Joe Harris is the screenwriter behind the classic horror film When Darkness Falls and The Tripper, and a comic book writer who has put words in the mouths of both Batman and the X-Men. Now, Harris has been tabbed to work with X-Files creator Chris Carter on the canonical comic, X-Files: Season 10 for IDW in addition to his critically lauded work on Image Comics’ Great Pacific. Oh yeah, and Harris also has a new graphic novel coming out this year.
We caught up with Harris on the show floor during Wizard World’s NYC Comic Con Experience and he was nice enough to break off a few moments to let us ask him about his new book (Wars in Toyland), whether his work in X-Files: Season 10 would remain intact should another X-Files film come to be, and which fan favorite characters will join Scully and Mulder in the comic as the series goes on.
What can you tell me about Wars in Toyland?
Joe Harris: I guess it’s being billed as an all-ages story, but it’s kind of a dark fantasy. It’s very much a child themed adventure story, but with some dark elements because I think kids can handle stuff like that.
It’s about a boy named Matthew that gets sucked into this world where all of the toys he shared with his older brother, Alex, have come to life and are walking and talking of their own accord, but they’re also caught in this brutal, crushing civil war. And Matthew is an unlikely leader who they [the toys] think is going to deliver them from the evil clutches of Roxbury, who’s this teddy bear despot who has all the toys enslaved and is making life miserable and hellish in Toyland.
Matthew is reluctant, he just wants to get home with no idea how to get home until he discovers his older brother Alex has recently run away. The story opens with Matthew sort of playing on his own and kind of dealing with the fact that his brother is missing and no one knows where he is and we find out his brother may be in fact a prisoner or Roxbury.
So now he has this kind of added “oomph” to go find him and see if he can figure out someway to save these toys, find his brother and get home. Only he soon learns that things are not quite what they seem and his brother may be more connected to what is wrong with this world than he was previously lead to believe. So it starts getting a little complicated and a little dark, but I think it’s a pretty action packed story.
Adam Pollina is drawing it — who’s an old friend of mine — and it’s bound on the short end, so it opens kind of landscape wise. So it’s going to be told in really big sweeping vistas and double-page spreads. Gorgeous book, like I said; dark, high adventure, some pretty colorful characters, some of which include wooden soldiers that sort of march in lock step and salute Matthew as their leader.
You said that it’s all ages, but a bit darker — what are some of the inspirations and projects that you grew up with that respected kids a bit more, didn’t talk down to them?
Harris: Oh, God. Well, I mean, just reading or rather watching the Rankin and Bass version of The Hobbit when I was a kid sort of inspired me because watching Bilbo Baggins interact with Gollum was fascinatingly dark , and yet I was watching this in elementary school. Babes in Toyland on Thanksgiving morning, the March of the Wooden Soldiers.
I don’t even know if the movies holds up today that were whole and hearty, but it’s something really inspiring about the toys gathering together to go fight the boogie men down in the down in the well to go save Bo Peep and all that. A Wrinkle in Time, Wizard of Oz, I found these fascinating in a way that still holds up because there’s something universal I think that about the spirit of want to prevail and needing to get home. So yeah, stuff like that really inspired me.
With X-Files, it’s in continuity, if they make another movie, what happens to this story? Is this stuff still locked in?
Harris: Yes. Chris Carter is overseeing this and he has advised me in terms of what he would not like us to do, otherwise I’ve had a free hand. If there were to be a third movie, we would massage and orchestrate to make it work.
There’s a Lone Gunmen tease at the end of the first issue. What other familiar characters are you looking to work in?
Harris: Well, we already teased the Cigarette Smoking Man for number three, so he’s going to make an interesting return. All is not as it seems, is what I keep telling people, but the character most people will recognize, will play a role in this series going forward. And we’re going to bring back a lot of old concepts; villains, heroes, those people that were kind kind of in the middle, where you never knew if they were friend or foe. What can I tell you with out teasing some names?
I can say what we said in the past — which isn’t a confirm or deny — but I’d like to get into things like the syndicate. I’m a big Alex Krycek fan, so I’d like to work some of that back in. I’m a fan of the mythology from way back, so we’re really going to get into the alien mythology and try and get that on it’s feet and revisit all that stuff you could imagine, like the black oil, shape shifters, and kind of propelling that mythology while not treading on any territory a potential third movie might address.
There are other things we’re definitely going to do to deal with that threat and this never-ending idea that we don’t know the truth and that its out there somewhere. In terms of classic monsters, I don’t want to tease anything specifically, but I think fans are really going to wet themselves when they see who we’re bring back in issue 6, which is our second story arc.
Wars in Toyland comes out on July 12th from Oni Press. X-Files: Season 10 #2 comes out on July 17th from IDW.