Going to War

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After debuting in the early 90’s, penciller Jordan Raskin left the comic book industry to pursue work in other fields. This month marks Raskin’s return to comics as writer/artist of Industry of War, from Desperado Publishing and Image Comics. Raskin spent some time in the Broken Frontier this week, talking about his new comic book one-shot– a sci-fi political action thriller. 

Broken Frontier - If the name “Jordan Raskin” sounds familiar to someone, where might they have heard it before?

Jordan Raskin - Well, going waaaay back here, I started working for an independent company called "Evolution Comics". They published a mini black and white anthology called Dangerous Times. I drew a couple of issues of their character "Vidorix the Druid". It was a great start for me and I learned a lot doing it. I even managed to ink myself for an issue or two. From there I managed to land a job at Dark Horse penciling Predator: Race War, which was a really great gig. I wish I had been experienced enough to handle the deadlines back then. I drew a short story for Penthouse Comix called Dixie Snakeyes and followed up with RipClaw for Image. In more recent years I penciled and inked a short Batman story in an 80 Page Giant and a Lady Shiva story in Batman Chronicles.

BF - In the mid 1990s, you left comics to pursue other ventures. Why did you leave? What brought you back?

JR - MONEY! Even someone who does a monthly book, unless it's selling REALLY well, they're not making a whole lot of bucks. Comics is one of the lowest paying commercial art forms out there. I opted to pursue other more lucrative creative fields to work in. I've been fortunate to work in animation as a background designer for such shows as Courage the Cowardly Dog and the revival of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But doing Industry of War is what brought me back. I've had this story waiting to be told for more than a decade and it was time to take the plunge. I hope everyone will stick around for the ride!

BF – Being as you mentioned it, what can you tell us a little about Industry of War?

JR - Okay. Do you remember the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc? Remember that enormous warehouse they put the arc of the covenant in? What if I told you that all those boxes you saw contained malfunctioning experimental military weaponry? Stuff that the government was developing, but just didn’t work right.

Now what if I told you that when the military was downsized in the early ‘90s, most of what was in those warehouses was accidentally shipped out as harmless surplus goods and ended up in the hands of the general public at large (or worse, the black market!)? What if things like the Columbine incident and The Uni-bomber were really cover stories the Government was using to hide the fact that their missing malfunctioning weapons were really to blame for those massacres?

Welcome to the Industry of War. Secretly, the military has covert cells of agents scouring the world, here and abroad, hunting these missing dangerous weapons down. Our lead introduction story follows a cell of two agents, Michael Landry and James Vansanto, hunting down various missing biosymbiotic weapon suits called P.C.A's (Personal Combat Apparatus). But the latest item on their retrieval list will prove to be their most difficult when they discover it was programmed with an assassination mission during the first gulf war.

..A mission it never got a chance to complete..!

Over the course of the story, they uncover the existence of the mission through their detective work in tracking it down to Eddie Vierra, a newly reformed New York City gang-banger. Eddie is just being released from prison wanting to leave his past behind him and live a normal life. But that’s not going to happen because he’s about to accidentally find that PCA, and after it attaches itself to him in a parasitic manner, its flawed design will drive him insane while filling him with the desire to complete that long awaited gulf war assassination mission.

Now this particular PCA model is referred to as a “Bodyblade” unit. Basically, it’s an infantry combat harness (worn as a suit) which fuses itself with you when you put it on. But it can’t simply be taken off like your jacket. Once it’s on, it has to be surgically removed.

It’s called a Bodyblade because it sports various retractable gauntlet and joint blades combined with neurological computer enhancements, providing instant training to the wearer in all hand to hand combat and firearms techniques. The intent behind the bladed weapon design was for use as a viable backup should a foot soldier find himself in a close combat situation without firearm ammunition. If the weapon worked right it would be amazing and turn a single soldier into a one man army. But the design concepts for these weapons were more ambitious than current technology would allow and these things malfunction, BIG TIME! In general the onboard computer gets confused by the user’s strong emotional issues and misinterprets them as combat orders. For example: if you were wearing one while being upset with your mother in-law this week, the Bodyblade would believe its mission would be to take her out. This makes the wearer a threat to everyone around him. Especially innocents.

BF – So where did the inspiration for this come from?

JR - A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... I was watching 60 Minutes. There was this fleecing of America style episode by Mike Wallace. He was reporting on the costly storage of surplus from wars long over. I'm talking like World War 2 era stuff (most of which was useless). They had tires, field rations, blankets, boots, you name it. I remembered thinking what else do they have stored that the public isn't aware of? And what if it was something really dangerous? That was the moment Industry of War was born.

