He will be taking part in a panel devoted to him on Saturday, 31. October (Yes, on Halloween), and will have several comics signings and other activities on Friday and Saturday.
Honoring our guest and preparing our audience for this historical event, I'm glad to have the opportunity to publish this great interview on The Cult of Ghoul blog.
The interview was conducted by the well known Serbian translator and comic books fan, Draško Roganović. Previously it was only published in Serbian, in the fanzine EMITOR. This is the first time this interview is made available online, and in its original English form.
Many thanks to Draško Roganović for sharing this with us!
Since the interview is really long and thorough, I decided to divide it into two parts.
Part I is HERE.
And now - part II:
* In your satire about the British tendency to idolize and obsess about their royalty, Bad Blood (or The Bastard, as it was originally supposed to be called), you gave us an unexpectedly cheerful take on John Constantine’s old age (though you “rectified” that with the first three issues of 2020 Visions, which read more like the declining years of John Constantine than Bad Blood). Did you feel that
deserved to mellow out with years? Should the Brits finally ditch their royals? Constantine
- I guess in an infinity of
universes there's room for one somewhat tongue-in-cheek loveably insouciant old rogue. It is too long a story to go into here, but Constantine's presence in the Bad Blood story was kind of accidental... he sort of wandered into a proposed “near-future satire” inspired by the creepy incipient cult-worship of the then recently dead Diana Princess of Wales. The tone of the story was already defined in my mind by the nature of the material when Constantine wandered on scene and grabbed the limelight. Constantine
While in general I would tend toward a republican view of the British Royal Family, I really have no lust for guillotines running with royal blood. I’m indifferent to the institution. It’s a phenomenon… sometimes appalling, often amusing. And for sheer inbred curiosity value the aristocratic freakshow has more to offer than the tedious, grubby, meritocratic one, perhaps.
Perhaps I grow conservative with age… or more mellow.
* How would you describe John Constantine?
- A wannabe rational, calm, English family guy constantly undermined by intrinsic psychopathy.
An irritating, arrogant, rash, self-destructive but invulnerable gambler with the souls of others, saved only by the grace of his own savagely ironic self-deprecation.
A thrill-seeking fear junkie, prepared to sacrifice all to feed his sick addiction.
A devious creep with a lust for tragedy… a parasite who sucks up suffering, then gorged, takes his guilty pleasure in the aftermath…
* Why is it that even after more than 2 decades, we stil care about the character so much?
- And maybe that’s the enduring beauty of him...
* Do you think he’ll outlive you?
- Depends which of us manages to suck up a fatal dose of nicotine fastest… and I suspect that will be me.
* In Hellblazer : Pandemonium, you celebrate 20 years of Hellblazer by returning, once again (for the fourth time, if I counted right) to the cynical bastard that gave you your big break. And, not surprisingly, this tale is firmly set in the post-9/11 world, and will take place in
. Will there, as it is always the case when You and Constantine cross paths, be a political commentary on the current events? Can John Constantine still be relevant in the 21st century? Iraq
- Naturally in Pandemonium Constantine takes the opportunity offered by an excursion into the realm of the War on Terror to offer the occasional wry personal observation – but it’s not any kind of polemic: any “commentary” is subtextual and relevant within the aforementioned conventions of the genre.
* Where do your current political interests lie? Do you think that there will be a change on a global scale anytime soon?
- I’m increasingly libertarian with a social conscience. Everything that one considers life-enhancing, and that isn’t directly life-inhibiting to one’s neighbour, should in general be permitted. Most citizens, liberated, are rational enough not to do too serious harm to themselves or their environment – for those self-harming few that are not, provision for their care and guidance would come from a “freedom tax” levied on us all in order that we may enjoy our chosen pleasures, conscience clear. Freed from a role of coercive social engineering, the machinery of law and order would be available to effectively focus on serious crimes: murder, rape, torture, genocide, war-profiteering, etc.
