Being held at gunpoint in a case of mistaken identity; saving a woman from being brutally attacked; spending the night in an Ohio penitentiary; enduring poverty; living in John Wayne’s apartment in Times Square; lecturing at Cambridge and the White House.
This events sound like something that would spring from the fertile imagination of award-winning writer Jim Krueger, author of comic book epics that include Marvel’s Earth X and Avengers/Invaders, DC Comics’ Justice, Dynamite Entertainment’s Project: Superpowers.
“I’ve decided to spend my life telling stories and have gotten to live one,” said Krueger, of Los Angeles, who won’t reveal his age. If he did, he’d lie since “this is L.A.”
Growing up in West Allis, WI, Krueger’s father was an auto-mechanic. When he went on service calls, Krueger, who was then 6, joined him.
“He’d turn the lights on top of the truck on – it’d be really cool. I’d climb in and there, waiting for me, would be a stack of comics. My payment for going on the job with him,” explained Krueger.
Little did he know, those comics – Captain America, Machine Man, X-Men, Logan’s Run, Manhunter, Daredevil, Captain Britain, Swamp Thing, Fantastic Four – would inspire him so much that one day he’d be chronicling many of these characters. He considers creators Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Frank Miller, among others, to be great influences on his work.
“It was really an exciting time to read comics,” he recalled. “It’s sort of all about the writer for me and who I looked at when I was young. Those initial images are extremely primal and formative.”
Upon graduation, Krueger worked as a copywriter in Madison, WI. One night, three men broke into his apartment, looking for drugs, mistaking him for someone named Bill. One man pulled a gun.
“I decided to throw myself on the mercy of God,” recalled Krueger. “I said to him, ‘Before you shoot me, Jesus loves you.’ He said, ‘Oh, (expletive),’ and ran out the front lobby.”
Krueger then ran down the hall, pounding on doors, until a neighbor let him in to call 911. The two men fled before the police arrived. .
“The only thing they took was my briefcase because it was locked. It was found later that night... The locks were broken... I felt bad for them because they didn’t find drugs or money, just comic book sketches, all my story ideas – I’m not even a good artist,” he said. “It was like my life was restored. I faced death in a weird way and what was returned to me was my work.”
Two months later, outside his home, a man forced himself on a woman.
“I went out and made lots of noise, rushed towards the car, and he backed away,” said Krueger. “She covered up and drove away.”
Krueger eventually moved to New York, doing advertising for Marvel Comics. Passing through Ohio one night, he was pulled over for speeding. He learned his then-wife also got a speeding ticket driving through Ohio, using his car. As a result, unbeknownst to Krueger, his license was suspended and he was arrested – on his birthday, no less.
“I was wowed and overwhelmed by it,” recalled Krueger. “The cop said, ‘We’re not like you New Yorkers who have holding cells in a sheriff’s office; we have a penitentiary.’”
Krueger had his own cell, thankfully, and his father eventually bailed him out.
“In the holding area, there was a Saved By The Bell marathon. I wondered if I died and this was some kind of Twilight Zone purgatory,” he recalled, laughing. “That night was awesome.”
Krueger met frequent collaborator, Alex Ross, a renowned painter/illustrator Alex Ross, whose photorealistic Norman Rockwell-esque style has earned him critical and commercial success, at a convention.
“We immediately became friends… bonded on all things Jack Kirby,” said Krueger.
Ross painted DC’s Kingdom Come, a dystopian future where Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and many heroes have become hardened. Wizard Magazine asked Ross to conceive the dystopian future for Marvel’s heroes – Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, etc. Ross provided sketches with Krueger writing the copy.
“Earth X was never supposed to be a project. I had been writing these alternative origins of certain Marvel heroes for a magazine called Marvel Vision. Alex loved my write-ups,” he said. “So when Wizard asked Alex to do to Marvel what he did with DC in Kingdom Come, Alex called me up to write similar alternate futures for the characters.”
