Next Wednesday, “John Flood” #1, from Justin Jordan, Jorge Coelho, and BOOM! Studios, hits comic shops. The book is focused on a scientifically engineered man – shockingly – named John Flood, and the world that he inhabits. It is funny, unusual, gripping, and unlike anything else on shelves right now. We had the chance to chat with Jordan about the book, as well as being able to offer an exclusive preview of the first six pages of the book.
The idea of being productive without sleep is something I’ve daydreamed about often – when pressed with a deadline, or engrossed in a project that begs for more attention, I imagine what it would be like if I didn’t need to sleep. Of course, that notion is absurd, and would have its own set of consequences – and that’s one of my favorite aspects of this story – sure, John is gaining 1/3 more waking time than anyone else, but it that extra 1/3 is really fucking with the other 2/3rds. When crafting this story, how important was it for you to not make Flood an aspirational character?
Justin Jordan: Haha, you know it never occurred to me that Flood would be an aspirational character.
I’m not a great sleeper, and this has been the case the whole way back to me being a baby, according to family lore. I’m better at it these days, but I still require less sleep than normal and sometimes have trouble sleeping.
So, for most of my life, I’ve spent maybe four or five hours a day asleep, and I’ve had numerous jags where I was awake for days.
AND IT SUCKS.
At least for me, what happens is that days run together – without sleep to break them into days, you start to feel like you’re living one long day, and it starts to feel very Groundhog Day. And if you stay up long enough, you get weird.
I watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the Gilliam movie, after having been up for three days. I started seeing bats, because apparently insomnia country is also bat country, and obsessively locking and unlocking my door. It’s literally temporary insanity.
So Flood’s condition is meant to be, eventually, kind of horrifying and he’s very much a broken person. He’s aware of this, on some level, and it’s what drives him, as will become clear, I hope, over the course of the series.
If I am doing my job right, Flood should be a figure of pity, not aspiration.
More than anything, the book gives off a vibe of exhaustion – Flood, obviously, is a non-stop ball of thought and energy that would tire anyone out, but even Berry, before he ever meets Flood, is exhausted by the circumstances life has dealt him. As a creative person, is that feeling of exhaustion, of not enough hours in the day, is that a feeling you’re personally familiar with?
JJ: I’m not sure about it being a function of being a creative person, but it is a function of depression, which I am intimately familiar with.
I had a major period of depression in my early twenties, one that damned near killed me. I’ve had it under control for a long time, but I remember what it was like and it terrifies me. It’s the reason I had those aforementioned periods of being up for days.
Depression is a lot of things. One of the things it was for me was exhausting. It’s not even that you’re tired all the time so much as just….feeling like you don’t have anything left. Life drains you and it just keeps draining. Maybe the best explanation of what this feels like is Allie Brosh’s “Hyperbole and a Half.”
But the mechanics here are of people being exhausted by life and trying to find a reason to go on. Neither Berry nor Flood are suicidal, but neither of them feel like they have any reason to keep trucking, that sort of deep down exhaustion that gets at your soul, I guess, if I can go all poetic for a sentence.Continued below
Flood’s hyperactivity masks it, where as Berry is a little more overt. But they both have the fundamental problem that their lives are taking more than they have to give.
Jorge Coelho has a style that is utterly unique, and his work here has a really nice flow to it; his scenes tend to ramp up and down unexpectedly, and he has the emotional gauge set perfectly for each encounter. What about his work attracted you to bring him onto this book?
JJ:I’ve liked Jorge and Tamra [Bonvillain, colorist]’s stuff, both separately and together, for a long – Tamra and I have been trying to get various books going for years. We’d actually considered Jorge for “Deep State,” and I was a little wary that his style wouldn’t work for that book. As it happens, the issue of “Zero” he did made it clear he could do that kind of work, but I always thought he’d be someone great for “John Flood.”
The book required a stylized kind of look, with enough grounding so that people wouldn’t get totally lost. Jorge and Tamra give the book that, and they worked really well together on “Sleepy Hollow,” so I was pretty confident they were the right team for this.
Flood is an instantly grating character, someone who never stops and rarely allows the situation to reveal itself fully, but he is also impressive in his many skills – what did you do to ensure that the character wouldn’t goo too far into the obnoxious direction?
JJ:Haha, well, I tried to make sure the book acknowledges that being around him is really annoying. One of the advantages that film and television have is the ability to rely on the charisma of the actor.
I mean House, for instance, is a really annoying character. He’s a bastard, and we only like him because he’s got some humanity in there and, honestly, because he’s played by Hugh Laurie. Similarly, see Tony Stark or, for that matter, Sherlock Holmes as played by RDJ.
In comics and prose, you don’t really have that. So you’re kind of hoping that you’re calibrating the writing so that the audience gets the character is supposed to be annoying without be annoyed by him.
Again, I think Jorge and Tamra are doing a good job there, too. Their depiction of Flood, visually, makes him a more likable character in a way I couldn’t adequately explain.
One of the themes in your work that I’ve enjoyed so much is the idea of regular people being forced into extraordinary situations and circumstances. “John Flood” is no different – what is it that appeals to you about writing an everyman?
JJ: I think that’s a function of me trying to find my own way into the story, you know? I need to start with someone I understand, and then lead them into situations that are weird. I think this works for the reader, too, in terms of getting you involved in the story. And, I think, I just like writing those kinds of characters.
John Flood #1
Written by Justin Jordan
Illustrated by Jorge Coelho
What’s to Love: Justin Jordan exploded onto the comics scene just four short years ago with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode and caught everyone by surprise. Now he brings us John Flood, a series that combines the metaphysical with the procedural in a way we think is really fresh. Joining him is Jorge Coelho, whose fantastic work on Polarity and Sleepy Hollow made him a BOOM! favorite. Perfect for fans of Desolation Jones and Sherlock Holmes.
What It Is: As the result of a government experiment, John Flood no longer needs to sleep, but now he’s in a constant dream state and sometimes can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t. But a side effect is that he sees patterns and makes connections no one else can, which serve him well in his new “career” as a make-shift PI. Together with a burly ex-cop, Flood begins to investigate when he “sees” one man responsible for thousands of unsolved murders, but now he himself has caught the killer’s attention…