[Interview] Justin Jordan Writes His Love Letter To Westerns And Film Noir In ‘Dead Body Road’

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Writer Justin Jordan has quickly become a name that you can depend on in the comics industry. He consistently writes powerful and emotionally compelling stories that hit readers like a ten ton hammer. With a proven track record of kicking ass on books like “Shadowman” and “Luther Strode”, it’s hard not to get excited for Justin Jordan’s new crime noir series “Dead Body Road”.

“Dead Body Road” explodes into action from the very first page, as a former cop, Gage, takes the law into his own hands after his wife is brutally murdered during a robbery. Gage sets out to track down the guilty parties and feed his violent urge to exact revenge. “Dead Body Road” is a 6-issue series from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint that is written by Jordan with stunning art by Matteo Scalera (“Indestructable Hulk”, “Secret Avengers”). The series is a gritty crime noir that incorporates all the riveting and thrilling cinematic elements of films like Dirty Harry and Kill Bill.

Jordan sat down with Bloody-Disgusting for exclusive interview to talk about how he’s coming out with guns blazing in “Dead By Road”.

Bloody-Disgusting: Tell us when the seeds for “Dead Body Road” where planted and how this project came to fruition?

Justin Jordan: Well, I’m a big fan of crime fiction. I read a lot of crime and mystery books, and I’ve wanted to write one myself, so this book is me getting to indulge a long standing dream. This particular book came about when Kirkman asked me to do something with him at Skybound. ‘Dead Body Road’ is what I eventually came up with.

BD: The story revolves around a former cop Gage, whose wife is brutally murdered in a bank robbery, so he takes the law into his own hands and sets out for revenge against those that killed his wife. How does this book differ from some of the classic revenge tales we’ve seen before or something like say a Punisher book?

JJ: He’s different from the Punisher in that, at the very least, he’s not a killing machine. He’s competent, sure, but he’s got about as good a chance of being killed by these guys as he has of killing them, because they are pretty good at what they do.

But he’s also a lot more self destructive and impulsive. Gage isn’t really in full control of his rage, and he blames himself for his wife’s death, and he wants to be punished for it. He might even want to die for it, although he wouldn’t admit it to anyone or himself.

Which, I think, is maybe what separates this from other revenge stories; he’s on his own list. Gage doesn’t mind dying, he just doesn’t want to do it before he puts everyone else in the ground.

BD: How long did you spend as a writer developing a specific voice for Gage as a character? Was it important to make sure he has a specific personality locked in before the bullets start to fly?

JJ: One of the most important parts of getting a story right is being able to hear the characters when I write them, the rhythms of their speech, which reflects personality and upbringing.

In this case Gage was actually the hardest person to get that right in this book, and it took some doing. Cobb and Lake, their voices pretty much were there from the get go. But with Gage, he’s such a contained character, a guy who is just barely holding it together; it was hard to get that voice right. But I did. I think. I hope.

BD: The book has been described as a Western, classic noir and crime drama. How do these two genres come together in ‘Dead Body Road’?

JJ: Beautifully? Heh. I mean, I hope so. It’s kind of taking some noir characters and motivations and putting them up against a hero who wouldn’t be out of place in a western. And it’s mostly set in the desert, out in the lonely places where the ordinary world doesn’t quite stretch.

So far I think it’s working, but it’s always tricky to tell – I considered Luther Strode to be a horror book, but I seem to be the only one. So hopefully the modern western vibe comes through.

BD: Recently Westerns have had a resurgence this year with books like ‘East of West’ and ‘Pretty Deadly’ having success. Why do you think that Westerns have been making a comeback in comics?

JJ: You know, I don’t know. Westerns come and go, as a pop culture touchstone. I know Hickman and Kelly Sue and I all grew up in the eighties, more or less, so it might be something that was in our childhoods.

I know for me, I watched a lot of Westerns when I was a kid, as they became available on video and on cable for the first time. So I was just sort of at the right time to see all these decades of great (and not as great) movies in a really short time frame.

BD: You’ve previously said that this book is really your love letter to ‘Justified’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy’. What is it about those shows that you find so inspiring as a storyteller?

JJ: ‘Justified’ is one of the best shows on television. It’s got such a strong sense of place and character that if I get even a tenth as good I’ll be a happy man. The ‘Justified’ influence here is in the dialogue, in just the way the characters treat the language.

‘Sons of Anarchy’ isn’t quite as good, but the show has a way of elevating these base, brutal men’s lives into something almost…operatic? So that’s something I wanted to try and steal. Also, bikers. We have a lot of bikers, eventually.

BD; This book is coming out through Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint. How did Kirkman and Skybound get involved and what has he and the Skybound team brought to the project?

Money. I’m kidding, although there is that. Skybound provides editorial support which has been helpful in shaping the story, and they hooked me up with Matteo, which is beyond awesome. Plus, it’s Skybound, and they know how to sell comics. To be totally careerist and totally mercenary, having a high profile high selling book is good for my career and me getting to do more of the books I want to do. Now how I got involved with them was basically Kirkman emailing me and saying “You should do a book with Skybound!” and me saying, “You’re right, I totally should!” And then we did.

BD: Matteo Scalera is working on this book with you. How did you hook up with Matteo and why was he perfect to bring this project to life visually?

JJ: Matteo coming aboard was all Skybound. That’s not to say I wasn’t ecstatic about it; when I was coming up with the idea for the book Matteo was one of my dream choices. But it was Skybound that made it happen.

There we two things that really stood out about Matteo’s stuff I thought would make him great for the book. One was that his stuff has a kind of stark, heavy on the blacks look to it that just felt right for a fairly grim crime book. And he’s emphasized that use of shadow here.

The other was just how incredibly kinetic his art is. The stuff just looks fast on the page, with an incredible sense of velocity and speed. Which I wanted to bring to the action oriented parts of the book. I wanted it to be fast and brutal. And Matteo delivered, on account of him being awesome.

BD: You’ve got a couple big projects that you’re currently working on including a couple horror projects from Avatar Press, including your first arc on Crossed. What can you tell us about those projects?

JJ: I get to follow Garth Ennis’ Patient Zero arc on ‘Crossed Badlands’, so, you know, no pressure there. My story is about what it takes to survive in the hellish environment the Crossed have created, and whether survival is even worth what you would have to become.

I’m doing some as yet announced stuff on another of their horror books and I’m doing a creator owned book with them called ‘Redshift’ about a sociopathic bounty hunter in a bad, bad future.

I’m also doing a book called ‘Spread’, which could probably best be described as Lone Wolf and Cub in a world where John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ ate North America. That book is definitely post apocalyptic horror, and we are greenlit, although I can’t announce the publisher just yet. And I’m still doing ‘New Guardians’ over at DC, so I’m staying busy.