The Glasgow League of Writers have been given permission to resurrect some classic, iconic and some cases, lost characters from the D C Thomson archives who will feature each week in the digital pages of Comic Review, the digital version of Comic Heroes, the magazine dedicated to the world of comic books. Luke Halsall and John Grieve, who are bringing Johnny Jett back to us, talk to Gordon Robertson, director of the 9th Art Festival, about bringing the character up to date, their other projects and their hopes and plans for the character in future.
GR – Indie and small press comic fans will know both of you well, but for everyone else, introduce yourself.
LH – My name is Luke James Halsall. I have been writing for about five years or so, starting with kindle ebooks before moving into comics. I have written comics for many different anthologies as well as my own collection of short stories The Mind Palace and my full-length series iHero. I am a writer for Geek Syndicate, reviewing many genres and writing articles on geeky subjects like comics and Doctor Who.
JG – Hi I’m John. I’m an illustrator based in Falkirk, Scotland.
GR – What made you choose Johnny Jett as your character?
LH – When looking at these characters I wanted to choose a character that I felt I could do something different with them, yet maintaining what made them special to begin with. With Johnny I saw the basis for creating a spy story in the same vein as Jason Bourne or Daniel Craig’s James Bond. I don’t know whether it was something about the origin in particular or his look but something made me feel that this would all click.
JG – When Luke contacted me, I had actually never heard of Johnny Jett, so I must admit to being a bit apprehensive to begin with. When we initially met to discuss the project, it took about five minutes and I was hooked. I loved his script, the characters and Luke’s willingness to allow to me to work with him rather than for him.
GR – Tell us a little about Johnny Jett then
LH – We know very little about him. I kind of saw him as Britain’s answer to Green Arrow. He is stranded on a desert island where he is taken in by a scientist, training him to be a hero. He later returns home.
JG – I wouldn’t want to give anything away. Suffice to say, he is a gifted young lad with a complicated background.
GR – What changes did you feel you had to make to the character for a modern audience and why?
LH – I don’t personally think we made many changes. I think that we wanted to capture the character’s essence and I hope that we did this. We did update the costume quite a bit, taking influences from riot gear and anything that would give a stealth feel to it. Originally the costume was just a shirt and trousers with no mask. That has all changed now! We kept the belt though as we felt this was crucial to this character. I think we have adapted certain aspects, adding a depth to characters and the origin that were never expressed before.
JG – The original tales were illustrated by the legend that is Dudley D Watkins way back in 1959. Whilst his artwork was spot on as always, something was lacking for the modern page – colour. I have tried to keep it bright and vibrant to reflect the unstoppable force that is Johnny Jett.
GR – Were there any specific comic influences you brought to your reboot of the characters?
LH – One name was my inspiration for this entire project: Geoff Johns. Johns is a huge deal to me. He wrote in my opinion the greatest run on my favourite character, Green Lantern, reinvigorating him for the modern audience.
Johns has done this for every DC character he has written for. From Hal Jordan, Green Lantern and Barry Allen, The Flash, two characters who feel as if they come from the 1950s, to Aquaman and the great Deadman, Johns has an ability to make these characters relatable to the modern audience whilst at the same time keeping true to what made them great to begin with.
The essence of these characters are always there, no matter what. This was so important for me on this project and I hope we have succeeded. I hope Johnny Jett fans of old will love this as much as the new fans in the same way I feel about Johns’ stellar work.
JG – Tough one. My hero of the comics world is Bill Watterson. If I could aspire to be more like anyone it would be him, but my style on Johnny Jett is a million miles away from Calvin & Hobbes. I think the script is actually the biggest influence for me. After reading it over a few times you get the feel for the characters and the mood of the story. It definitely has an effect on the way I then draw it out.
GR – What other projects are you working on?
LH – Well, myself and Graeme Kennedy, the artist on Invisible, are working on the next issue of iHero. Expect that soon. I have also got a project with Cuttlefish, artist for ArseCancer on another of the DCT re-boots coming soon, called Out of Time. It’s my love letter to Douglas Adams and Doctor Who.
I also have a continuing strip coming to Avery Hill Publishing’s Reads, entitled The Bullpen drawn by Tim Bird. The Bullpen is comics meets Mad Men. I am working on another continuing strip for Clockwork Goat that will be over two issues. I cannot wait for you to see these projects because I am blown away by the artwork.
JG – All going well I will have a collection of my short stories ready for the MCM con in September entitled The Beast of Barton and Other Unfortunate Circumstances. I’m also looking to publish an animal A-Z which I did as part of the 28 Drawings Later challenge in February.
GR – Can we expect to see more of Johnny Jett soon?
LH – I really hope so. I have a lot of different ideas and places where I would like to take this character. I see these first six issues as almost like a pilot issue. I still have my Bourne Identity meets Casino Royale meets Green Arrow to tell!
JG – Well I certainly hope so, it would be a shame if his resurrection was so short lived.
Luke and John’s homepa
ges can be found by clicking on the links