Joshua Jabcuga: When Joe R. Lansdale gives you advice, you listen!

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Joshua Jabcuga 5 – Courtesy of his blogspot

At 1428 Elm, we were fortunate enough to sit down with Joshua Jabcuga, the writer of the upcoming comic book series Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.  Based on Joe R. Lansdale’s prequel novel to the cult favorite Bubba Ho-Tep, issue one will be available this week!

“Always the questions. Never the answers.  Always the hopes… never the fulfillments.” – Elvis

Before the Shady Rest

One of our favorite movies at 1428 Elm is Bubba Ho-Tep. The 2002 classic starring Bruce Campbell is a cult favorite and holds a special place in our hearts. So, you can imagine how psyched we were about Joe R. Lansdale’s prequel novel, Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.

Before his gig in the Shady Rest Retirement Home fighting big bitch cockroaches and a soul sucking Egyptian mummy, Elvis was tapped by President Nixon to deal with an alien threat. Did the King use his mojo to triumph over these unwanted extraterrestrials?

We’re about to find out! This week, issue one of the IDW comic book series based on Lansdale’s book is available for sale. Of course, we jumped at the chance to chat with the writer of that endeavor, Joshua Jabcuga.

Join us as we find out about his literary heroes, what it was like collaborating with one of the most creative writers around and what’s on his horizon in the future.

The Interview

Prequel to Destiny

Prequel to Destiny – The Mummy- The Rise and Fall of Xango’s Ax – Courtesy of Reed Comics

1428 Elm: You have written pieces for BlastOff, Kevin Smith’s MoviePoopShoot site and Doomed magazine among others. In the past you have written 2 comic book miniseries for IDW, Scarface: The Devil in Disguise and the Mummy: The Rise and Fall of Xango’s Ax. Who were your literary influences?

 Joshua Jabcuga: I was fortunate to have the late Jack Ketchum as a mentor for many years. He will always be an influence on my work to some degree. Other influences include Robert Bloch (who wrote the novel Psycho, and mentored Jack Ketchum), Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Garth Ennis, Tom Piccirilli, David J. Schow, and of course, Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale.

1428 Elm: What started you on the path to being a writer?

 JJ: An overactive imagination paired with the desire to create. When I was a child, my parents fed me a steady diet of what I would consider the classics: The Twilight Zone, Max Fleischer Superman cartoons and Twain’s Tom Sawyer.

Both the 1933 and 1976 versions of King Kong (I loved them equally as a kid), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Star Wars, Ghostbusters and Gremlins. As well as the First Blood movies, Terminator, WWF pro wrestling and Marvel Comics.

Birth of a Storyteller

JJ (Cont.): The stories and the characters enthralled me. I couldn’t get enough of them so I’d spend hours creating my own, drawing primitive comic books on construction paper, or playing outside pretending I was Rambo, or Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe.

My parents were very supportive. My mom would kill time at the supermarket while I sat on the floor of the magazine aisle reading the comics, before moving onto the paperbacks. Or they’d take me to the movies, a lot. When I was a teenager, my sister Jennifer would buy me notebooks to write stories in. From there, I never looked back.

I pursued my love for comic book storytelling at IDW Publishing, first doing an adaptation of—coincidentally—a Robert Bloch short story in Doomed magazine. Then I was asked to write the official comic book miniseries prequel to the Scarface movie.

I kept going down my pulpy path with the comic book tie-in to Universal Studios’ blockbuster franchise, The Mummy. And that, in a round and about way, landed me to where I am today, squarely in Bubba Ho-Tep & the Cosmic Blood-Suckers territory.

Who Says Don’t Meet Your Heroes?

Who Says Don’t Meet Your Heroes – Joe Lansdale -Courtesy of Photo by Ulf Andersen-Getty Images

 1428 Elm: How did you meet Joe Lansdale?

JJ: Through his stories. That’s not a trick answer, it’s just that Joe is such a prolific writer, and has worked in every medium with great success: novels, comics, animation, film, magazines—have I left any out? So, I was seeing Joe’s work when I was young, first time would have been in high school, years before I would be writing professionally.

