On January 3, 2007, writer Jason Aaron, artist R.M. Guera and cover artist Jock introduced readers to “the Rez,” a fictional Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in South Dakota where the events in “Scalped” would unfold over the next five years and 60 issues.
The Vertigo Comics series debuted to critical acclaim, accolades it continued to garner until its final issue was released in August of 2012. Over the course of “Scalped,” the Rez was populated by a truly eclectic cast of characters. At the center of the title’s intrigue and most of its major plot points were Chief Lincoln Red Crow, who ran the local casino and controlled all illicit activity on the Rez, and undercover FBI agent Dashiell Bad Horse, who had reluctantly returned to his home in order to infiltrate and destroy Red Crow’s organization.
The conflict between Red Crow and Bad Horse was where the story of “Scalped” originated, but it quickly grew to encompass the entire community of Prairie Rose as the actions of the two main characters impacted the lives of others in a dramatic fashion. Much like HBO’s acclaimed drama “The Wire,” a series “Scalped” has been compared to on several occasions, Aaron and Guera’s comic was more than just a crime series. Over the course of sixty issues, it would shock its readers, surprise them, make them laugh and break their hearts.
To mark the end of “Scalped,” Comic Book Resources recruited one of the book’s earliest fans to speak with Aaron about the landmark series, a writer who knows what it’s like to pen a 60-issue epic. We’re talking, of course, about the writer of “Y: The Last Man” and the current hit series “Saga,” Brian K. Vaughan. The acclaimed writers spoke at length about “Scalped” and a variety of other topics, including beards, baldness, Aaron’s future creator-owned plans and his views on writer Alan Moore.
Brian K. Vaughan: Jason, first of all congrats to you and the entire “Scalped” team on what I thought was just a note-perfect final issue. It was really lovely work, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
Jason Aaron: Thanks. I really appreciate that. It means a lot.
Right after I finished the last issue, I went right back to reread the first issue to see how much you had grown as a writer over the years. I was annoyed to find out that you were pretty fucking great back then, too. And “Scalped” #1 was like the third or fourth comic book you had ever written. Is that right?
It is. I appreciate you saying that. I haven’t read that issue in a long time. I’ve been kind of afraid to go back and read those first couple of issues.
Don’t be afraid — the first issue is terrific. I think it holds up really well. And you had only written a couple of issues of comics before writing that?
I had written two issues of “The Other Side,” which was the first Vertigo book I had done. The first comic thing I ever did was the Marvel talent search contest. It was like an eight- or ten-page story.
“Scalped” #1 was the third full comic script I had ever written, and I was writing it at the same time my wife was pregnant. So it was a crazy time in my life. I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep. I was diving into an ongoing series for the first time and I wasn’t really sure I was prepared for that. I had also just quit my day job.
I’ve always been afraid to go back and read those early issues. I didn’t really feel like I knew what the hell I was doing until maybe issue #5.
It doesn’t read like that at all. The first issue is really confident and well executed. It makes me hate your guts. [Laughs]
I think it’s fascinating that you didn’t have kids when you first conceived “Scalped,” especially because the book has such really well-observed moments between parents and their children. Not to pry into your personal life, but when you became a father early in the book’s run, did it change how you thought about the story? Did it change the direction at all?
I’m sure it did. I don’t remember the exact moment or consciously being aware of that, but I think it changed everything I do as a writer. “Scalped” was always about family in some sense. Even before I was a dad, it was still a book with a strong sense of family, which I think is in a lot of stuff I do. Whether it’s superhero stuff of crime stuff, at the end of the day it’s all somehow about family and the mark our families leave on us, for good or for bad.
That was always part of it, and the other weird way that me being a dad ties in with “Scalped” is that my son’s name is Dash. He and the book were both coming along at around the same time, so somehow my son and my main character both got the same name.
That is wild. Does your Dash have his own pair of nunchucks? And if so, is he allowed to use them around the house?
[Laughs] Not yet. He’s only seven.
You usually want to wait until they’re eight or nine. [Laughs]
It is strange, though. Every once in a while, I’ll be looking at a copy of the book, or I’ll be talking with my wife about the book, and I’ll say something about Dashiell and his ears will perk up. It’s like it almost took me five years to realize that I gave these guys the same names, because they’re such different characters in my life. My son was the first one to get confused by it.
