A friend of mine (and ex teacher at The Kubert School) Gabe Bridwell suggested I write something about how I wrote Punk Rock Jesus. So here it is! Also, check out Gabe's great work at this gabebridwell.com/index.php/gal…
In a way, I've been writing PRJ since before Off Road.
Originally, it was called "Kael" and starred an IRA freedom fighter/terrorist named Thomas McKael who sees the error of his ways, and eventually turns things around to become the hero. But the history of the IRA was too complex for a 23-year-old first time writer, so after months of research and failed scripting attempts, I put it aside to work on "Off Road" instead.
Years later--in 2006 I think--I started piecing together "Punk Rock Jesus". I'd just read an article on human cloning and began wondering whom the first human clone would be. And the answer came immediately: someone would clone Jesus Christ. And then they'd probably turn it into a reality show (the American Idol frenzy was in full force back then). But then what? I decided that the clone would likely reject American celebrity and escape. The punk rock thing came next, and soon I had a working title "Punk Rock Jesus". This all happen in 5 minutes, I'd say.
To be honest, when I came up with the title, I thought it was stupid. It was just a place holder until I could think of something better. But after calling the story "Punk Rock Jesus" for many years, it's hard of me to call it anything else. And DC's marketing department agrees.
When I first wrote "Kael", I considered myself a Catholic. But between then and writing PRJ, I'd become an atheist. At first, writing about Jesus was meant as a dig toward American Christians, but that's not true anymore. Even though I'm doubtful there was ever a historical Jesus, many of the Biblical stories are filled with values I share: peace, kindness to others, and the questioning of authority. I came to realize that I had a lot in common with many Christians--many are unhappy with what the church has become, it's involvement in politics, etc. And many are sickened by what American media often projects to us and our kids. A story where Jesus comes back to life and rejects what America and it's media have become? Many Christians will probably LOVE "Punk Rock Jesus". And in the end, Jesus might not be an atheist--you'll have to read to find out.
I managed to fold my "Kael" story into the plot as well--by making him a reformed IRA (as opposed to an active member), the reader is able to see Thomas McKael as a good guy. And his violent past just makes him a likeable bad-ass, I think.
I wrote 7 versions of the script between 2006 and now. It was designed as a 180 page graphic novel. I started drawing pages even though I hadn't shopped it to publishers--with the power of DA, I figured that if I started showing the work, some publisher would eventually offer me a contract (the PRJ pages I posted years ago are from that first attempt--and they've all been redrawn). But that plan was put on hold when I started getting steam with Vertigo. I began work on PRJ again when Joe scripts started being late.
When Joe was finished, I began talking to DC about "Punk Rock Jesus". Vertigo wanted to do it, but they suggested breaking it into 6 issues of 32 pages each. My editor Karen Berger went through the script and found natural breaking points in the story where we could end each issue--this wasn't easy, because I wrote the script in a prose/screenplay style, and not the normal comic book format. I was happy to break it up into issues for Vertigo if that's what Karen wanted. Throughout most of this process, I've been very willing to change the story and work in my editor's suggestions.
I have none of the "this is my baby so you stay away" attitude--I know the process is a team effort and I try to embrace a good idea when I hear one. Luckily, Karen and I have a good relationship and I'm very thankful for that.
My background in writing is more based in movie scripting than in comics or prose. Many of my friends in Hollywood had me read books about writing screenplays (as opposed to prose) which means playing by strict rules: cut out as much dialog as possible, make each scene count, add visual cues to tell the story wherever possible. To me, comics is closer to movies than other mediums, but other writers will disagree.
To be honest, I don't think of myself as a writer. By no means will I ever try to go toe-to-toe with Snyder, Ennis, Remender, Marz, or Arcudi. This guys spent years tuning their brains into storytelling mechanisms. Me? I can ratchet together a plot and then draw it, hopefully fooling people into thinking that I'm a writer.
"Punk Rock Jesus" will probably be a fast read. Coming from a screenplay background, I used no caption balloons and tried to limit the voice overs (although Goodfellas and Shawshank break this rule well). The other thing I stayed away from doing was having description of dates and places--for example, most comics will write "Chicago, 1942" on a panel, whereas I'll zoom up on a newspaper date instead. I prefer the creative solution to the crutches, if I can help it.
There are a few choices I made for PRJ that I still question the wisdom of. The biggest is my solution to covering a story that stretches throughout 14 years (the clone is age 14 when he escapes). I settled on a storytelling "no-no"--using a news broadcast to cover large events and dates. It can be a crutch, but because the media is such a large character in my book, using a media news broadcast seemed acceptable. The reporter himself becomes an important character, so hopefully people won't be to upset that I went with this decision.
That's all I can think to say. I don't have as much clout as a writer as I do an artists, so I'll end it here. Thanks for reading!
July 11th, everyone.