The Black Comic Lords had the honor and pleasure of interviewing talented and successful writer, actor and screenwriter, Geoffrey Thorne regarding his upcoming work on Milestone Comics’ highly anticipated, “Blood Syndicate: Season One”, releasing on 5/10/22. “Blood Syndicate”, like all of the revamped “Milestone: Season One” line, is a reimagining, rather than a continuation of the original series created by Dwayne McDuffie, Ivan Velez, Jr. and Trevor Von Eeden in 1993. To update the series for the 21st century, while remaining true to the vision and accomplishments of the original material and its fanbase, is not an easy task, but Geoffrey Thorne is more than a match for the challenge.
BCL: Were you a fan of the original Milestone run back in the 90’s when it originally came out?
THORNE: I own almost 100% of the original Milestone comic books, like yourself, probably. I’m short on a couple of “Kobalts” and a couple of “Xombi’s”. That’s because they got snapped up fast, I think. Yeah, those are the only issues I’m missing. Some “Xombi” and some and some uhh…
THORNE: “Deathwish”! Jesus Christ. “Deathwish”. Yeah. I got “Heroes”, I got all of them. I got all of them. I love that I wrote the first letter. I think I was like 19, maybe 20, I guess? I don’t know how old I was, but I was barely grown, let’s put it like that. The first letter to any comic book company about anything I wrote [was] to Icon, okay? I just was like, “I can’t believe this”. If you could see me, you could see me dancing like…
BCL: So what was your favorite of all the Milestone books?
THORNE: “Blood Syndicate”.
BCL: Okay, that’s good. You’re a genuine fan.
THORNE: Yeah, man I loved all that…I mean, [let me] rephrase that. I like all of them, but “Blood Syndicate” was for Geoff. “Blood Syndicate” was the one that they wrote for me to read because I was in that. And then the spin-off books, “Shadow Cabinet” and “Star Chamber” didn’t get its own book but like “Blood Syndicate” got turned into–it gave us “Shadow Cabinet” and it sort of all turned into “Heroes” at one point. I was down for that whole journey, I was there. I got the “Wise Son” mini series. I got all of it like…yeah.
BCL: Likewise. Which character in the Blood Syndicate was your favorite?
THORNE: Well mine actually was Kwai–just because the idea of this Chinese-Korean goddess chilling with basically a bunch of street gang members and thinking nothing of it like–like she’s cool with them. I was just like, “okay Kwai!” You know? And then after that, I don’t know. I would say probably [unintelligible] but what I was most interested in was DMZ because they never showed us his damn face! That used to drive me insane. And I liked Fade a lot. I liked Fade a lot. I liked the way his powers worked, and I liked the idea that his powers were sort of eating him. Because one of the things that they do in a lot of mainstream comics is people get the powers and then they just sort of intrinsically know how to use them and they know everything about the powers and I’m like, “so tomorrow morning, if i could suddenly flame on, I know everything about flaming on?” No, you know? And there’s no downside, there’s no downside, right? So I like the idea that he had to…his fading powers was actually becoming a problem for him.
BCL: Well you mentioned something that raises the question. You said one of the things that intrigued you was the fact that DMZ was never unmasked. Is that something in your run?
THORNE: Umm, I actually asked either I think I asked Dwayne [McDuffie] or Chris[Cross] at some point, many years ago, that one. That, yes, they had always planned to eventually show his face and I was like, “please just tell me that he didn’t look like some kind of monster under there! Please tell me he looked cool”, and they were like, “you look cool, you look cool…you’re definitely not a monster”. DMZ does not appear in this first arc, so it’s not an issue yet, but Chris is going to–been doing nothing but redesigns on all these characters, so we’re going to have a massive redesign I’m guessing on DMZ, but he would come back masked, obviously. Like, I’m not going to lose that, because that was a big fun part of the old “Blood Syndicate”. When DMZ shows up, he will not show up with his face showing, so… yeah, he’s not trying to, he’s not trying to show his face. But he’s not going to appear in the first six issues, so don’t look for him.
BCL: Alright, you mentioned ChrisCross. How is it working with an OG Milestone guy?
