As we look to bring readers a slew of exclusive one-on-one interviews this week, we continue with the conclusion of my extensive interview with screenwriter and comic book scribe, Joe Harris. (The first segment can be found here) Inside you’ll find info on his upcoming project from Oni Press, “GHOST PROJEKT”, as well as his plans for the future. Read on for the skinny!
TD: Yes it sure is a great time. Maybe I’ll even see you out there this year! So let’s talk “Ghost Projekt”. I recently previewed it, and I’m really excited for it. What can you tell us about the project?
JH: “It’s a supernatural thriller and an old fashioned revenge ghost story that takes place in the former Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the Russians experimented with all sorts of weapons of mass destruction and that vast country is littered with former test sites, decaying laboratories and twisted victims of leaks, exposures and tests. The United States knew all about most of the insidious things they did over there. Hell, we did plenty of them ourselves. And, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, our Department of Defense ramped up efforts to help a stretched-thin Russian government catalog and contain loose materials that might make it onto the black market and into potential terrorists’ hands.
Enter Will Haley, the best American Weapons Inspector working abroad. When he’s called in to investigate a break-in at a crumbling, abandoned Siberian facility, he crosses paths with a beautiful Russian detective named Anya Romanova who’s investigating a string of murders linked to the super-secret research and development that went on here. They don’t know much about the work that was conducted, but they know operations went on here under the project name, “Dosvidanya” which is Russian for good-bye. Ever since the break-in, people attached to the old project have been turning up dead and Operativnik Romanova suspects one of project heads of using whatever mysterious materials were stolen from that lab to pick off his fellow scientists and administrators who worked on this illegal program in hopes of covering his tracks and avoiding prosecution for any war crimes committed under his watch.
Only it’s far more complicated from that. Something has been released from that lab, but it’s something far more deadly than any sort of biological or chemical weapon Will is used to cataloging and containing. And Konstantin is responsible for far worse than anything Anya suspects. The whole investigation leads them down a rabbit hole of state secrets, deadly sins and research into the most deadly weapon of supernatural design imaginable since the Nazi’s sought the Lost Ark of the Covenant before Indiana Jones could shut them down.
The story criss-crosses the snowy Russian continent as our heroes chase the stolen Dosvidanya materials from the Siberian Taiga to Moscow’s Red Square. It’s full of hauntings, killings and one mother of a battle scene that completely devastates– well, I’ll let you read it when it comes out. I might have said too much already! But suffice to say, lots of ugly, deadly things were kept hidden beneath the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain. Nothing like a little sunlight to send the roaches scattering.
TD: I think what draws me to the title so much is the fact that you really seemed to do a lot of research in order to make the title as relevant to the history it loosely revolves around. It just feels very thought out and well planned. How long have you been working on this title up until this point?
JH: “Well, it’s a combination of what I’ve heard about in the media really since those 2001 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, research I’ve done since then, and my own imagination that’s filled in many of the gaps. Artist Steve Rolston and I have been discussing this project, on and off, for a few years now. And, I think, it was really in the months and years immediately following those events that this all sort of crystallized for me as a viable story. There’s not much written about the folks who do this kind of WMD collection and disposal, so I had to really glean what I could from what little was available. In the end, the book is a sort of amalgam of things. Procedurally and institutionally, I think I’ve taken a lot from movies like BACKDRAFT. Anything where you see the culture of a group of guys who do a specific, dangerous job. The ritual and camaraderie that goes with it, that sort of thing. As well as the dangerous work involved.
I guess this has all be gestating with me for a while, when I think about it. I’ve wanted to tell a horror story in frozen Russia ever since I read Brian Lumley’s NECROSCOPE novels as a kid. Those books are actually a tremendous influence on me and this project. Not directly, but tonally and in how they blend some of the espionage and supernatural elements.”
TD: “NECROSCOPE”? Really? I thought I was the only one who remembered those books.
