Category Archives: Interviews

Alejandro Arbona Takes Us in To Tomorrow with Doctor Tomorrow

Doctor Tomorrow #1

Bart Simms is has met the Valiant, Universe’s greatest hero… himself! Doctor Tomorrow is Valiant‘s newest superhero and one aimed at a younger “all-ages” crowd.

Writer Alejandro Arbona and artist Jim Towe have crafted this time travel adventure.

We got a chance to talk to Arbona about writing Valiant’s all-ages comic and what it’s like writing “pretty much every” Valiant character in the miniseries.

Graphic Policy: How are you doing? 

Alejandro Arbona: Ehh! You know. I’m doing well, thanks; lucky enough to be healthy and employed, although the neverending anxiety and constant nightmares are getting a little old. But I’m excited for people to finish reading Doctor Tomorrow!

GP: With this being a spoiler-filled interview, let’s just dive in. How did you find writing three versions of the same character in the book? Did it require any particular planning or did you look at them as three distinct characters with the same name?

AA: It’s a little of both. Obviously the entire story is predicated on the multiple Barts being virtually the same person, at different ages, and the inevitability of each of them aging into becoming the next one in the cycle, or our Bart being the one to break that cycle. At the same time, it was fun to write them as if Bart was meeting his long-lost dad and his grandpa, and discovering their legacy that he’s going to inherit. And in that case, the idea of the cycle, and breaking the cycle, still applies. It’s a literal story about Bart becoming the hero that the story needs him to be, but it’s also just a metaphorical story about growing up.

GP: Whenever time travel is involved in a story, there’s always the chance of creating more plot holes and redos than you intend; how do you plan to avoid those while keeping the story engaging?

AA: Ah, but if you read carefully, there isn’t actually that much time travel in the story. The only significant bit of time travel is the warning from the future, courtesy of Neela’s computer in issue #1. Doctor Tomorrow and Hadrian are older than our Bart because they come from universes that got a head start on ours, and they just made a sideways hop across dimensions to get over here. But to really answer your question, we made it pretty clear in the story from page one that the stakes are real. There’s no reset button and no undo/redo and no control-Z. Even when you’re hopping around across parallel universes, you only get one shot at living your life.

Doctor Tomorrow #3

GP: Looking back at the earlier issues after the revelation in the third, you can see the groundwork being laid for Bart’s evil turn that I’m sure most of us missed the first time through. How much planning did you put into creating a comic that gives a different experience with each reading?

AA: We have the outline process to thank for that. By planning out the story with several drafts of outlines and beat sheets, I knew what all the payoffs would be, and how to set them up. But most importantly, the real trick was figuring out how to hint at Doctor Tomorrow’s true character, without telegraphing the reveal. Right from the beginning he’s brash and arrogant, and he jumps to conclusions but frequently gets those conclusions wrong. The reader doesn’t really notice anything off about him, because those qualities are so common in superhero characters, and he seems like just another textbook superhero type. And the fact that he’s so quick to anger, and so quick to jump into a fight, pays off when we find out he’s a bad guy, because we’ve already seen those qualities in the young Bart, and we’re afraid he’s doomed to turn out the same way.

GP: The growing up/training montage in Doctor Tomorrow #4 was brilliant. How much guidance did you need to give Jim Towe when writing those pages?

AA: I’m so happy that worked out! It was definitely an experiment, and it was entirely on Jim to pull it off. My hesitation about the montage, even though I was the one who wrote it, was that it wouldn’t work in comics because a montage is an audiovisual technique, with a strong emphasis on the “audio” of it. Montages work in movies and TV because you have music shepherding you through all the jumps in time, and that’s just impossible in comics, obviously. All I asked Jim to do was a tight six-panel grid, and I kept it all dialogue-free, hoping readers would get the vibe. One brilliant touch that Jim added was to break the grid with only the first and last panels of each page, so it feels a bit like a fade-in and a fade-out through time. Alternately, I think the complete opposite would also have worked, no panel borders at all, just everything in a splash page with only elements of the visual composition distinguishing one moment from another. But probably nothing in between would be as effective, I’m guessing.

GP: Did you ever think when you first joined Valiant you’d be writing their first in continuity all ages book?

