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Graham & Roy on Endings & Earth Wars [Interview]

A few short years ago, Rob Liefeld's PROPHET was relaunched with Simon Roy and Brandon Graham at the helm. Pushing the setting far into the distant future, put emphasized the strangeness of the aliens, and pushed a take that was part "swords and sandals in space" and part "studied meditation on getting old but needing to fight one last war" in tone and approach. It worked—PROPHET electrified fans and fellow creators alike, and as the series went on, it broadened in scope, pulling creators like Emma Ríos, Ron Wimberly, Farel Dalrymple, and Giannis Milonogiannis into its orbit. Now, PROPHET is on the way out with one final arc: EARTH WAR. This is the end of all things, and Brandon Graham and Simon Roy are here to guide you through it.

IMAGE COMICS: Let's go all the way back to the beginning of your time on PROPHET. What was the first mark you wanted to hit to make PROPHET "yours"? What kind of story did you set out to tell?

BRANDON GRAHAM: A big part of me agreeing to work on Prophet was the agreement that we would have total freedom to do whatever we wanted with it. Since neither me or Simon made comics like the old series, I assumed for good or bad, anything we'd do would be our own.

SIMON ROY: I was really interested in getting a chance to play visually with a lot of the sci-fi ideas that I had been consuming at the time—eusocial societies and their parasites, invasive species, biotech, etc. I grew up reading my dad's old '70s Conans, too, so getting the chance to merge those ideas with some barbarian adventure was too good an opportunity to pass up. 

IC: By the end of the run on PROPHET proper, you'd pulled in a host of amazing artists, Extreme Universe history, and escalated the story of John Prophet from a lost soldier without a war to intergalactic conflict. How much of that was present in the original pitch and how much grew out of your plotting organically?

BG: At the start, I was just thinking of it as a few issues with Simon. The idea to bring Farel Dalrymple and Giannis Milonogiannis didn't come about until we were a few issues in. And after that, we had a rough idea, but a lot of the fun of it was just thinking "what else can we try?" It was a huge amount of fun. Just giving Farel's Prophet a tail felt like someone should be stopping us.

SR: The concept that we ended issue 23 with, the idea of there being basically endless barbarian clones waking up across the universe, all having their own unique adventures, was one that I liked but which could have turned into something more monotonous and empty. It was kind of a pleasant surprise to see how well the different clones and their storylines ended up sharing the same space.

IC: The diversity of content and creator in your shared run on PROPHET is really impressive. What was your goal behind opening the series up to a broader group of creators? What led to the backup stories being included in the individual issues?

BG: I'm really proud of the artists we were able to get on the series. At the start, it was mostly a case of trying to figure out how to do a monthly book while Simon was in art school and Farel had books of his own to work on. Coming up with the idea that each artist's style would be a different character's view of the universe really opened things up to wanting to show even more ways that things could be seen.

SR: And even more importantly, dividing up the workload made each issue a little easier on the artists. 

IC: PROPHET: EARTH WAR. What's the status quo for the world of PROPHET at the start of the first chapter? What is the war for?

SR: A bit of the backstory, which we got to explore in PROPHET: STRIKEFILE, is that Earth was the heart of a vast human-directed empire of alien slaves, policed and conquered by the Prophets. But after a big slave uprising (led by Old Man Prophet), the empire collapsed and all the former slaves of Earth (plus some newer interstellar arrivals) established a new kind of political ecosystem in the ruins. The first story arc of PROPHET involved the re-awakening of the Earth Empire and the Prophets, and their struggle to retake Earth. But PROPHET: EARTH WAR is story of Old Man Prophet, back after a few thousand years of cryosleep, helping to lead an alliance of different factions all concerned with defeating the oppressive Earth Empire.

IC: How'd you go about choosing the artists working on EARTH WAR? They all have very distinct styles—what makes them the right fit for this story?

BG: Giannis and Joseph Bergin III are back on a large chunk of the book, with Ed Brisson still lettering it.

For the new guys, it was mostly just who I would be excited to see draw Prophet.

Ron Ackins's work is different from a lot of who we've had on PROPHET. I see what he does as more of in the tradition of the Sims Brothers who did Brotherman, a great '90s black superhero comic that I loved. I think Ron brings a kind of superhero strength that's still grounded in reality. His characters feel like they're carved out of marble to me.

Paul Davey, who is coloring Ron, is also an amazing illustrator. Lin Visel, who is working with Joseph on colors, is an amazing cartoonist as well—I have theories about how much color informs storytelling, so I like to work with colorists who have done every aspect of comics themselves.

And Grim Wilkins' work I feel is more in the vein of Simon and Farel's work, but more cartoony. I've been so impressed by the movement he shows on his pages. I think the third issue of EARTH WAR might be one of my favorite PROPHET issues in the whole run.

IC: How does it feel to be wrapping up your time with the Johns? What's your favorite memory or experience over your time with the series?

BG: There's a kind of excitement in ending something like this. I want to make sure that we get enough into these last issues that we end it all in a way that keeps people wanting to reread what we've done.

I had a lot of fun when Farel came and stayed at my place and we planned out his first issue while watching old Tom Baker Dr Who episodes, and the nights where me and Joseph would stay up all night sending colored pages back and forth were a blast. It's really all been too much fun. A bunch of us that worked on the series even have Prophet tattoos now (mine is on my left forearm).

SR: Prophet was my introduction to drawing and writing full-time in comics, and getting the chance to explore a lot of the themes I'm interested in right out of the gate was a real blast. But getting to know Brandon, Farel, and the rest of the team has been the real icing on the cake.

PROPHET is available in a series of collected editions. PROPHET: EARTH WAR #1 is available now, and PROPHET: EARTH WAR #2 arrives 3/2.