Legends aren’t born, they’re forged. In the case of Luther Strode, the legend is well earned thanks to his creators, writer Justin Jordan and artist Tradd Moore. The duo gave Strode his powers in the initial Image Comics series “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” which turned out to be a huge hit for the creators and Image. Luther gained amazing powers after ordering a body-and-mind-building kit from a comic book only to learn that not only did it work, but it also set a super powered psychopath by the name of The Librarian on his trail.
Without getting into too much spoiler territory for the first six-issues series, Luther’s powers were not the blessing they tend to be for many other super powered individuals. Jordan and Moore launch a new six-issue miniseries in December titled “The Legend of Luther Strode” and deals with exactly that — the reputation Strode earned by becoming one of the baddest dudes around, and scourge of the underworld. The new series finds a group of criminals on Strode’s trail and asks the question, can the legend survive? CBR News talked with Jordan about the answer to that very question, the life of Luther Strode and what he’s been up to in the five years of story time between the two miniseries.â€¨â€¨
CBR News: “Legend” picks up five years after the first “Luther Strode” series, what’s happened to him in that span of time?â€¨
Justin Jordan: MURDER.
Not his own, obviously, but Luther has been amassing a pretty serious body count. He’s basically taken the opinion that if he’s going to be killing people, he can at least be killing bad people. The actual story starts when the bad guys come up with a plan to kill him back.
Luther went up a serious bad guy in The Librarian the first time around, so how do these new ones stack up in comparison? What can you tell us about them?
His opponents this time are a lot different than the Librarian, but no less formidable. And there are a lot more of them. Luther’s activities over the last five years have made enemies of at least three separate groups of people, and they are all taking the general “enemy of my enemy is my friend approach.”
Which seems pretty vague. So let’s say that Luther is going up against at least one person who is much, much worse than the Librarian could hope to be on his best day.
You played off of a very comic book-centric conceit in the first volume with the idea of Luther sending away for the body building guide, is there anything else along those lines in “Legend?”
Sort of. What we’re going with here is the consequences of what it would actually be like to be the kind of vigilante the Punisher is. And it’s not much of a life, as we see from Luther’s existence at the beginning of the series. Everyone is after him, and he doesn’t have a life.
It sounds like you might be taking a more real world approach to the Punisher concept. Can you get into a little more detail about what that life is actually like for Luther?
Brutal. He essentially doesn’t have one. He tried to commit suicide by cop at the end of “Strange Talent,” and even five years later, he doesn’t have anything. The Librarian, in one way or another, took everything he had.
So he’s been channeling his rage and his drive to kill into the criminals he can find. And Luther is very, very good at killing people. But he doesn’t have a life, and he’s become as monstrous as you’d imagine.
I mean, if you’re out there killing people, even bad people, as graphically as Luther is, people are going to notice and come looking for you. So if you want to survive, then you need to be living outside of society. Which suits Luther fine, since that’s the only way he sees to keep society safe from him.
With Luther in such a bad place when “Legend” picks up, is there potential for redemption, or perhaps cleansing, in the series?
I hope so. The way I look at it is that “Strange Talent” was basically the fall of Luther Strode. It was a tragedy, where Luther was undone by his own well-meaning recklessness. So “Legend” is sort of about whether or not you can come back from that. Whether someone can be redeemed when they think they are far beyond redemption. Whether or not he actually can be redeemed is something you’re going to need to read the book to find out.
How long has the story behind “Legend” been in your mind? Was it something you had before the first volume launched or did it come about after that?
I thought of the stories that would make up “Legend” and, if “Legend” is successful, “Legacy of Luther Strode” before the first one hit the stands. Basically what happened was that when I was working out the backstory of the book and, I guess, the story, I saw some other places we could go with it.
The trick was getting there. I didn’t expect “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” to be as successful as it was, so I was happy that we got to actually do the thing. Hopefully people are going to dig it.
Given that success, do you feel different pressures this time around than the ones you felt previously?â€¨
Well, I didn’t really feel much pressure the first time around. I mean, nobody knew who the hell we were, and if the book sucked or people just didn’t buy it, well, nothing had really changed.
This time, though, we’ve got an actual fan base going and, I won’t lie, I came down with a pretty serious case of performance anxiety. I had to redo the plot to “Legend” at least half a dozen times before I was satisfied with it.
It’s the same sort of pressure I feel with all the books, really, and that’s an insecurity that seems pretty common to writers. Because every book is different, you are basically always making up the rules as you go, so you always feel like you’re faking it.
Or maybe that’s just me.
In addition to the general pressures of following up a hit, did you also attack this script with a sense of needing to top the last one?
Sure. I mean, that’s sort of how I tell stories. The stakes in the miniseries need to rise as the series progresses, and that’s true as a series of miniseries as well. But the trick is not let yourself get carried away with that.
I mean, I liked the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, but I think the last one, especially, shows signs of trying too hard to make everything bigger and louder than the last one.
So with “Legend of Luther Strode” we did get bigger, both in an attempt to hold to that sort of narrative rule I have, and because the story just sort of got bigger as a logical result of how we set things up.
There’s a downside to that success, too, because I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to write something as good as “Luther Strode,” much less better. It’s one thing when no one has any expectations, but it’s another when you’ve got fans.
This one is both darker and waaaaay more of an action movie than the last one. Issues #2-6 are very nearly one continuous action sequence.
â€¨How has your working relationship with Tradd changed now that you have those first six issues under your belt?
It’s certainly gotten a lot more streamlined. As it turns out, Tradd and Felipe [Sobreiro, the book’s colorist] and I all think a lot a like, so there’s a lot less need for explanation in the scripts and in the process of working it all out.
Tradd was a lot more involved in the plotting level this time around; we hammered out the basic plot together and worked together on pretty much everything. Working with Tradd is great fun, since we work well together, and that has only become more true working on “Legend.”
Find out what Luther Strode has been up to for the past five years in “The Legend of Luther Strode” #1, on sale December 5.