AA: The all-ages of it was more about taking advantage of the opportunity, more than it was done by design. Valiant and I agreed that we wanted to tell a story about an aspirational superhero, a paragon of goodness. That’s a kind of story I wanted to write and a kind of story they wanted to publish. And then the specific idea that I happened to pitch them came with a teen protagonist. Then we kind of all arrived together at the all-ages approach because everything was already there in the mix. The approach for me was to write something that was truly all-ages, to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, not all-ages as a code word meaning “only for kids.” This is all-ages the way that Spider-Man and Superman are supposed to be all-ages. The label’s just there to reassure you that you can share your copy with your kid and you can both read it.

GP: If the book wasn’t all-ages, would you have changed anything about it?

AA: Not at all. We did have a little push-and-pull with Valiant where I have more permissive standards about how much swearing is okay for kids…but I’m the first one to admit I swear too much! In terms of content, storytelling choices, etc., there were no disagreements and no compromises.

GP: You’ve written pretty much every Valiant character in this miniseries alone, but is there any you’d like to explore further?

AA: I could rattle off my wish list of Valiant characters, but that would be poor form. Though I will tell you this, people have asked me what Rex the Razer is doing in those battle scenes, when he’s supposed to live in the Deadside, and I do have the story that answers that question! I’d also love to tell a story about what happens next for Neela and her incredible time computer. And of course, Doctor Tomorrow II, the continuing adventures of Bart as a superhero in the Valiant Universe.

GP: With this being a book with time travel, I feel I should ask; if you could go back to any time, when would you go and why?

AA: Honestly, I wouldn’t. Even with COVID-19 and all the disasters we’re going through, right here and now is the best time to be. Any given moment in the past wouldn’t have the internet, or electricity, or indoor plumbing. If anything, I might like to visit the future, when hopefully things are better for all of us. But I’d like to believe I’ll see it anyway, just by living.

GP: Thanks for your time!

AA: Thank you for having me! I really appreciate it.

Marc Laming talks about Bloodshot and How it Differs from His Previous Work

Bloodshot #7 Fully Loaded Edition

Bloodshot #7 kicks off an action-packed story that basically unleashes hell on Earth as Bloodshot must hunt down monsters, living weapons, and other threats after they’re set loose from a top-secret facility. Written by Tim Seeley, Bloodshot #7 features pencils and inks by Marc Laming and he’ll provide the same for Bloodshot #9, the final chapter of the storyline. A new “Fully Loaded Edition” is on sale August 12 and features 8 bonus pages of content including an interview with co-creator Kevin VanHook.

Marc Laming is a British born artist who has worked on a plethora of characters ranging from Judge Dredd to the Incredible Hulk over a career spanning three decades.

We got a chance to ask Marc a few questions via email about his work on Bloodshot #7 and #9.

Graphic Policy: Hi Marc! How’s tricks?

Marc Laming: Good thank you, I’m keeping good and busy during these difficult times.

GP: With Bloodshot, you’re both pencilling and inking the book. Do you approach the art differently when doing both verses when just penciling?

ML: I haven’t just pencilled a book since the early 2000s when I was working for DC/Vertigo. Since then the market has tended to prefer hiring artists that are self-contained units and I had to learn really quickly to ink my own work so I was happy with the results.

GP: You’ve drawn a large variety of characters over your career. How does drawing Bloodshot differ from others you’ve drawn?

ML: Bloodshot gives you the opportunity to draw so many different things! It covers the obvious action and adventure but there are sci-fi elements across all of the Valiant universe that make it loads of fun and Bloodshot being a very different kind of hero allows for quiet more personal moments too.

GP: Can you take us through your process when you take on a new character?

ML: The writer’s script and the story’s requirements come first and then it is a question of deciding if they are larger than life or something more real world based. Then it is just a question of doing some research based on the script and starting to draw character sheets in my sketch books and on the Cintiq until we are all happy with the look of the new character.

GP: We’ve seen with other artists and publishers that a film can influence the look of a character or comic. Has that factored in at all?

ML: It depends on the project but on Bloodshot I was taking much more inspiration from the incredible work done on the series by artists such as Lewis Larosa, Brett Booth, Paolo Rivera and Dougie Braithwaite than I did on the movie spectacular as it is. 

GP: With Bloodshot #7, you were able to add a lot of nuance to an action packed story by way of Bloodshot and Eidolin’s expressions and body language. I might have forgotten my question… Oh – when it comes to the visual storytelling, do you prefer the subtle moments or the big bombastic ones? 

ML: I like them both but those quiet more tender moments really allow you to put all the emphasis on character and acting in the drawing.

GP: When it comes to drawing locations you may or may not have visited, do you use a lot of visual reference or just kinda wing it?

