When young cadet Tilde is framed for war crimes, secrets come to life about her mother’s own criminal past. Now the only way to save herself is to take up her mother’s mantle as criminal overlord.
Johnnie Christmas (Alien 3, Fire Bug) and Jack T. Cole (The Unsound) team up to bring readers Tartarus from Image Comics, a new ongoing debuting this Wednesday.
Christmas and Cole spoke to Newsarama about the ongoing series and the underlying themes of each issue, which will be represented by a tarot card, also done by Cole.
Newsarama: Johnnie, Jack, the elevator pitch for Tartarus is "Breaking Bad in Mos Eisley," so who is your Walter White and do they have the death sentence on twelve systems?
Johnnie Christmas: Tilde would be the most likely candidate for our Walter White, but you’ll have to wait and see how things unfold. And yes…
Nrama: Johnnie, it's been a minute since you've had a title at Image. You've been all over the place as well, but what was it about Tartarus that made you want to take it to Image with Jack?
Christmas: We have an ambitious plan for the story. At Image we can execute our plan exactly the way we want, from story to book design and presentation. But outside of story as well, I have an interest in the business side of comics, working with and learning from people in ever corner of the business, all along the chain. At Image we’re independent owners under an umbrella, so we're closer to seeing the gears of how things work. That’s very appealing to me to be able to shape our story and our business in a way that best suits us.
Nrama: Speaking of, Jack, this is your first Image series, but you have The Unsound and Epicurean's Exile, what is it about your style, that you yourself feel, makes something like Tartarus a perfect fit for you?
Jack T. Cole: Johnnie has made a story that has a lot of room for the look of the story to go in a lot of different directions, and frequently I come up with new and inspiring ideas while in the middle of working on a piece, which gives me the freedom to include that and explore that more than if I had to stick strictly to something where every detail was pre-planned.
Nrama: What was the collaboration process like because there is so much design and detail in this book?
Christmas: The design is all Jack (aside from book design, which is Ben Didier). I’ll suggest things that I like or am interested in, but what arrives on the page re: design is up to him. As for story, I’ll write up a short treatment for each issue. I usually give Jack a call then and pitch him what I have in mind. I get his feedback and we’ll riff on ideas. After that I go off and write full scripts. But then Jack adds lots of new ideas on the page when he’s drawing as well.
Cole: Johnnie has a lot of great ideas that he's written into the book, like the Abyss - the great pit in the beginning of the book that Surka is held prisoner in. Then he'll hand that off to me and I put into the fog and the pipes to give the impression of a place that is cold, in fact artificially cold in order to add to the cruelty of the pit.
Then other times we'll collaborate on and agree on details and things we want to see beforehand. And then the rest I figure out and put in, which in turn sometimes Johnnie picks out and puts in future places of the story!
Nrama: Do you see Tartarus as an ongoing or something more limited?
Christmas: Ongoing for sure.
Cole: Ongoing, yep.
Nrama: There is a giant-sized issue right out of the gate. Did you feel like there was just too much story to split this into two separate issues?
Christmas: We really thought it was important for the reader to see how much of a badass Surka is. We could have explained it in a couple of lines of dialog, but that wouldn’t be the same. The Baxnan Empire is afraid of what Tilde can become, and once you get a glimpse of Surka, you’ll know it’s for good reason.
Cole: It can be really difficult to give readers a proper impression of what a series is going to be like from just one issue, heck even two issues, which at the start of a series is often what readers decide whether or not they want to continue. A double issue allows a nice spot at the beginning to let some things play out over a little longer time, and also make it so that when a reader picks up issue #2 they are 3 chapters in, and have a good impression of the story.
Also specific to Tartarus there is a big gap of time between the initial events and the time that they are set into motion, which if we had done regular-sized issues for #1 and #2 the reader would have had to have gotten used to one set of characters, then be immediately thrown into another set of characters, and I can only imagine would be confusing and frustrating.
The double issue eases that transition, makes that connection, and a reader will know they can expect the actions of both parts to become further intertwined as the story continues.
Nrama: What do you think is the primary theme throughout Tartarus?
Christmas: A marriage of opposites. Life and death. As above, so below.
Cole: I agree with Johnnie, Duality is definitely one of the overarching elements of the series. Divine next to mundane, glamor and garbage, etc.