Fans of "Supernatural" rejoice! Show creator Eric Kripke wrote another badass story for us to absorb ourselves in, this time in a completely different medium. "Jacked," a six-issue miniseries, hits shelves this Wednesday (Nov. 25) and deconstructs the superhero myth. Josh Jaffe, suffering a mid-life crisis, orders a "smart pill" over the internet, hoping it'll help get him out of his rut. The pill works wonders for him, but there's a catch — it's insanely addictive.
Kripke worked with Vertigo veterans John Higgins ("Hellblazer") and Glenn Fabry ("Preacher") to reimagine the modern superhero story, rawly portraying the ups and downs of being a superhero.
MTV News hopped on the phone with Kripke to discuss the graphic novel's inspiration, the transition from TV writing to comic book writing and working with veteran artists.
MTV News: On Twitter, you stated this was the most personal thing you've written. What was the inspiration?
Eric Kripke: "Jacked" came from really one thought, which was most superheroes are very square jawed and not particularly neurotic and I started thinking what would happen if a balding, neurotic guy with acid reflux got superpowers? Or to put it in a shorter way, what if I got superpowers? Because I just have never really seen that. What happens if a hero is just really imperfect and kind of a worrying insecure mess and what happens if that guy gets powers and what does he do with them?
So as I started exploring it, it became very personal because I’ve never written a character so similar to me. Most of my characters are either like Han Solo or cowboys or just badasses, and I'd never really written anyone as generally frightened and anxious as I am. So, it was fun to explore a character that had a lot in common with me and the comic is really about a lot of the same issues that I feel and a lot of my peers feel, which is, "What is the rest of my life going to be? Am I still going to do something great, or am I just on a downward slide to the end?" The superhero genre became a great way to explore a mid-life crisis.
MTV News: You’ve written a ton of TV episodes, so how does it work with a graphic novel format?
EK: It's really different, I think I was actually quite shocked at how different it was. The scripts are in an entirely different format and you have to think about them in a completely different way creatively. So it was both challenging and fun to use a whole different set of muscles. I would say when you're writing TV or movies your vernacular is time, it's all based on rhythms, a character takes a beat or two characters have a moment, like everything is about time. And when you're writing a comic, everything is about space. It's how many panels to put on a page, when should you do a full page splash, what is the detail that you see in any particular image?
So it's really quite different and they don’t translate one to the other quite particularly, or easily. I found that you have to take comics as its own particular medium rather than just trying to adapt it from TV, but it's also really fun because the comic medium, like, I'm having a crazy amount of fun writing by far the most violent and R-rated thing I've ever written, and I never get a chance to do that in television. So the creative freedom that I have in "Jacked" is really a blast..."Jacked" is more than anything I've ever written closest to my own sensibility, my own sense of humor, what I find funny and interesting. So anyone who likes "Supernatural" or "Revolution," if they want to really see kind of concentrated and undiluted what my voice sounds like they should read "Jacked."
MTV News: In TV and movies, you can't really write what a character was thinking, because you can't really show that onscreen. But with graphic novels, it's a totally different medium. Was it fun to explore that side as well, because it's all from Josh's perspective and what his thoughts were?
EK: Yeah it was. I've never written a prose story or novel, but I imagine it’s the same way. The ability to get inside you character's head in a graphic novel is really fun and useful because one, you can really define the character's voice and two, it’s a way easier way to convey what the character's thinking by actually laying out what he's thinking.
In TV and movies, you kill yourself spending all this time to think up the symbolism or what if that deer that runs across your hero's path somehow conveys what’s going on inside your hero's head? When a lot of times, you just want to hear what he's thinking. Yeah I think it's allowed me to have Josh, the hero in "Jacked," to be a really fleshed out and likable and sympathetic and profane and slightly filthy-mouthed character, so it's allowed me to really create a very, or what I hope what people think, is a well-rounded, interesting hero.
MTV News: Who are your own favorite superheroes? Any influences?
EK: I'm kind of a comic book geek, but I'm not really a super hero comic book geek. I would say the stuff I really read, which is why it's such a bucket list dream to do this comic, the vast majority of the stuff I read and have read has been Vertigo stuff. So to me, like the gold standard of comics that I was really into was "Preacher" and "The Boys" and "Hellblazer" and "Sandman."
So for me, what I really wanted to capture with "Jacked" was really a throwback to that classic, Vertigo style. Which was very raw, very honest, lots of sex, lots of violence, lots of blood, sort of profane and with a lot of heart too, and so I really wanted to capture the Vertigo style...or what I thought would be the classic Vertigo style in this Vertigo book.
I'm mostly coming at the superhero legends as an outsider, you know, I know them and I studied them but I didn’t really grow up with them, but I think it allows me to sort of analyze them in a way that’s kind of interesting. Because like any mythology, you can really break it down and really point out what parts of it are interesting and heartfelt and what parts of it are a little absurd, so it's been fun...to sort of deconstruct the superhero myth.
MTV News: How was it working with the artists?
EK: John Higgins illustrated it and he's so brilliant and it's such a dream to work with him...he's been drawing Vertigo books for a long time and he's drawn many of the Vertigo books that I was like a super fan of. He drew my all-time favorite comic book ever, which was this run on "Hellblazer," so...I was already coming in to our relationship as a super fan, and so I gave him a lot of trust and latitude because he knows this business far better than me.
I mean he's been doing this for years, and this is my first comic book, so the only logical move is for me to shut up and get out of his way, which I did, and just try to learn from him...John has been amazing, he's been really great about, "Hey do you mind if I add a panel here or change this moment there?," and I said, "Of course. You're the professional, whatever you think best," and he's done such a beautiful job really. I think the great pleasure of doing this is seeing the scripts come to life and be drawn in such a beautiful and artistic way.
MTV News: In "Jacked," Josh orders pills online. Have you ever done that?
EK: No, I haven’t because I'm far too much of a wussy to do that, but I studied it and it is amazing. I mean, it used to be you would just get kind of these bullsh-t herbal supplements, but now there are real chemists that are putting real drugs in these online pills that really do affect your brain chemistry in ways they don't entirely know, and it's not being overseen by the FDA because there's so many of these tiny companies that mushroom up and then vanish overnight and the government just can't keep up with them.
So, it's just kind of this amazing wild west of real brain chemicals that...the average Joe really has access to, so I just thought that was just a fascinating way in — and a realistic way in — of how somebody might inadvertently stumble onto a pill that could sort of turbo charge their body chemistry and give them power.
...I was really looking to do whatever the most brutally realistic version of every superhero trope, so...rather than somebody getting bitten by a radioactive spider, they order an online pill. So it just kind of came from looking for...if a guy was really going to get powers in this world, what's the most realistic way he could do it?
MTV News: You're developing this graphic novel as a TV show, correct?
EK: Yeah, writing a script for it as well, so we'll see what happens with that. But for now just kind of really focusing on the comic. I have to say, I'm having fun writing the script, but the comic has been really unexpectedly satisfying. It's so fun and the issues continue to get so wild and violent and out there, and it's been a really fun creative exercise to just really go further than I've ever been able to go before."