Sam Humphries Gets Presidential With Citizen Jack

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Just when you thought presidential politics couldn’t get any crazier, the creative team of Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson flip it all on it’s head. Humphries, known for his work at Marvel with Star-Lord, Avengers A.I. and his other creator owned titles like Our Love Is Real and Sacrifice, is no stranger to biting satire and hits it home with his new Image Comics book - Citizen Jack.

Described as a horror comedy for anyone who hates politics, Citizen Jack tells the story of Jack Northworthy who is a devil worshipping politician living in a scandal-plagued small town with sudden aspirations to run for President. If that’s not enough for you, hear it from Humphries himself as we sat down with the critically acclaimed writer about what fans can expect from the first issue, and beyond.

Let's talk Citizen Jack.

Humphries: Let's do it, man.

Where does an idea like this come from?

Humphries: God, you're going to start off with the hard one.

[laughs]

Let me say this. I read the first issue that you sent me, and I loved it.

Humphries: Awesome. Thank you.

There was a slow burn into its weirdness where as I'm going along, I'm thinking to myself, "Oh, my gosh. This is building to something brilliant." And then, every time I keep seeing Jack in his pink bathrobe, I realized, "Oh right, we're reading a Sam Humphries book."

Humphries: In terms of the weirdness, there's a much different version of this book that we almost did that was much weirder and much more surreal and was probably more satirical, but it just felt less immediate. It felt less relevant. I always use the example of this movie called The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. This is my really pretentious reference so far, one of many I'm sure I'll make in this interview. It's a very surreal and it's very biting. It just doesn't feel real enough to get super involved in unless you're like me and you love that shit. There's a very different version of Citizen Jack that was way more over the top. The weirdness was more in your face.

Firefight, which is the news program that we check in on that was almost like a Double Dare type program, and then I changed it to something more akin to a Fox News program. Even like the character of Jack, there's a much more outrageous version of this character that's impossible to relate to and that I think would make for a really unpleasant reading experience if you can't relate to Jack. Sure, he's a loser, sure he's schmo, and sure there's absolutely no way a person like him should ever be president, but if you can't root for him in some way, it's just going to be an unpleasant book to read, Hell, it's going to be an unpleasant for us to write and draw.

Being able to strike that balance between the weirdness and the reality and Jack being completely over the line in terms of being a scoundrel and a slob was really important for us. You want the reader to be able to root for Jack. You want to be able to root for Jack's salvation even if you don't want to root for his success as a presidential candidate. Cricket the dolphin is actually, it's interesting because Cricket the dolphin is already the breakout character of 2015 I feel like. He's the character that everybody mentions and he is almost a leftover from that other version of Jack that almost existed. He's a bit surreal-ness in the middle of grounding this book in the snow and ice rinks of Minnesota.

Let's talk about Cricket the dolphin for a second. He was such a pleasant surprise when readers first get introduced to him. It's shocking because, for the first chunk of the book it's steeped in reality, then you get a talking dolphin and you realize there is so much more to this world. Is Cricket special?

Humphries: Cricket's very special, but maybe not in quite the way that you mean, but there is more to be seen about Cricket. There will be more, so all of Cricket fandom can rest easy knowing that we will see Cricket again. I guess I could say that having the dolphin be the smartest anchor on the news program is my jab at the ridiculousness of the media industry, but I need the media industry to promote Citizen Jack, so that's why I put him in there because he is so cute and adorable.

Is this an idea that you've had cooking for a while? Because from a timing standpoint, with the nation gearing up for an election year, is this something you've been holding in your back pocket? Or was the timing on this a nice coincidence?

Humphries: The timing could not be more unreal with the way that the presidential campaign is shaping up, the timing could not be more perfect. We did not plan it this way, but nobody believes it when I say it, so I'm just starting to take credit for predicting the entire presidential campaign cycle. Tommy and I are embracing our new roles as presidential prophets.

I've been working on this book probably just under two years ago and Tommy came aboard a little bit after that and since then we've just been working ahead and waiting for Tommy to free up and we've had some problems finding colorists, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all this logistical stuff. Very uninteresting reasons why the book is shipping in November, right before an election year, and that' the real reason. The reason is you couldn't plan this if you tried. It was really just circumstance and happenstance that had the book come out when it did, but the timing couldn't be better, so I'm just embracing it.