ML: I use probably much more reference than I really need – In issue nine for example all the buildings and streets in the Russian city are real and you could visit them if you went there. The same of course is true of the London locations including the sewers which were fully researched too!

GP: You’ve worked on Ninjak (with Eternal Warrior) and Archer & Armstrong in the past; what other Valiant character would you like to get your hands on?

ML: I’d love to do a historical Eternal Warrior story and I love the characters from Divinity so any of those would be great to work on in future, oh and Livewire.

GP: What have you got in store for us in the near future after Bloodshot #9? Anything that you can tell us?

ML: I’m currently working on a large graphic novel but that’s all I can say about that right now, but I’m sure I will be shouting about it on my social media soon.

GP: Thank you very much for your time!

Check out an early look at Bloodshot #9!

Writer Ken Janssens Talks His Hindsight

After a violent encounter at the Chicago Coin Convention, awkward scientist Vincent D’Angelo makes a quick, but far, retreat. Really far, all the way back to the end of the nineteenth century! But for a man who has invented a way to travel through time, he will have to race against it to make it to the most important event of his life.

Hindsight is a new comic series out from writer Ken Janssens and published by Heavy Metal’s Virus imprint.

We got a chance to chat with Janssens about the series and what’s it like to writer for comics, film, television, and novels.

You can get your copy now! https://shop.heavymetal.com/collections/virus/products/hindsight-1

Exclusive: Ethan Sacks, Anthony Breznican, and Jeff Edwards Talk “A Dangerous Lesson” from the Maybe Someday Anthology

Maybe Someday

Through June, A Wave Blue World has been running a Kickstarter for its latest anthology, Maybe Someday: Stories of Promise, Visions of Hope. The graphic novel anthology is a sequel to All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World which received a Ringo Award nomination for “best anthology.” The anthology features twenty-five stories to lift the spirits of readers and instill the hope of a brighter future. You can find out more about the contributors at the link to the Kickstarter above or here.

We got a chance to talk to three contributors Ethan Sacks, Anthony Breznican, and Jeff Edwards about their contribution “A Dangerous Lesson” which features colors by Andy Poole.

The Kickstarter runs until July 2 at 5pm ET.

Graphic Policy: Ethan and Anthony, you both have backgrounds in journalism as well as other forms of media. Tell us a little more about that and how it led you into writing for comics.

Ethan Sacks: For nearly twenty years, I covered the “geek beat” at the New York Daily News, including comics and over that time I became pretty close friends with Marvel’s Joe Quesada. I ended up pitching him an idea for a story about Greedo. Yes, Greedo. Oddly, he loved it so much, he brought me to then EIC Axel Alonso, and the rest is history. But even though I ended up being a 43-year-old rookie, a lot of skills I learned in journalism helped me get up to speed — sticking to deadlines, an ear for dialogue, and working with editors.

Anthony Breznican: I covered the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years for USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, and had been on the set of so many of those movies, all the Avengers and Captain America films, Black Panther. I always loved the comics that inspired them, but that work immersed me in them in a new way. A comic plays like a movie in the mind, and they can bring such hopefulness and strength and escape to readers. I had previously published a novel and some short stories but had never tackled a graphic novel. It’s much more of a team effort, and Ethan was kind enough to invite me aboard as a rookie to be part of Maybe Someday and the story that would become “A Dangerous Lesson.”

Maybe Someday

GP: Was your story for the “Maybe Someday” anthology the first time you had worked together? How did that go?

ES: Anthony is not only a friend, but someone who I’ve looked up to as a journalist since the days I was covering entertainment for the Daily News. I wouldn’t call him a peer, because that’s like a dude with a guitar in a coffee shop comparing himself to Bruce Springsteen. But we gelled really well on this project, our first (and hopefully not last) collaboration. We used a shared google doc to trade ideas and did a skype summit with Jeff, too. There was no issue melding all our ideas in one story. Just a blast collaborating.

AB: Ethan is exaggerating here. I’m just another guy in a coffee shop, but we’ve known each other for years, and while we both followed the same trajectory in journalism, I was a lost little kid in the woods when it came to writing comics. He really guided me, showed me what needed to be done, how to think about writing for Jeff to interpret. It was Comics Writing 101 for me. It also happened at a time of upheaval in my life, so it was nice to have this fun project to work on, focusing on a glimmer of joy and possibility in the future.

GP: What were the challenges you faced writing a story that was specifically focused on positive visions of the future? Did you feel constrained by this in any way?