THORNE: I think you can’t do these books without Denys or Chris–one of the originators. I think that even if I wasn’t involved, I think it will automatically lose authenticity. If the guy’s still here and he wants to do it, he should do it, right? Chris himself has said it’s been one of 20 plus years, almost 30 years, more than 30 years…and he said his artwork has evolved. So it’s fun for him to come back and sort of revisit characters that he drew in his youth and now apply all the skills that he’s got to it, right? Plus Juan Castro’s in there, which gives it this sort of really nice flavor. The two of them together are a great unit. So I’m loving the new designs. I think everybody else is going to be very happy with them. And I’m letting him, I mean, I shouldn’t say I’m letting him…Normally when I work with an Illustrator, I’m–I wouldn’t say overly–but I’m very, very, very specific about how things look. I will even draw them and say, “like this, do a better version of this,” right? And with Chris, I’m just kind of like–unless it’s a brand new character–I don’t do photo references. I don’t. You know, it’s like these are his children. Let him do as he will. As long as it fits the story, I have no problem.
BCL: So yes, it’s cool because you know in preparing for this, I looked at the the first issue [DC Comics] was good enough to share that with me and I was comparing that to Chris’s art on the original run and you can see the evolution of his…
THORNE: Oh my god, yeah…
BCL:…it HAS gotten better, which is saying a lot because…
THORNE:…I was, I’m a big one for picking out people when they’re in their first few issues and going, “oh, this guy’s going to be a star!” Chris is on my list right away. So I’ve worked with him a couple of times. He and I–starting with me, I tried to get Chris 20 years ago on an indie book. I tried to work with Chris on another thing I wanted to do and it just kept always falling apart. Ironically, the first time we worked together was on a “Vixen” project for DC that he got going because on Twitter, I was mouthing off about how I figured a way to make Vixen really cool and he was like, “What? I would want to draw Vixen. I’ma call my editor,” and I’m like, “Chris, I don’t know you, and you don’t know what the idea is, what are you doing,” right? And he’s like, “too late, I already called her so…” and I was like, I thought he was clowning me, because I don’t really know him, except you know, through Twitter or trying to work together. But we’re not friends. He’s on the east coast. I’m on the west coast. We know each other as professionals, right? I got an email from that editor, and the editor was like, “so ChrisCross tells me you have this great idea for Vixen.” I’m like, “I don’t know what he told you, because he does not know what the idea is, because I haven’t told anybody what I did.” And he was like, “tell me.” So I did and we got a book out of it and I really like working with him. And there’s the same basic vibe like–he wanted to draw this character, I wanted to use this group called the Global Guardians. He’s like, “oh, I love them. And I’m like, “yeah, well you’re going to love this, because you’re going to be redesigning that. I don’t even care what they look like.” All i said was, “this one character has a mask with antlers and this other person is the wife of this other character,” and he was like, “cool I’m on it.” And he went crazy, and I think we got some really cool designs and a good nice workflow out of it and then, yeah. Then he came in on “Green Lantern” to do a couple of issues…and that was all. It’s always fun to see Chris. He brings his own flavor. You cannot mistake ChrisCross’ drawing for anything other than a ChrisCross drawing. He does cosmic, he does street–he can do it all. He is the perfect flavor for any Dakota comic book from my point of view.
BCL: So with that in mind, I mean you have one of the original artists who you know–you have his art from back in the day. He’s updating it for the modern times. How do you balance when you’re trying to be creative with with the material, but you also have the source material, and you have a rabid fan following of of gray-haired guys like myself who kind of grew up with Milestone back in the day and you want to honor them and and keep them happy, so they’re not grumbling about, “back in my day/get off my lawn,” but you also want to make it new and fresh for the new generation? How do you balance that?
THORNE: It’s an interesting thing, because I am one of those guys, and I’ve made it known for years, I never thought Milestone was coming back. So my whole thing was always if they ever come back, you better let me have the Blood Syndicate. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care who’s in charge of it. I better get that call. That was…I’ve been saying that for decades. People are like “why are you talking about Milestone, that’s never coming back”. I’m like, “if it does, they better freaking call!” So things were different in the world in 1993. So if someone’s looking for like… we’re just going to continue like…for whatever the final issue of what Syndicate was, and “we’re just going to keep going from there”. Except it’s now. Well now doesn’t work like it did then. We didn’t even have the internet really back then. AIDS was a giant thing that was rushing through all communities. Crack epidemic was still in swing in the Black community. A lot of things were true then, that are not true now. Right? So I’m not doing…I don’t do throwbacks. I always tell everybody up front. But the characters, the people, they should be basically the people you recognize. The powers they recognize, the way they are. If anything, we can flex more than they were allowed to flex back in the 90s, right? You read that first issue?
