Before college made it hard for me to pay attention to reading for fun, I used to read a lot of graphic novels and comics. Slowly I’ve been getting back into reading all types of media for fun and I was super excited when Dauntless Stories announced Judas Complex from writer Son M., artist Dri Gomez, and with lettering by Toben Racicot.
The story follows Desmond, the lone survivor of a football game massacre where his team, the Red Wolves, turned into literal wolves and killed the other team after taking a performance enhancing drug (yeesh) and the guy who saved him, Constantine, is a very old vampire!
As a lover of all things paranormal, I was hooked from the premise alone, but Gomez’ gorgeous art paired with Son M.’s incisive writing takes the story from “oh jocks shouldn’t take steroids” to something much more interesting and meaty. (Hah.)
I also spoke with M. and Gomez about their experiences working together and for some behind the scenes details on why certain things occur the way that they do in the story and include their answers below!
“Plus who doesn’t love a tragic romance?Son M.
Though the comic itself is only 70 pages, M. covers a lot of ground by establishing just enough backstory and context for the audience to fall for Desmond and Constantine, but be left with many questions when the first issue is done.
In asking M. and Gomez about creating Judas Complex, their love for the supernatural came through. M. is “obssessed with mixing the supernatural and the surreal with science-fiction in any way” and as a lover of Re-Animator the idea of a glowing green liquid gave them “starry eyes.”
In fact, I’m honestly kind of a scaredy cat and usually don’t read horror and while the events in Judas Complex are in fact, very horrific, there is a beauty to how the story is told. Even better is that its plot does not shy away from Desmond and Constantine’s relationship which has shifted even in the short time that they’ve known one another.
It’s clear from the moment we meet Constantine that he’s Desmond’s only source of calm as they do the whole private investigating gig, and the plot is actually propelled by their need to investigate a missing student.
Though we don’t learn quite as much about Constantine as Desmond, it’s obvious he has seen some stuff in his long life (unlife?) and I’m really interested to see what the two of them will get up to next.
In fact, Gomez pointed out that Constantine’s tattoos all had “overwhelmingly thought out” concepts and it feels like that they had “thought about it too much” considering it isn’t a huge focus of the story. However the development of backstory and detail just shows how much love and time was spent on crafting this story!
As collaboraters who have also been friends for a long time, it was a “dream to work together” according to M. They further explained their process for working with Gomez. First they “brainstormed the characters and then I wrote a story outline that Dri combed through and added her feedback” which was followed by M. writing a full script.
Gomez illustrated the projects and they “played around with ideas for the world and characters quite a bit longer before any words came to paper formally!” She points out that they “got the story out in batches” allowing the pair to keep the “visuals and the narrative aligned and complimentary” which comes through in the finished product.
The reveal of which nefarious organization or program is behind the said glowing green drug that caused the mass violence could have come off trite, but there’s true emotion behind the people involved. As not to completely spoil the story, I won’t get into details but I did ask M. about whether or not they always knew who the “bad” guy(s) would be, and the setting ultimately came down using a familiar setting to M., a “graduate level lab that received third party funding.”
As a graduate student myself, that’s a mood.
Judas Complex and Transformation
One of the best aspects of Judas Complex is the illustration of the werewolf transformations and horrific moments. At one point near the end of the story there is a gorgeous page where one of the werewolf characters transforms from werewolf back to human but the audience does not actually see it.
Rather, Gomez illustrated it so that you see the werewolf in full and then they slowly disappear off the panels leaving blood behind. It’s a deft touch for a supernatural story requiring the audience to fill in the mental blank of the transformation back to human without shying away from the brutality of it.
Of course I had to ask how the pair decided which scenes would get that treatment, and which scenes would be fully detailed for the reader.
M. attributes this to “brilliant artistry from Dri’s end” to complement the fun script work that they handled. While they write scripts with the details that they find important, Gomez “hammers in additional worldbuilding, lore, and other needed bits to bring all the details to life.”
Additionally, Gomez explains that she loves the “anticipation of the transformation sequence” in werewolf media, having always preferred the “body horror approach rather than the more fantasy-like seamless” shift.
Desmond spends most of the narrative completely terrified of the wolf inside him and she “wanted the reader to be very clear as to why that is by the end of the issue” and because of this she knew instantly that when the werewolf appeared, he had to make an impression. This is not a fun shift for anyone.
The “monster [is] growing from inside and ripping the human apart in the process in a very physical way” but transitioning back to human is more emotional. This leaves space both literally on the page and within the story for Desmond to feel the mental anguish when he “awakens” from being a werewolf while letting the reader envision what’s happening off page to the other one.
Touches like these are what elevated Judas Complex from yet another werewolf story to something worth spending time with and it’s also just plain fun! M. agrees that it is meant to be fun and “campy and a bit cheesy as a homage to the silly supernatural shows” that they grew up watching and the “procedural dramas” we all know.
At the same there’s a lot of room for more revelations down the line which is both exciting and terrifying in canon. So what about a sequel?
Obviously M. wants to do one “very badly” and there’s even a universe to explore including “Hunters” so share your thoughts on social media and if “we howl” something will come of it. I can howl! Gomez adds that she is very attached to the characters and would love to tell more stories about them so I personally hope we do get a sequel.
Gomez and M. also have plans to continue working together regardless of a Judas Complex sequel and “might be planning something out” already. Eyes emoji. M. has also been “dying to do more Cyberpunk stories” because they really love sci-fi and “want to sink” their teeth into it. I for one can’t wait to see whatever the pair do next!
Images courtesy of Dauntless Stories
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