5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 4 November 2016
Category: Features
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Jason Aaron is well known for his writing work on some of Marvel's top titles, as well as his award winning creator-owned series. He offers his perspective on the Wolverine fandom's zombie debate and contemplates whether brains or ribs would be most appealing to Southern zombies.

Comic-book writer Jason Aaron was an international guest at this year's inaugural FanCon Cape Town Comic Con. Through his current work on Doctor Strange, Star Wars, The Mighty Thor, and, now, The Unworthy Thor, as well as older work on other popular titles such as the previous Thor(s), Wolverine, Wolverine And The X-Men, Avengers Vs. X-Men, Ghost Rider, and Punisher, he has become one of the most recognisable names in contemporary comics writing.

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

His career stretches back just over 10 years and includes notable creator-owned works, such as the ten-volume/sixty-issue crime series Scalped, which ran from 2007 to 2012, and Men Of Wrath, a limited series that ran from 2014 to 2015, as well as the ongoing series Southern Bastards (since 2015) and The Goddamned (also since 2015).

He has won three Eisner Awards and has been nominated for another four, most of it for his work, along with artist Jason Latour, on Southern Bastards, as well as in recognition of his writing for, in 2016, Star Wars, Doctor Strange, Thor, and Men Of Wrath.

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

Jason Aaron's commitments on so many monthly Marvel titles makes him one of the busiest comic-book writers. He is disciplined, though (you would have to be), and sets aside a week to do each Marvel title while somehow fitting Southern Bastards and The Goddamned in too, which is why The Goddamned, in particular, has a more erratic publishing schedule. He seems to have mastered the ability to switch gears easily from one topic to another, week after week, something that many writers struggle to do, and the result has been some fantastic storylines that have entertained and, sometimes, challenged readers all over the world.

I was lucky enough to be the last journalist to interview him, which usually would be a terrible position to be in because, after days of non stop action, everyone is always tired, but we were having so much fun talking about everything from toxic masculinity to lighter subjects such as the process of writing and creating - and even airport drinks - that we just kept on going until, an hour later, a cheer rang out in the hall to signify that FanCon was over, everyone had made it to the end, and it had been a success.

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron
Above: At FanCon Comic Con Cape Town 2016 Louanne van Riet leads Ian Churchill, Jason Aaron, and Jamie McKelvie in a discussion about working for Image Comics.
It was an absolute coup for a fledgling, untested comics event in a country far, far away to attract such a high-profile creator, especially one who doesn't attend many events, but his experience growing up in an environment similar to what we experience in South Africa, in which we never get much of a chance to meet comics creators, may have worked in our favour.

"I grew up in a small town in the country in The States so, you know, we never had creators come do signings where I lived," Jason Aaron says. "The whole time I lived in Alabama this never - like, a comic creator - came to my local comic shop. Eventually I moved to Kansas City [in Kansas] and the shop I still shop at, he does store signings all the time so, yeah, I couldn't believe it the first time I went in. I was, like 'Whaaat? It's a working comic-book writer and he's here in the comic book shop!' I was so excited to see somebody like that so I get it, you know, when you come to a place where they haven't had a lot of comic-book conventions and you haven't had a lot of comic-book guests come in from different places - everyone is very excited. It makes me excited too. It's very infectious."

5 Zombie Questions

Speaking of infectious humans, you may think that Jason Aaron has no connection to zombies but there are a few lurking in his story archives. The first appeared in the early days of his career when he pitched a large number of original ideas to Vertigo (Scalped was what ultimately stuck). Its take on the zombie genre was to change the usual point of view in order to make the zombie characters sympathetic and emotionally identifiable while the human characters became increasingly deplorable and repulsive.

He also collaborated with artist Tony Moore (who illustrated the first six issues of The Walking Dead as well as the first twenty-four issue covers) on an intriguing comics project for Arcade Brewery in Chicago, which is known for its design centric catalogue of beers. In December 2014 the brewery debuted Festus Rotgut: Zombie Cowboy, a black wheat ale with a "6-pack story" in which a comic tale, by Aaron and Moore, is told across all the labels of the bottles in the six pack.

Unfortunately the beer is only available at a handful of stores in Chicago and I only discovered its existence after FanCon (of course). If I ever get a chance to ask Jason Aaron five more zombie questions you can be sure that Festus will be on that list.

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

Question 1: You've said you pitched a zombie story as a creator-owned idea so I'd like to ask you about that. What did you pitch?

Jason Aaron: I think I put my pitch online at one point. I used to do this column for Comic Book Resources where I kind of talked about breaking in. I think I literally put my pitch on there but this was, like, pre The Walking Dead. I think the idea was a sympathetic zombie portrayal so I wanted to do just sort of the portrayal of this sad-sack guy who gets turned into a zombie and is still going through the motions and trying to live his life.

