MEN ON ACTION: Joe Casey Cracks "Codeflesh" Code w/ Duncan Rouleau

For Joe Casey, February is the month when everything old is new again. While the rest of his compadres in the Man of Action Studio are prepping for the launch of all-new comics series to warm fans' hearts in the cold winter month, the writer who already counts ongoing series "Gødland" and "Charlatan Ball" to his credit used Image Comics' Man of Action month to reintroduce fans to one of his out of print classic indie series: the sci-fi fugitive drama "Codeflesh."

CBR first brought you news of the titles in Man of Action's February slate of comic books from Image, but when it comes to digging into the nitty gritty of the new imprint, creators Joe Kelly, Steven T. Seagle, Joe Casey and Duncan Rouleau make it easy for fans to get the scoop by simply interviewing each other!

In "Codeflesh," a super bail bondsman whose identity is concealed by a barcode-adorned mask mixes it up in a noirish world of escaped super criminals. With art by Charlie Adlard ("The Walking Dead"), the cult comic has been long out of print. However, the new edition contains a revived color scheme as well as an all-new tale of tracking by Casey and Adlard.

To wrap up our MEN ON ACTION month, artist Duncan Rouleau chatted up Casey on "Codeflesh" as well as his position as a writer who rides the line between Big Two superhero titles and indie books to unexpected and inventive effect.

Duncan Rouleau: Your body of work has spanned both sides of the field - the commercial stuff like "Uncanny X-Men" and "Superman" as well as independent titles like "Gødland" and "Nixon's Pals." I know for myself there were differences between what I imagined working on an established project would be like and what actually working on those titles were. I'm curious, what are some of the distinctions you've come across between what you imagined doing a creator-owned book would be like and the actual reality of doing a creator-owned book?

Joe Casey: The best thing about creator-owned comics is that it's as close an experience as I've gotten to being a kid, drawing my own, terrible comics, which is something I used to do endlessly from age six to about age twelve. Hopefully, the ones that people are actually paying money for aren't as terrible as the goofy shit I did as a kid. 

DR: How do you like handling the day-to-day aspects of marketing and design choices for your creator-owned stuff? Is it something you like to sink your teeth into, or do you see it as follow-through for the comic itself?

JC: That stuff is fairly easy, it comes second nature. Many times I tried to involve myself in those aspects of my work-for-hire gigs, much to the dismay of anyone at the big publishers who did those specific jobs. But creator-owned work, if you take a step back from it, involves much more than the comic itself. It's an entire process of creation, execution and marketing that you have to immerse yourself in 100%. In a very real sense, it all mixes together.

DR: I've been looking over the list of books you're currently working on - it's an impressive and long list. How do you find the indie titles you've been working on for the last several years have been informed by the commercial work you've been doing?

JC: They obviously influence each other in pretty profound ways. The experiments I try out on my own, lower-profile titles are then carried over - in a much more refined way - to the bigger, company-owned titles. As for the list being particularly long, I don't know what to say about that except that I like to stay busy. Life's too short, and all of that stuff.

DR: You've been doing the indie thing for a while now. On the eve of this big Man of Action Comics launch with Image, have you been thinking about a creative voice you are attempting to establish with your creator-owned titles?

JC: I think with all of us Man Of Action guys doing books now, it's impossible to conceive of some overall voice. The consistent factor is hopefully quality. All these books will be good. For myself, I just go from project to project. I kind of leave it to other people to identify whatever links them. There's certainly going to be enough of them in the coming year.

DR: In both "Nixon's Pals" and "Codeflesh," your main characters work inside established governmental systems - one a bail bondsman, the other a parole officer. Is it the built-in framework for villains and conflict or something more specific about these bureaucracies that attracts you? Why do you think those themes show up in your work?

JC: The kind of characters I like to write always have to be pushing against something, or be oppressed by something that's beyond just a bad guy villain-type. I think there's probably some subconscious link to the monolithic institutions that all creative people end up bumping into. Those obstacles have been placed in front of me my entire career. But I'm not complaining, those kind of conflicts keep you creatively competitive. 

DR: This a re-mastered volume of "Codeflesh." What are the aspects that you changed? Did you find yourself revisiting any of the written material?

JC: Revisiting? No. But there's a kick-ass new story, never before seen, that we did specifically for this edition. On the older stories we went back to color - the first trade was in black and white. We re-colored some pages, but even then it was to preserve the look of the original color comics that were released back in 2001. I'm pretty much at peace with the work I did on the book, and Charlie's work definitely holds up. Then again, he's always been so good, so there's no surprise there.

DR: The great Charlie Adlard is the artist on "Codeflesh." His style is a perfect fit for both the brutal and moody aspects of the story. Did you have him in mind when constructing the project or was it a case of you two trying to find a project to work together on? How did it come about?

JC: My afterward in the hardcover pretty much covers my history with Charlie. Long story short, I was a fan of his art before I even turned pro, and I sought him out to work with. Luckily, he was happy to be sought out.

DR: What is it about the modern noir story that attracts you? What other material informs your writing when approaching this style of storytelling?

JC: I'm a big Elmore Leonard fan, mainly because his stories - his crime stories - are about people first. Yes, the crime element is always there, generally as some sort of plot engine, but the focus for me is his characters. I'm nowhere near that level of proficiency when it comes to characterization. I'm well aware that even something like "Codeflesh" relies as much on superhero tropes as it does anything else. But somewhere in there I hope there's some deeper stuff going on. The friendship between Cameron and his partner, Staz, is more important to the series than most readers have ever picked up on.

The "Codeflesh" Definitive Hardcover goes on sale in February from Image Comics, and can be found on page 146 of the December Previews catalogue.

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