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Paul Grist talks “Jack Staff Special”

by  in Comic News Comment
Paul Grist talks “Jack Staff Special”
“Jack Staff Special” on sale January 24

Writer-artist Paul Grist has been a fixture in the international comics scene for almost two decades, having worked with such notables as Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and icons like Judge Dredd and Grendel. In the 1990s, Grist rose to prominence on the strength of his police-based book, “Kane,” but in the 21st Century, his focus has been on his offbeat British superhero Jack Staff. CBR News spoke with Grist about the upcoming “Jack Staff Special” and the future of the ongoing “Jack Staff” series, both published by Image Comics.

“Jack Staff is Britain’s Greatest Hero, who kind of disappeared over 20 years ago, and who is now back on the scene and getting dragged into various adventures which are not always of his own making,” Paul Grist told CBR News. “The thing to bear in mind with ‘Jack Staff’ is that just because his name is on the cover, it doesn’t mean that Jack Staff –the character– is always the main focus of the story. It’s just as much about Becky Burdock the Vampire Reporter, or Tom Tom the Robot Man or Q or Bramble and Son, the Vampire Hunters or — well, I think you get the idea!”

“Jack Staff Special” is in Grist’s words the story of one man’s obsession that spans over a thousand years.  “We get to see a glimpse of the future of Jack Staff and also the destiny of the Claw,” said Grist, referring to the character loosely based on the classic Fleetway character, The Steel Claw, a reformed thief.

Page from “Jack Staff Special”

Indeed, part of the fun of “Jack Staff” is the riffing on various comics archetypes and British characters, and Grist continues the tradition in the Special. “We get to see one of my favorite characters, The Eternal Warrior, who wanders through time and space, forever caught in the battle between order and chaos,” said Grist. “[We also see] The Claw, who’s usually one of the good guys, but for the purposes of this story is having a night off.”

These hat-tips to classic British characters have roots in the beginnings of the “Jack Staff” concept. The series has its origins in a proposal Grist wrote for Marvel Comics in the ’90s, featuring their British vampire hunter Union Jack (more recently reworked as a terrorist-fighter by writer Christos Gage). When that proposal went nowhere, Grist took his pitch back to the drawing board and reworked it into something only loosely based on the Marvel character.

The “Jack Staff Special” would seem to be well-timed, with some potential new readers already acquainted with Grist’s hero by virtue of his appearances in other creators’ high-profile titles like “The Savage Dragon” and “Invincible.”

“The Savage Dragon crossover is part of the ongoing ‘Dragon’ storyline which spans the Image Universe,” said Grist. “That’s all Erik Larsen. “[The ‘Invincible’ crossover] was an idea that Robert Kirkman suggested a while back which had to be put on the back burner as I wanted to concentrate on getting the regular comic back on schedule.” Jack Staff did appear in “Invincible,” but only in the form of a cameo. “Now that I’m ahead on stuff I guess it would be a good time to see if we can’t get round to that – though Kirkman seems to be pretty busy in his own right nowadays!”

Page from “Jack Staff Special”

As to why Grist choose to create a one-shot rather than including this story as part of the regular “Jack Staff” series, the author said, “Having had what I shall kindly call ‘a short break’ over the last year, I thought it might be a good idea to kick off the new year with a single-issue story, just to reintroduce Jack and his merry cast of characters to old readers and hopefully catch the eye of a few passing new readers, before launching into another five or six-part storyline.  I thought that doing a special would help underline this was a new start, rather than numbering this as issue #14. I didn’t want to do the whole ‘start again with issue 1’ thing, so this seemed like the next best thing. ”

The ongoing “Jack Staff” series returns in February with issue #14, and Grist promises fans new and old a more regular publishing schedule. “The good news is that starting [with the Special in] January, ‘Jack Staff’ will be on the shelves monthly!” confirmed Grist. “Whilst there’s not been many ‘Jack Staff’ comics out last year, I’ve been quite busy the last few months to get ahead of schedule so I can maintain that monthly deadline.  At the moment I’m just finishing inking issue #17 and I’m halfway through penciling issue 18.

“One of the common complaints about ‘Jack Staff’ is that if it only came out monthly it would be one of the top titles. Well, I’m doing my best to keep up my side of the deal, now all you have to do is rush out and buy it!”

“Jack Staff Special” #1 is on sale January 24.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Image Comics forum.

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