X-Files writer Joe Harris on Mulder and Scully's eerie encounters in IDW's new comic series + 5-page preview

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Apr 26, 2016, 12:20 PM EDT

With the recent resurgence of The X-Files after Chris Carter's winter miniseries triumphantly invaded the airwaves following a 13-year absence, interest in the mysterious cases of Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully has reached pandemic levels once again.  To keep the momentum rolling until their proposed return to television, IDW Publishing has partnered up with X-Files creator and executive producer Chris Carter to produce a new comic book series to chronicle their amazing misadventures.  Written by Joe Harris (X-Files: Season 10, X-Files: Season 11, Millennium), with calculating, cinematic art by Matthew Dow Smith (X-Files: Season 10, X-Files: Season 11), this ongoing series picks up many months after the cliffhanger ending from February's TV finale.

Blastr cornered writer Joe Harris and got the jump on the paranormal mission parameters for his X-Files "sidecar experience" while the TV show is on hiatus, working with the mad genius of Chris Carter, mining Mulder and Scully's family history, the status of the Spartan virus, whether we'll see "Baby" William Scully and what showcase of characters and conspiracies from X-Files' past might pop up in the pages.

Have a read of Harris' truthful treatise on the upcoming series and check out our exclusive five-page preview in the gallery below and tell us if you believe you're bound to abduct IDW's X-Files #1 when it hits stores on April 27.



How did this latest X-Files comic book project come about?

We were actually prepping the previous, The X-Files: Season 11 series, which followed over two years’ worth of Season 10 comics, when we got word that the show was coming back to FOX as a six-episode event ... which caused us to rethink the comics' direction going forward.

When I started writing The X-Files: Season 10, back in 2013, we were the only game in town. The franchise was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and we proved there was an appetite for more X-Files after things had been pretty quiet on the tie-in end for a while. We had over two years of Mulder and Scully to ourselves, and our long addition to the "Mytharc" had ended really strong with a great cliffhanger and a new established super-foil for our heroes ... and I had plotted out another two year-long arc for Season 11 ... but with The X-Files returning to television, we knew it undercut our canonicity and rationale a little. So we decided we'd relaunch with a straight-up The X-Files series with the same creative team that's got Matthew Dow Smith back on art and the oft Eisner-nominated Jordie Bellaire still coloring and making everything pretty.

Give us a taste of what this new series hopes to accomplish and if the story picks up after that crazy TV cliffhanger or not.

We're telling our own stories set some time after Agents Mulder and Scully's return to the FBI and the X-Files. We're going to be independent in what we do, but referential where we can be.

With the old series, we established what I thought was a pretty good formula of telling multi-part "Mytharc" stories -- that took from, and added to, the long and winding conspiracy storyline involving Earth's once and future alien conquerors, their secret collaborators and the United States government's complicity -- or benign neglect, if you will -- related to it all, followed by what we've dubbed "Monster of the Month," shorter stories and character spotlight issues. We're going to turn that inside out a bit on this new title, but ultimately get to the same thing with their initially being a focus on shorter, "monster" stories, with what I'm hopeful is going to be seen as a cool surprise of a "mythology" storyline that brings some forgotten but unfinished business from Mulder and Scully's, and the old Syndicate's, past back to the fore beginning in issue #6 this fall. We're not touching that cliffhanger. That's for the TV audience to see resolved.

What aspects of this year's X-Files TV mini-series did you respond to the most?

I want to say the brilliantly written, executed and performed "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-monster" episode by Darin Morgan, because it really was an instant classic. But I'm going to say the overall continued connection these characters have with one another, and the audience both old and new. You see it in the actors' portrayals and the vision of Chris Carter. They made icons together, those icons endure, and to see it all up and walking and talking again was just a thrill. 


Writing Mulder and Scully in IDW's X-Files Season 10 and Season 11, what inspired you to to resurrect them on the page again?

With the exception of the soft reboot of the comics line, and a tweaked premise given the new TV of it all, I think the same things inspire me that have from the beginning of this gig. I pay a lot of attention to current events, politics, geopolitics, economic trends and scientific discoveries -- to say nothing of the weird, the unexplained, and the cynically corrosive forces within and without our government -- while hoping for the good guys to win and thread the right needles out there. Honestly, I've always thought that The X-Files, as a concept, has only gotten more timely, therefore it never gets old.


Were David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson involved in any way with this new title?

They continue to approve each artist that we work with.

What involvement did Chris Carter have in steering the storylines, and what encouragement did he give you?

Chris has always been incredibly kind, supportive and generous with his compliments when asked about the comics, where they 'fit' into the grand scheme of things, and my work and writing on the series. He reads what we send him -- and I know he'll let us know if he's not happy -- but I pretty much get left to do what I want.

What's it like to experience a fusion with Carter's imagination?

It's been a thrill to talk about this stuff with Chris; to know he's read and considered what I think we should do, what we ultimately do do, and all that.  That he's imparted wisdom and guidance related to these characters, what I should always look out for and all that, has been invaluable. And that he's shared some of his own thoughts about where he wants to take this franchise -- as well as some abandoned ideas and directions--has been an honor. I mean, growing up a kid who wants to make genre fiction and tell scary stories across a variety of media, there's a pretty short list of giants to gravitate toward. He knows how much I respect the source material, and I'd like to think, to whatever small degree these comics matter to the overall, there's a trust that's been earned and validated, and what else can I really say? 


