Hello. This is The Breadth, where I explore someone or something a bit more broadly. Today I am exploring Justin Jordan. Some of you will recognize Justin as the co-creator and writer of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. Others may recognize him from his time writing for the more widely known Green Lantern: New Guardians. There is, of course, much more to his oeuvre.
[this piece was edited for clarity]
How are you, Justin?
I’m good! Busy, but good!
Anything you’d like to say to the readers?
They should buy like ten to twenty copies of each of my books? That’s a solid life decision which I fully support, completely selflessly. Also, thanks for reading this.
How is the beard? Does it have a name?
The beard IS. The beard has all names, and all names are the beard. The beard is.
What are your thoughts on genetics? As a science? Within medicine? However the question strikes you?
You know, some thirty years ago or so, I wanted to be a geneticist. Of course I was eight, and did not realize it would involve math. But I realize looking back that I wanted to make monsters. And really, all my childhood dreams were about creating things. It just took me a while to work out that meant I should be a writer. But genetics is fascinating. What’s interesting, even looking at from a pop science kind of way, is how much it’s changed in the last twenty years. The perception when I was younger was that it was this blueprint for life, and once we figured it out, we’d be able to cure all these diseases and do all this cool stuff. And that’s….kinda true. But it’s become clearer (to me, at least, but hard to say how far ahead actual scientists were on this, aside from a lot) is that the analogy shouldn’t be blueprints, it’s a computer program. How our genes work isn’t fixed, and it’s almost unfathomable complex.
Is family important to you, Justin? Are you close to your family?
Very, to both questions. I think most of us tend to base our defaults on what a family is and what it should be based on how our family is. So I was actually pretty well into my teens before I realized that my family is a lot closer and a lot cooler than what is probably standard for most people. They’re also really welcoming. My family also includes a couple of people who are neither blood related or married in, but are nevertheless still family. My family is awesome, and that’s a rarer thing than I think it ought to be.
What would you say to people who argue that “action realism” comics are dead, as action is now much more realistically portrayed in films? Do you see value in comics as comics, a sort of inherent value? Is such a value unquestionable?
I don’t think ANY value is unquestionable. I think comics as an art form do have value. At their best, I think, they merge the ability of live action to show you things with prose’s engagement to give you an experience that is uniquely something other than what either can give you separately. There are ideas and stories, I think, better expressed as comics than anything else.
Do you value the work you have done in comics?
I do, although that’s a difficult question. Ultimately, my job is to entertain, to provide pleasure without hurting people. There’s value in that, I think. It’s affecting people’s lives for the better, even if only in a transitory way.
Do you ever think about the many problems that exist, some becoming worse, in the world as you write? Is writing an escape for you?
Yes, although the degree to which varies. Some of my work is topical. Something like, for instance, Savage Things sort of requires me to think about the state of the world and, particularly, how it is or isn’t going to hell. So for those books it’s on my mind. At the same time, and this goes to the question of escape, I am also focusing on the mechanics of telling a story well, and that requires concentration. So yeah, it’s probably an escape in that it prevents me, at least for as long as I’m doing it, from brooding on the outside world. That doesn’t stop me from getting a good brood on about the quality of the work I am producing, mind, but it’s something.
Some readers are likely wanting to know whether you have read the work of Charles Stross or watched reality television? Talk a bit about that?
I don’t watch reality television, as a rule. It mostly consists of what are either essentially game shows, or it’s poorly acted drama. Neither of which really entertains me. I have, at times. I remember being interested in the first season of Survivor, but the charm wore off pretty quickly for me. I do read Charles Stross. And I am indeed aware that he has a book called The Family Trade, although it’s not otherwise similar to mind. I actually like Stross’ fiction quite a lot – I think the only stuff of his I haven’t read is his collaboration with Doctorow, which I don’t actually know why I haven’t read, and his Rule 34 books, which I can’t stand second person stuff.
I think one of Stross’ strongest points is extrapolating how people would plausible react in the face of new technology or, in the case of the Laundry books, the supernatural. I don’t always agree with his conclusions and not all the books are equal, but I do like that the fantastic elements are very much not window dressing. You mostly couldn’t take one of his books and swap it with another genre and have the story still work.
Any plans to move to a new location? What do you like or not like about where you live?
Kinda sorta generally. I live in extremely rural Pennsylvania. So rural that GPS won’t even get you to my actual house. This is the same area I grew up in. My feelings about it are mixed. I don’t know that I have any particular affection for the area itself, but it does have the advantages of being very cheap to live in and having very little to do. And if you are a freelancer, those are both pretty sizable advantages. But at the same time….there’s nothing to do, and it wears on me. But my family is here, and I really do like them and their company a lot. But I think sooner rather than later I’ll either end in LA, to do television work, or Baltimore, because I like Baltimore.
Are you haunted?
I do see the occasional ghost cat, but I think that’s a brain glitch rather than a supernatural experience. So no. And I’m not haunted in the other sense. I’ve had and continue to have a pretty good life, thankfully.
Thanks for the time, Justin. And let Capeless know when You make it out to L.A