Barack Obama says change is coming and who am I to argue?
Change is inevitable: but yet inevitably things stay the same. Global politics is an endless poker ring-game. Players come and go… pushing in their bets, watching their chip-stacks rise or crumble, civilisations waxing or waning in the passage of the hands… but the game of bet and bluff is eternal. The cards are dealt. The bets go in. The winner rakes the chips. The pot is stirred and the money moves around.
Bet and bluff. War and diplomacy. The game-play doesn’t change much… but the war gets more brutal and the diplomacy cruder as the games goes on and the stakes get higher…
Okay… I admit to wasting too much late-night time playing online poker when I should be writing my novel.
* Will Pandemonium be your last Hellblazer story, or is it “never say never”?
- To coin a political phrase: I have no plans at this time to write any further Hellblazer stories.
* Before you started off your writing duties on Hellblazer, you pitched a dark superhero tale along the lines of Watchmen. What was it about?
- Do you know, I really can’t remember. Fuckin’ hashish. It’s bad for you, kids. I know it involved – uh – dark superheroes… and I have a vague recollection of jaded “post-Vietnam” type super-powered guys being bitter about bad shit they’d been duped into doing in the national interest… I’ll have to venture down to the Vault of old Paper.. see if I can rescue the typescript proposal from the silverfish. (Do you have silverfish in
? Little sci-fi mercury-ball, insect bastards that scurry guiltily away from the tattered remnants of prized but neglected old documents when suddenly exposed to light? Serbia
* Your friendship with Alan Moore is pretty much responsible for getting you into writing comics. It seems that you two had grown apart over the years. There are even some wild rumors circulating, about the events that led to your falling out. Is there anything to these stories? Do you count any other comic book writers and artists among your friends? Was Alan your one great influence when it comes to writing comics?
- I’ve said pretty much all I want to say about Alan as relevant to preceding answers. He is responsible for my having the chance of a career in comics. I’m grateful for that and regret that we’re no longer friends… but that’s never going to ruin my life. I have no idea if there is any truth in any wild rumors that may be circulating, or writhing in their own odium for that matter, but find it hard to believe that any degree of “wildness” could be appropriate to the tedious reality of the situation.
* Which comic(s) are you most proud of writing?
I love all my ugly babies.
But if you push me for a favourite, or two, I’ll say: assorted Hellblazers (#35 & 84 particularly), 2020 Visions, Outlaw Nation and Hell Eternal.
* I heard somewhere that Ghostdancing came to be as your reaction to the infamous Manifest Destiny, the widespread belief that the
were destined to expand spread their values throughout the continent. Some would say that, in light of current global events, this series is more relevant than ever. Do you think it will ever “go out of style”? Do you think it was a case of “white man’s burden”? Where did your interests in native Americans and their myths come from? United States
- Yeah… Ghostdancing was originally intended to be published in 1992 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of
Columbus’ “ discovery” of . But comics is a slow business, and it got delayed a few years. America
I believe the concept of Manifest Destiny is still potent in certain strata of
political thinking. American full-spectrum dominance, in military terms, is an aspect of this mindset… the justification of “pre-emptive defence” could be seen as another – the assumption that the ROTW (rest of the world) is a resource and it’s population potentially sacrificial in service of U.S. self-interest is obviously continuously threatening enough to be relevant to us all. U.S.
“The White Man’s Burden”, (leaving aside whether the message of Kipling’s poem is literal or ironic) the ideal of a paternalistic, self-sacrificing, European culture advancing civilisation for the benefit of the ignorant, childlike savage… and a little righteous profit, was never more than the crudest PR spin, offering skimpy moral cover for ruthless, genocidal acquisition of territory and resources.