That is really bizarre and cool. Any idea how old he’ll have to be before he’s allowed to check out “Scalped” and meet the other Dashiell for the first time?
If he can have his nunchucks by the time he’s eight, then maybe by the time he’s 11 I’ll give him “Scalped.” [Laughs]
That sounds perfect. Father of the year, right there!
As a comic book writer, you have to say goodbye a few times when you’re ending a long-running series. There’s the day you finish the script. Then there’s the day you see the final page of art. Then there’s the day the book is finally released. Have you said all of your goodbyes already? Has it sunk in yet that it’s really over?
Yeah, I’ve said all of my goodbyes. It’s kind of like wrapping a movie; I’d make note of the different goodbyes as they came along. It’s like when they’re shooting a movie and they’ll say something. “Bob has just shot his last scene. Let’s all say goodbye to Bob.” So when Jock turned in his last cover that was a big deal. Then, of course, there was the moment when I turned in the last script. Then Guera turned in the last page and Giulia did the last colors. And then I did lettering corrections on the last issue, and that was really the last time I ever wrote anything for “Scalped.” Then, of course, this week the issue came out.
I never really felt sad about any of that, though. The sad part is that I don’t get to work with Jock, Guera, Will Dennis, Mark Doyle and all those same people again. We might decide to do something again someday, but who knows? We might never be able to get that exact same team together again. And even if we did, it probably wouldn’t be quite the same.
So there were a lot of goodbyes, but I think we were all excited to finally wrap things up after six years and move on to other stuff.
What was it like for you? You’ve done a couple of long projects like that.
It is a long goodbye. I remember doing the final lettering corrections and balloon placements with “Y:The Last Man.” Then there was the corrects for when the final collected edition came out. I wanted to make sure that looked nice. So even after I thought I had said all of my goodbyes, the book was still a part of my life. I guess, in a way, I still haven’t said goodbye to that series.
Does it become weird? Is it like the girlfriend you keep seeing even though you broke up with her a few years ago?
[Laughs] Yeah, sure. I think there’s probably an element of that. Both Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis told me after “Y: The Last Man” finished, “Congrats. Now get ready to spend the rest of your life hearing how much better your old stuff was than your new stuff.”[Laughter]
And I hope that I will go on to do better work, but I think most of us will probably be forever best known for and defined by our first big series for Vertigo. I know you said you’re interested in doing more creator-owned work. Not to freak you out, but do you feel intimidated by the long shadow “Scalped” will cast over whatever you tackle next? Or are you excited to shake things up and do something entirely different?
That’s really only something I started to think about as I got towards the end of “Scalped.” I would meet fans or see people online talk about how sad they were the book was ending, and I wanted to say, “But… I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be doing other stuff.” It’s not the same, though. People get invested in these characters. If I’m always known as “the guy who wrote ‘Scalped,'” I’ll be super-proud of that. I have no problem with that. But as a writer and creator, I think you always feel like your best thing is what you’re working on now or what you’re going to be doing tomorrow.
I’m excited, and I’m already working on what my next creator-owned project will be. It’s not another 50- or 60-issue deal, but I am excited to move on to other stuff.
That’s what I said after “Ex Machina” ended. It was like, “Holy crap — there’s no way I’m going to climb that mountain again to do another 50 plus issues of an ongoing series. I’d like to do some more graphic novels like ‘Pride of Baghdad.’ Or maybe some miniseries.” I have to say though, that I hope the itch to do a creator-owned ongoing returns as quickly for you as it did for me. Because I kind of started to go crazy without it in my life and it’s nice to have it back. So I totally understand that you’ve just given birth to this massive thing and you’re not thinking about the next one, but I bet you will be back sooner than you think.
I know what the next big thing I’d like to do is, but I just can’t imagine rushing into it right now. What changed for you? Was there a moment where you realized that you wanted to do another one of these big projects? What happened?
Yeah. I think it was my wife telling me that I was impossible to live with when I’m not working on a monthly book. So I had to go back and do one for the sake of our family. I didn’t even realize why I was so out of sorts, because when you’re in the middle of writing an ongoing, you’re constantly like, “Oh, my God! These deadlines are oppressive.” It doesn’t matter what happens that month. If your grandfather just died or if you’re really sick or whatever, you just have to keep producing.
