Continuing with our coverage of all things DC Comics leading up to DC Fandome, we had a chance to do a virtual sit down/ interview with DC Comics writer Jordan Clark (DC’s Crimes of Passion, Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, Elk Mountain, The Black Experience). Clark begins a two-issue arc on the Aquaman series, starting with issue #62. The story focuses on a fan-favorite hero, Aqualad, and features one of Aquaman’s greatest nemeses’ Black Manta. I’m trying my very best to avoid dropping spoilers about the story, but I will say this: DC Comics needs to give Clark more opportunities to write Aqualad or any other character. Like right now.
DC Comics: hop on it
Check out our interview with Clark below.
BlackSci-Fi.com: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started writing comic books?
Jordan Clark: I’ve always been a comic fan since I was a kid. I used to watch all the animated shows in the 90’s, collected all the action figures and trading cards, and read everything I could find. Random issues from yard sales, collected black and white X-men, and Sunday paper comics.
Once I graduated from college, I had gotten back into comics in a big way and was looking for a way to tell the stories I had been kicking around. Pretty early on, I got the chance to go see Kelly Sue DeConnick do a writing workshop and she gave a great piece of advice, which was the best way to learn to make comics, is to go out and make comics. I know that sounds super obvious, but sometimes you need that push, and that was mine. I’ve been writing comics ever since.
BSF: How did you react when you got the opportunity to write an Aquaman story featuring Aqualad?
JC: It was perfect! I was so excited to get the opportunity. Before anything, just getting to write for DC Comics is a dream come true, but to have my big debut be working on Jackson is amazing. It was a perfect fit.
BSF: Without giving too much away what’s your story about?
JC: My story picks up shortly after Jackson has had a run-in with his father, Black Manta. In an earlier issue, we see that Jackson has somehow convinced Manta to let him borrow a piece of the Manta Mech, which was gifted to Manta by Lex Luthor…and contains the recreated consciousness of Manta’s father, Jesse.
In exchange, we learn that Jackson has agreed to help Manta weaken Xebel’s barriers. It’s a little deal with the devil which puts Jackson in a tough place. On the one hand, he finally gets to see Xebel, the home he’s never known, on the other, he’s helping his father possibly do harm to it.
BSF: Aqualad has been featured in comics, animated series, and even a video game. What did you try to do to put your own spin on the character?
JC: I really wanted to add some layers and textures to Jackson’s backstory, specifically with the two other men in his family, Black Manta and Jesse. The heart of this story is about generational trauma passed down time after time and trying to find how to break that cycle.
Jesse is a tough but fair man. Like a lot of former Black military veterans, he came home from war expecting to be viewed and treated one way, only to find nothing had changed. So, his mindset has been, you look a certain way, you dress a certain way, you show people respect, and you get what you work for. We move forward to Black Manta, and he takes these ideas but twists them to meet his own needs. Jesse is raising him in the 80’s in Baltimore, in the backdrop of the war on drugs, Reganomics, and generations of systemic oppression, all which affected Manta.
Jackson on the other hand, is nothing like these two. He’s into TTRPG’s and making up dance choreography. But he’s got this history on his back and is trying to figure out just who he is. How does he fit in with these two men? What does the legacy of these men mean for him and his future? And can Jackson form his own path?
BSF: What about Aqualad stands out to you? What about the world of Aquaman drew you to pitching specifically for this title/ series?
JC: Aqualad just has so much potential. He’s one of just a handful of Queer Black superheroes and hasn’t really gotten a big spotlight yet. I thought this would be a great opportunity to flesh out his character and his world a bit. The Aquaman title has been one of the best and long running at DC so getting a chance to write in that world and tell Jackson’s story was an amazing opportunity.
BSF: Aqualad identifies as Queer. How important was it for you to write a story featuring one of the few DC Comics characters of color who self identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
JC: It was extremely important! The two biggest things I wanted to get across is that Jackson is Black, and that Jackson is gay. One of those things you can see, but as Black people we all have our own individual journeys and experiences along with our collective experience, so I wanted to get across Jackson’s. The second part is something you can’t see, so I wanted to make sure that was upfront and clear. A few pages in, if you didn’t know Jackson was gay, it’s made very clear.
So many LGBTQ friends and fans and general have expressed the experience of always having to search hard to find themselves in the stories they read and watch. It was important for me to make something where they didn’t have to. There’s so many people who have told me they saw themselves for the first time reading this story which is such a powerful sentiment and I’m grateful to be able to help increase that representation. We all deserve to be seen.
BSF: Give some shine time to your creative team here. The art, colors, and lettering is Beautiful with a capital B.
JC: Oh man, for my first big Superhero story I couldn’t have asked for a better creative team. Huge shout out to Andrea and Alex, the editors for Aquaman who brought me in and helped guide and push me to tell the best story I could. Marco Santucci is the artist and did an unreal job! The amount of care and detail he put into every panel is amazing and how he was able to deliver on the big action moments just as well as the small quite ones are a testament to his skill. Romulo Farajardo Jr. is the colorist and brought so much texture and life to Marco’s lines. Really gave an incredible amount of depth to Xebel and the rest of the undersea world. Finally, Clayton Cowles, the hardest working person in comics. He letters almost every book I read and to have him letter my work was truly an honor. I love this team so much and am extremely proud to be a part of it.
BSF: What do you say to black comic book fans/ comic creators who see you, writing at the DC Comics level? I can personally say I’m inspired.
JC: You can do it too! And we need you, for real. We have so many stories to tell from so many different perspectives and the more of us working at DC, Marvel, Image, Valiant, Boom, IDW, and so on the better. There’s been amazing strides made in terms of Black representation in comics but there’s still so much more work to be done. I see so many talented Black creators online and I’m rooting for all of them. So, if you have a story to tell, get it out into the world. Our stories and voices have power and it’s more important now than ever.
BSF: Aquaman #62 is being released on the week leading up to DC Comic’s celebration of everything DC Comics, DC Fandome. How special must it feel to have your work released this very week?
JC: It’s crazy! I’m super excited to see what DC has in store at Fandome. From comics, to movies and TV, to video games, it sounds like there’s big things in store! Really looking forward to it. Being able to contribute just a bit with my work in a week where there’s bound to be some big Aquaman news coming out is very cool.
BSF: What else can we look forward to from you with DC Comics or elsewhere in the comics industry?
JC: I’ve got some more things in the works for sure. Aquaman #63 is out next month (September 18th). I’ve got some more stuff in the works with some other publishers as well. Some graphic novel stuff I’m hoping to have out in the next year or so. Hopefully, I’ll be able to announce some more stuff soon! But I really appreciate the support, Thanks to everyone who has checked out everything from my first self-published stuff all the way up to Aquaman, it means a lot!
Robert Jeffrey II is an Atlanta based freelance writer who has worked for such clients as DC Comics, the Centers for Disease Control, and Nitto Tires. He is the co-writer of Radio Free Amerika, the writer of RET: CON, the creator/ writer of the Glyph Comics Award winning/ nominated Route 3: Vol 1, and the creator/writer of Mine To Avenge: The Book of Layla. He’s contributed to the Dark Universe: The Bright Empire and The Scribes of Nyota prose anthologies. He is a graduate of the 2017 DC Comics New Talent Writers Workshop. You can reach him at www.robertkjeffrey.com