In New Jersey, a good man can be hard to find.
And while some ladies looking for the love of their lives may move their search across the Hudson River to Manhattan's social scene, the savvy Jersey girl at the heart of Image's February-launching "Jersey Gods" ongoing series broadens her search a little further to include cosmic depths of outer space, courtesy of writer Glen Brunswick and illustrator Dan McDaid.
"I want us to get into that [cosmic] world in a very accessible way," Brunswick ("The Gray Area," "Killing Girl") told CBR, explaining the fun of the series -- announced at this weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con -- is watching the culture clash between Jersey heroine Zoe and her war god hubby Barock's very separate lifestyles. "I think the idea is that I’m giving a real modern sensibility to what Kirby did in the ‘70s and making it accessible and humanizing it by starting with this girl that hopefully everybody will relate to.
“We follow the life of this girl that lives in New Jersey, and she’s this high maintenance piece of work. She’s an amazing girl, but she’s tough, and most of the guys she dates wonder if she’s worth the effort that she puts them through. I think she’s really kind of loveable in this slightly complicated mess sort of way, and she’s a great window to center the book on. When we see the gods for the first time, it’s really through her eyes."
When the gods crash through into our world, they select as their battleground a mall in Jersey suburb Cherry Hill, which happens to be the site of Zoe's latest broken relationship. As Barock pummels his way from shop to shop in combat with an evil god from his home planet of Nebulon, Zoe falls instantly for what she views as a perfect man who can live up to her high expectations. And as the old saying goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the crime fighting, family drama and otherworldly hilarity inherent in a cosmic god taking a bride in the 'burbs.
“We see how they meet, and we’re going to get to see their courtship to a degree and what it’s like to marry a god from the perspective of the in-laws on earth and all the nonsense the gods have to do — the crazy gods that come to the wedding and turn everything on its ear,” said Brunswick, adding that the heart of the series will focus on life for the pair once they've settled in Cherry Hill full time. "Now, if [Barock] can just manage to survive his new in-laws, his household chores and his bride’s crazy social agenda, he might just carve out a moment or two to save the galaxy and protect the seedier parts of New Jersey."
Of course, while the earthbound adventures of a married couple comprise the driving force of "Jersey Gods," Brunswick assured readers that he's giving series artist Dan McDaid — a third place finalist in CBR's 2007 Comic Book Idol competition — plenty of opportunity to bring the slick, action-fueled visuals into the mix, as the history of Nebulon and its many gods play an equally important role.
"10,000 years ago, [Barock’s] planet had this huge civil war, and his father was killed,” the writer explained. “And this war has affected all of the gods. They were like human beings kind of like us 10,000 years ago, but after this cataclysmic war, the survivors developed these godlike abilities. And it’s this war that changed them that the evil gods also refer back to when they think about their revenge. Barock lost his father, his brother was mortally wounded, but he did things — heroic things that his adversaries want to take revenge for."
Those story beats combine with Barock's own mysterious past to add a layer of mystery and excitement to the series over the long run. "Something has happened to his relationships, and he’s been a warrior for a very long time," Brunswick teased. "We don’t know what’s happened that’s got him off to the idea of having a love relationship. We even see the difference between him and his best friend Helius who is a romantic lothario and is trying to coax him back into a relationship with a woman. He’s a warrior, but there was a time he felt differently, and we’ll learn more about that as the series goes along.
"This is a world like our own where there are no superheroes, where it’s like a first contact when the gods come down. The last time the gods came down, there was no media to document it, so the gods literally are the basis for all these earth myths that we’ve had over the centuries. They’ve lived for 10,000 years, but this is the first time that they’ll actually be documented."
Aiding in the documentation of these gods will be a who's who lineup of A-list comics talent as the series first issues will include special alternate covers by the likes of Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, Paul Pope and Erik Larsen. Beyond that, Brunswick is inviting one of the industries biggest writers to contribute a back up serial that will run starting with "Jersey Gods" #2, Mark Waid. "I happened to show him this 'Jersey Gods' book, and he was really, really into it," Brunswick said. "Mark’s going to do a backup story that involves the Nebulon civil war from 10,000 years ago. In each issue, rounding out the Jersey Gods universe will be this war story where we get to look into their past."
While Brunswick is also hoping to expand the backups in later issues with contributions from "Firestarter" scribe by Phil Hester, the main showcase of romance and action every month will be himself and McDaid. And with the new name on art chores, the writer isn't a bit worried about how things will turn out.
"I thought he was incredible and very polished. He’s got a very Darwyn Cooke quality to his work,” Brunswick said. “I think that Darwyn is a big influence in Dan’s work, and visually that really comes through. I’m really, really excited about the way things worked out with Dan, and he’s really throwing himself into this. And not only is he a great storyteller, but he really does the thing that all great storytellers do in that he makes the characters more interesting by giving them bits of business. Even if they’re not in the script, he puts these bits in, and as I’m doing my rewrite once I get pages in, I can alter them to make them better and to fit his visuals. I feel that the really great artists do that. Back when I was working with John Romita, Jr. he was doing that kind of thing, and we got a chance to make the pages better. So I’m really excited that Dan is this dazzling artist that at this point is pretty much undiscovered, but he won’t be for long."
Fans can discover "Jersey Gods" now in the form of two preview stories that ran in Image's recently released "PopGun 2" anthology before the first issue of the regular series hits just in time for February's New York Comic-Con.