After seeing their title character’s “Strange Talent” manifest and develop before uncovering his “Legend,” the next step in the evolution of Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore‘s nerd-turned-hero saga kicks off on April 1 in “The Legacy of Luther Strode.”
Marking the final chapter of the Image Comics-published trilogy, “Legacy” finds Petra and her boyfriend Luther globetrotting in search of Cain, and the origin of the dark powers fueling the Murder Cult. After seeing his family and friends die at the hands of these evils, Luther is committed to stopping them once and for all — even if their destruction can only be achieved through his own.
For all of the blood, guts and vengeance displayed on the page, ultimately, “Luther Strode” is a love story about the obstacles between two people falling for each other — these obstacles just happen to be murder-ier than most peoples. Justin Jordan joined CBR News to talk us through the strange courtship of his and Moore’s couple, providing insight into his perceptions of female character stereotypes and how he intends to continue to level their leading lady up.
CBR News: Although we’ve seen Luther go through many changes in these series, both physically and emotionally, one constant has been Petra. What keeps them coming back to each other?Â
Justin Jordan: Love and shared trauma.
I’m only kind of kidding about the second one. I think in the beginning Luther and Petra sensed a sort shared experience between them. Not just their asshole fathers, but, despite their outwardly different demeanors, a certain similarity of thought and feeling which eventually became love.â€¨â€¨Plus, you know, all the ineffable shit that goes along with it.
But there’s also the fact that they’re the only two surviving people in their lives who have shared this enormous thing — the existence of the murder cult and Luther’s abilities — and I think that connects them in a way that exists beyond whatever romance is there.
Petra came back to Luther, in Legend, because she’d seen what he was capable of and she’d seen why he did what he did. She saw the lengths he was willing to go to help people he cared about, which included her. So despite all the monstrous shit he did, there was this core of him she believed existed. Correctly, as it happens.
Luther, for his part, saw that she believed that and desperately wanted it to be true, so he was drawn back to Petra.
Which, basically, is what played out in “Legend,” in a particular violent way.
Petra has such a good character arc, starting as a cute girl with a big mouth and transforming into a woman that has learned how to navigate her strange relationship to be both a hero and a helper. How has your idea of her changed along the way?Â
Petra started life as the anti-love interest. â€¨â€¨Let me explain that: Basically, the first “Strode” is riffing on male power fantasies, and one of them is “turns into a badass, gets the girl,” which, you know, is turning the girl into an object to be won. And in Luther’s mind, at the start of that, that really is what Petra is to him. He doesn’t really know her, he knows the mental picture he has of her.
Which was wrong. Not just morally wrong, but factually wrong. So what actually happened was that once Luther actually makes the approach, Petra basically takes over. I wanted her to be a statement of the notion of “getting the girl.” Which is why she is also able to largely take care of herself — she’s about 95% of the way to freeing herself when Luther decides to rescue her.
I was trying to write her as both her own character with a life outside the pages, and to be the opposite, more or less, of the girl who exists only for the hero to have someone to conquer.
Petra, for her part, was attracted to the sweet, shy guy who couldn’t stand to see people hurting. Even in “Legend,” she still saw that guy, and because she saw it, Luther saw it. Or tried to believe it, anyway. It’s a love story, ultimately.
Did you get any negative feedback about the female characters in your first arc?
Nope — which was surprising, in a couple ways. The obvious one being that there are really only two female characters in it, both of whom are victimized to some extent. But also, surprisingly few people were bothered as much by Luther’s mom biting it as they were Pete. People did pick up on the fact that Petra was about 95% of the way to rescuing herself, and Luther really just made things worse. Which is intended to be the case throughout — what Luther does seems like a good idea and is well-intentioned, but ultimately makes things much worse.
What was the challenge in creating those characters with those ends in mind, especially when there is that room for misinterpretation?
The problem there is that I struggle between making a statement and doing what is right for the story, and I usually, maybe selfishly, come down on the story side. Both Petra and Luther’s mom are victims of domestic violence, although both are working to get past it, and they both end up being victimized again because of Luther. And this is because, on a story level, this almost Luther’s worst fear.
