You know who gives a great interview? Comic Book Writer, Joe Harris. We had the opportunity to share a few inquiries with the talented man, who's as you know, the writer behind The X-Files: Season 10 comic books that are taking the X-Phile world by storm.
He's not new to the world of writing or comics, and most recently announced the beginning of a new production as he and his team recently sold Ghost Projekt to NBC.
As if he didn't have enough projects out there, he also continues to release Great Pacific, currently in its Issue #10. That's merely a brief description of what the man is up to these days. But now onto what you want to know...
You’ve talked about IDW approaching you to write The X-Files comics and jumping at the chance. Now here we are at the release of the first issue…how did that whole creative process unfold?
When IDW first approached me, I kind of immediately knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to open with this idea that Mulder and Scully, out of action for some time following the last movie, would find themselves hunted by a mysterious group of X-Files targeting, alien-connected “Acolytes” who were somehow tied to the overarching mythology. I had a wish list of stuff I wanted to make happen, and IDW, and FOX wanted to happen, from the return of The Lone Gunmen and the Cigarette Smoking Man, Doggett and Reyes, etc. It was around when I was first sitting down to start scripting the first issue that Chris Carter became involved, and he offered some notes that shaped the opening arc, “Believers” a bit further.
Mulder and Scully are iconic characters. How do you go about continuing a story with such a large history and fanbase behind it?
I was at a convention last spring, some time after we’d announced The X-Files: Season 10 and while we were getting ready to release the first issue, and a woman came up to me all excited and happy to meet me and tell me about how much she loves The X-Files and what the return meant to her… and that please, no matter what I do, “Don’t fuck it up!”
So, you know, no pressure, right?
I try to be prepared. I re-watched the entire “Mytharc” over the course of landing the gig, and outlining and scripting, the early issues. I’ve since re-watched a lot of the “MOTW” episodes, and am always scanning through the series for reference.
I also look for little hooks and opportunities to tie something I’m writing, today, into the past a bit… even if it’s something small, and obvious, like having the kid in issue #1 refer to Mulder as “Spooky,” or having Mulder muse about his love of Bill Bixby’s turn in the old television show, The Magician when explaining why he and Scully have been living under the assumed namesake of Bixby’s “Anthony Blake.” In an upcoming story, we take some cues from the incident detailed by Deep Throat in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” involving children in a “southern state” being exposed to Purity. And I am absolutely—almost obsessively—determined to dramatize Mulder’s trip to a DC-area headshop to buy the “I Want to Believe” poster, as described in “Chinga,” in a flashback that’s also important to whatever we’re doing, presently, that month in the series. So, I like to have fun with this stuff while trying to make it as dense an X-Files experience as I can.
Aside from that, I tend to watch and re-watch particularly cool scenes between Mulder and Scully, or Mulder and Skinner getting under one another’s skin, or whomever, and try to get the voices down better. Working with regular artist, Michael Walsh, has been a lot of fun because he does his research too, and that he gets these characters up and walking and doing their business so authentically while delivering the dialogue I write, is so cool.
I also try to not think about whether or not we’re making everybody happy, but focus on making as many happy as we can. That these are such beloved character is no small thing. Most people I meet have been really supportive and excited about The X-Files’ return. But you can’t forget how strong the connection is. I don’t want to take my eye off that ball.
The series will start out with the “Believers” arc, and you’ve spoken about continuing on with MOTW and Mythology-based future issues. As both a writer and fan, what are you most excited to do with these new comics?
Right now, I’m having a blast with all of it. “Believers” allowed us to bring back a lot of the characters, with some new baggage and mysteries in tow. The next short arc, “Hosts” brings us the return, and sheds some light on the origins of, Flukeman, and that’s been a lot of fun as that was always my own friends’ favorite episode from those early days. And I’m really excited to start rolling out the next big mythology arc later this year, which will bring back more classic X-Files concepts, elements and characters while pushing the overall mythology, and emerging neo-conspiracy, to some new places.
But I think I’m most excited about the new stuff we’re doing. The new monsters and mysteries. Some new characters we’ll be introducing. We need to make all of this stuff work in concert, so we’re mining the past in the right ways, and pushing things forward too.
Another topic you’ve talked about is bringing The X-Files into today’s high-tech world of Wikileaks and drone strikes. How will the characters be responding to these new issues? We saw Skinner play with his iPhone in IWTB. Will Mulder be chasing down UFOs with a camera phone and MUFON app?
I’d like to update the tech, sure. And bringing the Gunmen back really lets us dig into the tech, and the complexities and vulnerabilities of the times, in this age of Wikileaks. It’s definitely harder to keep secrets in this day and age, though the institutional apparatus in charge of keeping them is almost infinitely vast and deep.
What should X-Files fans be looking forward to in these new stories, and what do you want them to take away most from the series?
I hope they can look forward to our getting the characters right. That’s most important. We need to do compelling stories that feel both classic and new in the right balance, at the same time, at once. But the characters are key. I want to put them through some wringers and lots of “holy shit” moments, but it only works if you care, and you only care if we nail them.
What I want for fans to take away from this series is a feeling that we both delivered that old-timey feeling which was just retro enough to feel comfortable and classic, but also aspired to something on its own. One thing I really love about this book is how it doesn’t look like most might expect a licensed comic book to look. There aren’t any super photo-referenced likenesses, rather, there are interpretations which are as faithful as the dedicated hand will draw them, while offering our own spin. We aspire for this series to add its own chapter to the mythos, and to be its own thing while hitting the right notes along to way to keep it connected. I think of Michael, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and I as having our own band and doing our own thing, as well as carrying the mantle of what’s come before.
The XFN Quick Six
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Word: Budokan
Favorite X-Files line: “Your lies have killed more men in a day than I have in a lifetime. I’ve never killed anybody.”
Your guilty pleasure: Phish
Dream job: Making more movies, writing more original comics… I pretty much love what I’m doing right now.
I wish I had invented… Google?