When it’s gone, though, you realize it’s so nice to have that ongoing outlet for you and your collaborators where you get to explore something long-form and really just tunnel into another world. I don’t know. I might just have some chemical imbalance, but I wasn’t happy without having a creator-owned monthly book in my life.
So I had to get back and I didn’t want to jump into the shallow end of the pool. I didn’t just want to do a miniseries, or even another sixty issues, I wanted to do a thousand. We’ll see, but that’s how I feel today. And like I say, selfishly, I hope you hurry back, too.
I think I speak for a lot of comic fans when I say, “We’re glad to have you back.” I was certainly excited to see you coming back, and I don’t think anybody has been disappointed. I sure haven’t. “Saga” is one of my favorite books. Welcome back.
Thank you so much, Jason. You have my taskmaster wife to thank for forcing that to happen. [Laughs]
Let me get the rest of my gushing out the way real quick and say that when I first started working with Will Dennis on “The Other Side” for Vertigo, I went to my first Comic Con. It was my first time in San Diego and the first time I had met Will. I’m a guy working a crappy day job in a warehouse who had just gotten a book green lit at Vertigo, so I was ecstatic just to be there, and the first time I go out to dinner with Will, sitting at the table right next to me was Brian Azzarello and you.
I’m freaking out. I’m the guy who a few days ago was on the other side of the table, nerding out and asking for autographs, and now I’m sitting here with these guys at dinner. But I’ll always remember how super-nice and super-welcoming to me you were. There was never a feeling of, “Who the hell is this guy?” I was always very appreciative of that. You guys did give me some shit, though. [Laughs]
I’m glad you remember that, because I remember meeting you then too and I thought, “This guy is so sweet, self-effacing, kind of shy, humble and polite.” and I thought, “Wow he’s going to write some incredibly dark and twisted shit.” That’s usually the case with every quiet, upstanding writer I’ve ever met. I was glad I turned out to be right in your case.
[Laughs] It’s the quiet guys you’ve got to watch out for, right?
Yeah, no doubt.
Like I said, I thought that final issue of “Scalped” was an enormously satisfying conclusion, but it feels like the door has been left at least slightly ajar for more stories to potentially be told in Prairie Rose. Do you think you’d ever, even far off in the distant future, return for a spinoff miniseries or a “Before Scalped?” Or has the last word about these characters definitely been written?
As far as I’m concerned, I think it has. Of course, DC may someday decide otherwise. Who knows? But I didn’t mean for it to seem open ended.
Oh, it didn’t feel open-ended at all. Every character got a perfect resolution, but it’s not like a meteor hits the planet or something in the final issue. As a creator, I’m glad to hear you say that the story is definitely finished. But as a fan, I would be happy for you to keep writing Carol stories for another 10 years or so. So I’m cool either way.
There were of course ideas for other stories that I had along the way that I didn’t get to or that there just wasn’t any place for, but I don’t see myself ever going back and doing those. I think of that last issue as the final word on those characters. Sure, they don’t all get definitive endings, Dash especially. Even he doesn’t know where he’s headed there at the end, but I wanted to convey the idea that he’s never coming back.
That’s the important part of the ending. After 60 issues of resenting the fact that he had to come back to his home reservation and hating it and wanting to get away from it, he realizes that it’s his real home and the only real home he’ll ever have. He realizes that right before he makes the decision to leave forever. That was always the ending. That was the whole story, really; him getting to that point. I knew from the very beginning that’s how it would end. So as far as I’m concerned, that’s it. That’s the story.
I know you’re the kind of writer who plans stories pretty meticulously, but I’m curious if any characters surprised you in the final arc? It sounds like Dash’s die was cast from the get-go, but did you spare anyone from a horrible fate that you thought was once inevitable? Or knowing you, did some characters get even worse endings than you had once planned?
I don’t think I’m that meticulous. I certainly knew where a lot of characters would wind up, but yeah, some things still surprised me along the way. For the longest time, Red Crow was going to die at the end. He was going to kill himself at one point, or go up in flames with his casino. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to kill him. I would say he’s the character that grew the most over the series, for me at least, and the one that I really came to enjoy writing the most. I couldn’t bring myself to kill him off at the end, and I’m glad I didn’t.
Look at you, you old softie! You gave him a reprieve. Now he just gets to eat squirrels out in the wilderness for the rest of his life. Good for him.
