In 2007, the comics industry landscape was very different, with some of today’s most popular creators toiling away in relative obscurity. One such creator was Jason Latour who that year teamed up with artist Chris Brunner and colorist Rico Renzi to release “Loose Ends,” a four-issue Southern crime series.
The book, which developed a small, but devoted fan base thanks to Latour’s writing and Brunner’s breathtaking visuals, is an especially significant moment in Latour’s career because it directly led to the titles he’s known for today; “Spider-Gwen,” which he co-created with Renzi and artist Robbie Rodriguez for Marvel Comics, and “Southern Bastards,” the Eisner Award winning Image Comics series by Latour and co-creator Jason Aaron.
Sadly, the fourth issue of “Loose Ends” was never released, denying fans the chance to read Latour, Brunner, and Renzi’s story in it’s entirety. That all changes this month, as Image Comics gives fans of the creative team’s work, both old and new, a chance to rediscover and finish one of the their seminal works by repackaging and releasing all four issues of “Loose Ends.”
CBR: Image Comics is releasing “Loose Ends” #1 in January. I know some of your newer fans will be experiencing this book for the first time, but will that will be the case for long time fans of your work as well?
Jason Latour: Well for context— “Loose Ends” is a comic that originally came out in 2007, and was essentially self-published between the four of us (the creative team and our editor Keven Gardener). Creator-owned comics were a different beast ten years ago; audiences paid less attention, the market was less diverse, and we were still building our careers. You couple all that with how much we poured into making this comic, and it was just a real uphill climb. So despite a really great response from folks who read it, we only managed to complete three issues of what was intended as four-issue miniseries.
Luckily for us, we’re here ten years later, and all the doors “Loose Ends” opened for us — especially for me — have made it very possible to re-present this book through Image. Which is just tremendous, because I love working there and I love the idea of this comic finally having a home beside the amazing stuff they do.
So we’re reprinting the existing material — along with the last chapter. And the cool thing about that is — again, this is the comic book that all but started our careers, one that very few people got to see. So it’s essentially like making a new comic.
We’re very excited about it. I feel like it still looks and reads pretty fresh considering that it is from another era. It’s a fun road trip genre crime comic, but also a meditation of sorts on what it was like to come of age in an era where George Bush was as his height, we were at war in the Middle East, almost no one had ever heard of Barack Obama, and Trump was just a dumb show TV host. I think it’s an interesting time capsule in that sense. Hopefully it’s taken on some new relevance.
Has the end of the series changed at at all? Did you go back and revise “Loose Ends” #4?
Sure, we’re going to do some light things to repurpose, repackage, and re-present the series as a whole. But for all intents and purposes, though, there’s not a lot of George Lucas-ing going on. [Laughs] Han still shoots first.
Both plot wise and story wise, the fourth issue is all in stone. The only thing that I could possibly allow myself to change is — well, it’s my opinion comic books are not finished until they’re in print. [Laughs] So for the fourth issue, I might do some little lettering re-writes (which is convenient, since I letter it by hand). We’ll see. I’m trying to keep it more or less the same in terms of my involvement.
At a certain point, you’ve got to stand beside what you did. There certainly are reasons to readdress things, but I always like to try and stand on the work that we did, and just trust that even if you were in a different place, you still gave it your best effort at the time.
Let’s talk a little bit about the main characters and the inciting incident of “Loose Ends.” What can you tell us about your two lead characters, Sonny and Cheri, and the events that bring them together?
The comic more or less is a road trip gone sideways. I guess, for lack of a better word, you could call Sonny the protagonist. [Laughs] He’s a young man who has come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with potentially a new lease on life. He and his friend, Reggie, have decided to sell heroin. It’s a get rich quick scheme that is very quickly eating away at Sonny’s conscience.
So Sonny returns home to try and make amends for something he left undone, and at the end of one bloody night he and a young woman from his past named Cheri end up on the road and embroiled in the machinations of a pair of corrupt cops. So in the course of one night, these characters lives take on this breakneck momentum that forces them to rehash and reassess their lives.
