N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell’s Far Sector is one of the most acclaimed comic books of the past five years. Winner of the 2022 Hugo Award for comics and nominated for three Eisners and a GLAAD Media Award, the miniseries is also beloved by fans for its star—the Black, queer, justice-seeking onetime cop named Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. Since the end of Far Sector in 2021, Jo’s made her way back from the City Enduring to join with her fellow Green Lanterns in protecting the rest of the universe, but for fans who first discovered her in Jemisin and Campbell’s miniseries, the question of whether the blockbuster creative team might ever return to her has remained…until the announcement of this year’s DC Power comic.
The yearly Black History Month anthology, which lands in stores today, kicks off with “Enduring Farewells,” the first new Far Sector comic we’ve gotten since Jo managed to stop a coup that threatened to tear the city apart. As the title suggests, the short story serves as something of a farewell to Far Sector’s world (it’s meant to be read after reading the full series), as Jo prepares to leave the City Enduring at the end of her twelve-month assignment.
Far Sector’s surprise return, even if it’s just briefly, is pretty big news for Jo Mullein fans, so we thought see if we could find out how it all came together. Fortunately, Jemisin made that pretty easy by agreeing to chat with us.
Let’s just start with the obvious one. How did this new Far Sector story come together?
Basically, I got asked to do it and I hadn't had a chance to finish Far Sector in my head. Far Sector was one run of what I had intended to be a fairly lengthy comic. I'd always planned more stories in the City Enduring—you don't put all the effort into building a whole world if you're just going to tell one story in it—but that was all dependent on whether Far Sector got renewed and turned into a long-running thing and that did not happen. So, I let those stories go, but what it meant was that I never really got a chance to say farewell to the characters that I built and the part of that world I had managed to invest in. I really wanted a chance to do that and it was fun to do. And I got a chance to work with Jamal again, which is always a delight. Just seeing him translate my words into these visuals that I can't even imagine is always wonderful.
So, was Jamal Campbell always onboard as well? I know he’s been drawing Superman, so squeezing in a Far Sector story probably wasn’t easy.
I asked if I could do it with him, and it was a little touch and go for a while because he's so busy. But it turns out that he was able and apparently willing. Apparently, he enjoys drawing Jo and all of the Far Sector characters. He was willing to be on board and at that point I was like, all right, I’ve got to come up with a story that's worthy of that.
You’ve obviously written for a large variety of mediums. I’m not sure if you’ve written a comic short before, but sometimes they can be challenging, just with how brief they are. Were there any unexpected speed bumps you ran into or things you found yourself struggling with as you wrote the story?
Primarily the B-plot, which was silliness. I'm never great at humor, but I wanted the B-plot in this case to be just straight-up dumb because I meant for “Enduring Farewells” to be a bitter and sweet story. Bitter because Jo was saying farewell to people that she loved, people that she'd fought for, characters that theoretically the readers would have developed some love for. Any farewell story needs to be balanced by something lighter hearted, I think. And I knew going into it that there was going to be a lot of heavy emotion with the A-plot. So, I wanted the B-plot to be where the characters of this emotionless, far-futuristic world who don't do things called surprise parties were trying to figure out this quaint human custom and pull it off without disaster and failing miserably. I thought that would be fun. I'm never great at humor, but I think I managed to pull it off.
How easy was it to slip back into the world? It’s not a simple one, and so many characters return and make an appearance in this story. Did it take a little work on your end to find those characters’ voices again?
A little. It hasn't been all that long, so that helped. The other piece of it is that the character work in Far Sector I'm actually kind of proud of, and so it meant something that I was able to bring back each character and have them just have a moment of being who they were. That was actually a lot of fun. I think the only real difficulty I had was I was trying to throw in a very subtle character interaction between Syzn and Marth—both of Jo's love interests over the course of the story. And I had initially meant for it to hint at a thing that I would've pursued further in the story, which is that Marth and Syzn would've agreed ultimately to share Jo. And Jo would've had some things to say about that!
But they both love her. They both wanted to take care of her. They were having a bit of jealousy with each other over the course of the story, but I wanted to hint at, okay, they're both reasonable people. They're both good people coming from a society that prides itself on rationality and not emotion. So, they would've eventually come up with what they would've perceived as a rational decision, which Jo in her emotional earthiness would have been like, "Are you insane?!"
But I didn't get that far, so I just wanted to hint at it. That's a difficult thing to pull off in a short story. Long is easier for me. It's always been easier.
“Enduring Farewells” also features John Stewart. Did you enjoy getting a chance to write an established DC character? You didn’t get to do that in Far Sector.
See, the problem is that I can't keep up with DC's continuity. There's just too much. It keeps changing. People keep dying and coming back to life. I know that's just comic books, but the reason that I agreed to do Far Sector in the first place was because I didn't want to deal with the continuity. They were like, "Oh yeah, you can create your own world if you don't mind doing that." And I'm like, "I would rather create an entire planet from scratch than try to understand all of this stuff that's going on in the background."
More power to DC fans for being able to keep up with that, but I just can't. It was fun to work with John Stewart, though, because John Stewart was the only Green Lantern that I was even familiar with before I started Far Sector. I had not been into superhero comics at all. I had seen commercials for the Green Lantern movie, and the whole time that I saw those commercials I was like, what's with this white dude? And belatedly I realized, oh gee, he's important. But I had seen Justice League and it's all John Stewart.
So anyway, it was fun to work with who I thought of as the real Green Lantern. But really the fun part of that was that Jo is a screaming fangirl. She manages to be more confident and cool about it over the course of this story, but I wanted it to be clear that she would have squeed and fangirled at him if she hadn't managed to get a hold of herself.
John is there to bring Jo into the Green Lantern Corps proper. Do you think she’s ready for that challenge? It seems like working outside of the Corps really brought out some amazing things in her.
Well, I would've wanted to keep her as the lone gunman, the sheriff on the frontier, if I had continued writing it. She did get pulled into the main continuity and end up being written for a while by Geoffrey Thorne. So, effectively this story is a prequel to that and I think that readers will enjoy it for that. As for whether she worked out in the main continuity in her interactions with other lanterns, that's up to the people who read that run. I'll leave it to them.
For all the Batman, Superman and Flash comics that DC publishes, writers introduce new characters within the DC Universe all the time (one of our DC.com writers has even started a recurring feature where he lists off his favorites each year). However, very few of them seem to take root and grow beyond their initial storyline. Jo Mullein has. What is it about her that you think really speaks to people and why do you think it’s so hard to create characters that can resonate as much as DC’s classic heroes?
I can't speak to the last half of your question because I don't normally read a lot of DC comics and I don't know who resonates and why. I will say that when I started working on Far Sector, I had a couple of opportunities to take it into Black Label as a graphic novel, but I chose not to. I wanted her to come out in floppies, because I know enough about the comics world to know that if she doesn't appear in the monthlies, then it doesn't feel real to a lot of fans.
I probably would've made more money if we'd done it via Black Label, but Jo I don't think would have resonated and felt real—like a real Green Lantern to people—because I've seen what happens when they bring out Lanterns [outside continuity] and the readers just don't accept it. I don't get it, but I know that that's a thing that happens. So, I intentionally wanted her to be released in such a form that she would be taken up by other writers and loved by readers beyond Far Sector. And I'm glad that that seems to have worked out.