[Laughs] Of course there’s no guarantee that things will work out so great for him alone out in the middle of nowhere, talking to dogs, but it seemed like a better fate than killing him off.
Shunka is another character whose story changed a lot. I believe in issue #36 or #37 we find out that he’s gay. That was a story I planned on doing a year or so earlier. It completely changed because I waited, but I like where things eventually went with him. His story, his demise and how that all played out wasn’t something I had planned. It just happened as we went along.
These days, I think writers tend to get most of the glory when it comes to creator-owned books, but you and I both know that it’s the artists who do most of the heavy lifting, and who really deserve the lion’s share of credit when a book succeeds. Â I presume that’s the case with your co-creator R.M. Guera?
Of course. It’s not just been Guera, though. I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of great artists over the years on “Scalped,” which I can take no credit for. Will Dennis and Mark Doyle, my editors, constantly hooked me up with great artists that made me look like I knew what I was doing.
Guera created so much of the book. I got so lucky. I totally lucked into working with him. He happened to send samples to Will right around the time we were looking for somebody for “Scalped,” then once he read the pitch, he kind of took the initiative and drew up some sample pages on his own. So we quickly knew that this was the guy. He’s been amazing to work with, especially at that time in my career when I was brand new and still very much learning my craft.
This is a guy who’s been doing comics in Europe for years. He’s drawn samurai stories, westerns, a little bit of everything. He can flat-out draw anything. I know it’s cliche to say, but I can’t imagine creating that world with anybody else at this point. He brings so much passion to everything he does. If you ever meet Guera and talk with him, he can go on and on about any of the characters from “Scalped.” He’ll talk about Red Crow and the way he walks and the way his belly moves. He has all these different ideas of how these characters live and breathe that I never could have come up with. I just give him a little bit of an idea and some lines of dialogue on the page, and he runs wild with it and brings it to life.
I’m curious if your scripts for Guera look very different than your scripts for someone like Chris Bachalo or other artists you’ve worked with. Did you guys develop a real shorthand? Did you scripts change over the time you were working on the book?
Sure, my scripts changed, if for no other reason than I went from having hardly written anything to writing a few [series] a month. I also did develop more of a shorthand with Guera to where he mainly wanted to know just what was going on internally in any given situation. Most of my panel descriptions were more about what these people were thinking that they’re not saying, as opposed to what they were physically doing or how they were doing it. I knew he could figure that part out on his own. He just wanted all the emotional stuff in there.
As a rule, now, I try to leave my scripts more loose. I feel weird dictating camera angles and that sort of thing because I can’t draw worth a damn. So who am I to tell Guera, or Chris Bachalo, or any of these guys how to frame and set up a shot?
The first script I ever saw as a kid was Alan Moore’s script for “Watchmen” #1. It was in the big hardcover that I bought, and for the longest time I thought that was how you wrote a comic script. So my first few attempts at writing comic scripts were certainly closer to that than anything I’ve done as an actual professional comic book writer. They were, of course, a disaster. There are not a lot of people who can write scripts like that, or artists that would want to draw them.
Can you draw?
No — I can’t draw a warm bath. I’m a total artistic failure and it’s bothered me because I really think it puts me at a disadvantage as a creator. I think most great comic writers are also really good artists. Alan Moore says he can’t draw, but I’ve seen some of his artwork and it’s incredible! I’ve had some professional collaborators that weren’t as good as he is. Grant Morrison is another one. He doesn’t claim to be an artist, but his art looks terrific. So I really feel that it’s a sad deficiency on my part. I feel sort of guilty that I can’t draw
I try to hide it or just not mention it, but every now and then you’ll have people at signings who will want you to do a sketch. They’ll have a sketchbook that’s all just writers doing sketches, and those are always some of my most awkward moments for me at a convention.
Yeah, my go-to is a little Ampersand, the monkey from “Y: The Last Man,” which I think looks fantastic. And whenever I finish it people are like, “Is that a monster? Or a deformed superhero?” So I can’t even draw a goddamn cartoon monkey right.
[Laughs] I’ve thought about taking an art class to learn to draw one thing, so I would have a go-to sketch like a cartoon chicken or something.
Smart. Like people who take dance classes for that one dance at their wedding? I didn’t do that either. That sounds like a lot of work and I’m lazy. [Laughs] So I admire your dedication.
