The Gods are leaving New Jersey, as Glen Brunswick and Dan McDaid's critically acclaimed Image Comics series "Jersey Gods" ends with this week's twelfth and final issue. Barock, god of Neboron, and Zoe, prototypical Jersey girl, find resolution in their sprawling, space-spanning epic of a romance story, with a healthy heaping of divine action on the side. But don't get too comfortable with the characters and world established in previous "Jersey Gods" issues, as Brunswick and McDaid have a walloping game-changer of a twist in store for readers - or, as Brunswick puts it: "If you think you're standing on terra firma, you better look down. The rug's just been pulled out from under you."
CBR News spoke with Brunswick and McDaid about their decision to conclude "Jersey Gods," their plans for the final issue, their fondest memories of the series and their plans going forward - including potential new "Jersey Gods" stories further down the line. Plus, check out an exclusive preview from the final issue!
CBR News: Gentlemen, "Jersey Gods" ends with the twelfth issue, hitting stores this coming Wednesday. What led to the decision to end the series here?
Glen Brunswick: "Jersey Gods" has been a huge success for us, both personally and critically. The book kicked off by selling out, going to a second printing and capturing a good bit of media attention - front page stories in the New Jersey papers and a spot on CBS news. But I do think that in the current environment, it's damn hard to maintain sales momentum on a new series past the first arc. Despite an increasing number of strong reviews as the series progressed, our sales began to taper off. We realized it was time to shut down the current ongoing.
Dan McDaid: Or, to put it another way, we realized we were too beautiful for this weary, feckless world, and decided to leave you all to it. [Laughs]
Was it always your intention to end the book around this point, or did you have hopes to continue "Jersey Gods" for longer?
Brunswick: The first original outline took us to issue #12 - this was my initial endpoint. Had we gone longer, I did have additional story arcs planned. I began seeding one of the more fun ideas in issue #9. Barock's mother has been holding on to his father's skeleton for the last 10,000 years. I was going to bring him back from the grave - somehow her love and devotion manages to reanimate him. But the man that returns is very different from the heroic father that had died centuries earlier. He was going to be a huge problem for Barock, Zoe and the other Gods. The other arcs that I have planned require that you read the events that transpire in issue #12 before I can be pressed to divulge them.
McDaid: I'd love to have gone on for longer. I've said this to Glen a few times, but I would happily have worked on "Jersey Gods" for the rest of my life. I realize this is madness, of course, but there's all sorts of interesting directions you could have taken this thing in. I'd like to have had a go at writing a back-up strip. I had an idea that would develop some of the concepts we've thrown around, things like the Haunted Hinterland, the Court of the Cosmic Kings, crash landing an amnesiac Barock in Nazi Germany - fun stuff like that.
By the end of "Jersey Gods" #11, Barock has shared his godforce with Zoe, only to have her turn around and betray him to Deltus. Without tipping your hand too much, what can you tell us about where the final issue of the series goes from there?
Brunswick: The whole tone changes in this issue. We still have a bit of humor that's been the book's staple, but things are about to get deadly serious. Barock has to revert back to his warrior self in order to break into Deltus's stronghold to find out exactly what has happened to Zoe. Her betrayal has brought up the memory of another betrayal from his last love five hundred years ago. Barock will be totally transformed from a loving boyfriend back into the barbarian that was his legend - a leader of men - 10,000 years ago in the great war of Neboron.
McDaid: It's just bloody heartbreaking stuff. When I drew the last ten or so pages, it was actually taking something out of me. I'd end the working day, if not a gibbering wreck, then certainly exhausted.
Glen, you've said that issue #12 features a game-changing twist. What can you tease about that?
Brunswick: The finale is action-packed, dramatic to the extreme and a real rollercoaster of surprises that keep on coming like shots to the gut. I think this issue will catch a lot of people off guard. Expectations are completely blown out of the water. The shock waves in this issue have repercussions that will cause readers to view the entire series in a whole new light. Really! This is not marketing BS hyperbole, it just sounds like it!