So readers can expect a very adult, smart, and edgy story from “GHOST PROJEKT”. Is the story equal parts thriller and action? Or can readers expect a more chilling type of read for this one?
JH: It’s definitely a thriller with both chills and action scenes throughout. Keep in mind, it’s very much a ghost story, so I’ve tried to really build out some creepy, haunted moments. But make no mistake. There’s some thunder in this series too. We’ve got the Russian Red Army and para-military police dealing with unleashed hell, of a sort, both figuratively and literally.
One thing I always loved about Lumley’s books–it might have been the first one, I’m not sure–but it involved an assault on the headquarters of the Russian espers and the Necroscope, Harry Keogh, who could communicate with the dead who would, in turn, rise up and do his bidding, called on a field of fallen Tartar warriors lying calcified beneath the frozen crust. That scene always stuck with me and damn if it didn’t infect and influence some of my own machinations.
Reminiscing about those books is making me a bit nostalgic. I want to write the NECROSCOPE movie. Very, very badly. I’d settle for some new comics adaptations done right. But I digress…
TD: NECROSCOPE would make a fantastic film though I hadn’t heard anything about a possible movie. Are you telling me you know something I don’t? Haha What about “GHOST PROJEKT”? With all the hype and positive press going on for it right now would you be open to a film adaptation one day?
JH: Well, sure. Of course. I mean, I’d like to think all of my present and upcoming original comics properties would make great film franchises. We’ll see, obviously. But that’s certainly a goal going forward. The first goal is telling a good story and putting out a great book that satisfies readers and justifies their spending their money, reading the publicity, interviews and what not. But yeah, of course. I want to make movies and so does Oni Press. I’ve made movies based on original ideas of mine and I’ve written comics featuring other peoples’ properties and characters. One of the biggest reasons I decided to get back into telling comics stories, rather than writing spec scripts or pitching concepts to studios and buyers without the established publishing behind them was to sort of merge these two tracks I’ve been on. I only wish I’d done creator-owned comics sooner as I’m having a great time right now.
I don’t know anything about NECROSCOPE, the movie. I just wish I did.
TD: Well I think I can speak for the majority of us when I say I’d surely by a ticket to see the movie. The book itself has gotten a huge amount of positive press, which has to excite you. Besides “GHOST PROJEKT” though, is there anything else that readers can be on the lookout for from you in the year to come?
JH: “Yeah, quite a bit actually. Following GHOST PROJEKT, I have a host of new books in the works from Oni Press. Next up is an original graphic novel called THE HASHISHIAN. It’s a stoner, action and adventure story about a two upstanding young Brooklyn lads in the Cheech and Chong and Harold and Kumar tradition who find some magic weed, in more ways than one. Turns out it’s actually connected to an ancient order of Islamic assassins dating back to the time of the crusades. When one of these assassins–or “Hashishians” as the first assassins were actually plied with hashish and that’s where the word “assassin” comes from–shows up in the present day looking to pick off the President of the United States, our dynamic duo tries to do the right thing and tell the authorities, the government, the secret service, anyone who’ll listen to what they’ve discovered… only they’re too stoned for anyone to take seriously and set out trying to save democracy and freedom on their own.
After that, I’ve got two other Oni Books coming down the pike, including a very awesome young adult fantasy story with artist Adam Pollina and some new horror properties we’ll be announcing as the convention season gets rolling later this year. I’ve also got a new horror title coming from a major comics publisher that, again, will be announced as the year gets going.
Aside from this, I’m still contributing to Dark Horse Comics’ newly re-launced hit, CREEPY. Part Three of my serialized mind-fuck story, THE CURSE will be out in CREEPY #3 next month and I’ll likely have stories popping up in year two of that wonderful book.”
TD: Everyone here at Bloody-Disgusting would like to thank Joe for his time and for always being a pleasure to speak to. For all of you out there that haven’t marked your calanders yet, Joe’s newest serialized epic “GHOST PROJEKT” comes to you from Oni Press on March 3rd!