Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera's DEAD BODY ROAD has been a thrilling ride that's packed with savagery and jaw-dropping visuals. We had the opportunity to chat with Jordan about where the premise came from, what it's like working with the incredibly talented Scalera, and what the limited series' finale has in store for us. And yes, this conversation does include some spoilers for previously released issues. You hear that, trade-waiters? Don't proceed if you don't want anything potentially ruined for you!
COMIC VINE: How long has this story been bouncing around in your head? Is there anything in particular that inspired it?
JUSTIN JORDAN: It’s basically a lifetime of watching westerns and reading crime books distilled out of my head and splattered on the page. Now, that’s the general inspiration; the specific inspirations were Elmore Leonard and Richard Stark.
Leonard was a master of…well, a lot of things, but the thing that’s always stuck with me are the way he handles character through dialogue and the structure of his stories. Most Leonard novels are about crime going wrong when various personalities start bouncing off each other, and I think that shows in the general story of DBR.
Likewise, you mostly get to know Leonard’s characters through what they do and how they talk. He doesn’t spend much, if any, time inside their heads, so his use of dialogue to convey character to amazing, and something I’ve tried to do here. If I’m doing my job right, you should be able to read a single line of dialogue and know whether it’s Cobb, Gage or Lake saying.
Stark is maybe a little less obvious. Stark was a pseudonym of Donald Westlake, another master of the crime novel, and as Stark he mostly wrote about a thief named Parker. Who is an utterly fascinating character; he’s cold, ruthless and amoral, and yet reading about him is addictive. Later on in the Parker series (which ran to more than twenty books) Parker gets a love interest who…well, she doesn’t really soften him, but she does change him.
Gage, here, is very much a Parker type character – he’s ruthless and cold, and he had a chance, for a while, to be something different, something better. And he lost that. So now all he’s got is revenge.
So it’s a bit of a Parker inspired What If.
CV: We're now halfway through the limited series. How many more characters do you plan to highlight as this book nears its conclusion?
JJ: Well, you do get to know a good bit more about Kegg, which I reckon no one expected.
CV: Will we see more of Gage's past or is it full speed ahead now that we had a look at his history?
JJ: See? No. You do get to hear about more of it, courtesy of Cobb, who can’t shut the fuck up. But you hopefully will get a pretty good sense of just how Gage ended here and what it’s cost him. And why Cobb does what he does. Er, and why Rachel does what she does.
CV: The action has been stellar so far. Is it safe to assume there's going to be a whole lot more of it in the final 3 issues?
JJ: Thanks! Actually the final issue is probably one of the slower ones, in terms of action. But that’s slow by DBR standards, which means only half a dozen people die and there’s only one explosion.
And, I have to say, all credit to Matteo for the action. Yeah, I wrote it, but man, that guy is a beast. There aren’t a whole lot of other people who could handle a full issue car chase.
CV: Are there any potential plans for a follow-up or will issue 6 be the last we see from the DEAD BODY ROAD universe?
JJ: Well, the story definitely ends in the final issue, but the universe…honestly, I would really kind of dig doing kind of a Stray Bullets thing where we see some of the characters before and after the events in this book. It’d be cool to see Gage and Cobb as actual cops, I think, although they’d need to be supporting characters. Likewise, I’d kind of like to do something with Gage’s buddy Yab later on.
So I’d definitely be down for it.
CV: What's it like collaborating with Matteo Scalera?
JJ: Amazing. I literally (and I mean actually literally) did a small happy dance when he agreed to come onboard for the book. His art is so dynamic and so cool, and I’d been chomping at the bit to work with him.
As it happens, we also work well together. Which is always a concern when you work with someone for the first time – you don’t gel with every artist, which can make projects rough. But Matteo is an artist who totally gets what I’m going for and delivers something better than I was thinking of. Which is always nice, since it makes me look good.
CV: What's your favorite panel from Scalera in the series? Is it something we've already seen or in a future issue?
JJ: Quint exploding.
It’s just so perversely beautiful. I have surprisingly few people explode into meat showers, considering I wrote Luther Strode, so I particularly enjoyed that one..
I will also say that Matteo totally nailed the last panel of the book. It’s just completely perfect, and violence free even.
CV: Is there a chance we could see Scalera provide a variant or two for your other upcoming Image title, the final volume of Luther Strode?
JJ: I hadn’t actually considered it, but now there is. I will totally ask Matteo if he wants to do one.
CV: If you had to describe DEAD BODY ROAD in five words or less, what would you say?
JJ: Hardboiled western revenge noir? I’m not good at these. MURDERMURDERMURDERMURDERMURDER.
CV: When all is said and done, what do you hope readers will take away from this book?
JJ: More than anything else, I hope they had a good time. My job is to entertain, and as long as I can do that, I’m a happy man. Now, beyond that, the book is about the empty allure or revenge and what it takes from us, so if makes someone give that some thought, that it is nice damn bonus for me.
CV: In my review, I said this series feels just like a superb rated-R action movie. If a studio wanted to turn this into a film, would you be okay with that or do you want the story to remain on the pages of the comic?
JJ: I’d love to have it as a movie. Because, you know, it’d just be damn cool. Also, money. But I’m of the Raymond Chandler philosophy that the book will always be the book; a good movie or a bad movie isn’t going to change that.
CV: Is there anything you can tease about the next issue?
JJ: Well, the finale is up next, and we do indeed get to find out who killed Anna Gage. And pretty much everyone dies. That last one may or may not be a lie.
CV: Anything else you'd like to add about your other work, both current and upcoming?
JJ: My next thing, hopefully my Next Big Thing, is a book called Spread that’s coming out from Image on July 9th. It’s me and Kyle Strahm’s ongoing that could probably most easily be described as Lone Wolf and Cub in a world where John Carpenter’s The Thing ate North America. It’s pretty fucking cool.
DEAD BODY ROAD #6 goes on sale May 28th.