In the early ‘seventies in Britain there was a hippieish interest in things Native American engendered by such books as Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. There was a rankling “injustice” intrinsic to the colonisers treatment of the native peoples of
America that, at the time, perhaps seemed analogous to that nation’s gruesome experience… Anyway, I developed an interest in the continuing political struggle against oblivion (since aided considerably by gambling franchises, ironically) of the American “Indian”, and from that, in their sustaining myth and culture. Of course, while I was fascinated by the struggle of those 19th century indigenous tribal people, the 20th Century equivalent genocide was occurring across the Amazon. That old poker game just keeps rolling on. Vietnam
* Was Ghostdancing a continuation of the themes you were dealing with during your run on Animal Man - totemism, animal avatars, spirituality through bonding with nature?
- I guess that would be a valid observation… although perhaps more honestly indicative of a writer randomly and ruthlessly mining another culture’s sacred raw material and debasing it for profit.
Hmmm… I’m not sure if Animal Man was before or after Ghostdancing. Not that it matters: time is instantaneous in the world of the imagination.
* Underneath all the criticism and satire, there is a glimmer of a genuine fascination with the
in your works. Do you feel there is potential for a great country/nation beneath the surface of The Great Satan? USA
- As Story Johnson says in Outlaw Nation (or meant to):
: such a great idea they were always going to fuck it up. America
* People are calling Outlaw Nation “Jamie Delano’s Preacher”. Are the comparisons appropriate?
- I don’t think so. DC marketing had this dumb idea (I believe) that a new Vertigo series, which seemed to have some kind of mythic “western” theme, would painlessly fill the aching void left if in the imaginary worlds of Preacher fans deprived of that just-concluded hot series, and mentioned the two in the same breath. Even under the subtle guise of a Glenn Fabry cover, I was never for one second going to fool a red-blooded Garth Ennis fan into swallowing my sly bullshit… so I struggled for dissociation.
Garth and I are friends but, I suspect, in many ways antipodean. If anything, Outlaw Nation should be styled: Jamie Delano’s anti-Preacher. Story Johnson does however, like Garth’s eponymous character, make use of a personalised Zippo lighter. Whereas Preacher’s (can’t remember his name… was it Josey Wales..?) is engraved: Fuck Communism, Story’s is emblazoned Fuck War.
But if anyone really thinks I was trying to rip-off and cash-in… feel free to compare away. I stand by my – uh – Story.
* Seeing how your work on Outlaw Nation has been cut short by low sales that led to its premature cancellation, do you wish you had more time to flesh out the series? Do you plan on revisiting the Johnsons at some point in the future, considering it is creator-owned? Do you think there are any more Outlaws left in the world?
- Revisiting Story and other surviving Johnsons has been the subject of late-night enthusiastic musings between Sudzuka and myself. But caution: wine had been drunk… some hashish smoked.
There’s an outlaw under every rock, behind every tree, creeping up your garden path right now. Didn’t you know? They’re a ghastly threat, the scourge of our civilisation and time. That’s why you need such a wise, kind government to keep you safe from their terrible outlaw ways.
* The Johnsons, dysfunctional family of American stereotypes and legends has a very simplistic motto, taken from William Burroughs, about there being only two kings of people in the world, the shits and the Johnsons. Since Outlaw Nation shows the Johnsons as flawed, can one change from being a Johnson to being a shit, and vice versa?
- Jesus! This is one long fucking interview for someone with my limited attention span. The level of coherence may diminish from here on in as I seem to be smoking like a bastard but determined to get to the end. (Just like a day at work)
Can shits become Johnsons? Sure… they just have to recognise Jesus as their saviour…
Seriously, I suspect that, day-to-day, we’re all cowardly Shits at heart, but capable of indulging occasional heartwarming Johnson impulses, given the opportunity and courage. It is in extremity that true potential is revealed: while a total Shit will abandon all pretence of concealment when the chips are down, the majority of humankind seems more often moved to stand up with the Johnsons. The natural impulse of our species is towards cooperation, compassion for our fellows… it is when this natural impulse is corrupted, coerced, by politicians, priests, rabbis, mullahs… writers – devious manipulators of The Evil Word – that people get weird and ugly.
