Joe Harris recently took up the daunting task of continuing the mythology of the X-Files for IDW publishing in “The X-Files: Season 10.” While most would scoff at such an idea, newcomers and diehard fans alike have been singing the series praises. It feels like a natural continuation of a beloved series with modernized ideas of paranoia. In turn series tradition the comic weaves a mysterious narrative around playful banter and disgusting alien beasts.
Bloody-Disgusting had the chance to catch up with Harris at Emerald City this past weekend to talk about his approach to the series. How one steps into writing such iconic characters, modernizing paranoia, dealing with canon, and plans for the series future.
Joe Harris: I Do. I’d like to spend an issue with John Doggett and Monica Reyes. That’s a huge ambition I have. A spotlight issue on Skinner would be awesome. I think we’re all in agreement on that one. I’m looking at this as we’re doing three kinds of stories. The multiple part myth arc stories, monsters of the month, and characters spotlights. I wouldn’t mind Arthur Dales involved, but he’s almost tertiary. There is a wealth of characters you can explore within this canon. So I think I’m pretty set for the next year.
BD: Because the canon is so big, how do you choose what you actually work with and are there any restrictions?
JH: I don’t have many restrictions. We haven’t kept it a secret that there are two things Chris Carter feels near and dear with the X-Files. One is the “invasion” that was prophesized for 2012. He has plans that he would like to tackle at some point. Two is more with Scully’s son William. Those are things he wants to keep for himself. We wanted to find ways to address these things, because fans want to see what’s happening with these threads. The creator of all this still deserves his day, but we’ll tease you along the way.
BD: How do you feel about the huge fanbase? Does trying to please the devout fans scare you?
JH: I think I’m a devout fan. If I worried about it, it would only slow me down. I know we can’t make everyone happy and these are really passionate fans. We’ve made enough of them happy that I feel validated. I think I’ve got it down with how these characters should sound and how this universe should operate. I’m confident with what I can do with it, and I don’t worry about it. It would only drive me crazy. Everybody has an opinion, but we’re getting further into the canon. Alex Crychek is coming back in some capacity. The black oil is coming back next month. If I worried about what people thought of those things I’d be paralyzed. Luckily it’s been predominantly well received.
BD: Do you have to curb your writing style in comics because you have a background in film?
JH: No if anything. I think I have a vocabulary as a comics creator. I process what I feel like the show is at its essence and I almost transcode the process in my brain for the medium that its for. We try to recreate the cold open, which leads to the theme. You can’t be slavish to it otherwise it won’t feel natural it will feel stiff. I just have to go with what my gut says is a good representation in this medium that feels like the original medium. Even though it can never really feel like television. We try to replicate it in a way that might not be literal. I don’t know if everyone would do it the way I do, but that’s just what comes out through the process.
JH: Yeah! Starting in issue 11, coming out this month. There is a storyline called “Pilgrims” sees the FBI along with Mulder and Scully travel to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terror attack on an oil facility. They obviously find out there is more than crude oil under the sand. We’ll dive into a lot of old elements here, along with some new ones.
BD: What’s your favorite part of contributing to that mythology?
JH: This idea that there is a conspiracy within the government means something a little different in the 21st century. Now its all about who owns the government, who’s wiring profit out of it, who does it really serve and work for? In a post citizens united world where we have corporations who own everything and the NSA operating without restraint. We conduct warfare by remote control. It brings the stuff that is paranoid about the X-Files into this brand new spectrum. The concept updates itself pretty well. I don’t want to be retro. I want to spin the story into something that feels really current.
BD: Contemporary culture is so ripe with paranoia, updating the conspiracy must be exciting.
JH: It’s intimidating because that conspiracy stuff was so wonderfully done. Especially early on, the first and fifth season of the show was just magic. I know they’ve gone on record to say they made a lot of it up as they went along but those are the happy accidents that happen in storytelling. You hit upon something rich that you would have never foreseen. If Gillian Anderson doesn’t get pregnant in season two, they don’t have to find a creative way to write her off, she doesn’t get abducted. I’m sure they would have found something interesting, but look how integral that moment became.
BD: Do you work closely with Chris Carter?
JH: Not so much now. Early on he provided us with a lot of feedback and tweaks. He let us know what he liked and what he didn’t want us to do. He reads everything, and he sees everything. If there is anything he doesn’t like I know he’ll let us know.
BD: Mulder has a very distinct voice and you nail it. How much research went into getting the tone of the book right?
JH: Well I’ve watched the X-Files a bunch of times. When they asked me if I was into writing it, I went back rewatched a bunch of episodes including the whole alien mytharc. I do sometimes joke that I might be the only person on the planet right now who knows what its like to have to resist the temptation to have Fox Mulder speak like Hank Moody. It’s not easy to resist that sometimes. Some of that banter and some of that dialogue is so memorable. The relationship between Mulder and Scully is so iconic and so familiar that when I sit down to consider a scene something inherent in me adapts to it pretty well. I’m pleased with the job we’re doing and it seems most people who pick up the book are. It hasn’t been that hard. I get such a kick out of writing cool things for Agent Mulder to do.
Issue 11 of the acclaimed series hits April 30th.