On Saturday, as I was weaving through the crowds to find the rest of the OTF contingent on the main floor, I found myself at a booth for ComixMag.com, promoting a new title: Nowhere Man. They had a projector up showcasing some of the art from the project, and I was immediately struck by the crisp details of the visuals. The indie comic seemed "grounded" in some respects, preferring to focus in on the players of the game, promoting substance over style. That isn't to say the visuals weren't very crisp or detailed - on the contrary, the focus on detailed facial expressions was what intrigued me in the first place - but it certainly was a far cry from the flashiness of most of the "cape and cowl" stuff I normally read.
I sat down with the creator, writer, and main artist of Nowhere Man, Jerome Walford, to discuss the ongoing project. We talked about the story, its mix of the police drama and the sci-fi thriller genres, where Walford plans on taking the series, and how you, dear reader, can help make this a success.
Read on for the full interview.
OTF: Tell us a little about Nowhere Man.
Jerome Walford: Nowhere Man is a story I started scripting about 4 years ago. It’s a police drama that’s a crossover with a sci-fi thriller. The central character, Jack Maguire, is a NYC detective that’s found himself stumbling through life trying to take advantage of powers that don’t belong to him in order to do something that he was not meant to do.
OTF: “Powers that don’t belong to him?” What does that mean, exactly? How does he access these external forces?
JW: The story is a mini-series that covers a lot of how that happens. It’s a “coming to his identity” kind of story. There is a lot of action and supernatural abilities that happen in the story, but we do focus primarily on a personal drama that has to deal with how does one move through life and process grief and loss and experience with family members. The central character lost his father in 9/11, and many of the decisions he makes, good and bad, are a result of that.
OTF: That’s a problem that speaks to all of us, I’m sure. I know that I personally have had to deal with personal grief like that, and your life can totally change as a result. How does the death specifically affect Jack? For example, did that influence his decision to become a police officer?
JW: What we’ll find through the story is that the decision to become a police officer was driven by his father being a police officer, and we’ll discover that, in many ways, he is trying to live up to his father’s dream of becoming police chief of New York City. Again, a lot of the decisions he makes, both good and bad, are a result of him trying to live in the shadow of his father. We brought a lot of action within that [framework.] There are two sides to every story, and with this particular story, there are two sides to it. We try to make it engaging and interesting; it’s certainly very heavy subject matter, but we try to do it in a way that’s honest, in a way that’s different, and we provide a little bit of humor along the way. We find that it’s a really good way to bring to a story to being that is a little different than from what is happening right now and really try to encourage a grass roots movement to support a project like this.
OTF: Based on what you’ve said so far, it’s clear that there’s an extremely sympathetic element to this story, but you’ve also said that the central character makes good and bad choices. Will we find ourselves being completely sympathetic toward him the entire time, or will we end up finding ourselves not liking where Jack goes?
JW: One of the things I found as I was writing the story was that, in life, you meet a lot of people that you may readily see as friends or readily see as an opposing force. We sometimes make a decision based on that perspective. Sometimes that’s right; sometimes that’s wrong. What I tried to do with this particular story is provide a character that’s more complex in that, from one side of the story, he’s a good guy; from the other side of the story, he may not such a good guy after all. The intention is for a long running mini-series in which, by the time you get the end, you’ll find that character that’s very rich, very relatable, that you will both love and hate at both times in the story.
OTF: One of my favorite comic books is Y: The Last Man because the supporting characters are just as fleshed out and developed as the main character himself. I would even argue that they are more important to the story than the central character because they’re so rich and full and absolutely necessary to drive the human drama. In this personal drama, what type of support does Jack have?
JW: That’s a great question. One of the things that was very critical in developing the story was making sure that the supporting cast was equally strong and had significant roles in the story. When we look at his partner, Rose Yancey, we find that she is also very sympathetic – she’s a young detective; when we come into the story, it’s [her] first year on duty, and Jack is supposed to be her supervising officer. She’s incredibly sympathetic because she’s a bit naïve about what it means to do the job, but has found herself not just "on the job" connected with Jack but also emotionally entangled with him because they’re physically involved. We find as a result of her relationship with him, she is both challenged to be a better person, but also a bit at risk because Jack, to a large degree, is somewhat reckless and could potentially cause her a lot of harm by his actions.
We also have some third-tier supporting characters, such as Jack’s boss, Cpt. Whittaker, a very straight-laced, no-nonsense, kind of guy. We have Sgt. Rocolski who, essentially, tries to be a mentor to Jack because he’s sympathetic to his background, and, of course, we do have some comic relief via a character by the name of Chris Sanchez, who hopes to be like Jack, but has no idea of the amount of turmoil Jack expresses internally. So, we have these characters that are very much interconnected, and because it’s a crossover with a sci-fi thriller, we have an antagonistic character, who, at this point, is very mysterious, but is very dedicated to a mission that he feels he needs to complete.