I think Dan and I are both on the edge of our seat waiting for the reaction. I guess we think we're pretty clever at the moment. We feel like we're ending with our best issue yet - that's the way you want to go out! If I had Mark Millar's money and balls, I'd offer a full refund to anyone unsatisfied with the read.
How far back in your "Jersey Gods" outline does the twist exist? How satisfying was it for you to finally unveil it in the book?
Brunswick: The twist was always in my original outline. It was the organic endpoint for a complete "Jersey Gods" epic saga. As a creator, there is nothing more satisfying than getting off stage feeling like you were able to do justice to your complete vision. I think we feel we've both done that with this issue. Jack Kirby, my hero and inspiration, never got to finish his Fourth World God epic the way he wanted to. If we never get a chance to revisit "Jersey Gods," I can proudly point to this work as a completed thought that went far beyond my expectations.
Going into the double-sized final issue, what were your goals? What did you both feel needed to be delivered in order to create a satisfying series finale?
Brunswick: It's funny, because midway through the series, I starting thinking about the twist ending, the shock of it all, and wondering if we really should go that route. I shared my concerns with Mark Waid since he was well aware of the conclusion - Mark had a look at the entire outline when he agreed to do his "Jersey Gods" back up story - and his advice was that sometimes your characters speak to you and tell you go in another direction. I got a bit nervous and shared my concerns with Dan. He agreed that we should really listen to the characters carefully. The end that I had planned was high risk/high reward - maybe we should consider another safer direction.
After much debate, we decided to go with the original idea. When it came time to write the script, I was pumped. Normally, I take about a week to write a script. The 46-page double-issue felt like it wrote itself in just two and a half days. Then I waited with baited breath to get Dan's reaction. I was quite relived to hear him tell me that he loved what I had done, and then he proceeded to go to town with the artwork. I was completely unprepared for the intense visuals he came up with. I've been stunned by Dan's art since the beginning, but this final issue is something quite extraordinary.
The icing on the cake came after Mark Waid had a look at the finale. He told me that it touched him with the exact strong emotional response that I was hoping he would have. I breathed another sigh of relief - Mark's been a friend and a mentor - I hadn't realized how important it was to me that he liked what we had done. In hindsight, I really feel like we nailed this one. We took an edgy risk that I think really paid off dividends in the creative sense. That should be what it's all about.
McDaid: I was really worried about the twist. It's like all twists; it's kind of a betrayal, isn't it? And I knew a lot of people loved the book because of the characters, because of the sweetness of our leading couple. I love Glen's writing to bits, but it's the small, tender moments between Barock and Zoe where he really shines. So yeah, I was worried. But over the course of our phone calls, we talked a lot about the final issue, what Glen had planned for it, and I started to get excited, suggesting stuff we could put in. Then the script arrived, and he really pulled it off. Having that extra length gave us a chance to let the story breathe, to let it unfold in a natural way. And the resolution to issue #11's twist is heartbreaking, but it plays fair with the reader.
On the surface, "Jersey Gods" is a Kirby-esque tale with sweeping superhero flourishes, but at its core, this is a romance story. What measures did you take in order to strike a balance in this final issue, and really throughout the entire series, between delivering massive action sequences as well as these more touching romantic moments between Barock and Zoe? How do you feel that balance comes across in the final issue?
Brunswick: This is the payoff issue! All of the little thing that were set up earlier come into to focus. We begin to see the connections that we didn't realize were there before. I think if you've taken the ride to this point, you will be richly rewarded, touched emotionally and ready for more "Jersey Gods" tales. We've worked really hard to bring a balanced book that delivers humor, love, action and pathos throughout the entire series. I think we've done more than our job here with this wild finish we have in store in issue #12.
McDaid: The action in the last issue is the most intense we've ever done. As I was drawing the issue, I was thinking a lot about Kirby's OMAC - one man takes on an entire city. "Evacuate this section, I'm going to destroy it!" So that was my touchstone here: one incredibly tough bastard versus all the evil in the world. But this is still pretty romantic stuff. He's fighting a city of scumbags to rescue the girl of his dreams. I'd recommend listening to Queen's "Seven Seas of Rye" and Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" while reading to enhance the experience.
