The Road To Enlightenment Leads to GØDLAND

Joe Casey's credits span some of the biggest titles from DC Comics, Marvel, and everything in between. "Wildcats 3.0", "Uncanny X-Men", "Automatic Kafka" and "Adventures of Superman" are just some of Casey's credits, but the writer isn't just limited to comic books, as he also played in several bands, directed a movie, and with "Invincible Iron Man" writer Matt Fraction, authored a column here at CBR called THE BASEMANT TAPES. As part of the Man Of Action team -- made up of Casey, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Kelly, Steven T. Seagle -- Casey even had a hand in creating the popular Cartoon Network series "Ben 10," a show that recently garnered the title of the most watched telecast in the network's history with the Ben 10 live-action television movie, "Ben 10: Race Against Time."

Currently, Casey has been working with Marvel's own "non-team" team the Defenders in "The Last Defenders" and stretching his creative owned muscles with his creator-owned Image Comics series "Gødland" and "Charlatan Ball," issue #1 of which is on sale this week.

It's rare in today's comic book environment for a new ongoing series to survive for very long, even more so if it's creator-owned. But where others have failed, "Gødland" thrives. Not only will the series be hitting twenty-five issues in July, it's also been nominated for an Eisner. Co-created with artist Tom Scioloi, "Gødland" is a cosmic superhero epic in the Jack Kirby tradition that spans the entire universe and all creation. The series follows an expansive cast of characters, but focuses primarily on Commander Adam Archer, who was transformed into Earth's first cosmic emissary and gifted with universal enlightenment, which he uses to protect the planet as a kind of superhero.

"It's cool for any book -- that doesn't have 'Invasion' or 'Crisis' in the title -- to be able to find even a cult audience," Joe Casey told CBR News. "Tom and I feel really lucky that anyone pays attention to our book, but we've been able to cultivate a fairly devoted readership that seems to really understand what we're doing. The Eisner nomination was completely unexpected, but incredibly gratifying.  I'm not the kind of guy who gets nominated for awards so to snag one for something I co-created certainly doesn't suck."

Solicits for "Gødland #25 heralded the sad fact that the final year of the series is upon us. Fans and spectators have gotten ahead of themselves as to the reasoning behind the series' coming finale, and when it will actually occur. "Coming to a natural conclusion has nothing to do with sales or any other outside factors," Casey confirmed.  "Eventually, the monthly series will end and Adam's story will reach its climactic conclusion in a dramatic and satisfying way, and to have that end point to work toward is simply good storytelling.  And despite what the solicitation for #25 states, I never said that the last issue was definitively #36.  As we get closer to that climax, Tom and I together will determine how and when we'll wrap it up, and which issue we'll be wrapping it up in. 

"Having said that, I see the whole thing as more of a transition.  I just can't see the end of the monthly series being the end of all things Gødland."

Like Neil Gaiman with "The Sandman" or Brian K. Vaughn with "Y: The Last Man," Casey is already well aware of what that conclusion will be for Archer. "The ending has always been pretty clear to me," he said, "but the exact path to get there has taken a lot of twists and turns.  Then again, that's part of the fun of it. What ends up happening is that the characters themselves start to dictate stories that demand to be told.  'Gødland' was always meant to be a sprawling epic that encompasses a lot of different elements and personalities.  The villains, especially, have often caused turns in the road.  I've heard from some readers who enjoy those bits best of all."

Such a wealth of characters leaves the door wide open for spin-off titles following the climax of Commander Archer's storyline. "There have been so many 'cameo' characters, all of them could star in their own series," Casey said.  "The Gorilla Ranch Girls hold a soft spot in my heart.  But that stuff seems so far in the future right now."

Looking forward into the final year, Casey gives some hints on what fans can look forward to before Archer's tale is finally finished. "A journey to the end of the universe," the writer teased. "Keep in mind, as whacked out as the series has been, it's taken place mostly on Earth.  Now that Adam is about to head out into the great unknown, the strangeness factor is going to be seriously pumped up.  And, of course, if Adam is absent from Earth -- which he's supposed to be protecting -- all sorts of insanity is going to take place while he's gone.  Nickelhead in particular has a grand scheme he's about to unleash... the first Super-Villain Congress!"

Real-life political themes and current events have started to become more predominant in superhero comics, something some fans have had quite a diversion to. Whether reflections on the positions of the United States government in "Civil War" or DC's tapping into election year fever with "DCU: Decisions," fans have complained there is a bit too much reality in their escapism. While there is certainly some social commentary within the pages of "Gødland," it tends to be a bit more tongue in cheek.

"I can't speak for the readers, but I enjoy a little satire now and then," Casey said.  "Personally, I get a kick out of including things that comment on our society in a cosmic superhero epic.  It adds a new dimension to the work and, for my money, brings a little more depth and complexity to it.  Besides that, at this point I think it's simply part of my style that I couldn't turn off even if I wanted to.  Not that I want to..."

With the recent success of movies based on comic books, film studios seem to be trying to get their hands on any and every property out there. "One thing Tom and I get a kick out of is trying to come up with ideas, visuals, story moments, etc. that Hollywood could never do," Casey laughed, "Or would never do. "Gødland" is meant to be a comic book and if that's all it ever is, I'm completely fine with that.  It wasn't created to be a movie pitch, it was created as pure artistic expression for Tom and myself. The whole point of creator-owned work is that there are no limits.  Tom and I are the gatekeepers when it comes to content.  Obviously, the book is intended for a wide audience, so it's not like we're going nuts with the sex and language.  But when it comes to the imagination, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as being too 'out there.'"

Casey recently got the opportunity to appear on the Jonesy's Jukebox radio show alongside "Scud The Disposable Assasin's" Rob Schrab and "Hazed's" Mark Sable. The program is normally hosted by the Sex Pistols' own Steve Jones, but Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro filled in during Casey's appearance. "It would've been killer if Steve Jones had actually been there for the show," Casey admitted. "But he was out of town playing a gig. Dave Navarro was still very cool. Navarro's an amazing guitar player and a true, fucked up rock star in the best way. A good time was had by all."

Casey's "Charlatan Ball" was released this month, hitting shelves almost two years after it was announced at Comic-Con International in 2006. The book follows the adventures of stage magician Charles Amok, who finds himself transported to a world where magic actually exists. "It feels a little strange," Casey said of the book finally hitting the stands.  "It's the final project on my slate, in terms of things that were announced a while ago, following 'Nixon's Pals,' 'Krash Bastards,' and 'Rock Bottom.' I'm proud of the book.  Andy Suriano's art is great, Marc Letzmann is blowing minds with his colors, so it's all come together really nicely.  I'm definitely curious how people �" 'Gødland' readers and otherwise -- react to the book."

As for what Joe Casey's fans can look forward to in the future, the writer will be keeping himself busy. "'The Last Defenders' has a few issues left to go. I've also started writing the 'Velocity' miniseries for Top Cow (for an artist I've been dying to work with, literally for years now). There are a few other comic book projects on the horizon, but it's too soon to talk about them. Yes, even I will pull out that ol' interview chestnut."

Casey did leave us with one little tease, though. "Here's something that no one knows yet, there's more 'Codeflesh' coming soon," he said, referring to his critically acclaimed series with artist Charlie Adlard. "Casey and Adlard back in da house...!"

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