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Interview with ‘The Goddamned’ Creators Jason Aaron and RM Guera

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Scalped’s beloved creative team of Jason Aaron and RM Guera return for the Image Comics-published book The Goddamned, an Old Testament story drenched in the crude and the poetic set to debut on Nov. 11.

“We just knew we wanted to do something very different from Scalped,” said Aaron via Skype interview Tuesday.

Goddamned is a violent and incredibly gory story that follows expected people like Cain and Noah from the Hebrew Bible stories. The first story arc follows Cain as the protagonist, but the main character will be switched up as the series progresses, Aaron explained.

There was a lot of back-and-forth discussion about what the book should be called before the potentially controversial “Goddamned” title was landed upon, Aaron explained. The first arc is called “Before the Flood,” which was originally the name of the series as a whole while “Goddamns” was the title of the first arc. Things instead got switched around and retooled, and it was actually a suggestion from Jason Latour, the artist on Aaron’s current Image Comics series Southern Bastards, that cemented the change.

“If you hate the title you can blame Jason Latour,” Aaron joked.

The idea behind Goddamned has been banging around in Aaron’s head for about a decade. He pitched it to Vertigo many years ago, but it wasn’t the right time them as there was another book Vertigo saw as too similar to greenlight what became Goddamned, he explained.

“It’s something I’ve hung onto ever since, and have just been waiting for the right opportunity and the right collaborator,” said Aaron. “It came back up as Guera and I started talking about what we wanted to do as a follow-up to Scalped.”

The idea spun out of Aaron’s deep interest in the stories of the Bible.

“It comes from my fascination with the Bible and with Bible stories, and I wanted to combine that with the kind of stories that I do,” said Aaron.

The plot is mostly loyal to the story as told by Scripture, but with some deviations readers may be surprised by.

“There are parts of the Biblical stories, some of the characters you’ll recognize, some will seem very different than how you learned the story in Sunday school,” said Aaron. “But for much of it we play it pretty straight in terms of a Creationist view of the world.”

Aaron has been an atheist for years, but has a respect for religion and a keen interest in religious stories He explained that he has no intentions of getting a rise out of religious people, he explained. He went on to give a description of the history of the world as told by the Hebrew Scripture.

“If you believe the story it was an incredibly violent time on the earth,” said Aaron. “Things had gotten so completely out of control that God realized he just had to kill everyone and start over again.”

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All of that violence is portrayed chiefly through Guera’s art, which is the product of more collaboration between him and Aaron.

“It’s the same thing,” Guera said about his professional relationship with Aaron, via Skype interview earlier today.

That doesn’t mean that the kind of art that he is producing is the same, however. The content of Goddamned results in portrayal of violence that is much more direct and explicit compared to what happened in Scalped. Free of any social regulation from civilization, the action in Goddamned is gory and off the rails.

“The violence is much more open,” said Guera.

Many of the pages are bereft of dialogue and narration, which puts the onus on Guera to work wonders with his art.

“It’s poetry on pages,” said Guera. “We’re trying to achieve some sort of poetry I suppose.”

Aaron made it a point to mention that there are a lot of two page spreads in Goddamned. This allows for more wiggle room for Guera.

“It opens my art,” said Guera. “It’s a treat from [Aaron] to me.”

Aaron also ascribes artistic freedom to Guera by giving broad descriptions and trusting him to produce good work, Guera explained.

“When you trust somebody, you easily can go wild and have fun and go towards things that you never did,” said Guera.

Considering his acknowledgement of that mutual level of trust and clearly adoring his partner and the process they implement to work together, he gave a surprising answer after a long pause of thinking to the following question: “What have been your biggest challenges so far working on this book?”

“To work with [Aaron],” said Guera. “Almost each time, not each time but almost each time, every two or three pages, I’ll ask him ‘Are you happy with it? What do you think?’”

The magic of this creative team is that Aaron is happy with the work Guera is coming up with.

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