I believe I was initially exposed to Joe’s work while watching one of his episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. That’s a seminal show, and Joe’s episodes are often cited by television critics as some of the very best written.

1428 Elm: Were you a fan of Bubba Ho-Tep and Elvis?

Bruce Campbell as Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep Courtesy of ‎Silver Sphere Corporation

JJ: Absolutely. I loved Joe’s short story when I read it many years ago. As you’re aware, it was later adapted into the cult classic Don Coscarelli film, which I find charming, funny, and very bittersweet in equal measures.

And Bruce Campbell as Elvis! In some alternate dimension where life makes a little more sense and is fair, I imagine Bruce won the Academy Award for that performance. There’s magic in that movie.

Plenty of reasons why it has a rabid following all these years later and gains new fans all the time. It’s so original, there’s really nothing to compare it to.

Dreams Do Come True

Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers – Issue 1 – Courtesy of Josh Jabcuga and IDW

 1428 Elm: How did your collaboration with Joe come about?

JJ: It’s all thanks to Chris Ryall, who was in charge of running things at IDW Comics at the time and had been for 14 years (Ryall has since joined Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment, which is a part of Image Comics). Chris originally gave me my first break at filmmaker/podcaster Kevin Smith’s pop culture-based Web site when I was finishing my masters degree, around 2003, 2004.

I was writing a weekly column over there, interviewing authors, filmmakers, doing concert reviews, even covering mixed martial arts sporting events like the UFC—trying to make connections and get my name out there.

Fast-forward to April of 2017. I heard that Joe had just completed a novel that told the prequel story of Bubba/Elvis. I heard three words: Lansdale. Bubba. Prequel.

I emailed Chris Ryall right away and said, “Joe Lansdale is publishing a new novel about Bubba! This would make one helluva comic book series.” This was just me talking to Chris, as one admirer of Lansdale’s work to another, one who would love to see a Bubba comic book.

Joe had his own projects over at IDW in the past. Chris agreed whole-heartedly about the potential of a Bubba comic book series, and he commented that he had been looking to do more projects with Joe.

A few days after contacting Chris, I was sent an advance copy of the manuscript. With it, Chris told me to get to work on handling the comic book adaptation of the novel for IDW. Chris was a huge champion of the Bubba comic, and I’m grateful to him for this opportunity.

  The Work Begins

Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers – Issue 1A – Courtesy of Josh Jabcuga and IDW

 1428 Elm: Since his novel was the source material for this comic book series were there any changes to the characters or story line for this particular medium?

 JJ: Did you ever see a movie that was based on a book, and when the credits roll someone mutters, “The book was so much better than this movie! Why didn’t they just film what the author put on the page?”

There’s an infamous example involving F. Paul Wilson’s novel The Keep, which was turned into a movie by director Michael Mann. The Keep is a killer book, and while Michael Mann has done some remarkable things in Hollywood, his adaptation of The Keep isn’t one of them.

Mann strayed so far from the source material that it’s damn near criminal, and certainly unrecognizable. Like, if you weren’t going to attempt to film what the writer put on the page, why even bother? In my mind, it’s like false advertising.

Comics can be an endlessly inventive medium, but there are things you can do in a novel that might not translate directly, or work as well in a comic book, and vice versa. But if ever there was a novel and a cast of characters that screamed out to be turned into a comic book, it’s Joe R. Lansdale’s Bubba & The Cosmic Blood-Suckers.

 100% USDA Certified Lean

Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers- Issue 1B – Courtesy of Josh Jabcuga and IDW

JJ (Cont.): The novel is 100% Grade A, uncut, unfiltered Joe R. Lansdale. And there would be no comic book series without Joe or his novel. He’s the creator of the story and the characters you’ll see in the comic.

Sure, I wrote the scripts for the comic book series myself, but they were taken right from Joe’s novel. So, when I approached the comic book adaptation of Joe’s novel, my goal was to be as faithful to the source material as possible. Joe is one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

Tadd and I are trying to capture that with the comic book experience. Joe has been so generous and gracious throughout the whole process.

Right from the very beginning, Joe reached out to me and said I could hit him up if I had any questions. I cannot even begin to tell you how much respect I have for him as a writer and as a person.