James Bond and Jason Bourne better move out of the way; there's a new spy named Jon Moore entering the espionage arena, and he's brought a friend with him.
What, you don't see him? Standing right there, just past Jon's shoulder? Don't worry, you'll see him soon enough, and then everybody will be asking the same question: "Who is Jake Ellis?"
That's the mystery at the center of the appropriately titled "Who Is Jake Ellis?," a new Image Comics miniseries from "Olympus" and "The Light" author Nathan Edmondson. Announced today at the Image Comics panel at New York Comic Con, "Who Is Jake Ellis?" tells the story of a mercenary spy operating in the European underground with one particularly unusual quirk: he has a maybe, possibly imaginary benefactor that only he can see, a man known only as Jake Ellis.
"This is the story of Jon Moore, a spy for hire, who for five years has been hiding out in Europe along with Jake Ellis, a man invisible to everyone except Jon; a man capable of seeing things that Jon cannot, of predicting things," Edmondson told CBR News in an exclusive interview about the announcement. "Jake is a mystery. All that we know - all that the protagonist, Jon knows - is that he is the only one who can see, hear and interact with Jake. Jake might be a figment of his imagination, an imaginary friend; whatever he is, he's Jon's guardian angel, his goose with the golden egg, his guide."
As the title doubtlessly implies, the question of whether or not Jake truly exists is at the core of "Who Is Jake Ellis?" at all times. "This is indeed the central mystery of the book, but we focus on how it plays out, how [Jake and Jon] work together," said the writer. "He is 'present' whenever Jon is, wherever Jon is, but whether or not he's physically present is another question entirely."
"The story is really about the interaction between the two, but considering it's all in Jon's head - or something - the story follows Jon wherever he goes," continued Edmondson. "Jon was once a government analyst, and now he's a kick-ass merc because of Jake Ellis. Because, four years ago, something happened to Jon, and that's when Jake appeared."
Whether or not Jake is a figment of Jon's imagination remains to be seen, but for now, Edmondson is having a heck of a time exploring the dynamic between the two characters. "I enjoy the idea of a relationship that is unique to those who are part of it, and to which the rest of the world is not privy and not welcome; like a marriage, in fact. An imaginary friend is taking that idea to a different level," he explained. "What makes 'Jake Ellis' so fresh, I think, is the interactivity between the two central characters. You'll find that Jon is forced to ask the question - is he crazy? Is Jake just in his imagination, or is something else going on entirely? You can also look forward to Jake offering Jon guidance in unique ways, ways that Jon can't even understand."
Just as Jon has Jake on his side, Edmondson is not alone in his efforts. Joining him on "Who Is Jake Ellis?" is Tonci Zonjic, an accomplished comic book illustrator with credits at Marvel and DC Comics. "Tonci is affable, extremely hard working, dedicated and one heck of an artist," Edmondson assessed of his collaborator. "It's a joy and a humbling experience to work with him. He's versatile, talented and solid on the page. He's the perfect fit."
Asked where the inspiration for "Who Is Jake Ellis?" came from, Edmondson replied, "Like many of my ideas, it came to me whilst driving a long way. Also like most ideas, it came out of nowhere, on one hand, and from everything I've read that's saturated my mind on the other."
"I read a great deal about government, military, espionage - in fact, I have another book forthcoming that deals with another aspect of those worlds," he continued. "I've been reading a variety of texts, mostly non-fiction, from former spies, former Special Ops, former everything. It's necessary, of course, to sift through that information. I've also made some contacts in those places and I've heard a number of remarkable stories firsthand."
His ties to the world of warfare extend beyond research, too. "Military service runs in my family," Edmondson explained. "My grandfather, for example, was an admiral in the Navy, a medical advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his day. I've always had a deep respect and fascination with all aspects of the military."
Even the book's European setting has roots in Edmondson's life. "Much of 'Jake Ellis' will be based in cities I've spent time or lived in," he said. "The story starts in Barcelona and then passes through Strasbourg, France and then through Bern, Switzerland. I lived in Strasbourg and I've spent time in the other cities. The environments of these cities inspire kinds of scenes and certain moods. I'm very much enjoying writing scenes that aren't 'Generic French Alley #3' but rather, 'Rue de la Glaciere' or something like that. Tonci is also very determined to illustrate scenes particular to the settings - real streets and real buildings. We're looking forward to offering a certain degree of authenticity to the settings. Tonci is good enough that he can make it work."
"The history is certainly appealing, too," Edmondson continued of the book's European setting. "Each city we move through has its own unique background, thousands of years that have forged its identity. Ruins lying outside of it, rivers with symphonic names; even if only subliminally and subconsciously, we can draw upon those things."
"Jake Ellis" won't be exclusively contained to Europe, either, as Edmondson plans to bring the character online. "We have a Facebook page where we'll put some exclusive previews and updates, and we also have a site up," said the writer. "I think the mystic, mysterious, interactive nature of the characters is something fun to play with in an online viral way, and using things like Google Maps, we can track Jon's exploits of espionage. On those sites, we'll also announce some upcoming promotions, contests and signings. Keep an eye out."
Developed from Edmondson's own interests, experiences and a long drive filled with thoughts of assassinations, covert operations and top secret intelligence, "Who Is Jake Ellis?" is an undeniably personal story for the author, one that may have legs beyond the forthcoming first miniseries.
"I absolutely have a sequel sketched out and some thoughts about where the universe will go beyond that. We'll focus on the first installment here and see where it goes," said Edmondson. "Mostly, this is just a story that I want to tell the heck out of."
"Who Is Jake Ellis?," a five-issue miniseries written by Nathan Edmondson and illustrated by Tonci Zonjic, hits comic book stores in January 2011. Keep tabs on Jake Ellis at the comic's Facebook page and official website.