Interview: JFK's Spy Team Answers The Call in G.H.O.S.T. Agents!
May 09, 2023
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Cosmic Lion Productions' lavish, spy comic G.H.O.S.T. Agents has already been the topic of a collection of "Get Graphic" interviews here on PREVIEWSworld. Now, however, we finally get to talk to the Chief of Secret Intelligence himself...Rocko Jerome!
In the following interview, the G.H.O.S.T. Agents creator unearths his classified documents and tells us all about his ever-expanding spy-fi series.
(WARNING: This interview may self-destruct!)
Tell us about GHOST Agents. What’s it about?
JFK started this crack espionage squad that only he and Howard Hughes knew about, then after he was killed, they keep going and get into misadventures far off the original mission statement. But that plot is just an excuse for what we’re really doing, which is spy fiction by way of a rather unconventional approach- comics with an eye for design. Michael Troy called GHOST Agents an “art-forward” project, and I love that. I think of what we do as style as substance. The stories are all very short. It’s all character/conflict/resolution/quip and we’re out, so the artists can make it compelling without my interference, just my encouragement to get weird. I’m the primary audience for GHOST Agents. Nobody was making the comics I wanted, so I’ve gotten my friends to do it.
I feel like the book kinda wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but what can you tell us about GHOST Agents’ influences?
You can play “spot the reference” pretty quickly in GHOST Agents. I don’t want it to be a total throwback “retro” thing because that can be a trap, but I do want to recapture that energy that certain comics had in the mid-sixties and throughout the seventies. There was this stretch of time where certain comics and their readers were wired into the sex, drugs, and rock & roll paradigm, not just an IP farm for Disney to cultivate and weaponize OCD in fanboys. There was this element of danger then that I want to tap into- Heavy Metal, Spain Rodriguez, Guy Peellaert, the headier, more whacked-out kinds of Marvel Comics that ended up getting sold in headshops. As much as I’m sure it would have rattled Steve Ditko, I have it on good authority that some people bought Strange Tales at the same places they bought their rolling papers. That’s the space that I want GHOST Agents to occupy.
This is more of an anthology than a larger narrative, right? Or should readers expect connective tissue here?
It’s both of those things. GHOST Agents is an anthology series made up of short, self-contained pieces, but every story exists in the same world, and characters reoccur through the narrative over decades. If you read it all, a rich overarching storyline will emerge, but you don’t have to do that. Each story can be its own entity and can be read very quickly, so whatever your time situation is, however much you want to invest, we got you. This is a very “short attention span friendly” form of entertainment.
Is this more of a multi-genre experience or straight-up spy action?
We started with the idea that it was in the vein of mid-20th century spy-fi, but we swiftly spun out of that as the artists I collaborate with challenged that premise and asked for scripts in different settings. I was happy to oblige, but the roots definitely reside in the familiar archetypes of secret agents faced with far-out challenges.
You are working with a massive talent roster. How did you go about selecting who you wanted to work with?
Usually, I spot someone’s art on social media that I find compelling and hit them up. “You’re excellent. Want to get paid?” Turns out, that’s a pretty good way to strike up a conversation. I’ll take whatever I can get out of them, be it a pin-up or cover on up to a ten-page story. I ask them what they want to draw and don’t want to draw, then I have a delta-8 gummy and write that.
To me, comics are a very visual medium, and what I do as a writer, while important, is not as imperative as what they do. In the nomenclature of filmmaking, I think of myself as the writer/producer of GHOST Agents. The artists are the director, cinematographer, every actor, every special effect. That’s how I want it. The artist is the star. I think the thing that will emerge will be that it’s a showcase for artists as they are coming up. It will be a revolving door by nature.
What’s interesting about this kind of collaboration is that there’s almost like this third partner called “actualization.” I have the merest conception, the artist has the execution, and the result is actualization. Without an artist, my ideas remain ideas. When the artists interpret what I write, the result is never 100% what I had in my head. The final product is something neither of us could have made on our own. I find it endlessly fascinating and exciting.
I think of myself as a producer because I give a certain measure of guidance, especially in colors, but I’m mostly just hands-off. Robert Evans was a hero of mine; I want to be like the Robert Evans of comics.
Tell us about your collaborators on the book. Who is on the art team?
This book features the work of up-and-coming artists Chris Anderson, Ben Perkins, Barry Tan, Chris Fason, Christian J. Meesey (Meesimo), Adam Lemnah, John Burkett, Craig CK, Shawn Coots, Chris Humphreys, Dave Grom, Rick Lopez, Chris Fason, Danny Nicholas, Dave Praetorius, Miguel Galindo, Jason Foster, Peter Hensel, Tony Fero, and Sam J. Royale, as well as, amazingly to me, the iconic Ken Landgraf.
Who is GHOST Agents for?
I’m not even sure if this is feasible, but I have a great dream of this book reaching beyond the tiny sliver of the public that already buys comics. The number one thing that people in my life who don’t usually mess with comics tell me is, “This looks cool, but I don’t know anything about comics.” What’s to know? What’s been done to this medium when that’s how comics hit, they’ve been made that impenetrable on the cultural level. So I say, anyone who sees this art and finds that it speaks to them on any level, GHOST Agents is for you.
Looking forward, what can readers expect from GHOST Agents in the future?
I think I’m going to keep doing these for as long as I live, with the intention of getting exceptional artists paid and their work seen. We use Kickstarter to fund these, a miraculous invention for people like us.
That said, there’s a whole other book just about ready to go that will be a companion to this one, and everything we make off this book will help fund that. Every dime we can make helps.
Comics at this level, it’s tough. I’m convinced a million people on Earth will love GHOST Agents, but I’ve only managed to reach maybe a couple hundred of them so far. It’s all just about getting peoples’ attention. If I can just keep selling enough of each one to fund the next one, I’ll have it knocked…