ES: For much of my early comic career, I’ve been living in one dystopian post-apocalyptic landscape or another (Old Man Hawkeye, Kiss Zombies), and that’s par for the course with pop culture. Heck, it’s hard not to be pessimistic when you read that Siberia has hit 100 degrees and we’re going backwards with climate change policy. But we shouldn’t forget that there is a younger generation of Gretas stepping up and fighting the good fight. I think we owe it to them to rewire our brains and get off our butts. For this story, I think we looked to where we wanted to go and wrote a path to get there.

AB: I found it a little daunting because you need some conflict to make the story interesting. A field of wildflowers is lovely and peaceful, but it’s not dramatic. So what can we put into that tranquil setting that is exciting, but doesn’t ruin it? We came up with an idea (I believe it was Ethan’s) about a world where the biggest problems we face today have been solved. But how would a society make sure its next-generation doesn’t backslide? We came up with the concept together on a conference call, then Ethan kindly let me devise some characters and subplots for an actual storyline. After that, he took my overlong story and tailored it to fit the pages and the panels we had, and added his own spin to the dialogue.

Maybe Someday

GP: Jeff, tell us more about your background as an artist and how you got involved in this project.

Jeff Edwards: Well, I have been a professional comic book illustrator for about 9 years or so.  I’ve worked on a lot of indie projects, as well as worked with some publishers, but the story of how I got involved with this project is actually a pretty interesting one. You see my first published work was in an international magazine called Film Ink.  Think of a mix between Entertainment Weekly and Wizard magazine.  My role in the project was to illustrate the answers given by Hollywood directors to a specific question, “If you could direct any superhero movie, what would it be?”  Now the only caveat was that only directors who had not yet directed a superhero movie would be a part of the interview.  And who interviewed those directors?  Ethan Sacks.  My first published project, and my first international project, was written by Ethan.  And we have been friends ever since.  We have wanted to work together in the interim years but it just never worked out, so when he asked me if I would be interested I said yeah.  It was a win-win.  I would get to tell a fun and uplifting story that gives a view of the future in a positive light through a sci-fi filter.  I mean what’s not to like!  And on top of that, I got to work with my buddy for the first time.  So yeah, it was a win-win!  I had a great time on it!

ES: I literally stumbled on Jeff at an airport on the way to San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. He was sketching and just giving the drawings to the little kids that were engrossed by his work. Just a selfless, kind, talented dude. At the time, I was the movie editor for Wizard Magazine and I just thought, I’m going to make it my business to work with this guy.

AB: This is the first I’ve worked with Jeff, and he’s like this joyful barbarian, with a big heart, big energy, and a big bushy beard. I knew his work on Transformers and Batman, and we seemed to have grown up loving the same robots, monsters, and heroes. Every page that would come through on Maybe Someday was a mindblower. He’s incredible.

Maybe Someday

GP: Did you do much to adjust your style of storytelling process to fit with the direction of the script?

JE: Well as an artist who grew up on superhero comics, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make changes to my process.  There are no capes, no superpowers, no fistfights. All of which I love!  But that wasn’t what this story was about. “A Dangerous Lesson” is about interpersonal connections and relationships. It’s about showing what might happen if we achieve the ambitious goal of a brighter, cleaner, more beautiful tomorrow.  And to be fair, I haven’t strictly stayed in the superhero genre my entire career. I have worked up stories that range from noir, horror, hard-boiled detective thrillers, to choose-your-own-adventure-style stories depicting a post-apocalyptic end of the world. So having that range served me well on this project. I wanted to focus on the person-to-person dynamics, the subtleties.  And from the beginning of the layouts stage, I was focused in that direction. I also had to change up my visual style a bit. I like to abstract, or cartoon my figures a little bit if the project is a superhero story.  I switch over into a bit more of the dynamic figure for my superhero projects. But with “A Dangerous Lesson,” I wanted to give the characters normal proportions. Which is a subtle change, but it’s there. It was actually one of the more enjoyable parts for me. I rarely get to draw a more realistic figure, I rarely get to do a non-superhero story, so the change of pace was fun!

GP: What makes this the right time for an anthology like this? Do you feel it can have a lasting effect?