OTF: You mentioned that there’s going to be a sci-fi/metahuman element in this. So far we’ve heard a lot of the human elements to the story, so where does the metahuman come into play?
JW: Sure. What you’ll actually find is that there is some superpower stuff that’s going on in the story. As I mentioned earlier, Jack has found himself, whether fortunately or unfortunately, in possession of powers that don’t belong to him – supernatural powers that come from a character that has very strong ambitions about what he wants to do. He is a character that has a lot of sci-fi elements to his character, to his nature, to his abilities that crossover into Jack’s world, into Jack’s space, and somehow Jack has found a way to access that to drive his own ambitions. He figures that if he can use these powers to do a better job on the force, he will stand out as a well-known officer that has done a lot. Of course, the problem is because they don’t rightfully belong to him, there are consequences for what he does.
OTF: You said that you were planning a mini-series. How long do you project the mini-series to go?
JW: The goal is for a mini-series that will have roughly three volumes because the story essentially has two major turning points. We may choose to do some smaller books, and those smaller books comprise those volumes; it will depend on what the platform looks like for distributing content in the near future. Certainly, digital comics is a big player right now, so we’re talking to some digital distributors to find if it’s a good match to take what we already have and turn it into color issues or distribute it via some sort of digital comics app. We would like to do the entire thing in color, and one reason why we wanted to do Comic Con was to try to gain base support for this project. I, personally, have done over 80 pages on this book so far – at first I thought, “Let’s try to get the entire volume done before we get it out there,” but there was such strong support within our inner circle to get it out there that I was compelled to get it up on the website at ComixMag.com, which is a collaboration of independent artists, musicians, and filmmakers, where we support each other’s projects to give each other that little boost we need to get going.
OTF: So that’s how people can get their hands on Nowhere Man?
JW: Nowhere Man right now is being streamed on the grass level to try to get it out there via ComixMag.com. Right now, they can experience the first three chapters online for free. It’s updated once a week, every Monday. We will do that as long as we can. The main goal by giving for free right now is that we want to build a fan base who feels that – because they know the story, and they’ve had a chance to experience without necessarily having to put out any upfront cost – they will embrace the characters, love the characters, and will want to follow them. So that, by the time it comes it out in color, which we hope will be a very well done product, they will be willing to pay for it; that they will be willing to say “I will support it because I do believe in it. I believe in the quality of work, and I believe in the quality of the story.”
OTF: That’s a very brave business model, and it’s one that I, personally, support completely. It empowers the reader in such a way that earns their respect because you’re saying that you have confidence in your work, so here it is.
JW: Sure. One of the ideas behind choosing this particular model was that – I have been in advertising for a very long time. As we looked at how the plane has shifted in terms of the economy and the demand structure for how content is delivered, we found that the best way to gain an avid fan base for something like this is to be very bold by saying we believe in it enough to put it out there and let you guys judge for yourself as to whether or not it’s worth it. Basically, this is a very bold step to say: you guys tell us if it’s good or not. We’re not going to come out with something several years from now and ask you then to pay up front; you’re going to be able to tell us right now if it’s worth moving forward. By fans registering on the website, they’re showing that they’re down with us, that they support us, that they’ll be there when the product comes out, and say that “we believe in this project, we believe in the characters, and what they’re doing.”
OTF: All right, so, if you had to pitch it to someone who has never heard of it before, why does he or she want to go to the ComixMag website right now to read Nowhere Man?
JW: That’s a good question, and there are certainly some key points that drive that. Certainly, it’s an indie comic, which means that we are driven by the support of our fans. We just launched in July; we have already seen over 5,000 views on the website. We have over 50 registered members, and we’re looking that as a result to show that would do really well. We’re just trying to get out name out there.
People will find this to be something that’ll want to follow because we’re taking a lot of bold steps. We have a black male lead character; we also have a pretty diverse character roster. They’ll also find that the quality of work is, let’s just say, at the peak of what we can do at this point with our abilities. Certainly, there’s a lot of great content out there, but they will find that the work that’s on the site already is very intricate, very detailed. Most of the pages take a little more than a day to create the line work alone, and, by the time it actually comes out in color, you’ll find that most pages took at least five days to create individually. So we’re doing the best we can to create a quality product; it’s not just something we’re doing on a whim. The script has been redrafted seven times; the first fifteen pages were done over seven times, so we’ve really reached up on being on about quality, making sure that, when people get it in their hands or see it on the website, they know that we are doing the best we can.
OTF: Well, thank you very much for sitting down with me. I wish you the best of luck on your efforts.
I'd like to thank Mr. Walford for sitting down with me and discussing Nowhere Man. I've had a chance to read the issues on the website, and, while the sample on the website as of today is still sparse, I am extremely interested to see where it will go.
Jerome was also quick to note that, if the project does well and if it gains the grassroots support that it needs to continue, he'll be able to hire a junior staff of artists and bring on a team to bring you the continuing story of Jack Maguire in faster increments.