The world is full of secrets, and it’s John Harrow’s job to make sure they stay that way. The star of Justin Jordan and Ariela Kristantina’s new BOOM! Studios’ ongoing series “Deep State”, Harrow works for the government as a secret keeper, traveling the United States to ensure the nation’s deepest and darkest experiments stay hidden from the public eye.
Jordan kicked off his comics career in 2011 and has been keeping busy ever since with a mix of Big Two super hero books and creator-owned offerings. He launched his Image Comics career with “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” which led to other projects including its sequel, “The Legend of Luther Strode,” Skybound’s “Dead Body Road” and the recently-launched “Spread.” His original work attracted the attention of DC Comics, where he has worked on titles ranging from “Deathstroke” to “Team 7” to “Superboy” and his current run on “Green Lantern: New Guardians.” He also rejuvenated “Shadowman” for Valiant in 2012. Now Jordan’s bringing his talents to BOOM! for the first time with “Deep State,” the first of three projects already set up with the publisher.
CBR News talked to Jordan exclusively about the new title which debuts November 12, his views on conspiracy theories, John Harrow’s new partner and how his writing process has changed since the first “Luther Strode” book.
CBR News: “Deep State” lead John Harrow has an interesting job. He makes sure the government’s secrets stay that way. What kind of experiments and secrets are we talking about here? In other words, what are the fictional parameters of the world you’re creating?
Justin Jordan: Hmmmm. I would say… light-to-medium science fiction. I try to stay to where I’m extrapolating from actual science to get where the stories need to go, and where, if the stuff was revealed, it wouldn’t necessarily make the world unrecognizable to the reader. As a concrete example, I’d say that Warren Ellis’ “Global Frequency” is about where we are in terms of the fantastic stuff.
Now, the secrets — well, the first thing we learn in the very first issue is that the 1969 moon landing was real, unlike the conspiracy theory, but it was actually the third time we’d been to the moon, and the part of the mission you didn’t see was them recovering the bodies from the last trip.
In the real world, the U.S. government has gotten into some extremely shady shit. The version of the government in “Deep State” is just as shady, but somewhat better at not letting them get out. Although I have no proof that someone like John Harrow doesn’t exist in the real world.
So this moon landing-related secret getting out in the open kicks off the series?
Well, what kicks off the first arc is something from one of the secret moon landings coming to Earth, which is a problem. And it does so in a very public way that Harrow has to work very hard to contain.
Does John work with anyone else while doing this job or is he pretty much a solo act?
He works with a partner, and we meet the new one in the first issue: Ms. Branch, who is an FBI agent who can’t stop looking into cases she shouldn’t. So Harrow decides to just recruit her into the organization rather than waste talent.
What’s the dynamic like between Harrow and Ms. Branch? Since he hand-picked her, it doesn’t sound like things will start off too contentious.
They get along, but the job is such that only certain independent types can do it, so there is some tension there from the start. They also don’t know each other all that well, which doesn’t help. There’s also a lot of stuff about Branch that Harrow doesn’t know, and that he doesn’t know when he should is going to be part of the overall plot. You’ll get to see by issue #4 a lot of the deeper stuff happening with Branch.
Do you believe in conspiracy theories? Was there a particular one out there in the world that helped inspire “Deep State?”
I don’t exactly believe in conspiracy theories. I say “don’t exactly” because there are absolutely, for sure, some conspiracy-type stuff that has happened. MK ULTRA, for instance, is something that happened and very much sounds like a conspiracy theory.
And there are conspiracy theories that I find more plausible than others. The one that I was reading that was about the Jonestown Massacre, which is a plausible theory. I can’t say I believe it, but I believe it could be true. As opposed to things like 9/11 Truthers, or Moon Landing hoaxes, which would require pretty superhuman skills to pull off, and were — allegedly — done for no particular reason. But I look at conspiracy theories, in general, like I do myths: they’re interesting, but what they mostly do is reveal the minds of the people that believe them.
How did you hear about Ariela’s art and what makes her the right person for this book?â€¨â€¨Ariela is a Savannah College of Art and Design alum, like [“Luther Strode” artist] Tradd [Moore] is, and I think I first became aware of her when she friended me on Facebook. Because I was friends with Tradd and “JL8” creator Yale Stewart, I became friends with a lot of SCAD folks and I think we became Facebook friends because of mutual friends.
But SCAD produces a lot of good talent, so it wasn’t much of s surprise when I checked out her work and it was awesome. It had a dark look that was exactly what I was thinking of when I came up with “Deep State.”
Happily, when [BOOM! editor] Eric Harburn asked me who I wanted on the book, he was already a fan of Ariela, and we were able to get her on. And she is going to blow your mind.
Speaking of Eric and the BOOM! gang, how did you come to publish “Deep State” there?
They asked me to pitch them some books. A couple of my professional friends had taken books there, and they were all happy with the people and with the contract, so I was willing to see how it went.
I actually pitched them three different things, and they greenlit all three, so “Deep State” is just the first thing. They’re all very cool concepts that I picked especially for BOOM! so I am a happy camper. I hope fans dig them.
When we first talked back in 2011 about “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” you said your writing process was a series of tighter outlines. Did you write “Deep State” that same way?
Yep, that is still my process. We’ve got the first twelve issues planned out already, because there’s a fairly major meta arc for Harrow that takes place over those twelve issues. If we’re lucky enough to get to a second year, we’re going to see a really different “Deep State.” Then I break it down into the arcs, and then the issues, and then page by page. By the time I get to the actual script, I’ve got it pretty tight.
“Deep State” from Justin Jordan, Ariela Kristantina and BOOM! Studios debuts on Nov. 12.