Christopher Jones Talks New “Parallel Man” Series, Working On Animated DC Comics Titles
The World’s Finest caught up with artist Christopher Jones to discuss Parallel Man: Invasion America, a new science fiction adventure comic book series from FutureDude Entertainment, and how his work on the Young Justice comic series – and other animated DC Comics titles – prepared him for this upcoming project. Jones has a long history with DC Comics, particularly when it comes to the animated adventures of the World’s Greatest Superheroes. And now, with Parallel Man: Invasion America #1 hitting shelves in comic book stores nationwide on October 8th, 2014, Jones is ready to take it to the next level. Continue on to the Q & A below to hear more from Jones himself!
The World’s Finest: First, before we go any further, can you give us a quick rundown on Parallel Man and why fans of your DC Comics work might want to check it out?
Christopher Jones: Parallel Man: Invasion America is a 7-issue mini-series about parallel worlds with a cast of great characters, lots of action and adventure, and a ton of cool gadgets and vehicles. The basic idea is that instead of a breakthrough that led to atomic weapons and power, another America breached the dimension barrier, gaining the ability to travel to parallel Earths. That America didn’t just win the war but dominated the globe, and by 2014 is known as the Ascendancy and controls an empire of 11 parallel Earths. As the Ascendency is about to move to annex our Earth, intelligence agent Nick Morgan goes rogue. He is being chased by Mackenzie Cartwright, who’s possibly my favorite character in the book.
For all the advanced technology the Ascendancy has accumulated from the worlds they’ve conquered and absorbed, their culture hasn’t really evolved since just after World War II because they’ve never really left their war footing. The Civil Rights movement never happened there. No advancement in the rights of women in their society. The general who created the dimension-hopping technology became president and founded a dynasty. The current Ascendancy president is his grandson, and his daughter Mackenzie Cartwright is his only child. She’s the heir-apparent in a man’s world, and serves as the only woman in an all-male military. Furthermore, she commands the Hellfighters – an all-black unit of commandos in the segregated Ascendancy military. It’s Mackenzie Cartwright and the Hellfighters who are sent after Nick Morgan when he goes rogue, in a chase that starts on our Earth and travels to the super-industrialized ChinaAmerica, to a world where the dinosaurs were never wiped out, and to a world where the only lifeform is a toxic fungus. And that’s just part of the first issue!
Each issue introduces new worlds and new characters, including the Scavengers – a group existing on the world that’s the dumping ground for all the undesirables from the Ascendancy worlds. We meet the Illinis Native American tribe on a world where Europeans never came to North America. And most importantly, we meet the Futurists – a group of scientists leading a resistance movement against the Ascendancy, trying to reclaim the technology they helped create from the imperialistic regime that is abusing it.
I think it’s all very cool and smart and exciting. The story is by Jeffrey Morris and Fredrick Haugen. Character designs are by myself with concept art by Eric Chu who worked on the new Battlestar Galactica, and the color on the book is by Zac Atkinson who I worked with on Young Justice.
In addition to the 7-issue comic, we’ve got games in development and are in production on a 12-minute pilot for an animated version which should be available online later in October. John Cho (Star Trek) is voicing Nick Morgan, Ming-Na Wen (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is voicing Mackenzie Cartwright, and Lance Reddick (Fringe) is voicing Atlas, an AI assistant to Nick Morgan who becomes an interesting character in its own right. It all starts when issue #1 of Parallel Man: Invasion America launches on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014. It’s available for pre-order through Diamond now at your local comic book retailer, and will be available digitally on Comixology.
WF: How would you compare your work on Parallel Man to your previous works?
CJ: I’ve drawn different books in a wide variety of styles over the years. Many of the titles I’ve worked on in recent years which I’m best known for were based on animation properties (Young Justice, The Batman Strikes!, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), and were drawn to resemble the show on which they were based. Other books I’ve done such as Batman ’66, Kolchak, and Re-Animator have been based on live-action films or TV shows. There I was trying to capture likenesses of lead actors and to evoke the look and feel of the show as much as possible. Other superhero comics I’ve done have been fill-ins or short one-off stories that didn’t seem well-suited for departing from what had gone before so I was just trying to draw versions of those characters that were rooted in what had gone immediately before.
So here, finally, is a chance to draw a comic that is it’s own thing. When I came onto this project there had already been some concept art done by Eric Chu (Battlestar: Galactica) and some vehicle design had been done, but I got to design all the characters from scratch, as well as uniforms, locations, props, all kinds of things. I’ve said that my Young Justice work was moving in the direction of being in “my own style” while still being anchored by the character designs from the show. Here now is a chance to see what my own style looks like unfiltered by other artists’ designs from an animated TV show!
And this is a sci-fi series about traveling to parallel worlds, so there’s been a lot of fun design work to be done in creating the different locations the story takes us to.
WF: Parallel Man is currently undergoing a bit of a media push, with games, soundtracks and merchandise. Can you explain to us the appeal of this character and why he deserves a little attention?
CJ: We’ve got a number of characters, actually. Despite the very singular-sounding Parallel Man title, even our lead character has two different aspects in this story! We are introduced to Nicholas Morgan (our Earth’s version of agent Nick Morgan). Nicholas is for from a super-spy; he’s a gamer geek who lives with his Grandfather Tobias, who has a connection to the Futurists and may just be the key to everything that is happening.
