WW Philly: The Mystery of Death After Life: Bruce Jones talks "Deadman"

The greatest mystery of life is what happens when it's over. Many hope to discover the solution after death. Unfortunately for Brandon Cayce, his death offers no answers: It's the beginning of a whole new mystery. Cayce is the star of "Deadman," a new ongoing series coming in 2006 from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint by writer Bruce Jones and artist John Watkiss which reinterprets and re-imagines the classic DC character. CBR News spoke to Jones about the series.

"Deadman" came about because of Jones desire to do some more work with VP Executive Editor of Vertigo, Karen Berger.

"I did 'I, Vampire' with her at DC in the '80s but had not done anything for Vertigo yet and was anxious to play in that sandbox," Jones said. "She and Jonathan Vankin called and offered me several titles including 'Swamp Thing' and a revival of Neal Adams' old 'Deadman' series. I chose 'Deadman' because it was Adams' art that had really fueled my initial interest in comics -- I just thought his stuff was terrific."

This new "Deadman" series is set in its own world and is not connected to the Boston Brand/Deadman character of the DC Universe.

"Our book pretty much goes its own way this time," Jones told CBR News. "But I think the way in which it will appear familiar to readers of the early series will come as a series of delightful surprises. In fact, this is really a series ABOUT surprises, almost in every issue -- a book to keep you on your toes and, hopefully, stretch your mind a bit."

Jones feels he's not revamping the character of Deadman but continuing the character's evolution.

"I think every time you work on something that's been worked on before, you're putting a new spin on it to some extent, even if you were the original writer," Jones explained. "Creators grow just like their audience grows -- new stuff comes filtering into our lives and ends up in the work. And most of all, a writer or artist is simply not the same person he or she was several years ago, or even several months ago. So in the purest sense of the word, I guess, there's really no such thing as 'revamping' a character or series ... all writing is a work-in-progress."

Brandon Cayce, the protagonist of "Deadman" lived a fairly mundane life until he died in a plane crash at London's Heathrow airport.

"He was -- and in many ways still is -- just a normal Joe like you and me," Jones said. He's a commercial airline pilot who has a brother, Scott, in the same field. His life is pretty average, really; no marriage or kids, though he has always been secretly in love with his brother's wife Sarah."

After death, Brandon finds he has a unique bond with Sarah. Exploring this bond is just one of his many post-death goals.

"His goals now that he's 'dead' -- the initial one, certainly, is finding out how the hell can he be dead and still communicate with his brother's wife," Jones told CBR News. "And also, just exactly how 'accidental' was his death in the first place? To put a finer edge on it: What IS death? We offer our own view on that which is rife with problems for Brandon to wrestle his way through in pursuit of the truth and ... well, other things."

In addition to his bond with Sarah, Brandon has a number of unique abilities.

"I'm not sure if the word 'powers' applies here, certainly not in the traditional sense," Jones said. "Brandon can do things that seem extraordinary, but again that depends on your definition of the word. One of my goals in writing this book is to show how the 'extraordinary' may, in fact, not be so special after all. And similarly, that some of those things we all take for granted, are far more incredible than we imagine ... to say nothing of our inborn ability to employ them."

Readers will learn more about Brandon's background as the series moves along.

"What's great about this series for me is that I've been able to find a way to do traditional flashbacks that give details of the character's history in a slow reveal, without ever really using flashbacks at all!" Jones explained. "It's very tricky, but a lot of fun!"

The plot of "Deadman" has Brandon and Sarah pursued by mysterious assailants.

"Brandon ends up having a 'relationship' with his brother's wife and both of them are pursued by these strange guys in bomber jackets and Ray Bans and clearly Sarah's plight is quite nerve-wracking because she's the 'live' one of the two, right? But Brandon (Deadman) finds he has his own reasons to worry about staying 'alive.' He just has to figure out exactly what that word means first," Jones said.

In addition to his sister-in-law Sarah, readers of "Deadman" will also be introduced to the other members of Brandon Cayce's family.

"Brandon's brother Scott plays a major role in the series, as does the rest of his immediate family including his father and mother, but especially his father who -- dare I reveal this? -- turns out to be a major key to many locked doors," Jones explained. "Let's just say Brandon Cayce finds more out about himself and his family in the course of a few hours than the rest of us do in the course of our lives. And it ain't all good news! Some of it, in fact, is pretty dark stuff. Scary stuff. Very."

Jones was reluctant to give many details about the setting of "Deadman."

"It's set ... well, it's set in a contemporary time frame," he said. "But again, time takes on a whole new meaning here. It's a bit complicated and you may have to brush up on your Stephen Hawking to catch all the little details. Let's say you'll recognize the immediate surroundings. In the beginning anyway ..."

"Deadman" is an ongoing mystery that attempts to examine certain metaphysical questions.

"I, for one, wouldn't call it supernatural, though some might," Jones said. "I like to think of it as a thinking man's thriller. But it's more than that. We really attempt to take on some pretty hefty concepts and theories here, the vast majority of which are heavily researched and based closely on current theories about the universe and our place in it. I almost never spend the time researching a book the way I have this one. It's been both exhaustive and exhausting. But worth every minute!"

Unlike many comic series the books in the Vertigo imprint often have a definite beginning middle and end. When asked if "Deadman" had a definite ending Jones had an interesting response.

"That's a great question and the substance, really, of the series -- which makes it, unfortunately, difficult to answer now without tipping all the good stuff," he said. "But yes, in the most basic way, 'Deadman' has a traditional beginning, middle and end. What I'm hoping is that the reader will discover new things about the meanings of those concepts -- how wonderful they can be, and how -- sometimes -- deadly."

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