BF - What character do you think readers will most identify with?

JR - I think everyone (myself included) will identify with our victim/anti-hero of the story, Eddie Vierra. The story plot largely follows his side of things and shows how his world gets turned upside down from this situation. He's a good guy who in his life has done the wrong things for the right reasons. But he's done with that life now and wants to start over with a clean slate. The question is, will he ever get his chance to after being introduced to the clandestine world of the retrieval agents?

BF – From what I understand, Industry of War first appeared as a back-up feature in Mark Texeira’s Image Comics title, Pscythe. Why was the tale never completed there? How do those stories relate to the graphic novel?

JR - Well to answer the first question, Mark and I originally set out to do a mini-anthology book between us. We had every intention of continuing it, but it had to end for two reasons. First and foremost, Money. When someone does their own creator owned book they're not paid as they go. It's a tremendous financial burden. We only get paid based on net sales. Mark Texeira, God bless him, is a workaholic but he has a family to support. He was juggling doing work for hire jobs while working on painting his creator owned story. During that time, I think he slept once in a while and was known for going to the bathroom every so often. But other than that, he was a slave at the drawing board. For the time being, Mark has decided to do work that pays his bills and keep his sanity. I know he wants to get back to doing Pscythe in the worst way, but he's a responsible person and his monthly bills have to come first. I think we can all respect that.

The other reason, for me, was a creative decision. When the teaser installments were published in the back of Mark Texeira’s Pscythe 1 and 2 I wasn't happy with the way it turned out. It wasn't a satisfying read. This is in large part due to the fact that the story structure wasn't written in comic book form, but as a screenplay. The two 16 page segments didn't give us enough story to chew on. I realized it was important to create a more satisfying read for my audience. This is why Industry of War Act 1 is a 72 pager. It collects the first 32 pages printed in Pscythe and continues with 40 pages of new material which comprises act one of the original screenplay. Now the story leaves you feeling like you just ate a really good meal (with room, and desire, for desert!).

Future issues will be broken down similarly (in terms of satisfying story points) because I can end those chapter story points satisfyingly for the reader in smaller page counts. I want to make sure the reader feels like they got their money’s worth from my book. Act 2 is looking like it’s going to divide up into two parts. It will not be another 72 pager. More likely two 30 pagers. Act 3 is up in the air, but I imagine will be about 48 to 60 pages in length.

The first 16 lettered pages can be found on Desperado’s website at http://www.desperadopublishing.com. A few other random pages can be found on my own site at http://www.jordanraskin.com.

BF - How has the year away from Industry of War changed your approach to the story?

JR - It’s been a long year, let me tell ya! In truth, this is part of the reason the book hasn’t been seen in a while. I’ve been more of a writer than an artist this year which has been challenging, but also gratifying. Working closely with Ron (co-creator/writer/producer of Alien, Total Recall, Minority Report) Shusett, I spent almost the entire year working on the screenplay version of Industry of War. I think we’ve crafted a smart gritty action film. It’s not just action for action sake, but plot oriented action. It also has several layers of mystery floating around which add up very nicely. I’m literally putting finishing touches on it this week and the next step is to take it to studios for consideration. Truth is, writing the screenplay has affected the future of the storyline. There's things I wish I could change about Act 1. The screenplay is more sophisticated in ways I hadn't worked out when I started drawing it. But to make changes at this stage would mean re-drawing pages and it's just not reasonable to do so. Act 2 will reflect more of the sophistication and structure we have in the screenplay right now. When it's all done, I have a prequel story in mind as well which will show how the agents came to be associated with one another. But that's another story...

BF – So you do have plans to continue Industry of War?

JR - Absolutely. But not until the Eddie Vierra PCA story arc is completed.

BF - What sort of reaction are you hoping to get from a person that reads Industry of War?

JR - So far the reaction from those who have read the pages in total have had the reaction of "Wow, that's cool. What happens next?" This is the best response I think anyone can ask for. Wanting to know what happens next means I've got my creative fish hooks in 'em and I'm tugging away!

BF - When can someone find Industry of War in their local comic shop?

JR - I'm not sure which week, but I think it's slated for 3rd week in November 2005.

BF - What is it that makes you so passionate about storytelling?

JR - That's a good question. I think it's an illness and I hope they make a cure for it soon. But seriously, I think I've always loved movies. Film has influenced everything I do from my artwork to my writing. Most people tell me that when they look at my comic work they feel like they're looking at a movie. That's a tremendous compliment and it's something I strive for. Telling stories is just a tremendously wonderful creative outlet for me and I hope I get to continue to do so for as long as I have the ability to breathe.

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