Parallel Man is packed with so many interesting ideas! The parallel worlds concept gives us so much to explore and has such limitless possibilities. So yes, we’re doing a 7-issue comic book mini-series to begin with. If it’s successful, we’d love to continue on from there. FutureDude is also developing a collectable deck card game and a mobile device/tablet game that are based on the concepts of Parallel Man and based on the look of the comic.
I also got to help develop and do storyboards for a 12-minute animation being produced as a pilot for the animated Parallel Man TV series we’d love to do. After years of clarifying that I worked on the Young Justice comic book but not on the TV show, I’d finally be able to say “Yes, I worked on the show!” The animation pilot will be available on-line in October, and a trailer is available right now.
WF: For fans who know you just from your animated comic work, why do you think they should give your work on Parallel Man a shot?
CJ: I think we’ve got a great-looking book with a ton of story packed into every issue. And if they liked my art on comics based on animated TV shows, here’s a chance to be a fan of the comic before the TV show happens! “Hey, I was a fan of Parallel Man before it was cool!” (Too late, it’s already cool.)
WF: Do you see a natural evolution to your artwork and storytelling abilities, looking at your older work to now? Do you tell stories differently (more panels, less, and so forth)?
CJ: So much changes depending on the needs of a particular project. The first issue of Parallel Man was already fully scripted when I came on board, with the rest of the series existing as an outline. For subsequent issues I’ve been doing layouts based on those outlines, giving me much more control over the visual storytelling. I’ve been trying to give the visuals a really cinematic flavor and have tried to limit the number of panels per page. Every time we go to a new location I try to do a big cinematic establishing shot, but it’s a real balancing act. We cover a lot of story in each issue and each page has to move the story forward.
But I think the projects I’ve done in the past have definitely had a lasting influence on my style and how I tell a story. My work has definitely become much more dynamic and expressive since doing so much animation-based work. A cartoonier drawing style I really think lets you focus more attention on the composition and design of a page. I like my action scenes to really move.
WF: How do you compare some of your earliest gigs to your current and upcoming work? Is it hard to believe just how far you’ve come in the last decade (give or take)?
CJ: It’s been a strange career trajectory if you go back more than a decade to my pre-DC Comics work. I started out drawing a lot of crime, horror and adventure comics. I really don’t have any professional superhero credits before the work I did for DC and Marvel. I was doing stuff like the Re-Animator movie adaptation, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and some other properties you likely wouldn’t know. The thing that got my foot in the door at DC were some samples I’d done for Warner Brothers Animation, which got me some fill-in work on Young Heroes in Love, a series DC was doing that was drawn in a fairly cartoony style. And that let to more and more in the same vein. And while I love all that material, especially The Batman Strikes! and Young Justice, I was getting to be known pretty exclusively for that kind of thing. It’s like getting typecast as an actor. You might be able to play more than one kind of role, but if that’s all you ever get offered, it’s all you’ll ever get the chance to do. So it’s exciting to get a chance to do something that’s removed from all that both in terms of visual style and subject matter.
WF: The Young Justice fanbase has been really loyal to the creators involved in both the television series and supporting comic. What is it about the characters and the fans that inspire such loyalty?
CJ: Aside from just being really well done, Young Justice offered strongly character-driven writing that with rich relationships between the characters. You saw those characters and relationships tested and changed by the adventures they had. That encourages a degree of investment in those characters from the audience you don’t often get in superhero material. Young Justice also had a remarkably large and diverse cast of characters – ethnic diversity and really strong female characters which is much rarer than it should be. When someone sees themselves represented in the cast of a show that’s huge. Young Justice offered a lot on so many levels. I was a huge fan of the TV show and was really proud of the work we did in the companion comic as well.
I really love the Young Justice fans. Meeting the Young Justice cosplayers and other fans as I travel to conventions continues to be such a joy for me. It’s really the gift from my association with that series that keeps on giving.
WF: Can you give us a rundown of your upcoming convention appearances? Let us know where we can find you!
CJ: Here are the rest of my appearances for 2014:
Cincinatti Comic Expo
September 19-21, 2014 – Cincinnati, OH
MCBA FallCon Comic Book Celebration
October 4, 2014 – St. Paul, MN
New York Comic Con
October 9-12, 2014 – NYC, New York
Grand Rapids Comic-Con
November 21-23, 2014 – Grand Rapids, MI
You can always find a list of my upcoming appearances at my official website.
WF: To wrap this up, can you give us one last sell on why Parallel Man: Invasion America #1 must be checked out when it hits shelves on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014?
CJ: The artwork is by my with color by my Young Justice collaborator Zac Atkinson. I think we’ve got some amazing world-building with a series jam-packed full of action and sci-fi concepts. And did I mention that the leader of the Futurists is a parallel world version of Carl Sagan, and that Carl’s real-world son Dorion Sagan is our scientific advisor for the comic book? It’s pretty cool stuff.
If you can’t find Parallel Man at your local comic shop, ask them to order it through Diamond. Otherwise, you can get it in digital form through Comixology! You won’t be disappointed!
Thanks for your time, Chris!
Parallel Man: Invasion America #1 is will be available at comic shops and for digital download on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, from FutureDude Entertainment. The title currently is available for pre-order. Further updates on Jones and his assorted projects can be found at Christopher Jones Comic Art & Illustrations Blog.
Stay tuned for further updates right here at The World’s Finest!
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