The road to Baghdad is paved with good intentions.
That’s what Chris, a tormented American cop exorcising his demons by training the new Iraqi police force, discovers after one of his trainees is found dead. Soon, he’ll find himself teaming up with a Shiite police officer who served under Saddam and a Sunni tribal chief with her eye on controlling the city’s criminal underworld while following a trail of lies, corruption, politics and murder.
THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON is a relentless, could-have-happened crime thriller written by former CIA analyst and Grayson and Omega Men writer Tom King and drawn with an eye for realism by artist Mitch Gerads. THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON asks some difficult questions, but we took a slightly less serious approach when questioning King, Gerads and editor Jamie S. Rich about their eagerly anticipated new Vertigo miniseries.
Tell us, briefly, how you would describe THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON:
Tom King: In the tradition of SCALPED and PREACHER, THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON is a crime epic set in the American controlled Green Zone shortly after the invasion of Iraq. Someone’s dead. Everyone’s scared. No one’s in charge.
Mitch Gerads: Historical fiction. Smart. Intense. Important. Real. Real good!
What was your first Vertigo comic as a reader?
Jamie S. Rich: I’m not entirely positive, I was there from the beginning, but knowing my past as a Matt Wagner fanatic, it was probably SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE. I bought and still own every issue.
Mitch: SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE. I loved the costume of the trenchcoat, the hat, the gas mask. Then I read the book and saw how real and raw it was. It was my first intro to that kind of storytelling in comics, and I was hooked!
Tom: THE SANDMAN: FABLES AND REFLECTIONS graphic novel, the story about Augustus begging on the steps. The middle of the run, the middle of the graphic novel. Just opened and started there. No idea why. But it was enough of a first fix to start a lifetime addiction.
What was your first Vertigo comic as a published contributor?
Mitch: While THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON is my first Vertigo series, technically my first Vertigo work was an illustration in the MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – INSPIRED ARTISTS DELUXE EDITION!
Tom: I did an eight pager in TIME WARP #1, “It’s Full of Demons,” with the great and tall Tom Fowler on art. This was my first break in the comic industry. My entire comics career basically came out of those eight pages.
Jamie: EFFIGY #6. Unless you count the letters I used to get printed in the back of them, then I’d have to go digging to figure that out.
What’s your favorite quote from a comic ever?
Jamie: It’s from Dan & Larry by Dave Cooper, though it probably won’t make any sense out of context. I just like the cadence of it. "Hey, check it out!! I'm peein' on the cement powder! Some construction guy's gonna be all, like, 'Huh?' And then he'll be like, 'Somebody pissed in my fuckin' cement, man!'" I even own the original art.
Tom: Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7.
The Thing has to battle the Champion of the Universe. If the Thing loses, the Champion destroys earth. The Champion has already defeated every other potential opponent, most of whom are much more powerful than the Thing. Not one of these opponents lasted longer than one round. The Thing lasts three, taking on terrible punishment, but always getting back up. Finally, the ref calls the match, saying the Thing can’t go on without killing himself. The Champion prepares to destroy the planet.
And the Thing rises from the mat, his face full of blood and pain. And he says, “Ya’ll never beat me! I’m just too stupid…and ugly…ta know when to quit.”
In my CIA days, I took this comic with me every time I went to some odd, maybe dangerous place. When I was scared, I’d read it. Too stupid and ugly to know when to quit. Exactly.
What is your favorite genre of comics to work in?
Mitch: I’ve found my niche in military and real world stories. It’s something I have a lot of passion for and immensely enjoy.
Jamie: The romance of crime, the crime of romance.
Tom: I’m really not sure. The comics I’ve worked in don’t seem to be genre contained. Grayson is a spy book, but it’s also a super hero book and an adventure book and a romance book. Omega Men is space opera, but it’s also a western and a political thriller and a super hero book. THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON is a crime drama, a war novel, and also a bit of a western. That’s what I love about comics; we wander between the genres.
What would you consider to be the most essential tool of your trade?
Mitch: Google. The vast majority of my time spent working on a book is doing research. THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON, especially. Tom King, our writer, was literally there during the timeframe of this story, so he’ll know when something is “off” and I don’t do “off.” For me, it’s a huge matter of respect for history, so everything you see in this book right down to the city, the people, the buildings, the uniforms, etc., etc. I’ve put a lot of painstaking time into making sure I make everything as accurate as I can.
Tom: My caring, patient, brilliant, beautiful, loving, and patient wife. Whom I think I maybe just called a tool. Might be testing that patient thing.
Jamie: Vertigo assistant editor Molly Mahan. And she really embodies “tool” in every sense of the word.
People often say, “If I could go tell ten-year-old me that I work in comics, that kid would be stoked,” but if you could reverse it, and ten-year-old you could leave you something in a time capsule, what would that something be?
Tom: Get a video camera, kid, go up to mom, and ask her questions about her life. How did you do it? How did you raise two kids by yourself while breaking every glass ceiling you could find? Send that to me. I’d love to hear her voice again.
Mitch: My collection of those Burger King DC Super Heroes cup holders from the ‘80s. Those things were so rad.
What was the last non-comic book you read? (no judging)
Mitch: Imperial Life in The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. As research for THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON, but I’m also really into this stuff otherwise.
Jamie: More like which one did I start. I never seem to finish them anymore. Going Clear maybe, or The Untold History of Marvel Comics. Just don’t tell my boss about that last one.
Favorite Bond theme song of all time?
Jamie: “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran.
Mitch: I’m an enormous Bond fan and I kid you not, Adele’s “Skyfall” is the best one. #CONTROVERSY
Jamie S. Rich
Favorite adage that defines your world view.
Tom: When I was young, my mother threw a fancy barbeque party and halfway through her cooking the burgers, the grill went out. No gas. My mother started to panic; the party started to panic; I started to panic! My grandmother went to the grill and, as it was still hot, she began to flip the burgers. My grandmother lived through the depression, World War II, and countless years of being underestimated and passed over because she was a woman. She’s still alive. She’s 91. She’s my personal hero. And I always try to remember, when the panic comes, flip the burgers.
Jamie: “Face what you’ve got to face, and keep your chin where it belongs.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to his daughter.
Mitch: "I don't know. I'm making this up as I go." – Indiana Jones
THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON #1 will be available on December 2, 2015 in print and as a digital download.