* What was your main inspiration for the character of Story Johnson?
- A stoned, semi-deranged, immortal writer fallen out of love with The Word…? I dunno. Can’t be me. I’m not immortal. But then I’m not dead yet, either…
* What led you to pitch an exploration of the American myths as an ongoing saga?
- Some kind of madness came over me. Thought I could buck the trend for neat four-issue “story-arcs” in series fiction and cut loose with a vast, unplanned, free-wheeling, stoned American road adventure that could sustain an audience’s attention through sheer exuberance of imagination and luck.
Didn’t work out, but I’m not sorry I tried.
* Can you see yourself doing another long run on any comic series, creator owned or not, like you did with Hellblazer, Animal Man and Outlaw Nation?
- No. I have no plans for any extended series work at this time.
* Tell us something about how you collaboration with Goran Sudzuka came to be. Did his depictions of the Johnsons influence your writing, as the series progressed?
- Stuart Moore was the DC editor/matchmaker who suggested Goran as the artist for Outlaw Nation. I was happy with his pick.
The mad confusion of my Outlaw Nation scripts must have been a massively intimidating prospect for a non-native English Speaker setting out to make his first foray into American Comics, but Goran rose to the challenge like a hero, struggled with the beast and, ultimately, triumphed His enthusiastic contribution to Outlaw Nation was both massive and personally encouraging.
Ah! Those of you who were his friends wail. But at what tragic cost? This once fine figure of a man, so smart, so strong and brave, is now exhausted, spent, bent and emphysemic, ruined by the rigours of his task...
It’s true, of course. You may have seen him, hollow-eyed, haunting yet another late-night convention bar, or wheezing through the streets of his native
, sneaking out for another packet of Marlboro’ lights, guiltily avoiding work. Zagreb
And then you might ask: Was the achievement worth the payment of so bitter a price? After all, Outlaw Nation is only another fuckin’ funny book.
No. Seriously. Goran was able to successfully capture the essence of the characters I described in the script, then give that essence strongly defined visual character, and set it walking on the page. He made a huge contribution to the developing style of the book. I’ll work with the kid, anytime.
* Do you do a lot of comics conventions? What made you decide to come to
- I find it hard to say no to a free trip somewhere I’ve never been before. And comics people are generally good company, so I do one or two each year. Goran told me I would like Makarska and the people and hospitality I’d encounter there, and he told the truth. But I would have gone there to support the Croatian edition of Outlaw Nation, even if it was in some shithole and I had to pay my own way, purely out of loyalty to all the great Croatian guys who worked with me on the book.
* You have a tendency to continue collaborating with many of the artists that illustrated your comics – David Lloyd, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh... Why is that? Do you start off a project with an artist in mind? Any plans to do another project with Sudzuka?
- Except for a couple of the things I’ve done with David Lloyd, it has generally been the case that Vertigo editors have matched suitable and available artists to projects well after work on the scripts is underway. Sometimes the resultant collaboration has been more personally satisfactory than others… but I’ve never been truly disappointed in a partnership. Naturally some artists respond more sympathetically to the style of my scripts than others: those are the ones I tend to work with again.
Like I say, Goran and I have talked about more Outlaw Nation (there are lot of creative directions a revisiting of the background scenario could enable), and we had another project kicking around for a while. I expect we’ll do something eventually.
* With Hellblazer, you started by telling the readers about what is wrong with
England, then what is wrong with the with Outlaw Nation and 2020 Visions. Since the protagonist of your latest series, Narcopolis is an everyman, is the city itself an every-city, so to speak? USA
Do you find writing speculative and science fiction helps you deal with the political, social and technological changes that the world is going thru at an increasingly fast rate?
