Image Watch: Spreading The Love Of Spread With Justin Jordan & Kyle Strahm

By David Dissanayake

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With their new Image ongoing series Spread, Justin Jordan, Kyle Strahm, and Felipe Sobriero have concocted the most intriguing idea for a horror comic that I've heard in a long time:  Lone Wolf & Cub in an America taken over by John Carpenter's The Thing.

Who says simple, "_____ meets _____ by way of ______" pitches don't work.

Of course the story is a lot deeper than just that elevator pitch, and good lord is it beautifully rendered by Strahm and Sobrieto.  Just look at the pages peppered throughout this interview.

I had a nice chat with Mr. Jordan and Mr. Strahm about putting together this new and terrifying world. The story looks creepy as hell and all kinds of compelling.

I am so in.

David Dissanayake: So, the Spread's simplified elevator pitch is John Carpenter's The Thing meets Lone Wolf and Cub. That sounds fantastic. Tell us a little but about how you and Kyle started cooking up this idea.

Justin Jordan: The real origin of the book was two things that sort of bonded together in my head, which is often how comics come about. I was watching some zombie thing, probably Walking Dead, and got to idly thinking that it'd be cool to have a father son set of zombie killing badasses. Basically, Lone Wolf and Cub in a zombie apocalypse.

But I didn't want to write a zombie thing. I don't know that I necessarily have anything to add to that genre, which has been done really well in almost every kind of media, so it was just sort of idle thought.

Later, I read a science article that was talking about the ATP cycle our mitochondria use to power our cells, and how there are other cycles that could exist, some of which might be more efficient, and some that might have existed in the deep past, before a quirk of climate wiped them out.

I am probably definitely mangling that recounting of the article. But what it did was get me thinking about the idea of a form of life that was much more efficient than ours, that would spread like a cancer if it came back. And that merged with my badass and baby idea and Spread is what you got.

At NYCC a couple years ago Kyle, who I knew a little and liked his work a lot, mentioned he'd be interested in working with me, and his art was pretty much exactly what I was picturing. And so the magic began.

Kyle Strahm: Once Justin sent me his notes for Spread, I ran with it. I developed a variety of original Spread creatures, ideas for an ecosystem, character designs and sketches. One of those "creatures" I'm particularly excited about will be showing up around issue four. She's got a lot of nerve.

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DD: I've heard you two talk about the hive mind that you two have developed in working together with single word emails, even. Tell us a little bit about the working style hat you two have? Do you deal in full scripts of are you both going plot first and tightening the script around the art once Kyle is done with the pages? How about the story itself? Are you both involved in the plotting?

JJ: I do full script, although my scripts thus far for Spread have been reallllllly stripped down. So I send that to Kyle, and then he sends sketches and such back, and then the art, at which point I go back and tighten the dialogue and narration.

Storywise, the first arc is mostly me, which is how that tends to go – Strode was that way as well, with me and Tradd working together a lot more on Legend and Legacy. Kyle has already mentioned some really cool stuff, so I figure we'll work more together as the book goes on.

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KS: Justin had the broad strokes for the first arc figured out when he sent me his pitch. Since then, I've had a lot of fun fleshing things out. One of any comic artist's big responsibilities is to make characters emote. Through that acting, personalities begin to materialize. There are a few characters in Spread who don't say much, but I think they have a lot of personality.

Felipe Sobreiro is coloring the book and doing a million other things to make it a reality. He and I have designed a crazy world and in the process, put our fingerprints on the story. I'm putting words in his mouth, but we're proud of the world we've created and all the horrible things in it.

DD: How are you approaching the tone of the story? Obviously it's heavily horror influenced, but based on the cover there seems to be some interesting possibilities for humor with the baby, or am I completely off-base here?

JJ: Well, I am definitely a totally serious guy. TOTALLY.

Hah, no, there's always a pretty fair degree of humor in everything I write. Dead Body Road is probably the most grim, but even there I think Cobb is fairly amusing. But this being a horror book, I think humor is actually fairly important.

I don't think you need comic relief in horror, but I think small moments of something funny happening set you up for the hits to come later. Too much grim and you just go numb. But honestly, my sense of humor worms it's way in whether I like it or not.

But man, there's some stuff with Hope that I think is funny. Babies are inherently funny.

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KS: I'm keen on adding gags to everything I draw and Justin and I have been on the same page as to how appropriate they are. He did ask that I remove all the skin-tags from a character's face, but we both like that stuffed octopus enough that we added it to the story.

As far as horror, I think it's important not to make anything in the book seem like it's doing evil for evil's sake. All the creatures are really just going about their business and I think they seem creepier with an emotionless, gaping face-hole than with angry eyes and snarling fangs. Our creatures are sincere. I love horror that's so over-the-top it makes you laugh; movies like Drag Me To Hell and parts of The Thing, but man, those are scary too.

And I can't talk about the tone without mentioning Felipe. Color plays a major role in defining the tone of the book. It's clear and clean rather than dark and messy. I think it's a good look for a horror book. You can really see the parts of the Spread we show you because we rendered them with clean lines.

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DD: Justin, how does your approach to this book differ in terms of the creative process as opposed to Dead Body Road or Luther Strode?

JJ: Not a whole heck of a lot, which I realize is not a tremendous answer. The biggest difference is that this book is ongoing rather than a mini or series of minis, so the story needs to be structured to work over a longer term while making sure the arcs are actually interesting.

What most excites you two about this project, and what is most challenging?

JJ: Man, getting to create a whole new world to play in is awesome, so that's probably the bit that excites me the most. The chance to tell a big story, assuming people buy the damn book. Which in comics, you never know.

That's also the challenging (or, you know, terrifying) bit, telling a long form story that will be, if all goes really well, fifty or sixty issues of story. It's the biggest thing I've ever attempted and I'm nervous. Thankfully massive amounts of Quaaludes help.

KS: The biggest challenge is definitely the scope of the series. Spread could be a long story if we find an audience. What excites me is the breathing room. I've done some work as a guest artist on books that already had a defined look. It will be nice to define that look with Felipe.

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DD: Besides Lone Wolf & Cub and The Thing, what are some of the other influences, be they comics, film, literature, or music that you think may have found their way into the work?

JJ: Man, it's hard to say. There's probably a hint of zombie movies. There are definitely some eighties post apocalyptic movies, Mad Max for instance. Samurai movies. Westerns. Three Men and Baby. Quigley Down Under. Really, Tom Selleck in general.

KS: So much. Parasites, microscopic landscapes, creatures with orifices, Youtube videos of bugs being removed from people. There really are some awful videos. Mad Max (Justin has had to hold me back), Giger, Vagabond, Action figures like Muckman and Joe Eyeball; we actually have a sculptor named Michael Adams working on something cool for the book. Stay tuned!

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Spread #1 is released on 7/9.  Let your retailer know to order you a copy using Diamond Code: MAY140579

David Dissanayake is a Senior San Francisco Correspondent at Bleeding Cool.  Give him a shout on Twitter @dwdissanayake or come say hello to him at Mission: Comics & Art in San Francisco.

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About David Dissanayake

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