Unless I missed a title, I think in 20 years of Vertigo comics, “Scalped” is now the tenth original, non-spinoff series to last at least 50 issues. The titles would be “Sandman,” “Preacher,” “Transmetropolitan,” “The Invisibles,” “100 Bullets,” “Fables,” “Y,” “DMZ,” “Northlanders” and now “Scalped.” That’s pretty cool company, if I do say so myself.
I know you first broke into comics via Marvel, but were you a Vertigo fan back in the day? What has the company meant to you and your career over the years?
I’ve always been a huge Vertigo fan. I was the perfect age to grow up with Vertigo. I got into reading comics in the ’80s, and I was a big DC guy. “The New Teen Titans” was my first big super hero book, and I got into Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing” and all of the stuff that lead to Vertigo. So I was there from the beginning. I read “Sandman” as it was coming out. I read “Hellblazer.” “Preacher” was my favorite book for years. I had a fan letter printed in an issue of “The Invisibles.” I also read “Y” and the rest of your stuff as it was coming out. I’ve been a Vertigo fan from the get go.
As a writer, I always wanted to work for Vertigo. I wanted to work with Axel Alonso when he was there, and with Will Dennis. Vertigo for years just seemed like the way writers broke into comics, the way they made a name for themselves. Most of my favorite comic book writers have done Vertigo series at one time or another. I hadn’t really thought about how small a group of titles that is until you just listed them. It’s kind of mind blowing for me when you break it down like that. It’s a small number of books and I’ve read every one of them. I’m super proud and blown away to even be mentioned with those books.
It should be like that “Saturday Night Live” Five-Timer Club for hosts who have hosted at least five times. I think we should get nice dinner jackets or something.
[Laughs] Yeah, can we get jackets and have meetings every once in a while.
Yeah, and Karen Berger will now pay our bail money if we’re ever arrested for any reason. [Laughs] That’s another perk of membership.
That would be great. Just hanging out with Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis together would probably be worth the price of admission alone.
Earlier, you mentioned Alan Moore, and this might be a touchy subject so feel free to pass. I am curious though, so I had to ask. A few years ago you wrote a column here on CBR where you were very critical of my hero Alan Moore and said you would never again read his work. When I first read that column it made me sad just because Alan Moore already seems to get so little love from creators of our generation, most of whom probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him.
Still, I also kind of enjoyed your column as a piece of performance art, like how new prisoners are supposed to gain respect by taking out the biggest dude in the yard on their first day in lockup. Â [Laughter]
I know you ran into Moore’s wife at a convention a while back, and without going into details, I’m wondering if your feelings have changed over the years? Â Are you really still boycotting Moore’s work?
You know, I wrote that column in a moment of anger and frustration, but I’m not an angry guy. I like to try to focus on the positive as much as possible, especially these days, when there’s a lot of negative stuff online, with creators fighting with one another. I said what I said back then, and it is what it is. But in the interest of staying positive, I’ll just say, as I’ve said many times before, that Alan Moore was a big influence on me, and a big part of me becoming a comic book writer. There wouldn’t even be a Vertigo if it wasn’t for Alan Moore, and without Vertigo, I wouldn’t have had a chance to build my career doing something like “Scalped.” I understand that and acknowledge that and continue to have tremendous respect for the works of his that I grew up loving.
And, yes, I did get to meet Melinda Gebbie, who’s a thoroughly charming lady. Actually, she and my wife got along really well. I guess if they have nothing else in common, they’re both into guys with beards.
That’s fascinating. I know this should be you taking a victory lap for “Scalped,” and I don’t mean to bring the room down. I was just curious, though, if you had changed your position. I think you’d probably really dig “Neonomicon,” and I bet Moore would love “Scalped.” I hope someday that there will be a loving reconciliation between you two bearded geniuses.
[Laughs] Have you ever met Alan?
No, never. His work means so much to me, but I’ve never met him. I can’t imagine he’s read anything I’ve ever written, and I’m totally okay with that. I feel like I owe him so much and he obviously owes me nothing. I never mind his occasionally grumpy interviews. I think they’re usually pretty funny and often spot-on. I’ve just always loved his voice and his writing so much.
Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be one of the cranky old dudes in comics, and there will be a whole generation of young guys coming up telling me to go fuck myself, which I’m perfectly fine with.