- To accept and extend your summary without elaboration, I’d say Narcopolis is about what is “wrong” with the 21st Century. The city and its inhabitants dramatise a kind of post-modern, ironic “future now” – an infantilised, narcissistic civilisation, lost in self-referential confusion.
* Is Narcopolis a futuristic
Tower of Babel, or more like Sodom and ? Are the biblical and religious analogies even appropriate? Have your views towards religion and spirituality changed? Gomorrah
seems appropriate: the 21st century is characterised to some extent for me by the global cacophony of digitized “information” that confuses our perception of “truth”. Tower of Babel
My views toward religion and spirituality have remained pretty constant. I despise religion and while acknowledging the spiritual validity of human existence within Nature, am deeply suspicious of those who make too public their personal communion with “truth”.
* There is an almost organic progression noticeable in your work: Hellblazer’s latter issues and your Batman Elseworlds tale dealing with environmentalism lead to your work on Animal Man, and Animal Man’s themes of totemism lead to Ghostdancing, your exploration of native American myths, which act as a perfect “prequel” for the Outlaw Nation’s analysis of whatever happened to the American ideal. And the climax of Outlaw Nation sets the stage for the dystopian world of 2020 Visions. Now with Narcopolis, you push the boundaries of dystopian speculative fiction even further, distilling the themes to their pure, essential beats. Do you feel that your stories are leading you towards something, or is it just all about the journey?
- If my stories and preoccupations are leading me towards some destination, I suspect it is not somewhere I’m too keen to arrive at. Always been one who preferred hopeful travelling to arrival. Endings are always an anticlimax. Fortunately, the world of the imagination is complex and there are always intriguing new territories to be revealed.
* With Narcopolis already finished, and Rawbone starting up, does this mean you made a comeback, after an all-too-long hiatus from the world of comics? What were you doing for the past six years? What made you come back?
- Well, Narcopolis and Rawbone were both written in 2003 with the (practical) intention of providing for my ongoing visibility in the medium of comics while I considered future directions. Therefore the appearance of a “comeback” is an accidental result of the delay in their publication and its coincidence with my return to
with Pandemonium. Constantine
Truth is, currently having no cocaine habit, expensive girlfriend or mortgage to support, I have been enjoying being lazy for a while – playing poker, growing cacti, entertaining grandchildren, etc., just occasionally venturing into the smoke-room to flirt with The Evil Word… see if I’m enjoying it again yet.
This premature retirement is relaxingly seductive, but I know it’s a delusion. Resistance is futile. If nothing else, boredom will drive me back to the keyboard soon, or the sudden cold realisation that I have provided myself no pension plan. Or maybe I’ll get angry again. There’s still plenty to be angry about.
Bottom line: I’m a writer, and writer’s have to write… sooner or later.
* What are your professional and personal plans for the future? What can we expect from Jamie Delano?
- I have no professional plans. My main personal goal is to continue to grow old as gracefully as possible in the enduring company of a few cherished friends and family. Those of you kind souls out there who care may expect to hear me mumbling in some dark literary corner from to time. I can’t guarantee wit, wisdom, or even coherent speech, but you’re welcome to lend an ear…
Jamie Delano –
– 2008 UK
Subota, 31. Oktobar
Hala br. 2, nivo B
13:00 - Istraživači natprirodnog : Marti Misterija, Dilan Dog, Hellboy, Džon Konstantin – Hellblazer
1. Dr Miloš Milenković, antropolog, docent na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu
2. Dejan Ognjanović - pisac, filolog , prevodilac, kritičar, esejista
3. Dejan Stojiljković, pisac i strip scenarista
14:00 - GOST SAJMA - DŽEJMI
Predstavljanje gosta, kraći razgovor s njim, pitanja publike, uručenje poklon-slike i onda potpisivanje stripova
1. Borislav Stanojević, strip-teoretičar,
2. Dejan Ognjanović, pisac, filolog , prevodilac, kritičar, esejista
3. Džejmi Delano, strip scenarista