How did you and Tommy get together?

Humphries: Tommy and I got together because, actually it was Ryan Stegman and Nick Pitara who got Tommy and I together. They really did play an integral role in this because casting around, looking around for an artist for this book, and they were like, "Oh, you got to check out our boy, Tommy." Tommy is a New York Times best selling artist of Game of Thrones and Dynamite. I looked up his Game of Thrones stuff and it's gorgeous but it's in this very nineties style with chalk and pencils. I was like, "This is the exact opposite of what I was asking for" and they were like "No, no, no, Tommy can do it, Tommy can do it." I was like, "All right."

Tommy did these three sample pages which were pretty much exactly what you see in Citizen Jack now. A complete one eighty from the style he was doing in Game of Thrones. Both of which are beautiful, both of which are really dynamic and both which are built on incredibly solid story telling. I was blown away because and told Tommy, I was like, "You have two fully developed art styles within you, and that's two more styles than some artists have. I'm going to snap you up."

Ever since then he's been working on Citizen Jack and so much of this book really did not start to coalesce for me, did not start to come alive for me until Tommy started drawing it.

I want to ask you also about the Demon that seems to be haunting Jack. What can you tell us about that?

Humphries: Marlinspike the demon, I've said before is in some ways, the most innocent character in the book. He may be the twelve foot tall malicious death demon who moves in dark magic and high ambition but he operates within the evil that we have constructed for ourselves which is the American political circus.

When it comes to moral superiority, very few, if not zero of the humans in the book who look like you and me and put their pants on one leg at a time and smile real nice, almost zero of them could claim to have any moral superiority over Marlinspike. But, Marlinspike is he's the core of the book in a way that Tommy and I both relate to him very strongly. We both find a little bit of Marlinspike within ourselves. He's been a lot of fun to create because he does have a whole back story to him. There is a place that Marlinspike comes from, there is a reason that he gives that's worth his time to try and create a puppet president for himself. These are answers, the back story models, these are things that we will find out before the first arc is over.

It's funny I was just about to ask, how much of Jack is Sam and Tommy and visa versa. Now it sounds like, how much of Marlinspike is Sam and Tommy? Because you identify with him so much, is he the one you're building the world around, or is the world being built around Jack?

Humphries: That's a fair question, but the world is definitely being built around Jack. Which is kind of a funny way to put it since Jack is a privileged, entitled, rich man's son, who is used to have the world built around him. But Jack is absolutely the heart and the center of this book and he's a character that , yeah, Tommy and I both identify with very much. The character we have a lot of back story created for. We know what his childhood is like and we know what his parents were like and we see his dad in the first issue and his dad's going to come into play. Particularly their shared and divergent histories in politics. His hockey career and the way that hockey plays a role and has played a role in his life, and his relationship with Marlinspike which goes way, way far back for Jack. Their relationship together is not a new thing. That is something else that we peel back a lot inside the first arc of the book.

What are you hoping that fans take away from the first issue?

Humphries: I just hope that fans get to the first issue and want to read the second one. We do have all these lofty blah, blah, blah, pretentious ideals about political cycle and criticizing and satire and et cetera, et cetera, but we really just set out to write a book that is enjoyable to read and entertaining to read, it's a horror comedy. If you're somebody who is frustrated, or alienated, or angered by politics this is your book. Laughter is cathartic and horror is cathartic and is written in response to the feeling of wanting to either to laugh or scream about the state of politics in American, which is probably about eighty-nine, ninety-nine percent of Americans at this point.

It is a book where when people read it, they just have a blast with it. It's not a preachy book. We don't even use the words democrat or republican. We don't touch on any hot button issues, this is really a fun book about a complete, about a guy who in no way should be president, but he has a demon whispering in his ear saying, "You could be president, if you just do what I say." I think, tying into your last question, I think there's a little bit of Jack in everyone. I don't think that there's anyone, if they're in that circumstance, wouldn't at least pause for a second, to consider whether or not they would do that. What would you do, Jim?

I don't know.

Humphries: See, you at least paused to consider it, you at least paused to consider it! That might be the most relatable thing about Jack.

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