Pearson Unzips "Body Bags"

Jason Pearson's "Body Bags" first gained notice as a miniseries from Dark Horse comics as part of a mid-nineties line of comics called Blanc Noir. The imprint produced by the prominent comics collective Gaijin Studios, of which Pearson was a member. At the time, "Body Bags" gained a reputation of for shocking violence as well as for the voluptuous figure of its teenage co-star. The title also developed a fanbase that eagerly awaited each new installment in the tale of the bloody father-daughter team of gun toting contract killers.

"Body Bags" has never been an ongoing series, and its publishing history has been intermittent at best, usually coming in the form of shorter tales in Dark Horse anthologies. It is, however, a schedule that works to fans' favor, because when Pearson releases a new installment of "Body Bags, it's because the project has met his incredibly high standards. Since 2005, Pearson and his "Body Bags" have been ensconced at Image Comics, under the aegis of the 12 Gauge imprint. Beginning with a reprint of the original "Body Bags" miniseries and followed by a new story in a collection of reprinted Dark Horse shorts, 12 Gauge has led up a new full-length Novrmber one-shot entitled, appropriately, "Body Bags: One Shot."

Jason Pearson and 12 Gauge president Keven Gardner spoke with CBR news about Body Bags' past, present and future.

The story of a father-daughter bounty hunting team, "Body Bags" is in what Pearson says is 15 seconds into the future. "The law has been watered down so much that the police can't do much of anything. They use a loophole in the legal system to hire bounty hunters to bring in the criminals, dead or alive."

The best manhunter out there is Mack, also known as Clownface, whose blood-and-guts world is rocked when his teenage daughter Panda demands to enter the business as his partner.

"'Body Bags' is exactly what 12 Gauge is about," said 12 Gauge President, Keven Gardner. "Great art, great story, breaking rules, and creating something that we can all be proud of. 'Body Bags' was originally a Dark Horse book, but it personified everything I loved about comics. People that read that first issue will never forget it. You either loved it or hated it, but you will never forget it. That is what 12 Gauge strives for: making quality comics that mean something to the reader. It really solidified us as a company. Having 'Body bags' in our stable put a stamp of quality on our brand and that is just something that can't be bought."

"Body Bags" returns this Thanksgiving with a new one-shot, which carries the seemingly generic title of "One-Shot." Said Pearson, "Yes, it is called that because the story is about Mack and Panda getting surrounded on a rooftop -- a job that should have been easy money until Panda messed things up -- surrounded by people trying to kill them and they are down to one last bullet."

With "Body Bags'" irregular publishing history, fans are no doubt wondering when or if the next installment in the saga of Clownface and Panda will hit the stands. Pearson, however, can put minds to rest, though not with out a little something disturbing. "There will be more," the writer-artist confirmed. "But that is all I can say. I have a miniseries floating around in my head right now. The ending will devastate the 'Body Bags' fans. I hope to get to it soon."

Credit for the return of "Body Bags" belongs in no small part to 12 Gauge's Gardner. "I've known Jason since 1994," he said. "At that time, I owned a comic store and had members of [Gaijin] in for signings from time to time. I did a promotion around 'Body Bags' #1 in 1996 and actually sold 150 copies of the book. That was a lot for my little store in Auburn, Alabama. It was always a favorite comic of mine and over the years I bugged Jason about doing it again, he just wouldn't bite. Years later, after deciding to get into publishing, Doug Wagner and I talked him into drawing a chapter in 'The Ride' #2. We asked him to do a few shows to help promote the book, and when he flew in from Portland for Heroes Con 2004 I gave him a proposal for bringing 'Body Bags' back. He resisted at first, but by the time the weekend was over he was ready to do it. The concept for the 'One Shot' actually came about during that trip."

What keeps fans coming back to Clownface and Panda? "To me, it just boils down to the characters," said Gardner. "Mack is a man that did not think he could be a father, I mean, he kills for a living! Not to mention he is damn good at it. His life is thrown for a major loop when this young girl shows up at his door wanting to get into his profession as his sidekick. He resists like crazy, but eventually sees she is a natural and decides to try and make it work. Throw in a lot of cool characters, an action-packed story, and top-notch art. What's not to love?"

With only a handful of issues published, it can be easy to escape notice that "Body Bags" is a decade and change old. With that, Pearson has clung to the core idea. "Well, I've changed as an artist quite a bit, so that makes the stories change with me. The basic concept will always remain, and that is the relationship between Mack and his daughter."

While Pearson perceives a wide audience for the title, it does come with a caveat. "[It's for] people with $5.99 in their pocket," Pearson said. "Plus, they need to be able to take the heat. This book is not for the weak."

Between "Body Bags" projects, Pearson keeps busy in his role as the Director of Development for 12 Gauge. "I work closely with Keven Gardner on new concepts for the company," said Pearson. "Lots of stuff you'll never see since it is behind the scenes. Some concept art, some story development, things like that. I just finished a cover for a book we're trying to put together. Hopefully I'll get to show it off soon, so keep your fingers crossed."

Additionally, Pearson is involved with some work for Marvel Comics as well, including a Wolverine story written by Robert Kirkman that is on his drawing table right now, and a series of "Deadpool" covers.

"Body Bags: One-Shot" hits the stands on November 26 from 12 Gauge and Image Comics.

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