ES: We’re in an era that is incredibly cynical, and it’s hard not to feel pessimistic about the state of the United States and the world. We wrote this story before the global pandemic, but it has felt like we’re hurtling towards the type of dystopian apocalyptic future that has long been predicted by comics, movies, and other pop culture. But then you see a younger generation really galvanized to march, organize, and advocate, and you start thinking maybe there’s hope we’ll get our act together. I think it is high time that we change the narrative that everything is bleak and hopeless and start doing something to make the world a little better. For us, this is just a start.

JE: Hmmm…  well, I don’t think there is a wrong time for a story that focuses on a positive future. Don’t get me wrong, I love a dark and gritty, post-apocalyptic tale!  But there is so much negativity constantly bombarding folks everyday in the real world. So I think that a story like this, an anthology with imagining the future in an uplifting way as the focus, I think it can help people today, tomorrow and always. Any time when there are folks out there who need a twenty minute break, or however long it takes to read the story, any time when folks need a break from all the negativity surrounding them, then that is the right time for a story like this.

I hope it can have a lasting effect, I really do.

AB: These guys said it. I think the hard thing right now is hopelessness. That’s where I struggle nowadays. “How are we ever going to get out of this?” I find myself much like Bill Paxton in Aliens — ”That’s it, man. Game over!” Ripley kept her eye on the future, on surviving. This story and collection shows you a better future. It’s a best case scenario, and aspirational, but perhaps it can play a hopeful song in your head: “Wouldn’t it be niiiiice …?”

Maybe Someday

GP: With everything going on in the world and how much the comics industry has had to change to adapt, are you still hopeful about the future of comics?

JE: I am hopeful yes. Actually I am more than that, I am confident about the future of comics. Let’s be clear, people have always told stories.  Always.  There are cave paintings that are thousands of years old, and they tell a variety of tales. There’s ancient paintings on walls and pottery. So we are a storytelling species. And I think that there are still a lot of folks out there who love their stories told in the comic book medium. So yes I am confident. The industry, like any other, will adapt, it will evolve and I am pretty excited to see where it goes!

ES: Comics have survived nearly a century, through the Seduction of the Innocent witch hunts of the 50s through the economic collapse of the ‘90s and beyond, and we’re still surviving. There’s no doubt that the pandemic really exposed some issues with the economics, but at the end of the day, many the highest-grossing movies in recent years have started in the four-color pages of the comics, so we’re just five to ten years ahead of much of the rest of pop culture. What annoys me is there’s so much more to this medium than superheroes and if we could get more eyeballs to see that, man what a treasure trove of visual literature is out there for the future readers.

AB: Agreed. Comics have proven their staying power. And they are the raw material, the scientific storytelling experiments that are like the research and development lab for other kinds of much more expensive TV and cinematic storytelling. As Ethan said, these are the cave paintings that contain our hopes, dreams, and sometimes nightmares. Once you visualize those things, you can wrap your mind around them.

GP: Is there anything you can share with us about upcoming projects or what to expect from you in the future?

ES: I am continuing with Marvel’s Star Wars: Bounty Hunters and I just launched a project I’m very proud of called, COVID Chronicles, for Axel Alonso’s Upshot imprint at AWA Studios. It’s first-person accounts of people on the frontlines of the global pandemic and it’s my first foray into non-fiction. I’m so proud of the work, but if I’m honest, it’s entirely buoyed by the people sharing their stories and the art of Dalibor Talajic. Anytime A Wave New World wants to work with me again, I’m there. That goes for working with Anthony and Jeff, too.

JE: For a while now I have been putting out covers, so there might be more of that in the future! I am also developing my own project, and I am extremely excited about it. I have other irons in the fire, but I can’t talk about them just yet.  But if anyone out there wants to keep up to date with my projects, the best place to go is my website or my social networks! I’m mostly on Facebook and Instagram. I have a Twitter but to be fair, it’s pretty anemic!  HA!

AB: I’ve been focused on my new work as a Los Angeles correspondent for Vanity Fair, which has been all-consuming, but is an absolute dream job. As with Maybe Someday, I find myself on one of the greatest teams ever assembled, and that gives me a lot to live up to. I like that, though. It’s a good thing to have friends and colleagues who inspire you. That’s how we live up to our better selves, and how we get to a better future like the one Maybe Someday shows us on a vast scale.

GP: Thanks so much and can’t wait to read this story and the entire anthology!

Check out the exclusive look at the story below:

We Take a Ride with Chip Mosher to Talk Blacking Out

Blacking Out

Comics industry veteran Chip Mosher and legendary artist Peter Krause have launched the Kickstarter for Blacking Out, a 56-page graphic novel presented in the hardcover European album format. Colorist Giulia Brusco, letterer Ed Dukeshire, and designer Tom Muller join the pair in this sucker-punch tale of a disgraced ex-cop, Conrad, unraveling an unsolved murder during Southern California’s fire season. 