Were you an X-Files fan during its original TV run and what are the essential elements of their spiraling story that keep fans bonded and engaged?

I was a fan from the beginning, sure, and going back and re-watching so much of the canon again, I was reminded of just how masterful the show really got once it hit its stride, the conspiracy deepened, and Mulder and Scully grew closer as a result. In the end, you can craft the cool mythology and setup all the wonderful and unexpected twists that turn what you think you knew on its head and all that... but without the characters, it's not going to stand out, and doesn't stand out. Fortunately, when you're talking about these kinds of shows and franchises, there's nothing like Mulder and Scully. Nothing.

Is your storyline canon and will you be showing the aftermath of the Spartan virus?

With the show back on hiatus with no given indication of when it's returning yet, it's hard to claim we're canon and I don't expect the show to follow what we do. But we will do our best to keep pace as we're able, providing a sort of sidecar experience that ties in where we can, expands what we can, but mostly tells the kinds of stories fans have been getting from us since the beginning. 

With regard to the aftermath of the Spartan virus...let's see how and when it's dealt with on the show, then ask me that question again!

Will you have monster-of-the-week/mytharc/humorous issues?

Yes, yes and yes.


There's recently been a lot of chatter about a possible Millennium reboot. Does Frank Black feature in your story?

I love Frank Black and Millennium. I think the Millennium miniseries I wrote and Colin Lorimer illustrated (which guest-starred Agent Mulder too) back in 2015 turned out to be some of the strongest stuff we did as an overall, X-Files comic-ing team, and I would love to bring Frank back in some capacity if we can figure out the right time, place and reason.

Will we see William, the Lone Gunmen or the Smoking Man in upcoming issues?

"Baby" William Scully is a Chris Carter thing, and he advised against my including him in the comics once, which ultimately led to the better choice of focusing on former child chess genius and alien-addled telepath Gibson Praise as our Big Bad in the Season 10 and Season 11 run. But I know William, and his place in the world with regards to Mulder and Scully all these years after she was forced to give him up for adoption in order to protect him from the forces seeking him is something Chris is very intent on following through on, so we're going to let that play out a bit more before we even attempt to touch it.

We brought the Gunmen back from the presumed dead in the previous series, and the mystery surrounding the return of the Cigarette Smoking Man was the first piece of our own conspiracy storyline that played out over a couple of years. But in this new, rebooted X-Files reality, the Gunmen are still dead and the Smoking Man has returned by different means. But I'd say, eventually, we're going to get to them in some capacity. Flashbacks are always a fun potentiality, too.


Will Scully and Mulder resume their relationship? 

Unlikely, but we'll explore the whys and why nots, I hope, as the shared experiences, the triumphs and pains they had together and apart, all inform their current status and situation. 

How is Matthew's stark, calculating art such a great match of this new X-Files series?

I think Matt's all business and helps me tell a cinematically inclined story every month. What I really like about Matt's work, aside from his professionalism and dedication, is how he sees these characters and translates them onto the page. If we were going to make comics with art that looked more like photographs of the actors, I'd be bored to tears, honestly. Matt captures the essence of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. And, honestly, his interpretation of Walter Skinner makes me want to spin off a solo series.

What was the collaboration process like with Matthew?

Well, I want to tell you it's all deliberative and calculated based on our back and forth and all that, but often enough it's the equivalent of what M*A*S*H used to refer to as "meatball surgery," getting the patient fixed up while challenging circumstances swirl.

I trust Matt, and I think he trusts me by this point. I include lots of reference and inspirational stuff pasted in my scripts and try to make it easy on him when I'm taking inspiration, or a straight-up plot point, from some far-flung episode within the canon. 

Matt's wife, Abby, is also a huge X-Files fan, and I know his status within the household is directly tied to his continued performance on this title and these characters.

You've had these characters in your head for the past few years, how do you keep the dialogue cadence and edge so fresh with each issue?

Honestly, the dialogue is the easy part, because I have been living with them for so long. They're so much fun to write, and I can hear them so clearly when I'm thinking through scenes, and the stakes, for each of them.

One thing I really try to do is make these stories resonant within the larger context of who they are and why they're here, still doing what they're doing after all these years. We have upcoming "Monster" issues and short arcs that are complete and fairly self-contained, but which, I hope, resonate with where we know these characters have been, what they've recently dealt with, and where both they, and we, hope they're headed.

When I first got this gig, back in 2013, I used to laugh that I'm currently the only person in the world who understands what it's like to resist the temptation of having Fox Mulder speak like Hank Moody. So, I guess, to answer your question another way, I'm not watching "Aquarius" yet!


What spoiler-free shocks and surprises are in store for readers as this paranormal investigative series progresses?

We're going to tackle some important and relevant topics, from gun violence and the phenomenon of mass shootings in this country, to so-called "illegal immigration" and the migration of suffering, longing people to the promise this country represents, and even some throwbacks to conspiracies past, from the original Syndicate's lost covenant with the alien colonists to old characters stepped from the X-Files past's ties to things like the Reagan years and the Iran/Contra scandal. But all of it with that X-Files twist that extrapolates from the real life and plugs it all into the overarching story and experience these characters have shared, and continue to share. On the "Mytharc" end of things, we're going to dig deep and bring in some unresolved past stuff involving Mulder's family history, Scully's family history, and some seemingly obscure characters that might have been forgotten and give it all a new shine of relevance in this strange and getting stranger still 21st century we're all hurtling through.