[Laughs] So to keep things more upbeat, let’s do a lightning round of inane questions. Jason Aaron, as long as we’re talking “Scalped,” what is your spirit animal?
[Laughs] That’s a good question — I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t know. My spirit animal would probably be something with a nice beard on it that’s nocturnal. Like some kind of sloth or something?
A bearded sloth? I don’t think that exists. Perhaps in some mad scientist’s genetic lab somewhere it’s being designed and it has your soul.
As a bald American, I appreciate that “Scalped” had a bad-ass protagonist who also happen to be a fellow slaphead. Can I ask what you use to shave your head?
I’ve been shaving my head since 1994 and I just use clippers. I don’t do the Bendis. I think Brian shaves his head real smooth. I don’t go that far. What about you?
Yeah, I just use those electric things and kind of mow the lawn all the way around my head and face at the same level. So I kind of have this permanent hideous five o’clock shadow all over. It’s a real drag. I distinctly remember getting my final hair cut at a barber.
When was that?
That would have been… 1997? Astor Place. I still had a little bit of hair left, but I was like, “I can manage these three remaining strands on my own, thanks. I no longer need a professional’s help.”
[Laughs] You pretty much had to be bald to work for Vertigo anyway, right? Used to be, it seemed like every writer at Vertigo was bald.
Looking over that list of Vertigo books that have made it past 50 issues there’s a pretty good bald guy ratio. “Sandman?” No. That dude has got a ton of hair. “Preacher?” Fuck you, Ennis! He’s still got his hair. “Transmet?” Is Warren on our team yet? Maybe? I don’t know. “100 Bullets?” Yep. “Fables?” No, there’s another lucky hair guy. “Y?” Duh. “The Invisibles.” Totally. “DMZ” and “Northlanders?” Sweet, we get a double there! And then we’ve got a bald guy on “Scalped.” So that’s a pretty decent batting average.
Speaking of hair, will you be rocking the beard for the rest of your career? Is it a permanent thing? Or when you reached the end of “Scalped” did you think, “I’m going to get rid of the beard now. I need a new gimmick.”
It was never meant to be a gimmick. I’ve always had a beard, but it was usually kind of short because I always had to work real jobs where I couldn’t afford to look like a crazy homeless person. Then, since I started writing comics, one day I had this moment of realization where I was like, “I don’t have to care about that shit anymore!” From here on out, if I ever have to go in for another job interview, I will have seriously fucked up in my life. I will have ruined my career. So I decided I was going to grow my beard as long as I wanted and get a bunch of tattoos. I don’t give a shit, and thankfully my wife doesn’t give a shit either, otherwise I of course wouldn’t be doing any of this. So that’s all it is; me not really caring what I look like anymore.
So if we see you without the beard, something has gone terribly wrong and we should be concerned?
I wouldn’t say that. One day I may just shave it off, who knows? Maybe we can raise money for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund by getting me to shave my beard, or something like that. I can always just grow it back again.
Okay, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! Are you listening? How much will it take to shave down Jason Aaron?
Anyway, we’ve now spent an uncomfortable amount of time talking about men’s hair.
My apologies to all the CBR readers.
Oh, we lost them a long time ago. I don’t think anyone has read this far, but let’s see if we can walk the rest of the room…
You’ve done super hero stories, war stories, horror books, and noir. Is there a genre out there that you would probably never tackle?
I don’t think so. I’ve always had sort of creative ADD where I like jumping around to different stuff. As a reader, I’m like that. Growing up as a kid, I wasn’t strictly a fantasy guy or a sci-fi guy or anything like that. I always read a little bit of everything.
You and Garth Ennis are two of the guys I always looked at and said, “I want to be like those guys.” You guys do mainstream stuff. You do your own stuff. And a lot of it is stuff that really defies genre. I don’t want to be known as just the gritty “Wolverine stab ’em in the face guy” or this or that. I like doing a little bit of everything.
So we might see a musical comedy from you in the future?
Sure. I can’t sing, so that might preclude that, but I like writing comedy. I love writing Spider-Man.
Your “Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine” book was terrific and hilarious. I’m happy to hear that you would like to keep doing some funny stuff.
Yeah, I have a lot of fun in “Wolverine & the X-Men,” and I think that kind of goes back to being a dad. I wanted something that my son could read someday before he’s 35. [Laughs] I’d go crazy if I had to write something like “Scalped” all the time. I think I would go crazy if I was writing Spider-Man all the time, too. Jumping back and forth and doing all that stuff at the same time, I never have to worry about getting bored.
