Westfield: For those who have never read Desperadoes before, what is the book about and who are the main characters?
Jeff Mariotte: Desperadoes is a Western horror book that has had two previous mini-series and a one-shot, all of which are still available. It's been critically acclaimed, and nominated for the two most prestigious awards in horror literature, the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award, and the International Horror Guild Award. The main characters are Gideon Brood, Jerome Alexander Betts, and Abby DeGrazia. There was a fourth, Race Kennedy, but due to the tragic events of the Quiet of the Grave mini-series, he's no longer with the group, and they're now riding with scofflaw Clay Parkhurst and Jerome's girlfriend Maria.
In the first book, A Moment's Sunlight, Gideon Brood accidentally shot a sheriff's wife while on the trail of the madman who murdered his own wife and son. That made them outlaws, even as they were tracking an outlaw. Since then they've made other enemies, some very powerful, and encountered lots of other, more supernatural menaces as well.
Westfield: What appealed to you in doing a Western horror story?
Mariotte: I have always loved Westerns, and horror stories. The old West was a mysterious and magical place in a lot of ways, and a horrific place in other ways. I try to combine all these things in Desperadoes, to come up with stories that are as realistic as possible in terms of the settings, the people they meet, the technology they use, and so on, but which are still imaginative and scary. I've recently moved to a ranch in Southeastern Arizona, in the same area where Quiet of the Grave and Banners of Gold take place, and the experience of living under those skies, of getting out and mending fences and feeling that soil under my boots, will help me make the historical Western aspect even more realistic.
Westfield: Will people need to have read the previous mini-series to understand Banners of Gold?
Mariotte: It will help a lot to have read the others, but it's not absolutely essential. I'm not going back and recapping those earlier mini-series. Even though there are sometimes long breaks between Desperadoes stories, there is definitely a sense that the reader is just tuning in and catching this continuing adventure, so it helps to have been reading all along or to pick up the earlier books. That said, Banners of Gold is a largely self-contained adventure. The characters are fully developed, although we're not retelling their origins or anything. And the people who return from previous books are introduced and their relationships sketched in, so a reader won't be lost without having read the others. So it will make the experience a bit richer if one has read them all but a new reader can come on board with this one.
Westfield: What can you tell us about the new mini-series?
Mariotte: One of the things that was happening in America at the time Desperadoes is set - 1879-1889 - was the Spiritualist craze, in which mediums communicated with the dead for the benefit of the living (and often for fame and cash). I've been interested in Spiritualism for a long time, and what better place to play with the idea than in a book about supernatural events in historical America? It is almost surprising that it's taken this long to get around to it. So in Banners of Gold, our heroes agree to escort a famous Spiritualist, Sarah Williams, from Luttrell, Arizona, to the nearest railroad station in Clifton. Things happen... scary things. We also get to meet Montana Donnie Fletcher, one of the nastiest villains to show up in comics in quite some time. I think this may well be the most frightening Desperadoes story yet.
Westfield: What does artist Jeremy Haun bring to the book?
Mariotte: Jeremy brings an amazing style, excellent storytelling, a willingness to do the research to get it right, and an eye for the telling detail. Every other artist who has worked on this series has been absolutely brilliant, and also named John. John Cassaday was the first, and he's gone on to do some kind of high profile stuff. Then John Lucas, and then John Severin, one of the real masters of the game. Now we have Jeremy, who is so good that I'm willing to overlook the fact that he won't change his name.
We also have a cover on the first issue by the aforementioned John Cassaday, which is just an exceptional piece of work. It was colored by Jose Villarrubia, with whom I worked on some ABC stuff back at WildStorm. The second issue cover is by Alex Garner, of Danger Girl and CVO fame, and it is also terrific work. It's colored by Tom Long, who is coloring the interiors of the book as well. So art-wise, Banners of Gold stands up proudly in the company of those other books.
Westfield: Desperadoes was previously published by WildStorm. Why the move to IDW?
Mariotte: I moved to IDW from WildStorm, and for some of the same reasons the book is - because IDW is where the cutting edge is now. Especially when it comes to horror. IDW has almost single-handedly revived horror as an important genre in comics, and while lots of other publishers have jumped onto the bandwagon, it's still their wagon. So there really is no place better to do a horror comic. I'm not with IDW anymore, except as a freelancer who is lucky enough to work with them, but I respect their smarts, their marketing skills, and their editorial judgment.
Westfield: Do you have any other upcoming projects you'd like to mention?
Mariotte: I'm working on a CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations mini-series called Rogue State for IDW - one of those "ripped from the headlines" stories, or it would be if the CIA really had vampires on the payroll. And who knows...?
I also have novels coming out on what seems like an absurdly regular basis - in the next few months, as I write this, we'll see the second book in my original teen horror series Witch Season, called Fall, an Angel novel called Love and Death, and an Andromeda novel called The Attitude of Silence. I'm working right now on a Hyborian Adventures novel trilogy, set in the world of Conan, but with him only appearing as a minor character. And there's other stuff in the hopper.
And, of course, there's work that needs to be done out on the ranch...
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Mariotte: I'm pleased and proud that the first Desperadoes mini-series helped attract a lot of attention to the work of John Cassaday when he was just getting his boots wet in this business. I'm hoping this one does the same for Jeremy Haun, who is an artistic powerhouse to be reckoned with. I'm also proud that Desperadoes helped kick off a renewed interest in Westerns, and Western horror - there seem to be quite a few such books around these days. So I hope people take a chance and pick up this mini-series, both to sample a brilliant young artist and to see for themselves what we're doing with this book.