So if you’re a fan of films like “True Romance” or “Drive” (which it still stuns me that we pre-date), this might be for you. Of course, it’s set in the South, which makes it obviously very personal to me, and I think separates it from just the genre elements of those stories a bit.
In terms of elevator pitches, it sounds like you could describe it as sort of a Southern fried “True Romance” by way of someone like “The Wire’s” David Simon.
Yeah, that’s a good elevator pitch. There’s certainly a lot of David Simon in it.
I started writing this around 2005. There was a period where I moved away from the South and lived in New York. I read a lot of David Simon during that time. He’s clearly a heavyweight intellectual, and he really got me thinking. At the time, I was living in a pretty impoverished area of Brooklyn, and being from the South, I was thinking about the commonalities of people growing up in different places and how everything is all a lot more interconnected than people seem to want to acknowledge. That helped this book really coalesce in a way.
You mentioned “Southern Bastards.” I assume “Loose Ends” is also like that book in that it can be quite dark at times, but it can also be quite funny at times.
Yeah, I would think so. I certainly take myself way too seriously a lot of the time. [Laughs] But if anybody follows my terrible social media feeds, they’ll see that I also can’t resist making dumb jokes. So there’s a lot of my own particular, warped sense of humor, and the senses of humor of Chris and Rico both slide in there too.
I’m just a big believer in embracing the interplay between what’s absurd and what’s super serious. More and more that’s reflected in our society and real lives.
What I’ve seen of Chris and Rico’s art for “Loose Ends” is, I don’t want to use the term magical, but it kind of feels that way.
Yes! There is literally no other artist that I felt would be capable of bringing this to life. That’s the highest compliment that I can give.
Chris was my roommate for the better part of four years while we were working on the bulk of this. I got to see him struggle with putting that magic on the page. He really bled for it and earned every bit of it. I truly think people should pick this comic book up, if for no other reason than for the art. It’s a virtuoso performance by somebody who is, unfortunately, a little underrated. Not among other artists, but as far as fans. I think it will really be worth people’s time to experience what he’s done here. Hell, he could be one of the biggest names in comics, and he’d still be underrated.
The same goes for Rico, who is obviously a collaborator of mine on pretty much all the stuff I’ve been doing at Marvel. That guy is my drummer, man. The steady beat to all this stuff. If you’ve read “Southern Bastards” #12, or the first story in the “Spider-Gwen Annual,” that’s a little taste of how this team works together.
But I can’t stress enough that — we really didn’t want to do a crime comic that felt old and dusty. [Laughs] A lot of crime comics end up using the same palette and the same sort of visual presentation over and over again. So this is sort of what I’d call neon noir. We all really like the early Michael Mann movies. His films like “Thief” are definitely an influence.
Finally, how does it feel to revisit and bring “Loose Ends” to a long awaited close?
I stand behind everything we’ve done, 150 percent. But it does feel a little weird to put a comic out ten years after you wrote it. Mostly because readers don’t often know or seem to care about the context of when something was made. Why should they? Their job is to enjoy it. And then there’s the idea that— well it’s not so much the fear that they’re not going to like what you did then, it’s that they’re going to like what you used to do a lot better. [Laughs]
It does feel really rewarding to get it all put together and all done, though. It felt like for a while we might be pulling a prank on everybody by calling it “Loose Ends.” [Laughs] It’s like our own little Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton prank.
This was a comic that opened a lot of doors for me. It was the first comic that I put on Marvel’s desk and said, “Hey, I can write.” It’s also a comic that was very influential and essential to me and Jason Aaron creating “Southern Bastards.” So it means the world to me to get to re-present it and repackage it. Plus, it will be new to so many people. Even if only 10 more people read it it’s really gratifying to put Chris and Rico on that stage again. Giving anything that you worked that hard for a new chance at life is an opportunity that you should never take for granted.
“Loose Ends” #1, by Jason Latour, Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi, is on sale now.