Jason Pearson’s Body Bags would see the light of day again, courtesy of 12 Gauge Comics. First, the original four-issue miniseries will be released as a two, double-sized issue miniseries, and then, if response is good, new stories featuring Clown Face and Panda, the father-daughter assassin team that has probably forgotten more about violence than others will ever know will be forthcoming. We caught up with Pearson for a brief history of the ultraviolent father daughter team.
Newsarama: Let’s see - the original miniseries came out in’96…
Jason Pearson: Right - this is almost ten years, yeah.
NRAMA: For people who never saw it or heard of it, what is it about?
JP: Body Bags was a study of contrasts within a parental relationship, between father and daughter. One can always assume that raising a child can be hard, but when you’re a father raising a daughter, and you happen to be an assassin and bounty hunter…life lessons are kind of hard to get across. It’s a study of difficulty.
For me personally, it was a strike against a lot of the things I disliked about the industry at that time, with its form of anti-heroes and villains taking top billing. At the time Body Bags originally came out, Venom was supposed to be the ultimate enemy of Spider-Man, probably the first Spider-Man villain in years who really had a shot at killing Spider-Man…and they were doing a comic book about him, starring him as some kind of hero. On the other side of the coin, Wolverine was supposed to be some near-crazy killer, but at that time, he hadn’t killed anyone in a long time.
I really enjoyed movies like Unforgiven, and others where the anti-hero was just that - unabashedly. Clint Eastwood’s Bill Munny from Unforgiven - everyone was afraid of him, yet he was trying to be a pig farmer, raising two kids. But at the same time, he wasn’t necessarily someone you wanted to be around. He was fascinating to watch, but from a distance. He kept that edge - it wasn’t softened down like we see it with characters in comics, to make them more palatable - or marketable - or merchandisable.
NRAMA: Or toyerific…
NRAMA: Along with Unforgiven, it feels that Body Bags has a similar feel to The Professional…
JP: In a way, but that’s a long story…
NRAMA: Indulge us…
JP: The idea for Body Bags came up in ’92 as part of an anthology series that Gaijin Studios was putting together for Dark Horse. The approved it as an 11-issue miniseries, counting down from #10 to #0…
NRAMA: Very ‘90s…
JP: It was the market then - why go against what was working and what was selling, especially if you’ve got a great product to offer, like we did?
NRAMA: And this was the Blanc Noir stuff, right?
JP: Not quite yet. It was going to be called Ground Zero, but unfortunately, a company, one of the big two, got a hold of the idea we had, so they did their version. So we changed everything, and we called it Blanc Noir. At that point, Dark Horse asked if we didn’t just want to do separate miniseries for each of the stories and characters, so we did. By that time though, it was January of 1995 when I got started on Body Bags.
But then, Capital Distribution went under in February of ’95, and Dark Horse put a freeze on all new projects until they could figure out how they would get their books distributed. So it took a while to get back into it, as I had to take on other projects in the meantime, so the book wasn’t completed and ready to go until ’96. Between ’92 and ’96, the movie The Professional came out. Originally, Body Bags was supposed to be about Clown Face and a totally different girl - a Japanese girl who wasn’t his daughter, who looked like a Geisha, but she was going to grow to become an ultimate assassin. They were going to team up to take out a person who had screwed them over.
But in doing that, something about the story - something intangible - felt wrong. It wasn’t something concrete, and the story just kept going around while I did other jobs, like a Dragon miniseries. Then The Professional story came out, and it hit me - my story was running along similar lines: an assassin meets up with a girl who is fascinated by him and wants to follow him, and they have a mutual interest in taking out a target. So I was cut off from doing that story as people would’ve seen it as a recapitulation of The Professional.
NRAMA: So The Professional caused the story change?
JP: It did. It was great - The Professional showed me which way to go, and which way not to go. There was a kind of father-daughter bond in The Professional, so I went all the way and made Panda his daughter. My problem with the story before this was that there was no reason for the two characters to stay together afterwards. We were thinking of working things out into a continuing series and all that went with it, and that’s kind of hard to do when, at the end of the first story, there’s no reason for the two leads to keep working together.
This way, making Panda Clown Face’s daughter, he’s stuck with her - and stuck with all the problems that will follow, having a young girl as his partner in crime. That creates more stories down the road.
NRAMA: So the gist of it is - Panda comes into Mack’s business, and from the start, she’s just damn good at it?
JP: She’s a natural, but she’s not experienced. She’s very assertive, and pretty aggressive in regards of proving to her father that she can hang in there with him, but of course, he’s completely opposed to the idea. She’s his little girl, and she shouldn’t be doing this, morally, and shouldn’t be subjecting herself to this kind of industry.
NRAMA: Industry? Assassination is an industry?
JP: It is in my universe. It’s a little bit more well known in the world of Body Bags than it is in the real world. In the world this story takes place in; there are paranormal beings that cannot be taken down by the police. America in Body Bags is a little more Third World in regards to law enforcement, I guess.
NRAMA: So - Body Bags has been away for nearly ten years - why not bring it back before this?
JP: A lot of it was just me. In ’98, I was planning on doing a new miniseries, but there were contractual reasons that delayed the sequel, but in ’99, Dark Horse and I settled everything, and I wrote out a six-issue miniseries, started drawing it, and then, I got sick. I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, and then recovering for a couple of months. By the time I got back to Body Bags, I realized that I didn’t like the story that I’d written - I was overreaching in a lot of areas, and it was too complicated with storylines. I was trying to go for more depth - on “purpose.” The first miniseries, I feel, while very bold and in your face, was also very juvenile as well. I thought I’d “mature” it by being more in depth with characters and other stuff…anyway, it just didn’t grab. I came to a decision with Dark Horse, and put it down. So I’ve got a whole six issue miniseries written and laid out that I’ll probably never use.
NRAMA: Really? Even if there’s a good response to the reprint?
JP: Nah - I’ve got plenty of other stories with the two characters. I’ve got hundreds - it’s just a matter of picking out which ones I want to do.