THORNE: Wise Son ain’t nobody’s softy, you know. But the kind of Muslim man he is can be more nuanced because people now are more familiar with what that even means, right? Back then, you had to do it a particular way because it was easy to identify sort of an NOI-type of brother because of his gear. You could go, “oh I know who he is, and I know what he’s about.” But Islam and even Black Muslims are so varied now, that I felt like there was space there to do a journey. He decides he’s a Muslim–what does that mean? What kind of Muslim are you going to be? What do you think Islam is, person who just decided in your early 20s, “now I’m a Muslim”? What does that actually mean? So we’re going to track that.
BCL: That was one of my questions. Which portrayal of Islam are you going to do? The NOI, the 5 Percent, the traditional…?
THORNE: The fun is, it depends on how much I’m allowed to play with that character in that regard. But the point is, he’s going on a journey. I feel a story is boring if you start a person and they’re just, “well, let us go save the day now that we have superpowers,” you know? Hannibal is a complex man and he has a lot of stuff going on in his life. One of which is he’s trying so hard to be a good man and part of his trying to go hard to be a good man is he’s going to adopt Islam, but he adopts it out of complete ignorance of what it actually is. He meets multiple Muslims in the Middle East and they have an idea of it. He’s seen Nation of Islam people in his growing up years, right? So who is it that informs his Muslim nature? He doesn’t even know when we meet him. He just says the first rule of Islam is, “you declare you’re a Muslim–you’re a Muslim,” right? “I declare I’m a Muslim–Allah is God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Okay, you’re a Muslim now, but that’s not the end of it, that’s just the first step.
BCL: More than just the Five Pillars. That’s actually an interesting take on it because, in essence, you’re kind of having him do the journey Malcolm X did, but in reverse. Because what actually…
THORNE: [Jokingly] “What? How dare you?: What do you mean Malcolm X? What?” No, yeah.
BCL: It’s cool, because he actually converts to Islam while he’s away in the Middle East and then comes back, whereas Malcolm did it the other way around.
THORNE: That’s exactly right and you’re going to see people over the course of the book deal with what they know of characters like, “I know you from the old days, why are you acting like this now? I know who you really are.” People trying to tell you who you are is going to be one of the things and how everybody’s going to be basically buck against that, “you don’t tell me who I am, I tell you who I am.
BCL: It’s also an interesting take because when Malcolm went to to the Middle East and saw other Muslims that were blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims you know, “I can be a Muslim and have someone that looks like a a white man and consider him my brother based on that faith,” and you’ve got Wise Son starting with seeing people that are different looking than him in that faith and then coming home, It would be interesting to see where you go with that.
THORNE: Well he’s also a homophobe still. He’s not cut and dried when we meet him.` He’s not settled in whatever. He’s a person on a very strict, very serious journey. When you see what’s going on with him in issue two, you’ll very more understand the journey he’s on, because in issue two you get more of a hit on Wise Son’s life. Issue one is really introducing us to Fade and sort of Tech Nine and his relationship together, but issue two is much more about Wise Son and you’re gonna see what I’m talking about in terms of the journey he’s on and where he came. What are his roots? Why he is, the way he is.
BCL: You mentioned Fade Wise Son and Tech Nine, what are the other members of the original lineup we can expect to see in Season One?
THORNE: Well you see Flashback already, she shows up in issue one. In my first interview I did say for sure Kwai would not show up. Then after that, literally as soon as that interview was [over] I was like, “yeah but wait a minute. There is a way she could show up for the first arc. So we’ll see if they let me do it. So she might show up, in some form. You will definitely see most of the Syndicate arrive by the middle of the arc. You will definitely see Third Rail at some point, you’ll definitely see Brick House at some point. I’m going back and forth about when to place Boogeyman, but he’s going to show. I’m trying to say Masquerade’s showing up for sure. I think that’s the Syndicate.
BCL: So what about new members?