In Blacking Out, Conrad follows a lone clue—a discarded crucifix—to unravel the death of Karen Littleton, whose body was found amid a blaze that scorched 10,000 acres. Conrad’s search leads him to clash with the victim’s father and prime suspect, Robert Littleton, as well as hostile former colleagues on the local police force. All the while, Conrad combats his alcoholism and fading faculties.

We got a chance to talk to Mosher about the comic, how his career influenced the release, and how you need to trust your collaborators. You have about one day to back the Kickstarter.

Graphic Policy: The comic has been worked on for four years, since 2016…

Chip Mosher: Yeah, the final version of it.

GP: I know you’re a fan of noir and crime stories but where did the idea for this comic come from?

CM: When I moved to California, about 20 years ago, I was struck by a lot of different things. The difference between growing up in Texas, where you have hurricanes and tornadoes. Everyone was freaking out at how I was going to deal with the earthquakes. I moved out and there was a 6.0 earthquake and I looked out at the palm trees swaying and the pool waves. Then I moved out here and the real thing is the fire season. Being a crime fan, there’s no real great story about crime and fire. I wanted to do something with that. There was a fire on 5, so I got in my car and took my camera to take some pictures. I wanted to take photos of the post-apocalyptic beauty. After a few hours of doing that, much longer than I should have, the story hit me like a ton of bricks and it went from there.

Blacking Out

GP: The town that it takes place in is a small town and it reminds me more of small town middle America than California…

CM: The thing about growing up in Texas, especially Houston, there are more miles of freeways in Houston than there is in Los Angeles. I grew up loving to drive and exploring. There are tons of towns like Edendale around the greater LA area and San Diego. I envision it like that area with a bunch of small towns with long stretches of nothing in between.

GP: The town and the town are characters in a lot of ways. When you designed the story, how much of that is that you, and how much is the art team?

CM: The script that Peter Krause worked from initially is fairly descriptive of the places and the car. But, the photography I did, there’s a photobook at the $15 level, it’s a bunch of collages I did. I drove around Southern California. One of the characters is a mechanic the garage, so I took photos of that. Anita’s house, the bar, the liquor store, photos of the car, the look at feel is a great alchemy of my work going into Peter’s head and it coming out on the page. Some of it is what I envirioned and some of it different but very cool. I gave Peter a lot of freedom the freedom of the storytelling and the look and feel of the book.

GP: Is there anything about that particualr car that stood out or mattered? I read it and I can’t picture any other car being used. It just wouldn’t feel right.

CM: That’s a testament to Pete’s style. Pete has a love of old advertisements. I was looking through some files he shared. He found an old 70s ad for the car. I think the testament that you can’t imagine the story with any other car is Pete and Giulia Brusco who helped sell it.

GP: How did the team come together?

CM: Pete was the first domino to fall. When I decided to pull the trigger on this, I really wanted to work with someone in the deepest way. A really collaborative nature. I finally convinced Pete, he thought the story it’s way too dark for him. I approached Tom Mueller really early on and get the feel of what we were doing. I contacted Tom once Pete started working on it and I’d send Tom things periodically. Giulia is someone I’ve been a fan of for a long time. I was a fan of her work on Scalped. So I pulled her in. Ed Dukeshire is amazing. Ed was my ride or die at BOOM! Letterers these days don’t get any time to do their work.

Blacking Out

GP: You’ve been on all sides of the business.

CM: I have.

GP: Did that influence you at all? How did the story change? The presentation?

CM: I’m a little bit long in my career, though the least prolific comic creator the world has ever seen. I wanted a book I could pull off the shelf in 30 and 40 years and say “that’s great.” I’ve been lucky enough in my day job to got to France and fell in love with that European 40-page format and knew it’s what I wanted to emulate. The storytelling is different. The panels are longer the pages taller. More a widescreen format. I think I have the confidence to work with people who have great track records and tell them to take their time. I didn’t give anyone a deadline. My deadline was how long would it take? They’re professionals who deliver all the time. So I had honest conversations and being in the place I am in my life and career and have the faith it’d show in these products.

GP: Did you change anything at all with digital? It’s become a greater thing in the industry and I’ve been fascinated to see how that impacts the creative process.

