Cover by Marian Churchland
When you usually think of the word "prophet," it tends to carry religious connotations, bringing to mind images of people spreading what they see as the good word. In the case of the character created by Rob Liefeld in the early '90s in "Youngblood" #2, Prophet is a programmed warrior from the past sent hopping through time armed with incredible skills as well as the signature large guns and swords sported by any number of Liefeld's characters.
Prophet also shares something else with many of Liefeld's other creations -- he's making a comeback in 2012 thanks to the relaunch of the creator's Extreme Studios as an Image Comics imprint , this time under the watchful eyes of writer Brandon Graham ("King City," "Multiple Warheads") and artist Simon Roy ("Jan's Atomic Heart"). With Graham and Roy's run set to start where the previous one left off, making January's "Prophet" the 21st issue in the series, CBR News spoke with the writer about his plans for the character, his desire to let fans know that he's not just taking jobs for the paycheck and what elements from Liefeld's original concept he wanted to bring over to the new Image series.
"I haven't dealt with Liefeld much," Graham said,, opening our conversation. "I appreciate that he's letting me run so far with his character. I like the idea of a character not being in his own time, but I didn't have much interest in the biblical stuff of the original series. I really liked the old logo and I liked the satellite idea from the old 'Prophet.'"
So, how exactly did the guy known for doing his own indie books wind up scripting the new adventures of Liefeld's time traveling hero? Like a lot of things in comics, it started with a conversation over drinks.
"It was at a bar during a convention with Joe Keatinge, who is writing 'Glory,' and Eric Stephenson, the head dude at Image, and they asked me if I wanted to work on 'Prophet," Graham explained. "Eric said I could do whatever I wanted with it, and I got the idea that I wouldn't have to jump through any editorial hoops. Eric has really stuck his neck out for me in the past with getting 'King City' back into print, and I had a lot of faith in him and Image letting me make the kinds of comics I'm excited to make."
And what Graham plans to do with the fan-favorite Prophet happens to sound pretty darn intense, maintaining the idea of a soldier waking up from cryo-sleep while expanding the series into all types of sci-fi arenas.
"I like that the idea is open enough that I can play it as sci-fi and also move it far away from modern day and still keep the same Rip Van Winkle theme," Graham said. "In the first issue, Prophet has to blend into an alien city and find his contract to get orders. The city is in a living spaceship that died after it landed and is slowly rotting. The aliens that live in it are a fermentation-based caste society. In the second issue, in order to cross a desert, Prophet joins an alien caravan where each of these giant alien beasts feeds off the waste of the creature in front of it until eventually the waste becomes a refined product that they go around selling. Prophet gets mixed up in an assassination plot of the caravans leader."
Graham went on to tell CBR that one of his main goals on the series is to pack as much into a single issue as possible in an effort to "out 'Conan' the current run of 'Conan.'"
"We're doing each issue fairly self-contained, but part of a larger story," Graham said. "The first three issues are parts of the same mission, and then I'm collaborating on the next two issues with my old 'Meathaus' friend Farel Dalrympl,e who did 'Pop Gun War' and drew 'Omega the Unknown.'"
One of the caveats Graham had when accepting this project was that he would not draw it because his Oni comic "Multiple Warheads" will be taking up all his illustration time. Thanks to a suggestion from Keatinge, Graham hooked up with artist Simon Roy, who he had met previously at the release party for Roy's "Jan's Atomic Heart."
"We're doing a lot of back and forth on the story and also the layouts," Graham said. "I feel like Simon's understanding of science and anthropology is a lot more grounded in reality than mine. I'm just really impressed by him as an all around creator. And he calls me on bullshit and helps me stay sharp on this book. In the past, I've worried about not drawing books I work on because it is easier to phone shit in when you don't have to draw it yourself. I want comics to always be hard for me to do -- luckily, I don't think they'll ever get easy. Also, [Roy] brought with him to the book Richard Ballermann, who has been doing an amazing job on colors."
As part of Liefeld's plan in regard to into the Extreme relaunch was making sure the creative teams had enough time to get a few issues in the can before the January 2012 launch, working with such a large lead time, Graham often found it difficult not to let the cat out of the bag while working on his project.
"I like to type about what I'm working on on my site," Graham said. "But also I wanted to have something to show, that we were making something worth while out of this and not just jumping on a job for a page rate. It's important to me that the people who read my stuff understand that I'm interested in making the best comics I can."