Denton, I can't believe how often other writers say their book is "such-and-such meets The X-Files." I just had it happen this week. The concept of this TV show has lived on so long. As an editor on the book, and writing this story in particular, what do you think is the attraction of The X-Files, that so many other comic books and TV series – and even movies — have kind of mimicked its structure and style?
Denton J. Tipton: Most people seem to be intrigued by mysteries of the unknown from a young age. Many of us grew up on the like of The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Goosebumps, Maurice Sendak, Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman... the list goes on and on. The X-Files taps into that in a way that appeals to our inner child, but with the sophistication needed to sustain our attention as an adult. And once you fall in love with the Scully-Mulder relationship, and you will, it hooks you for good.
Nrama: This series in particular is exploring a moment from U.S. history that has long been associated with conspiracy theories — and one that's in the news right now. Can you give some set-up for the series title and subject?
Tipton: You're right, the JFK assassination has been the granddaddy of conspiracy theories since the 1970s, when Watergate and revelation of CIA assassinations all but wiped out the American people's trust in the government and cast the Warren Commission's findings in serious doubt.
Then in 1991, Oliver Stone's film JFK raised some very incendiary questions about the conspiracy, and helped gain passage of legislation that declared all the assassination records must be made public by October 26, 2017. With that date in mind, The X-Files: JFK Disclosure quickly came into focus.
Nrama: The flashbacks to the '50s and '60s offer an opportunity to explore that time period. Is that something that interested you? Why do you think it works with X-Files?
Tipton: These eras saw so much upheaval, politically and socially, there's an inexhaustible amount of story material to mine and shape into an engaging narrative. An unkillable golden goose, if you will. From glam to grit, it had it all.
JFK Disclosure uses the famous episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" as a jumping-off point and also as a roadmap for its structure. "Musings" is a prime example of unreliable narrator, the three vignettes that make up the episode don't really line up with each other, let alone timelines established in other episodes. So we're taking the ball and running with it a bit here.
Nrama: This revelation that Mulder's dad might be linked to the JFK assassination reminds me a bit of the insinuations in last year's U.S. elections that one of the candidates was connected to the JFK assassination. It felt like the ultimate insult, that you or someone connected to you had something to do with shooting President Kennedy. Does that play into your story? Or at least the general thought of being linked to something so infamous?
Tipton: That general thought played into it, but not that specific incident. Legacy, respect, and pride are major motivations for our characters in this story. But the ultimate goal of Mulder has, and always will be, uncovering the truth. No matter what the cost.
Nrama: The art sets an extraordinary tone. How would you describe the way the art communicates the feel you were hoping to achieve with this story?
Tipton: Menton3 had been the cover artist for our main X-Files title for the past few years, and had gotten the itch to draw more interiors and stretch his storytelling muscles. His most popular covers tended to be those that featured the Cigarette Smoking Man, so putting him on the gestating JFK project was an easy fit.
When we started to discuss who we'd bring in to write this story, Menton really pushed me to take it on myself.
Two of our favorite creators are Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, so Arkham Asylum became our urtext, our guiding light. I wrote the scripts in a similiar manner, keeping things loose enough to allow Menton room to interpret and extrapolate on things he felt important to the story.
He approached each scene from a new angle, and often in different mediums, that spoke to different and specific emotions. The Las Vegas scenes are in a stark contrast with those set in Dallas or in the nursing home where Mulder meets his informant. The various moods emanate from the pages.
Nrama: I think fans of his covers will be pleased with the interiors — each of the scenes, like you said, almost feel like a different approach.
Tipton: He took it to the next level when he turned a double-page spread of a starlet on it's side so the reader had to turn the book as if looking at a centerfold pinup. A subtle, but effective psychological trick.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Denton, is there anything else you want to tell potential readers about The X-Files: JFK Disclosure?
Tipton: Though this is deeply rooted in X-Files lore, you don't need to be an X-Phile to enjoy the story. From flashy gangsters and shady G-men to glamorous dames and dissected aliens, this one has something for (most) everyone.