Speaking of having a variety of things in your life, what TV shows do you love these days?
I love “Breaking Bad” like most everybody. It’s the best show on television. “Copper” just came on. I haven’t watched that yet, but I know Will Rokos, he’s one of the guys behind that. He’s a great guy who wrote “Monster’s Ball,” so I’m excited to watch that. I thought the second season of “Boardwalk Empire” was absolutely amazing. My wife and I actually watch a lot of Food Network. I’m not a reality show guy. I’ve never been into most reality shows, but for some reason watching people compete in cooking competitions makes for fascinating viewing for me.
I’m the same way. I’m a big “Top Chef” fan. I think it’s just nice to see real people who are great at something they love. It’s not just endless backstabbing or phony plot twists.
How about prose? Do you have time to read novels?
I haven’t, lately. And by lately, I mean since my son Dash was born and I started writing comics. I don’t get to read much for pleasure anymore. Hopefully that will change someday. My schedule is a little more lax these days than it used to be.
Right — when you’re doing four or five comics a month and being a dad, that doesn’t allow a lot of time to luxuriate in novels. That’s something I really miss from the old days; having time to do that.
You warned me about that. I remember you telling me one time, “Don’t say yes to too many Green Lantern books.” It’s hard to say no, though, when they offer you stuff.
Especially if you’re a freelancer. You go through the first part of your career just praying to get offered gigs. It’s kind of hard to turn something down.
Sure, and I have no other marketable skills what so ever. If I wasn’t writing comic books, I don’t know what the hell I would do to keep the lights on.
If you weren’t able to do comics, but could still write, what direction would you go in? Would it be journalism? Would you try your hand at writing a book? Would you come out to Los Angeles to sell out and look for film and TV work?
It wouldn’t be journalism. I was a journalism major in school. I studied it for three semesters, until I realized I wasn’t cut out for journalism.
As far as novels, I think I would still love to write some prose someday. That may happen when I have a little more time. I’ve written some really bad prose in the past that hopefully no one will ever read.
As for the other stuff? I don’t want to move to Los Angeles, no offense. It’s not like Kansas is the greatest place in the world or something, and I would certainly never say no to writing for TV or film, so long as I could do it from afar. Who knows? I like doing different stuff, like I said. I like telling stories, and where that takes me, we’ll see.
Any final thoughts for the readers and retailers out there who helped keep you on the reservation for more than five years?
I’ve tried a lot lately to acknowledge how grateful I am to all the fans and retailers who supported “Scalped.” When the book started out, I don’t think anybody would have put money on us getting to 60 issues. I sure wouldn’t have. I’m incredibly proud that we were able to go that far, and I’m grateful to everybody who supported the book.
“Scalped” was never a book that lit up the sales charts, but it had a solid audience and people who were really into it. They would force the book on their friends and talk it up online. A lot of retailers would hand-sell the book to people who came in. That’s the reason why we were able to go 60 issues, and I’m incredibly grateful to all those people, and to Karen Berger and Will Dennis for giving a shot to some dude fresh off the boat in the first place. It’s still all very surreal to me that I get to do this shit for a living. I feel incredibly lucky.
I think this will be a very cool experience for you now. It feels like more people have read “Y: The Last Man” since it ended than ever read it while it was coming out monthly, and I think the same thing is going to happen with Scalped. A lot of people are like, “I’ll wait to see if they stick the landing before I commit to buying 10 volumes of the thing.” And with “Scalped,” the reviews have been universally super-positive. You guys really did end the series perfectly, so all the people that were on the fence about trying this book will now be reading it in droves. I’m so excited for them to discover the book.
I appreciate that. Like I said, I’m fine with being known as “the dude who wrote ‘Scalped.'” If that’s in my obituary years from now, I’m fine with that.
Well, I expect you’re going to have even better books to come. Right now though, you and your collaborators have just completed a 1300 page novel, and we all loved every panel of it.
Jason Aaron is currently writing “Wolverine and the X-Men,” “Hulk,” “Avengers Vs. X-Men” and “Thor: God of Thunder” for Marvel Comics.
Brian K. Vaughan is the co-creator and writer of “Saga,” published through Image Comics
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