CM: I find reading digital comics so easy and there are so many different ways to approach it. I’m a comiXology Guided View partisan but I don’t think there were any changes because someone was going to read it digitally.

GP: I’ve read European format and haven’t really thought if there’s a difference between that and American styles being formatted digitally. Nothing jumps out about the experience.

CM: It just works. There’s different pros and cons on the approaches and certainly optimize for digital reading but first and foremost but it’s an oversized BD book.

GP: The color reminds me a lot of 70s noir film. Did you have input?

CM: My approach is hire the right people and get out of the way. You have to trust people. If you pick the right people, it’s easy to get out of the way and let them do their best work.

Blacking Out

GP: The discarded curcifix stands out to me in the comic. It not just ties into the death of Karen but the fall of Conrad from grace. Are these things you think of as a writer?

CM: All of that is in there. I don’t want to spoil it. I picked her last name subconsciously. Her last name is Littleton, which is a reference to the Colorado town. There’s a lot of that.

GP: Same with the name of the town?

CM: Edendale was the name of Hollywood before it was called Hollywood.

GP: I don’t know that.

CM: You’re giving away my moves. There’s some subtext with the town being what Hollywood was named…

GP: Is there anything with the population of the town? Is it a random number?

CM: I forget. I might have pulled that from somewhere. There’s a bar I like in Silver Lake called Edendale. It was known as the home of the most major movie studios. I don’t want to give too much away. When I’m picking character names and titles, I always have double and triple meanings. Spoiler, if you read Left on Mission, the main character is Emma and if you listen to the Hot Chocolate song, it’ll spoil the whole story for you. Recorded by Sisters of Mercy.

GP: I don’t think I know that song.

CM: It’s a great song.

GP: I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for chatting and looking forward to getting the book in my hands.

Danny Kim Takes Us to the Future in Garbage Factory

Garbage Factory

In a distant future, the earth has been devastated by war and epidemics. Garbage Factory Anthology tells five tales depicting the chaotic coexistence of cyborg, human and A.I. in a huge city.

A new anthology series, Garbage Factory is part of Heavy Metal‘s Virus imprint. The initial volume is varied in styles and stories but all coming together under one theme. The comic features the talent of writer Jakofire and art by Danny Kim who also pens a story as well.

We got a chance to talk to Kim about his impressive varied art style, that’s so varied you wouldn’t know it was the same artist!

Graphic Policy: How did you get involved with Garbage Factory?

Danny Kim: Garbage Factory is a group of artists formed by Jakofire, a film director and writer, and formed in 2009. But the group had no apparent activities in the past few years, so it was a pretty blank slate as what we can do. When I was thinking about ideas for some comics 5 years ago and met Jakofire by accident. We shared ideas of each with her and it became an idea for a new revival of Garbage Factory.

Garbage Factory

GP: The anthology has numerous styles of art. What was the collaboration like to determine what style of art for each story?

DK: Style of art was determined before we added more stories and my opinions were fully reflected. The mood of each story was somewhat considered, but everyone thought that my opinions on the style of art were interesting.

GP: Did you know what each story would be before you started the art and think through the look for each?

DK: Before we drew up the story, we decided the main genre of each story first. We recognized visual features of each story such as noir, comedy in cartoon style, action, hard-boiled, drama, etc. and then we put our world on it. The style of art which was deliberate shows a clear difference in stories and was drawn up with the direct intention beyond merely emphasizing the mood.

GP: Did you find it challenging at all to switch up the art? Some are so varied.

DK: My strength is to create various styles. I didn’t have particular difficulties in switch up the style.

GP: Is there a particular style within the comic you enjoy more? Without looking at the credits I wouldn’t have known it was the same person.

Garbage Factory

DK: Many people don’t recognize that the art is from the same artist. Of course,  that is what we intended. We considered a collaboration with many artists, but we decided to not do that.

I enjoyed all the styles I created, but if you want me to choose one, it surely would be the Job interview. I wanted to put feeling like old comic books in this work. Printing with large halftone, printing expression with slightly missing target, faded paper, or rough ink expression provided me a special interest.

GP: You also got to write one of the entries along with doing the art. Do you find it easier to do both?

DK: Creating both art and story was a good challenge for me. It wasn’t easy at all, but I think it was possible with a lot of help from Jakofire.

GP: There’s so much science fiction out there having to do with the similar subject matter as Garbage Factory. Were there any influences on the looks of the various stories?

