Jeff Mariotte Unleashes "Garrison" at Wildstorm

Wildstorm made some big news at this year's ComicsPRO retailers meeting when the DC imprint announced a new creator-driven series of books. While details on the titles have been limited, CBR News tracked down some of the writers and artists behind the line to see if we could shed a little more light on it.

Former DC Senior Editor Jeff Mariotte, who penned a series of "Angel" novels and comics series, has created "Garrison" with artist Francesco Francavilla ("Zorro" and "Scalped"). The six-issue action epic - set in the near-future - features Lester Garrison, a main character Mariotte called "the most dangerous man in the world" and, more descriptively, "who looks like someone you'd find at the tractor pull on Friday night."

Francavilla, who illustrated this week's "Scalped" #27 by Jason Aaron, also provided CBR News with the accompanying first look teaser image of Garrison.

CBR: "Garrison" is set in the near-future. How near in the future are we talking?

Jeff Mariotte: The date isn't specified, but it's about 10-12 years from today. In this future, the country has become more restrictive and surveillance is rampant. It's not a Big Brother dystopia, but there are eyes everywhere. And while it's not spelled out in detail, it's clear that the United States is still at war somewhere.

I don't want it to sound grim. If you think through the ramifications of the world we see, it probably is pretty grim. But this isn't a geopolitical text, it's an action story. We leave the wider world up to the readers, who I believe are intelligent enough to figure out what it's like from the clues provided, while we focus in on Lester Garrison and his immediate situation.

And what makes Lester Garrison the most dangerous man in the world?

Ummm...his body count? There are, I like to think, surprises in every issue of the six-issue miniseries, so I'm going to have to be woefully vague in some of these responses.

Is he the hero of your story? Or the villain?

Yeah. By which I mean, he's the focus of the story. When we first meet him, he's just incinerated a town full of people, which may not make him especially heroic to most readers. But part of the point is that it's not always so easy to categorize people in that way. He does things that are definitely bad. And things that might just as well be good.

What else can you tell us about Garrison himself?

The thing is, he doesn't know much about himself. That's part of the mystery surrounding him, who is Lester Garrison, what's he after, and why's he doing things like burning down towns? He's the first to admit that he's not terribly self-reflective, so even as he finds out more about himself, and we find out along with him, contemplating his motivations is not something that interests him. As the story unfolds, the readers will learn more about Lester, mostly in those breathing moments between fast-paced action scenes.

Who are some of the other characters?

There are lots of minor characters, but the other two main characters are both women working for rival intelligence agencies. Jillian Bracewell is an agent of the National Bureau of Surveillance. She comes into the book trying to figure out who Garrison is and how to hunt him down because of the body count he's been racking up. Clarke Sullivan works for the Homeland Intelligence Agency, and she's as determined to keep the secrets of Garrison's origin and existence secret as Jillian is to expose him. Obviously, this brings the two into conflict.

On your blog, you say that there will be no action/adventure comic book that comes close to matching "Garrison." What drives the action and adventure?

It's probably becoming clear already, but Garrison's life as we see it revolves largely around violence, hence those references to his body count. As the NBS and HIA close in, his situation becomes even more desperate. And although we don't know much about him initially, his determination to remain un-caged and independent is one facet of his character that's clear from the start.

Is there a larger mythos behind "Garrison?" Or are these done-in-one stories like "Jonah Hex?"

Let's just say that there could be many more stories set in this world; it's not quite like anything we've seen before, and neither is Lester. The six-issue miniseries is all one story, so they're not done-in-one. But I'm pretty confident that once you read one you'll want to keep going to the end.

What can you say about the art of Francesco Francavilla?

Now this is something I can talk about without spoiling anything. Francesco is amazing. I had seen his art before, on "Zorro," but something about the coloring didn't let it shine through like it does here. His black and white pages are just stunning, and the coloring lets that work really breathe.

I've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of the modern greats - John Cassaday, John Severin, J. Scott Campbell, Travis Charest, etc. and I have to say that Francesco takes a back seat to none of them, especially when he gets to let loose on an action scenes. Phenomenal. He's one of those guys who just delivers, even with a less-than-helpful script. It's like, "Hey, Francesco, make this look like it takes place in the future," and he doesn't need more details than that, he just goes to town.

I like to think Garrison is one of the more fresh and interesting characters we've seen in a long time, and the scripts are not, if I can be so bold, half bad. But Francesco's pages really bring the thing to life, and people will be talking about him for a long time.

Let's talk about IDW's "Presidential Material," which you wrote. Were you expecting the attention you ultimately received for your comic biography of President Obama?

Not at all. I knew the idea was one that hadn't been done much. Nothing quite like it at all, actually, when you consider that this wasn't a company with an agenda doing a book on one candidate, but one giving equal treatment to both, even combining them in the flip book. Then, as everybody knows by now, the Obama book took off in a way that no one could have expected, myself included. It's in a fifth printing, it's been nominated for awards, and people, whether or not they voted for or support Obama, truly seem to appreciate the way it's presented. I've met people who were interested in politics but never thought comics had anything to offer them, and people who love comics who never looked at politics and politicians in any depth before, and the book speaks to both kinds. It's really been an incredible experience.

And you have plans to write more books on the President, yes?

Correct. The second book, covering the general election and the transition, is written and Tom Morgan is working on the art. The third book will cover the first 100 days in office, and as soon as events stop dwarfing what happened last week and last month, I'll be able to figure out which ones are important enough to include.

What else are you working on?

I am, as always, extremely busy. In comics, I'm trying to promote my graphic novel "Zombie Cop" from Image/Shadowline, the trade paperback "Graveslinger" collection from IDW and the recently released "Desperadoes" Omnibus from IDW too, which collects every "Desperadoes" story to date. I also have a single-issue "Terminator: Salvation" adaptation coming up, as well as the "Presidential Material" stuff and "Garrison." On top of that, I have a couple of projects, a miniseries and another original graphic novel, in submission right now.

In comics-related, I'm closing in on the end of a "30 Days of Night" novel called "Light of Day." With Steve Niles, I wrote three "30 Days of Night" novels, but this is the first one that's all me, beginning to end. It'll be published later this year by Pocket. I also have an original horror novel called, "Cold Black Hearts" coming in June, and a "CSI" novel coming out in the fall, and I'm working on more original stuff in my "spare" time.

There are some other short stories and miscellaneous projects mixed in there too along with trying to spend some time with the family and some working on the ranch. So life's full, which is a very good thing.

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