'Joe Golem: Occult Detective' Lives On In New Comic (Exclusive Preview)

The character, co-created by 'Hellboy' creator Mike Mignola and novelist Christopher Golden, returns next week.
Dave Palumbo/Dark Horse Comics
The character, co-created by 'Hellboy' creator Mike Mignola and novelist Christopher Golden, returns next week.

Joe Golem is dead — which is exactly the right place for his new comic book series to begin.

Next week, the first issue of Joe Golem: Occult Detective — The Conjurors hits stores, the sixth comic book outing for the supernatural detective co-created by Hellboy’s Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. Technically, Joe is the assistant to Simon Church, a Victorian detective who’s kept himself alive into the mid-20th century thanks to some steampunk technology and a little bit of magic, but it’s kind of complicated… as is the fact that he isn’t necessarily alive when the series starts.

The Conjurors follows up on last year’s Joe Golem: Occult Detective — The Drowning City, and continues adapting the prose novel that first introduced the character, 2012’s Joe Golem and the Drowning City. Heat Vision has an exclusive preview of the series’ first issue, as well as Golden giving some background on the series, and offering a sneaky tease about what’s to come.

The new series continues the comic book adaptation of the original Joe Golem novel, and starts from a suitably intriguing place: The title character of the series is dead. Given the setting of the story, that’s hardly an impediment to him moving forward, but it’s certainly quite an unusual opening. Is this an attempt to let newcomers know what to expect upfront from the series?

It’s definitely a way to let readers know what they’re in for, but it’s also the key moment in this part of Joe’s story. Once upon a time, he was a golem brought to life in 15th century Europe to hunt and destroy ancient witches, but he was brought back to life in 1955 as a human being, with confusing memories of his original life. He became the sidekick of a famous occult detective, and eventually became one in his own right, fighting ghosts and demons and the undead.

Now we’ve drawn all those threads together and this transformation—from alive to dead to a different sort of “alive,” and from seemingly ordinary man to “monster”—is a pivotal moment. One of the notes we keep hitting is what it means to be human, and how we define that. But, of course, that’s all in the midst of a crazy story about a magician, a mad scientist, and the gods of the Outer Dark. 

This is is the second Joe Golem comic series to adapt the Drowning City prose novel, but the sixth series overall. What made you — and Mike — decide that it was time to bring the two media together finally?

We could have spent years doing hundreds of issues of Joe Golem: Occult Detective, but his years as a detective in New York City are only a small part of the Golem’s story, and we’ve always had larger plans. We’ve been building something for a long time that involves [previous collaboration with Mignola] Baltimore and some future projects that I can’t discuss just yet.

What is it like for you, revisiting this story seven years after the novel?

What was interesting to me is that I started off being fairly faithful to the original material, but over time I abandoned trying to replicate dialogue or trying to mimic certain scenes exactly. We’d set up things in the previous miniseries that were now a part of the fabric of this series. With both Joe Golem and Baltimore, I see the comics and the novels as separate continuities. 

You mentioned Baltimore, an earlier collaboration with Mike Mignola; you’ve also worked with him on a number of Hellboy-related projects. What is it about the two of you that brings you back to work together so often?

We’re incredibly different people in a lot of ways, but we share a lot of the same frame of reference, particularly in a love of folklore and certain kinds of stories. Obviously Mike is an incredible storyteller and I’ve always admired his story sensibilities. I have a strong sense of plot, of story logic, character motivations, what makes things tick, but Mike brings a sense of wild creativity to every project that is incredibly freeing. He reminds me that not everything needs an explanation — sometimes it’s just eerie and beautiful or sorrowful and damned, and sometimes you can just let those things speak for themselves. It’s a nice balance.

While you’re adapting your prose to comics, you’re also still producing new prose works; The Pandora Room, your second Ben Walker book just came out a couple of months back, and the third is due next year. Like Simon Church from the Joe Golem series, Walker is very invested in making sense of weird shit, as he puts it, and the two series share mythological influences. Is this your way of telling us that you’re an actual writing monster merely pretending to be a human? It would, at least, make sense of your high level of output.

Making sense of weird shit could be the job description for almost every protagonist I’ve ever written—and maybe my job description as well. I’m going to put that on my business card now.

The Pandora Room starts off with the discovery of what many believe to be the Pandora’s Box of myth, but it seems the myth was more complicated than that. It might contain all the blessings of the ancient world, or all of its curses. With that kind of potential promise, or danger, everyone from governments to terrorists wants to claim it for themselves, but what’s inside is more insidious than even they can imagine, and it’s up to Ben Walker to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

I am definitely a writing monster, but that’s a metamorphic side effect of having been a freelancer for the last twenty-seven years. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the career I’ve built thus far, but I feel like it’s all just been preamble to the place I’m in right now. There are grand plans afoot. As for output… that’s the result of having a brain that will not stop coming up with weird story ideas (I’ve been known to give them away just so I can scratch them off my list of things to do) and having a mortgage and a family to take care of. But even if I didn’t have those responsibilities, I’m not sure I’d be able to quiet the voice in my head that says “Wouldn’t it be cool if…."

Speaking of adaptation… The Ben Walker books are being adapted for television, and you’re writing the pilot. Is this your first TV work?

I’ve adapted books of mine in the past for film, and once for television, though none of those projects made it over the finish line. The difference with Ben Walker is that this time I’m writing the bible and the pilot and actively working as Executive Producer on the project. So often, studios and producers want nothing to do with the author of the underlying material, I think because they’re afraid the author is going to be too married to the book. I tend to surprise people. I’m often the first to suggest significant changes. Fidelity to the book is not nearly as important as the final product being something that is both hugely entertaining and can stand up on its own logic. AGC has been incredibly supportive as we’ve gone through the process of figuring out the best way to approach this series.

Getting back to Joe Golem before people have a chance to see the preview: What would you tell newcomers to Joe Golem to convince them to try out the new series? Is there one fact that acts as the perfect tease for those still unsure?

The perfect tease? How about this? You can absolutely jump on with The Conjurors and enjoy this insane ride to our finish. Along the way, you’ll be introduced to some new concepts and characters that lay the groundwork for major future projects from Mike Mignola, Dark Horse, and me… and this is the first time I’ve mentioned it anywhere. So jump on board, because this is the end, and the beginning of something much bigger than anything we’ve done so far!

Joe Golem: Occult Detective — The Conjurors No. 1 will be released in comic book stores and digitally May 15.