Brunswick: I'm partial to Kanye West's "Stronger" myself.
"Jersey Gods" #12 closes the book on certain stories, but there are certainly some characters - like Rushmore and Helius, for example - that could continue on. Are you open to the idea of exploring this world again, either in a new ongoing or in miniseries form? Or are you more interested in leaving "Jersey Gods" as is and moving onto a new creative endeavor?
Brunswick: We have a lot more we'd like to do with "Jersey Gods." This issue sets up a new paradigm that could lead us in a bold, new, exciting direction beginning with a war epic. I think if the sales of trades continue to grow, or if we sell the rights to exploit in another arena, we'd be very open to returning to the book. We just need to make it work, financially.
I'd also love to revisit Helius or Rushmore in their own mini-series. Both characters could be a lot of fun. They each have exciting back-stories that have yet to be told. Helius's antics on earth alone would certainly rival Hugh Hefner's.
McDaid: We went out of our way to try and make these characters as iconic as possible, both in terms of their look and their characterization, trying to create something that would endure if possible. So they were designed to last, in some way. And Glen has teased out all sorts of angles we could approach this world from: sitcom, high fantasy, horror. There's even a bit of politics in there. So there's lots of room for future development.
Looking back on the series, what characters, plot lines and moments are you most proud of? What do you regret, if anything?
Brunswick: I really like the way we evolved Helius's character. I knew I was going to give him a son, but I hadn't planned for his son to die in an attempt to save Helius's life. That was something that came out of listening to where I felt the character was telling me to go. It allowed Helius to show real growth. One of the best scenes for me was when he erects the statue of his son in memoriam on his own planet. I'm still not sure where that came from.
I don't have many regrets. Actually, I'm grateful that I didn't do a few silly things that were in the original outline. I had planned to make Barock's skin rock hard. In order for him to make love he would have to soften his exterior. In this state, he would then become vulnerable to attack. I thought of it as a kind of danger not unlike what you had during the French Renaissance - when one truly had to trust their bed partner. Happily, I decided this was not the way to go.
McDaid: I actually think that's an awesome idea and we should have gone with it. Seriously.
Brunswick: Excellent! You can write that into your back-up story.
McDaid: Otherwise, I'm pretty much with Glen here: I love Helius. As a bit of a rogue, he has a few more dimensions than Barock. Barock's almost always going to do the right thing, but Helius, maybe not. He's our Han Solo, isn't he? There's a great scene in issue #7 where Barock and Zoe are having a proper heart to heart in a Paris nightclub, while in the corner Helius is macking on a couple of Parisian chicks. And he's so comfortable with them and with himself. He's a sex-bomb, and there aren't actually that many of them in comics. Maybe Starfox, but he's a jerk, so he doesn't count.
It's never easy to say goodbye to something you love. Given how hard you both have worked on "Jersey Gods," how difficult was it for you to put the finishing touches on this last issue? Is there a sense of loss here, or are you at ease with the way things are ending?
Brunswick: Honestly, it never felt like I was leaving these characters. I've come to love them so much that it feels like there's no doubt that we'll be revisiting them at some point. I'll miss writing them every month and seeing Dan's artistic depiction of them on a regular basis, but that will make it even sweeter when we're able to return. "Jersey Gods" will return in some form one day, I promise!
Good to know! So, what's next for you guys?
Brunswick: Dan and I have been talking with a publisher about doing a four-issue miniseries together. It's too early to really talk about it publicly, but the basic idea is something that is an offshoot about the craft of creation. It's a fun "What If" notion about what happens when a writer's creation walks out of his book and into his life.
McDaid: I've read the first couple of scripts of this series and they're really beautiful. Funny, mature work, action-based but with a beating heart. It's going to be brilliant.
"Jersey Gods" #12, written by Glen Brunswick and illustrated by Dan McDaid, arrives in stores on Wednesday, May 19. The issue concludes Brunswick and McDaid's work on "Jersey Gods" - for now.