It was called I, Zombie - which, of course, now there is an iZombie [by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred] - because DC had the I...Vampire book from back in the day. That's all I remember right now. It was a sympathetic zombie portrayal so it was more like the zombie was the good guy. The surviving humans were all pretty awful so you were rooting for the zombies by the end of it.

Is that something you would maybe revisit in the future or is it a dead idea?

Jason Aaron: No, yeah, it's dead. I mean, one, how do you do another zombie book at this point?

I don't know. How much sympathetic zombie is there out there? It's still very much people being chased.

Jason Aaron: True. Yeah. Maybe so. Maybe it's something I could turn into a shorter story at some point but it's not on my list right now of projects I'm anxious to get to.

Question 2: This is actually a question I asked Mike Carey about Wolverine. There is all this fandom debate online about whether or not Wolverine could be bitten by a zombie and what would happen. People are back and forth on the theories and I was wondering what your take would be on it.

Jason Aaron: The simple answer is it would depend on what kind of story I wanted to tell. If I wanted to do a story about Wolverine as a zombie then you'd figure out a way for it to make sense for Wolverine to get turned into a zombie.

I hate those stories or arguments online about power levels and all that sort of stuff because everybody looks at it as absolutes. Like, "clearly this character could never defeat this character because their power levels are such and such". Well that's like saying, for me, as a sports fan, "well this team could never beat that team" and maybe that's the case but crazy things happen in sports, right, regardless of what sport it is and maybe this team would beat that team ninety-nine times out of a hundred but what about that hundredth time when the ball bounces a crazy way. There is no such thing as absolutes in sports [1]As it happens, a few days before this interview took place Leicester City won the Premier League, a feat that betting agency William Hill had placed at 5000 to 1.

Plus, earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 baseball World Series after having not appeared in it since 1945 and not winning since 1908.
so there shouldn't be absolutes when you're talking about superheroes punching each other in the face. The important thing is not to rank people and to rank characters in terms of power levels. The important thing is to tell a good story so if you have a really cool or really awesome Wolverine-as-a-zombie story that you want to tell then figure out a way to justify Wolverine being a zombie.

I hate it when we let stuff like that stand in the way of telling a good story. If you've got a good idea, a good story, let's figure out a way to do it and then people on the Internet can argue about whether it's bullshit or not but I'm more concerned with doing a good story.

It's one of those things that annoys me, just arguments online about power levels and the minutiae of continuity. I get a lot of shit about that - or have - about Thor. We just did a big Thor-versus-Odin fight, which is the first time the Jane Foster Thor has kind of gone toe to toe with Odin, and doing a Thor-versus-Odin fight is like a Thor tradition, right. There have been countless Thor-Odin confrontations over the years. This was the first time for Jane and Jane did a good job holding her own against Odin. So then I get lots of shit for that and, like, "Thor should never be able to do that to Odin". It's like, again, the point is not to just create these artificial power rankings that we have to cling to no matter the story. The point is to tell a good story. And in this story Thor was able to channel the great red spot from Jupiter and blast Odin in the face with a giant red superstorm. I'd rather do stuff like that than worry about how powerful Odin was in the comic books from forty-five years ago.

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron
Above: Dale Halvorsen, Lauren Beukes, Jason Aaron, and Anton Kannemeyer discussing the art of writing comics at FanCon Cape Town Comic Con 2016.

Question 3: Since ribs are really big in the South would Southern zombies be more tempted by those than brains?

Jason Aaron: That's a really good question. Now that makes me want to do a redneck-zombie story.

Yes. I'm going to say yes, although, you know, we like brains and eggs in the South too but, yeah, ribs especially, although, generally, we like our ribs to be slow smoked and fall off the bone so not necessarily raw. But I guess even if you're a zombie those Southern instincts would kick in and you would go for the ribs.

Question 4: Who does Coach Boss, the antagonist in Southern Bastards, sacrifice to the zombies first as a diversion while he runs?

Jason Aaron: Well, you're assuming Coach Boss would run.

Well, I was just going to say, now that I think about it - maybe he wouldn't have.

Jason Aaron: Coach Boss is not running from any zombies. Coach Boss is one of those characters who doesn't run for anything. I think his running days are over. It's everybody else who has to run - for him. So, if anything, he'd have the zombies down doing pushups by the time it was over.

Question 5: A long time ago in an alternate galaxy far, far away Darth Vader decides to reanimate the dead to build an army. Where does he get the bodies from?

Jason Aaron: He could reanimate all those Tusken Raiders that he killed in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones, I guess [as well as the ones he killed in Darth Vader 1: Vader]...

...Zombie Tusken Raiders.

5 Zombie Questions: Jason Aaron

Mandy J Watson was a media guest of FanCon Cape Town Comic Con. Keep an eye on brainwavez.org for a future post that will explore Jason Aaron's creator-owned work.

Tags: #books, #cape_town, #comics, #fancon, #horror, #speculative_fiction, #star_wars, #zombies

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