This April, WildStorm releases "Garrison," a brand new original story from writer Jeff Mariotte ("Desperados," "Angel") about Lester Garrison, the most dangerous man in the world. Taking place in a near future where all of mankind is under surveillance, Federal Agent Jillian Bracewell leads an investigation into the mystery surrounding Garrison – the only man they have no information on – in a deadly hunt for the truth that could get her killed. "Garrison" marks Mariotte’s return to WildStorm after his work on "Desperados" back in the late ‘90s, and he’s coming back intending to bring the best in action/adventure comics.
CBR News caught up with Mariotte to get some more info on his deadly protagonist as well as the origins of the book itself and why no action/adventure comic book on the stands can even come close to matching "Garrison."
CBR News: Jeff, by now, many have read the solicits for "Garrison," but we'd love to hear what it's about in your own words.
Jeff Mariotte: I think I wrote the solicitation, so those would have been my words too. But in different words, Garrison is a rocket-paced thriller about identity and humanity. In case that makes it sound boring, I should quickly point out that it's not a preachy book, that those underlying themes are way underlying the action-packed story on the surface. Emphasis on "rocket-paced thriller." Garrison is, at the book's beginning, being sought by the nation's top intelligence agencies because he has racked up a body count in the hundreds. They know he's been killing people at an incredible pace, but despite this being the most heavily surveilled country in the history of the world, they don't know who he is or why he's doing what he's doing. They only know they have to find out - and find him - fast. And that quest ends up twisting everybody's lives around.
Where did this concept originate?
I think in this case it started with the visual that we see on page 1 of issue #1, the image that was on the first version of the cover, before the amazing Francesco Francavilla created something more mysterious and provoking - of Garrison, a guy who looks like he just walked out of a redneck bar on a Friday night, in a leather vest, torn T-shirt and cowboy hat, walking away from a town that he has just completely incinerated. Once I had that picture in my head, I wanted to know who he was and what he had done and why he destroyed the town and what would happen next.
Lester Garrison is the most dangerous man in the world - you were pretty vague about what made him so in our last interview with you...any chance we could coax a few more details about him from you?
As much as I hate to disappoint CBR, because the central question of the six-issue miniseries is "Who is Garrison and how did he come to be that way?," I have to be pretty vague again. I think the answers to the previous questions established his danger level. But the how and who and why are things the readers will have to discover along with ol' Lester and Jillian Bracewell, the intelligence agent who has made him her personal mission.
You've mentioned, both in past interviews and on your blog, that there will be no action/adventure comic book that comes close to matching "Garrison." What do you feel sets "Garrison" apart from the other titles out there?
First, Francesco's art. I used the adjective "amazing" above, and that's not hype. When pages came in I could barely believe what I was seeing. Francesco likes drawing action, but he far surpassed himself on this book. He claims that he's never been asked to draw the kind of action that we've got going on here. Garrison has fights, but against opponents nearly as formidable as himself - and dozens of them at once. He causes collateral damage - but in his case, that means bringing down buildings, not just trashing the street. Eventually, he pretty much takes a small town and... no, that'd be telling. Let's just say that when I was writing this, every time an action scene came along, I asked myself, "How can this be bigger? What else can we destroy?" Basically, I was trying to imagine this as a movie, and me as a screenwriter trying to bust the studio's budget.
Tell us a little bit about the near-future setting of "Garrison" - where will we be seeing Lester Garrison go about his business?
The story takes place in an unnamed city, in an indeterminate future about 8-10 years out. Most of the setting looks familiar, but Francesco added telling touches - the cars are unmistakably cars, for instance, but they're not today's cars. Some of the weapons have not yet been invented. As I said, cameras are everywhere, and America's intelligence apparatus spies on everybody, all the time. Since we're now looking at full-body scanners in airports and facial-recognition software at sports events, it is not necessarily as far-fetched as it sounds.
You're known mostly for your work in the "Angel" universe, both in prose and in comics - how do you feel "Garrison" plays to your strengths as a writer and how is writing an original story different than writing an established property?
Am I? I'd like to think that I'm mostly known in comics for "Desperadoes," and in novels for literary yet compelling supernatural thrillers like "Cold Black Hearts" and "River Runs Red," but you might be right. I have written lots of established properties, in comics and prose fiction ("CSI," "Conan," "Superman" & "Jonah Hex," "30 Days of Night," etc., in novel form, and "The Shield," "CSI" and more in comics), and it's always great to be allowed to play with characters who have brought me so many hours of enjoyment. But I've also written a lot of original works, including the aforementioned, along with the more recent comics/graphic novels "Graveslinger," "Zombie Cop" and the current miniseries "Fade to Black." I like doing both, for different reasons. Tie-in material lets me play in beloved universes; original material lets me create my own characters and put them through hell.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in crafting Garrison's story?
The biggest challenge was probably figuring out how to parcel out bits of the truth, so that the reader is learning about Garrison at the appropriate pace. In that sense it's structured almost like a mystery. Wrapped around that is the sheer amount of action - the mystery aspects had to be interwoven through a very physical story that's constantly moving. There's character development and relationship stuff, but it had to go in without sacrificing the pace.
By the same token, what do you think is most rewarding about doing a project like "Garrison?"
It was a way of stretching myself, as a writer - I'm not known as a crazy action guy, though I don't think I ever write overly cerebral stories. This one let me take off in different directions than I usually do, though, and Francesco met the challenge and then some, which makes it even better.
Why do you think telling this story is important?
To some extent this is one of those projects that is primarily meant to entertain - to grab the reader by the throat and not let go. And at the end of it, to have the reader remember it as a great thrill ride. There are also serious matters underneath it all - how much information is too much? What do we really want the government to know about us? How do we protect ourselves and our country without sacrificing our humanity?
What do you want the average reader or comic book fan to take away from the story you're trying to tell?
If the average reader puts it down at the end and says, "That was a lot of fun!" then that's good enough for me. I'll feel like I've done my job. But if the reader wants to engage in a dialog about security and identity and personal responsibility, that's cool too. I don't make a secret of my political and social beliefs, but I don't think anyone reading "Garrison" would have a clue about what they are, so it should be approachable from any politico/social mindset as well. I'm not trying to send a message, I'm trying to tell an entertaining yarn. I'm okay with either response, though. I just want people to read it and like it and tell their friends. And if Francesco should win an Eisner next year...well, that would just be icing on the cake.