Violence against women, in particular, is a thing in his psychology. You can see in that almost everything, Luther acts violently it’s because a woman is involved. It’s a button for him. This is the point of the plan in the first issue of “Legend” — they force those women to ambush him in the belief he won’t kill them. They’re right, but it didn’t really help.
All the characters exist to tell Luther’s story in “Strange Talent,” so all the women that are named end up being victims. On the other hand, so do all the men in the story. But, you know, taken as a whole in the context of comics, it’s a bigger deal that women are depicted that way. So, like I said, it’s a balance between responsibilities as a storyteller and responsibility to the story, you know?
Luther’s actual worst fear is becoming an abuser, incidentally. The Cain thing is about being a bull writ large. That’s, ultimately, what Cain is, just an overgrown child throwing a really elaborate tantrum. Luther realizes this. That’s sort of the point of “Legend.” Luther has indeed become something very much like what he hates, and Petra sees the guy, still, despite all evidence, who can be better than that.
Petra’s safety has always been Luther’s weak point, although he has learned to embrace the fact that she can take care of herself. Has Luther’s power helped her become less vulnerable, and do you think Petra would’ve reached this point in her life without that relationship? Â
I don’t think it would have precisely been this point without it. Her life has definitely taken a turn for the odd since she met Luther, but I think both she and Luther are the sort of lucky people who would have been able to move on from bad beginnings, just in a less murdery fashion if their lives had gone another way.
But since she’s met Luther, she’s also intentionally shaped herself into someone able to survive in the world that he opened up. That was a conscious choice for me as a writer and, in universe, for Petra as a character.
In “Legend,” Petra is a little more physically buff than she was in “Strange Talent,” and this is because she’s actually been training and preparing in the five years [between series]. And in “Legacy,” which picks up another five years or so after “Legend,” we’ll find that in addition to a swank new haircut, she’s picked up some more skills.
Petra has been consistently leveling up.
As the third arc begins, we have Luther and Petra ready to hunt down the rest of the Murder Gang and Cain. Do they have anyone else in their corner? I keep hoping that maybe we haven’t seen the last of Binder.
Alas, Binder is dead. Like Pete, and the parrot, he has ceased to be. He is an ex-maniac. And so on.
The question of whether there is anyone on their side is one of the key ones in Legacy. What Luther is doing throughout that is trying to find out if there are any others like him; people who have used the Hercules Method but not become total psychopaths. And if so, would they like to help out with this whole Cain thing? Because that is likely to be rough.
So I’m not answering that, but there are loads of new characters, most of who can go toe to toe with Luther.
Are there any characters you’d like to bring back or continue different stories with? If so, who? And why have they stuck with you?Â
Man, probably a lot of them but, I think, mostly Binder. Not because he was visually based partly on me, although there is that, but because Binder’s story probably has the most possibilities. Why is he halfway reasonable? How does he subdue cult members? How long has he had the job? How did he get the job? Who has he fought?
It’d be an easy rabbit hole to go down. And, you know, it’s not impossible that story will get told. No plans for any more Lutherverse stuff now, and Luther’s story is told here, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule out plunging into more of the universe as long as there was a story worth telling that didn’t just feel like a cash grab or masturbation.
Since we’ve talked a lot about the romance between Luther and Petra, I’m wondering, when they aren’t fighting against an ancient, innate army of death, what do you envision them doing as a couple?Â
Luther is big into interpretative dance, and Petra likes to work on hot rods, so there’s that. â€¨â€¨Heh. You know, if they manage to survive this, that’s actually a question that’s going to present itself. Their relationship has happened entirely during a — let’s call it “super-dramatic” time in their lives, and for the time they’ve been together, even if it’s not a daily thing, it is a constant background to their lives. So what do they do if that’s over? â€¨â€¨Find out in “Living With Luther Strode,” our new sitcom!
I think they have enough in common on a fundamental level that they’d manage to find something to do together.
The double-sized “Legacy of Luther Strode” #1 hits stores April 1.
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