Earth X was so successful that it spawned two sequels, Paradise X and Universe X, also by Krueger and Ross. Krueger even spoke about Earth X at the White House in 2004 for its “Arts and Faith” program.
“Earth X was like a study in ethics – is there right or wrong? I spoke to senators and aides about what I was writing and where I saw humanity going,” said Krueger. “It was really fascinating and exciting.”
Alongside Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and leading New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, Krueger was a keynote speaker at Cambridge for “The Book of Ecclesiastes and Pop Culture” seminar in 2004.
“Earth X was a superhero take on The Book of Ecclesiastes, so they called me up and flew me out,” he said.
Krueger and Ross next collaborated on Justice for DC, featuring the well-known versions of Superman, Batman, et al., seen on the Super-Friends cartoon in the 1970s. Although they disagreed with DC regarding story, in the end, “DC just kind of let us do what we wanted.”
Currently, they’re working on Project: Superpowers and Avengers/Invaders. Superpowers reintroduces characters not seen in decades.
“(Editor Nick Barrucci) and Alex are really the architects of how this series has come together… That said, I’ve certainly been given a lot of freedom to make Superpowers my own,” explained Krueger. “I’m continually trying to make the action sequences as over-the-top as possible – and that’s really fun. There’s a giant storyline at play here. The first volume was a prelude to (the second volume)…We’re folding an entire continuity out into the world. And that’s giant.”
Avengers/Invaders pairs the Avengers – a team of heroes that includes Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man – with the Invaders, Captain America’s World War II teammates. For Krueger, the challenge was making sure the storylines of Spider-Man and Iron Man, appearing in their own titles, matched this project's continuity.
Additionally, Krueger has several projects coming out this year, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, and some creator-owned projects he can’t tak about.
An admitted “Buffy geek,” Krueger will be penning Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy #24 of what is creator Joss Whedon’s canonical Season 8, picking up where the TV series of the same name, which ran from 1997-2003, left off.
Krueger’s story centers around Faith (played by Eliza Dushku in the series) and Giles (played by Anthony Stewart Head in the Series) and their new status quo.
“Basically, there’s a paradigm shift in the world. It’s now acceptable to be a vampire… it’s now cool to be vampire. Now the world has come to embrace them as something special as long as a vampire doesn’t feed upon you completely. As a result, now the Slayers are no longer appreciated, they’re seen as the bad guys because they’ve been attacking these people for all this time,” explained Krueger, referring to Harmony (played by Mercedes McNabb) who made the vampires’ presence to the world known in Buffy #22, where she got her own reality TV show. Harmony also outed the Slayers on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s 360.°
Further, to keep up with this, Dark Horse created a MySpace page for Harmony. On Dark Horse’s MySpace page, there was an episode of Harmonic Divergence that was written by Jane Espenson, who wrote for the TV series (how this fits into continuity with Harmony’s role on the fifth and final season of Angel, the Buffy spin-off, has yet to be revealed).
“Because of that, many of the Slayers are on the run and are in hiding. The status of Faith and Giles at the end of the Brian K. Vaughn was this: Faith and Giles are now going to help other Slayers find their way, train them, do whatever needs to be done to help them to be Slayers,” explained Krueger. “In the midst of all this, they find a girl who screws up her first slay and she’s on the run from a vampire. They rescue her, of course, and kill the vampire. Then they discover from her she was on her way to a place they call Sanctuary. It’s a place where many of the Slayers are going to hide out. Faith and Giles go to this place. But when you go to a place of safety, it’s never safety you find there… Anything more than that, I probably shouldn’t say.”
Asked where he gets his ideas, he answered, “Everything in my life has helped me. Everything. So far, I’ve been held at gunpoint by someone who thought I was someone else, spent a night in an Ohio Penitentiary, stopped a rape, lectured at the White House, been betrayed terribly by family, gone through poverty and lost everything, been a keynote speaker with the Bishop of Canterbury at Cambridge, lived a couple years in John Wayne’s apartment in Times Square. And more. I’m grateful. For all of it. The good and the bad in the end, it’s all good.”