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DF Interview: Justin Gray talks Delete, a murder mystery with a real SF twist
By Byron Brewer
In the near future, where science can implant or remove human memories and the government uses brain scan technology in criminal investigations, a mute girl witnesses a multiple murder and must turn to a handyman for protection from the police and an army of killers.
From writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist John Timms comes Delete, featuring the next social issue to be plastered across tomorrow’s headlines. For more, your nosy DF staff talked with Justin Gray about this unique SF adventure with the noir feel (or is it vice versa?).
Dynamic Forces: Justin, first off tell us how this new book from Devil’s Due came about?
Justin Gray: I wanted to write a sci-fi mystery where our memories are just data we can choose to keep or delete and the reasons why we would do it. I talked about the idea with Jimmy and we developed it further from there. We shopped the story around for a while until we found the right home for it with 1st Comics and Devil’s Due.
DF: Do you feel the three of you – you, Jimmy and John -- have a unique chemistry in working to create good comics?
Justin Gray: I think our “chemistry” is a need to create work Jimmy and I both feel passionate about and because we want to read something different. As far as John is concerned, he’s fully invested in the visual representation of what we wanted to do with this book. The foundation of the story hinges on the relationship between the two main characters, but visually speaking it is a very action-oriented and physical story – that’s something that John absolutely delivers on. You can feel the physical violence and gunplay, which really makes this an interesting book, in my opinion.
DF: Speaking of chemistry, take us behind the scenes: How do you and Jimmy work as co-writers … what’s the process?
Justin Gray: It often depends on who comes up with the core idea. We play devil’s advocate to each other. We have the ability to critique each other without it being misinterpreted as a personal attack. One of us might own the first draft and then the other comes in with ideas on how to improve or locate any weak spots.
DF: So tell us about the storyline of Delete.
Justin Gray: Delete is a murder mystery that has elements of science fiction and film noir. A mute girl’s parents are viciously murdered, gunned down in their apartment by a squad of trained killers and the handyman for their building is forced to protect the girl. The story becomes more complicated because the handyman has a disability. He’s this massive guy with the intellectual capacity of a child. The girl’s mother begs the handyman to take her daughter to a black market memory dealer to have the memory of their murder erased.
DF: Tell us more about your protagonists.
Justin Gray: Kalina and Spencer are thrown into this world of violence and bloodshed. They’re on the run from cops and trained killers, but they don’t know why. At first, they think it is because Kalina survived and witnessed a murder, but as the story progresses there are all of these twists and turns that I don’t want to spoil.
DF: Just as DNA as a crime tool was science fiction when I was growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, brain scan tech in criminal investigations really does not sound that farfetched. Was there any particular inspiration for this idea?
Justin Gray: It seems inevitable that large portions of our memories will be retained as data. We really seem to be interested in doing that as a species at the level where we have access to that kind of technology. It started with paintings, then photographs and we’re constantly looking for ways to reproduce ourselves. Even social media in a sense is an abstract copy of who we are. The human brain is a living computer and at some point I believe you will be able to transfer the data stored in our minds to some kind of vessel outside of our bodies. I don’t think this will be the same thing as transferring who we are to a data cloud and retaining our sense of “self” but I do think a copy of that information will be possible and accessible. I also think that’s a long way off from anything resembling what happens in Delete. I see Delete as what might happen if you mixed Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Crank and had it directed by John Cassavetes.
DF: Did John Timms do designs for the book? If so, did Jimmy or you work with him, or was he given carte blanche?
Justin Gray: We asked for his take on the characters and aside from offering suggestions and inspiration, we asked John to consider injecting some of the physicality and storytelling used by Robert Valley. That was just a suggestion in terms of how we saw the more violent aspects of the story. Other than that, Jimmy and I tend to step back and let the artist do what they do best. You have to trust the people you’re working with and allow them the freedom to work on a project you think they’re well suited for. I think you get better work from matching the right people with the right material.
DF: Justin, what other projects current or near-future might you want to discuss?
Justin Gray: I’m putting together a few creator owned properties and trying to challenge myself by telling stories outside of my comfort zone. There’s not much I can talk about right now because some projects are incomplete or under wraps. Sex and Violence 3 is something Jimmy and I are putting together where I’ve written a piece I think shows that I’m willing to take risks and explore different ways of telling a story.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Justin Gray for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Delete #1 (of 4) is on stands now!
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HEROES FOR HIRE #1 - SIGNED BY WRITER JUSTIN GRAY
BRAVE NEW WORLD #1 SIGNED BY JUSTIN GRAY
CLAWS #1 - SIGNED BY WRITER JIMMY PALMIOTTI
HARLEY QUINN INVADES COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: SAN DIEGO #1 SIGNED BY AMANDA CONNER & JIMMY PALMIOTTI!
HARLEY QUINN #0 FIRST PRINTING SIGNED BY JIMMY PALMIOTTI!
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