Last week saw the debut of Image Comics’ hotly anticipated rock ‘n roll conspiracy adventure series, “Rockstars,” by scribe Joe Harris and artist Megan Hutchison. Conspiracies are of course familiar to Harris, who has been weaving them for years now in IDW Publishing’s “X-Files” ongoing. While the two series tackle pretty different subject matter, they’re both rooted in mystery, and obsession.
Ahead of the Image series’ debut, CBR spoke with Harris about the influences behind “Rockstars” and the upcoming “X-Files X-Mas Special,” a one-shot illustrated by Wayne Nichols that puts a unique spin on the classic “Christmas Carol” in a typically eerie “X-Files” fashion.
CBR: You touch on a lot of contemporary issues in X-Files, like gun control and immigration. Is it saying anything in particular politically?
Joe Harris: I think that when you’re doing a book where it’s genesis was all about who the government works for and why, and what’s going on behind the scenes of the public, I think it lends itself to those types of stories. I’m not looking at a soapbox – I’m looking at being current, not to preach. Some of these issues, if we handle them fairly, it might seem like there’s more of a political message than I might intend, but I’d like to think that’s what people are bringing to it when they read about issues involving children fleeing really horrible things in Latin America, or refugee crises going on right now with the state of certain things going on around the world, war and terror causing mass migration. So I like it to feel timely and current — I’m not so much about beating you over the head with a message though. I just like it to feel like “X-Files” is happening in 2016.
You seem to enjoy injecting conspiracy into the titles you work on. Where does that come from?
I can credit the “X-Files” for that love across the board. Just discovering that when I was a much, much younger person, on television, and centering it around characters who were myth-arc after myth-arc, season after season, going into this unraveling conspiracy, it was just very influential on me, so that’s definitely one of the better examples of that inflection I would lay out there. It’s hard not to — “Rockstars” in and of itself isn’t influenced by the “X-Files,” but Joe Harris is influenced by the “X-Files.”
Is your X-Files series tying into the revival at all?
Not so much because we’re not answering any cliffhangers that you desperately want answered — that’s for the show to do — and I think that the show in time will tackle where it will be. I’ve had a pretty free hand from the beginning. IDW’s been pretty supportive and FOX has been supportive, and Chris Carter has been very supportive, so I feel pretty confident that I can thread all these needles. Every once in a while someone tells me something I need to change, but for the most part, I’ve had a fun and easy time with it.
What can you tease about the X-Files 2016 X-Mas Special?
It’s going to be a mash-up of all the Charles Dickens-themed television specials that we remember from our favorite 80s show that they never really got to do in the “X-Files,” so it definitely borrows a lot from that with Mulder assuming the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, visited by three ghosts that are represented by characters from “X-Files” mythology, as well as a really amazing cigarette smoking man that I refer to as Jacob Morley – so yeah, that’s going to be fun.
Moving over to “Rockstars” — what’s your personal connection to rock music?
I grew up, not only adoring all the music I was born at least 10 years to late to properly enjoy, from Led Zeppelin to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and such, but really delving into the mythologies of these bands, the urban legends around these bands. I love secrets in rock ‘n’ roll – the whole idea of backwards messages when I was a kid was fascinating. That love is what really inspired me to get into this. And just having a pretty encyclopedic brain when it comes to rock history, I see a lot of possibilities to tell genre fiction.
Will “Rockstars” touch on existing rock conspiracies, or come up with new ones?
We’re going to reference existing conspiracies. The A plot of this book is going to be stuff that we make up that sort of folds between the makeup of history as we know it. Our first arc concerns a young guy named Jackie Mayor who is a total rock nerd, who also has this sort of weird, almost magical ability to figure these puzzles out and see things most people miss when it comes to rock and roll. And he knows something nobody else does, which is connected around this band called “Blue Rider” that we create, one of the heaviest most successful bands of the ’70s, was this rash of unsolved groupie murders. And Jackie, not only has discovered the pattern, but realizes they’ve started again in present day Los Angeles. And that’s how our series kicks off.
Does the series have a psychedelic, or drug-inspired vibe?
Somewhat. It definitely comes from a sex, drugs and rock n roll ethos, and as subject matter we do touch on it. We show party scenes at the Riot House in the ’70s, the continental riot house on sunset where all the bands would party after the shows, that factors in. Our characters are more investigators, they’re rock nerd investigators, and they delve in whatever the genre and the history throws at them.
“Rockstars” #1 is on sale now; the “X-Files X-Mas Special” hits stands on December 21.
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