If comics as a medium have one strength, it's as a playground for genre mash-ups. And next up for Eisner-winning comics writer Jim McCann is a project that combines sci-fi, thrillers, procedurals and more for an all-new Image Comics series.
Starting this Spring, McCann will team with "Morning Glories" cover artist Rodin Esquejo and colorist Sonia Oback for the new, monthly "Mind The Gap." Announced during the Image Comics panel at New York Comic Con, the series will launch with a $2.99 40-page special #1 in April before going monthly with 25-page issues at the same price.
After teasing the series on Twitter earlier this week, McCann spoke first with CBR News about the series he describes as a mix between "The X-Files" and "Twin Peaks," featuring an amnesiac lead living through an out of body experience while her physical body is the target of murder attempt. Read on to see how he's branching out beyond what fans know of him from books like "Return of the Dapper Men" and "Hawkeye & Mockingbird," why his "Mind the Gap" collaborators are the perfect fit for a story that's equal parts exciting and weird and why Image is the home for his latest creator-owned effort.
CBR News: Howdy, Jim! Let's jump right in to the thick of "Mind The Gap." I think anyone who saw the teaser image on Twitter had their curiosity piqued at the thought of your doing a slick sci-fi project. To start out, what can you reveal about the core pitch of this project now that word is officially out?
Jim McCann: "Mind The Gap" is a preternatural thriller/mystery. There is science and fiction involved, so I guess you could call it sci-fi. The premise of the story is Ellis Peterssen (or "Elle") is trying to solve who it was that apparently tried to kill her in an attack before they can strike again. There's just one problem- she's in a coma. And amnesiac. Her mind is separated from her body by a giant gulf preventing her from getting back into her own body, however she can see and hear everything that's being said around her. It's like when people say coma patients can hear what their visitors and loved ones are saying. Well, she can! That is how she is piecing back her life and the events of her attack- from the various info people have and are saying by her bed. She has to sort through all of that to figure out who she is.
There are also some pretty big twists in how she can possibly interact and move around. That's all revealed in the first issue where we lay out (most of) the rules.
This book is my "X-Files" meets "Twin Peaks" whodunit, where everyone is suspect, and no one is innocent!
The premise for the series plays with a lot of big, existential ideas: questioning your identity, your memory and your survival. Was there one specific factor in the thematic development that really drove what this story became? In other words, what's the component of this story that really drew you in as a writer?
That question is smarter than I am, but I'll do my best! Honestly, it was this sense of being disconnected from yourself- not powerless, just disconnected. Both to your actual self and the idea of self. Now add to that this idea that seems so engrained in our society that our identities, our selves, are determined by other people's points of view, by what they say to us and about us. What does that do to a person? Can they dig through the bullshit and re-discover themselves? And, in doing so, can they get a better picture of the people and world surrounding them?
That, and comas are just so dynamic to see in a comic book.
On the flip side of those big-idea building blocks, this is also a thriller. What kinds of inspiration have guided the style of this book?
I love a good whodunit, but I love a great thriller whodunit. Psychological thrillers are the best, and there aren't a whole lot of those in the comic world. Maybe it's because it's too hard to portray the tension (in which case, I have made a terrible decision to try one).
I'm sure there's plenty of cast members for readers to get to know once the book is in their hands, but for now, let's focus in on Elle. Part of the draw of her story is that her life is a mystery even to her -- did that make it hard to develop her as a character? What's at the core of her person that makes her a compelling lead regardless of what facts she can recall about her life?
I couldn't write this without knowing Elle the most. Her character came first. She'll discover a lot about herself as the series goes on, but she may wish she hadn't. The journey of Elle is "Mind The Gap."
While fans have seen you write everything from superhero espionage to modern fable, I think it's still safe to say that this project is a new and unique step in your career. How important has it been for you to diversify your body of work? Is there any kind of story or genre you think you'd never do?
Absolutely I want to diversify and challenge myself. I have so many different stories that I want to tell- historical fiction, real sci-fi, slice of life. I think the only genre I would be wary of trying is flat-out humor publication. There are so many folks out there that do it far better than I could and it comes naturally to them.
This is your first time working with Image. What was it about comics' creator-owned powerhouse that made you want to bring a series there?
My work at Marvel was slowing down (and this is a story that wouldn't work at either of the Big Two, really), Janet and I were digging into the second part of the "Dapper Men" trilogy with Archaia and I was itching to get back into the monthly conversation, do something ongoing and different. My decision to go to Image was simple -- I spoke to a number of creators I trust, looked around and ultimately, based on the experiences a number of pals have had, I chose to bring it to Image. They let me set how long this is going to run (we have a definite beginning, middle, and end), the price ($2.99, even for the 40 page first issue) and do what I wanted to do.
I think creator-owned is an interesting time right now in the industry because the fans are following creators -- both writers and artists -- more than they are the pre-existing books or characters. Sure, they will buy "X-Men and "Justice League" and "Avengers," but they are also branching out to see what their favorite writers and artists are doing on their own- what those creators are doing with things they have created whole cloth.
Of course, on a creator-owned project like this, your collaborators play a huge role, and you're working with two talents who a lot of readers will recognize instantly. Starting with Rodin, his very detailed, realistic style on the "Morning Glories" covers has done a great job of drawing eyeballs to that book. Why did his style fit this pitch, and what have you found in his sequential pages that people familiar with his covers may not expect?
Rodin! I am such a fan of his! He has a way of drawing actual physical weight and movement to characters that I love, but can also be eerie and ethereal. All of those things were vital to "Mind The Gap" in order to differentiate the two planes of existence. And he's so damn good! He was my absolute first choice for this. And coming off of two Eisner noms didn't hurt either! He is such a great talent and I can't wait for you guys to see his sequentials!!
Sonia Oback joins y'all on colors. What are your favorite things about her style, and how has she meshed with Rodin so far?
This is turning into a love-fest, but I truly adore Sonia. She is a great friend and an incredible artist as well. She colored two eight-pagers I did at Marvel, and became my colorist-drug. I HAD to work with her more, and for a looooong time! Rodin's linework is very open, which makes Sonia the perfect partner for him. The texture and grittiness she can bring is also balanced by the tones she works with -- you immediately know where you are and what the situation is when you see their art paired together.
Overall, what's the most important takeaway you and the team hope to communicate with this series? In other words, what's the piece of the launch you're most excited to get out in folks' hands?
I'm excited for fans to see me go realistic, in that this takes place in the "real world", as well as adding my own spin by using the preternatural elements. Working with things that are possible, science just hasn't figured out why or how yet. This is a full story with a definite beginning, middle, and end with tons of twists along the way, but a journey I'm completely thrilled to be writing. I hope the fans are just as excited each issue, trying to play detective along with Elle!
Finally, on a detective scale ranging from Inspector Clouseau to Sherlock Holmes, where would you rank your ability to solve your own attempted murder should you find yourself in an out of body experience?
While I'd love to say someone like Jason Bourne or Fox Mulder or Dale Cooper even, but I'd probably have to say I'd be more like The Doctor (Who, that is).