Writer J.T. Krul’s comics career has been heating up in recent months, with DC tapping him to write several high-profile series such as the Green Arrow/Arsenal Rise & Fall, Blackest Night: Titans and the upcoming new Green Arrow. DC’s newly minted Chief Creative Officer and key writer has commended the fellow Michigan State alum for his work in recent months, but while he’s rising up the charts in DC books he’s also finding time to build his own. In the next few months he’ll be debuting his first creator-owned series over at Aspen MLT called Mindfield with artist Alex Konat.
Mindfield follows a handpicked group of secret agent operatives with telepathy – consider them the “thought police” in the war on terror. The missions they take – and the price they paid for their powers – is the central tenant of the series, which Krul describes as Bourne Identity meets 1984. With the first issue set to debut in June with a special #0 issue to be released in April, Newsarama talked with the California-based writer for more.
Newsarama: So J.T., what can you tell us about Mindfield?J.T. Krul: Mindfield is the story of an elite group of CIA operatives with telepathic abilities, who function as a form of thought police in the fight on domestic terrorism. Essentially, the ultimate form of wiretapping, if you will. The problem for these agents is the difficulty in controlling their abilities. So as they go about their missions (they are very capable), but they are also tormented by the thoughts and secrets of those around him. The human mind can be a very murky place and they see it all without the filter of accepted society. It's got elements of the Bourne Identity and 24 as well as the more psychological components of say Orwell's 1984 or Warren Ellis' Desolation Jones.
Nrama: At the center of this book is the revival of the long-defunct government program MK: ULTRA. It’s not something fabricated for the book – it actually existed. What led you to this, and what made the idea of reviving it so interesting?
Krul: I was researching the era of the counter-culture that blossomed in the 1950's and 1960's and came across the CIA activity in those days. I had heard of the MK: ULTRA program from things like Stephen King's Firestarter and such, but it was astounding to read about just how much effort and resources the CIA put into LSD experimentation. All of this activity stemmed from the Cold War, and given the current climate of the world today - and this nations war on terror - it made me ask: what would the government most want to have right now to combat such threats? I have always been a huge fan of dystopian fiction like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451- and this story began to gestate. Mindfield has that action/espionage element to it, but it also serves to explore our sense of humanity, and in some cases the lack thereof.
Nrama: The revived MK: ULTRA, now known as Project: Cobalt, has been revived by the CIA. What’s it do exactly?
Krul: It's a small, classified program within the CIA that was dusted of after September 11th, as the government looked for any and every method to increase security. They've made a breakthrough using hallucinogenic drugs to give people the ability to read minds. It's not an exact science. It works differently on each individual case. Some are better than others, and some never even made it through the process. But in Project: Cobalt, they don't mind frying a few brains to get the desired end result.
Nrama: And this trickles down to the test subjects --- CIA agents who were put through it in a way similar to how police officers are tasered to see how it feels before they do it to someone else. What are the thoughts behind this?
Krul: A little, but that's the big problem with the project, and the main challenge for the agents - nobody really knows what to expect. It's completely uncharted territory. This is a fact we'll touch upon early in the story as those in charge try to keep their agents under control and ready for action. The process the agents endured was daunting and extreme, and they are all considered damaged goods - but as long as they deliver, the ends justify the means.
Nrama: What are the long-term side effects of undergoing this treatment?
Krul: Again, that's just it. The long-term effects are unknown. The agents are kind of alone, as they try to navigate through this new landscape they find themselves exposed to. In order to keep their abilities, the agents are forced to continue to medicate themselves with a strange drug cocktail - which serves to extend their psychic journey, if you will.
Nrama: According to what Aspen has told, front and center in this book is two CIA agents – Connor and Erika. Can you tell us about them?
Krul: Connor is definitely the central figure in Mindfield. He was an average kid building an average future of college and career, when tragedy struck and he lost his way. You'll see in issue #1 of the book how events steered him from tragedy to the CIA and into this secret project. As for Erika, she's kind of Connor's partner. She's has a history in law enforcement and decided she wanted to make a real difference in the country - that's why she joined the CIA and also what motivated her to sign up for Project: Cobalt. She's all business and has little time for Connor and his "issues." In terms of the team dynamic, Connor is more advanced as far as telepathy goes, but Erika is a much more effective field agent. In a fight, she'd totally kick his ass.
Nrama: Erika is Connor's partner in this, and for this book your partner is artist Alex Konat. What’s he bring to the story?
Krul: Alex is the real deal. He's done a few things for DC, such as Gotham Gazette, and he is making his presence known with Mindfield. He's got a tremendous eye and attention to detail that brings a strong sense of realism to the book - which is great for the gritty aspects of this story. But at the same time, we're playing around with style and structure. I wanted this book to be very visual - really play with the look and feel of the book especially when it comes to the telepathic aspect of the book. He's doing amazing work, and we are lucky to have him on the project.
Nrama: Lastly…. your career seems to be hitting its stride at the tail end of 2009 and now here in 2010 with the announcements that you've got two big projects for DC. What’s it like from your perspective, J.T.?
Krul: It's funny, just the other day I was listening to KROC (the morning radio show here in LA) and they had an astrologist of all things on. She made some passing comment about how 2010 was going to be a great year for Scorpios (which I am) - a year a long time in the making. She really hit the nail on the head. From my work on Fathom and Soulfire at Aspen and launching my first creator-owned project to writing such big projects at DC like Blackest Night: Titans and the Green Arrow/Arsenal Rise and Fall story - it's proving to be a great year so far for me. I am completely thrilled with the good fortune I've had and feel very lucky to be able to work on such awesome projects with such incredible people.Related: