• Interviews 

    The Rise of New Texas with “Great Pacific” Writer Joe Harris [Interview]

    By | December 19th, 2013
    Posted in Interviews | % Comments

    “Great Pacific” has been one of the great, unheralded books in comics, and it just wrapped its second arc with issue #12. Things have gotten very interesting on the Pack and in New Texas, as its leader Chas Worthington has started to make some very interesting and powerful enemies as well as allies.

    With the second trade coming soon and the book set to return to its monthly schedule in February, we took some time to check with writer Joe Harris about what his plan is for this book in 2014, how he plans to try and garner a bigger audience for the book, character motivations, movie deals and much more. Take a look, and by all means, buy this book.

    The latest arc of Great Pacific has wrapped, and we’re left in a place where Chas’ closest and arguably best ally are a bevy of particularly loyal mega octopi. Given the events of “Nation Building”, where is Chas at mentally and emotionally? Is he beginning to feel the ramifications of his actions, or is he still happy in his kingdom?

    Joe Harris: I think Chas is feeling like it’s them (or him) against the world. A theme we’re going to be exploring over our next year is this one of both isolation and seeping paranoia. He’s gotten a lot of what he wants, but Chas is also realizing he’s not going to be accepted by those he’s identified as the establishment. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, and that’s going to affect both his diplomatic relationships, as well as his personal ones.

    Alex, in his own special way, betrayed Chas. How does that impact their relationship going forward, and why was it the right time to fracture a relationship that – at least on one side – has been incredibly loyal?

    JH: Well, I don’t think Alex intended to harm Chas at all. In his own way, Alex has continued to be exceptionally loyal. But I’m reminded of the end of “The Godfather, Part II” when I think about Chas. Michael Corleone was betrayed, almost unwittingly, by his brother, Fredo… and he cast Fredo out of his inner circle, before he eventually gave in and committed the most agonizing and defining act of his reign as head of the Family. All of this is going to propel Chas’ character forward into some dark and tough situations.

    Meanwhile, Zoe proved her loyalty in rather brutal, tragic fashion. What is her motivation as a character, and how does she fit into Chas’ life and role as leader of New Texas?

    JH: I think Zoe has no place else to go, honestly. And a place like New Texas, no matter what Chas intends or hopes, is very much a place where discarded things wash up, and will continue to. Zoe’s past is going to come back to haunt her too, in some coming moments, and Chas isn’t going to be unaffected.

    The other major character in this book is arguably New Texas itself, and it has grown dramatically since we first met it. How are you looking to continue to develop this part of the world, and does Chas have a vision for what his New Texas is supposed to look like besides an old timey frontier town?

    JH: I’d like to keep pushing the growth of this society, and nation. After each break, we plan to show development with regard to immigration and sprawl. There’s a sense of “manifest destiny” that’s going to be spreading across this continent, as people begin leaving the New Texas settlement and exploring the outer reaches of the trash continent. So, getting back to your question, I think Chas’ “vision” involves modernization and progress. The “old timey” look you describe was more a reflection of these neo-frontier days, and this idea that things look like that—rather, they looked like that, once upon a time—due to the nature of frontier living, the demands that makes and the choices it inspires due to a number of environmental factors and choices made due to resources, priorities, etc.

    Continued below

    In the third volume, you’ve said you’re looking to focus on shorter story arcs, even single-issue stories. What are your goals for that? Are you looking to take us out to different characters in New Texas and different parts of that world?

    JH: Well, we want to try and be accessible. After doing two six-issue arcs, I wanted us to take a break. The five-issue arc has sort of become the gold standard for series’ like these—at least those published by Image these days—so we were already going a bit beyond that.

    Also, producing shorter stories lets us present a wider range of looks at New Texas, life on the Garbage Patch, and other aspects of this universe, as your question implies.

    One upcoming issue, #13, involves a guy who washes up on “the Pack” (Chas’ nickname for the garbage patch continent upon which New Texas was founded) claiming to have been abducted by aliens, and returned to earth to deliver a message to our “Leader”… a role Chas is going to have to fill. But while we explore this mystery character’s true identity, intentions, secrets, etc., we’ll also be exploring how New Texas reacts to visitors, along with a creeping paranoia that’s descended on Chas and his government.

    Another story involves drug addition as the workers who come to New Texas to toil on the HERO terraforming operations become heavy users of this chemical compound that’s part of the runoff and process of said ops. And while we’re exploring the loss of productivity and threat to New Texas, much the way Opium became a scourge in turn of the century China, we’ll watch as Chas makes difficult decisions to protect his sovereignty, inching closer and closer toward what could become fascism if left unchecked.

    As a storytelling partner and artist, how do you feel Martin Morazzo has grown threw the span of these first 12 issues?

    JH: Martín never ceases to amaze me. You might already know this, but making a monthly series at a place like Image can be really hard. There are so many freedoms and benefits to be enjoyed working this way, where creators own everything and nobody really restricts what we want to do. But the schedule can be grueling, and the rewards come and go, in the short term anyway. That Martín has managed to really design and sell this world, month in and month out, while developing his own process and standards, just blows my mind. There’s no real reference for what he’s doing, besides what I feed him in terms of my own ideas. He’s often working off of some strange, half-baked notions I feed him describing mutated marine life or sweeping vistas of trash, artificial continental shelves and strange technology sprouting out of plastic waste.

    He’s our MVP, and he’s made the world of Great Pacific his own, and I can’t think of a single talent in the comics industry more deserving of wider recognition and acclaim.

    The upcoming third volume is going to have an array of guest artists providing variant covers. Who have you lined up to work on these covers – that you can share of course – and what made them artists you wanted to see touch on this world?

    JH: Mostly they’re friends of mine, past collaborators, and new folks who might have worked on something else I’m doing, like The X-Files: Season 10, and expressed a desire to do something else together. So far we’ve solicited covers from Michael Walsh and Adam Pollina, with variants from the likes of Steve Rolston, C.P. Wilson III and Darick Robertson lined up for future issues.

    When it comes to creator-owned books, quite often it seems like once you’re past a certain point, attention dips a little and you find your level in terms of sales. For potential new readers, what makes this new volume a particularly interesting time to jump in on, or at least to go back and pick up the first two trades?

    JH: Well, we’re hoping the shorter stories and arcs are less daunting a climb. And if that smaller mouthful offers an intriguing glimpse at this wholly original world we’ve been crafting, we’re also hopeful readers will want to go back and see how we go there. That we tend to price trade collections so aggressively at Image, with the first volume of Great Pacific, “Trashed!” only listing at $9.99 – and that’s for six, big issues collected, by the way, while the standard collections of most series’ tops out at five issues – that it’s pretty easy to take the plunge.

    Continued below

    The rumor mill was spinning recently thanks to a comment you made, and it led some to believe that a Great Pacific adaptation is being worked on. Is there any news on that front, or was that much ado about nothing?

    JH: I’ve been creating stuff and selling it to Hollywood for a while now. I don’t think I’ve ever had an empty-handed “option” of my material happen. I’ve made two movies, written a bunch more that didn’t end up getting made for one reason or another, and have had a series, Ghost Projekt, purchased by NBC earlier this year. So when I make something new, that’s always in the back of my mind. It’s what I promise my co-creators will get the best effort I can give, and what I take for granted will, at the very least, be something that’s aggressively placed in the marketplace of ideas for consideration beyond the publishing.

    So I’m always entertaining attentions and flirtations from various studios, producers, companies and other entities who see value in the properties I create. Great Pacific is no exception, especially since it’s such a unique world we’ve crafted with lots of, I think at least, obvious hooks to do all sorts of multimedia exploration and exploitation, be it film, television or otherwise.

    Am I being non-committedly vague enough for you yet?

    David Harper

    David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).