Today saw the release of The Curse of Brimstone #1, from writer Justin Jordan, artist Philip Tan, and colorist Rain Beredo.
While the rest of DC's "New Age of Heroes" titles are being promoted as artist-driven projects, Brimstone is very much a reflection of Justin Jordan, a native of Pennsylvania coal country who was working on a similar concept when DC came to him for pitches.
"The Curse of Brimstone is kind of a superhero horror book, which is kind of what I broke into comics with," Jordan told ComicBook.com. "That's what The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is, although we're doing very different kinds of horror in each one."
The horror is a bit more traditional in The Curse of Brimstone, which has drawn comparisons to Ghost Rider and other deal-with-the-devil narratives.
"The Curse of Brimstone is a very personal sort of book, which is actually why I was doing it when Dan [DiDio] approached me about doing a supernatural kind of book," Jordan said. "I come from a very rural place in Pennsylvania. The county that I live in is the size of Rhode Island and has 40,000 people in it. It is literally 99% white people; it is that kind of place. It is coal country. The coal mines moved out, factories moved in, factories moved out, nothing moved in. It's a dying area. And most of the U.S. by geography is that — but that is not what we see in superhero comics."
"I was trying to reconcile — I see these people making decisions that I think are bad for them. I see them personally because I still live in an area like that," he added. "I was like, 'what drives people to make those kind of decisions?' I don't think in fiction, especially comics, that has been real accurately portrayed. I think horror gives us a lens to look at that kind of stuff. I think horror works well when it's examining real things and real fears and stuff."
Jordan compares the idea to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which took existential horrors that everyone can relate to and made them into larger-than-life, supernatural horrors that could embody your worst fears.
"What Brimstone's actually about is, basically this kid grows up in this no-nothing town. He has no prospects of getting out. He's too poor to move, he can't go to school. He sees that his sister's probably going to go the same way even though she's smarter than he is and could do better. He sees this town has died in his lifetime. The elementary school he went to has closed down. A man called The Salesman comes and he makes him an offer: he says, I will give you what you want; I will give you the ability to make this town great, make this town somewhere people want to visit. You just have to be the agent for these people I work for. He foolishly agrees, and it turns out that's a curse, not a deal."
"Brimstone is this kind of supernaturally-charged version of him," Jordan said of the series' hero, Joe."He gets these powers and he decides to do good, to prevent The Salesman from doing this to other towns, but the problem is, Brimstone really is a curse. How can you use a fundamentally evil power to do good? Can you do it? I talked to Dan DiDio about it, and it's kind of like a firebreak. If there's a fire coming, and you need to stop it, you can burn down part of the forest to do it, but you're still starting another fire and it can do unpredictable things. Brimstone is fighting supernatural evil, but he is himself supernatural evil. The more he is used, is he making the world worse or is he actually improving things? That kind of stuff has always interested me. If you look at my superhero career, the idea of what power means, what you can do with it, and what it does to an individual is something that's always interested me."
Saying that they have drawn on things like fairy tales and myths, Jordan acknowledges similarities to other Doctor Jekyll-and-Mister-Hyde-style superhero books, but says they tried to give other similar concepts a fairly wide berth.
"He's kind of a dark mirror of Joe, and as Joe uses him, Joe sees all the things he hates in himself embodied in this thing, but to have power, he has to embrace that," Jordan said. "What does that mean for him? What does it mean to try to break that curse? He's trying to break that curse, but can he? Or will breaking that curse be even worse still?"
The balancing act, of course, will be writing a series that can tackle political themes in a deeply divided society without alienating the very people the story is meant to empathize with.
"It's tricky," Jordan admitted. "I can look out from my house and I can see two people that had Trump flags and stuff in their yard, and I know that these are good and decent people and I know that they do not want what Trump promised them or what he's certainly going to give them. And reconciling how people that I know personally can be good, can make those sort of decisions, is sort of the impetus for the series. The Salesman is not a Trumpian figure, but the impetus for the series — what can desperation do? What can being forgotten do to you?"
The Curse of Brimstone #1 is on sale now.