DK: We both are big movie fans. We were greatly inspired by lots of movies from masterpieces like Blade Runner and Brazil to movies like love death + robot which was released recently.

We analyzed not only external factors but also the big themes that cover the factors from the great and pioneering SF movies. As a tribute for great pioneers, Garbage Factory Anthology reveals our own view on this great theme.

Garbage Factory

GP: The storytelling style changes through the comic as well. The first one is much more poetic using heavy narrative/thought bubbles while some have a more traditional dialogue. How much does that factor into the art of the comic?

DK: We didn’t want each story to be expressed with just different art styles. Since each subject, theme, and sub-genre were different, we wanted to direct them in different ways. For the first story, we wanted to convey the feeling that people were watching a scene of remembrance in the movie by making scenes shift according to the narration provided by the main character. For the successive stories, we followed a more traditional way. But we paid more attention to revealing the emotions and thoughts of characters by using the different placement of texts or completely different languages. These factors were the means to effectively express the mood and plot of each story we intended.

GP: How did the comic come to Heavy Metal and Virus?

DK: It was very lucky. I was doing other work I was requested and I didn’t know that it was related to Heavy Metal. COVID-19 made a mess of everything and this work also was stopped. At that time, Matthew Medney suggested me to consider publishing, and that moment I had Garbage Factory Anthology in my hand.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting!

Exclusive: Christopher Hastings Talks Quantum and Woody Plus an Exclusive Look at issue 4!

Quantum & Woody is the world’s worst, to us one of the best, superhero teams. Fans will be able to get their hands on the finale to the current volume, Quantum & Woody #4, on July 8 with the final order cut off on June 15th from writer Christopher Hastings, artist Ryan Browne, colors by Ruth Redmond, and lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

Home Alone, the boys are left to defend their lair against would-be bandits! What is Woody’s dark secret? The truth is finally revealed!

Quantum & Woody #4

Writer Christopher Hastings talked to us about the series and we have an exclusive first look at the final issue.

Graphic Policy: Before we get started, I’ve got to warn you that the first three issues have been some of my favorite comics from the last year. I’m really enjoying the approach you’re taking with the story and the characters; how did you end up writing the World’s Worst superheroes?

Christopher Hastings: Well, thank you very much! I’ve been a lifetime fan of these characters, and it’s a massive honor to contribute to their ongoing story. As for how I wound up writing them, that’s all on our editor, Heather Antos. Heather was my editor on Unbelievable Gwenpool, and thank goodness it seems like I did a good enough job that she thought I would be good for Valiant’s best action-comedy characters.

GP: As I read the first three issues, I’ve noticed that the creative team has been in a groove from the first page. Did you know any of the creative team prior to the first issue?

CH: As our scheduling went, I don’t think we actually had our full team set by the time I finished the script for the fourth issue, which is unusual. Heather and Valiant really did me a kindness as far as getting the story down well ahead of time, which allowed us all to really make sure that the story across all the issues is cohesive. That said, Ryan Browne and I came up in a similar time of webcomics, and I think we always had similar sensibilities, so when Heather suggested putting us together, it was a no-brainer. Ryan and I are two celestial objects that have been in a decaying orbit for years, and Quantum and Woody is the project where we finally collided.

GP: How does working with Valiant differ from working with other publishers?

CH: I think the biggest thing is how much I’ve been able to get to know the sales and marketing folks. These are the people who take my insane little fantasies and have to get them into comic shops. It’s been a really wonderful experience getting to talk to them on a regular basis, take road trips to signings with them, and just get to see what that side of the comics industry looks like. It’s easy for the writer of a comic to be removed from the whole picture, but with Valiant, I feel like I get to be along for the whole trip, from inception to every individual reader.

GP: Do you approach writing for an ongoing series differently than a miniseries?

CH: Certainly! If I know a miniseries is 4 issues, I’m not going to introduce something in issue 2 that I’ll “pick up later”. When I write, I’m really conscious of the beats of various plots, and I want to make sure there is room for all of them. I don’t want to do a beat 1 and 2 if I can’t do a 3.

Quantum & Woody #4

GP: Each issue so far has essentially been a self-contained story; did the series initially set out that way, or did it evolve as you were writing?

CH: This was probably my top priority/artistic goal when I got the chance to even just pitch for Quantum & Woody. I miss episodic comics, and I wanted to make a real effort at putting them out myself. A comedy is especially well suited for this style of serialized storytelling. Drop in for a particularly funny issue, even if you haven’t read the previous! You can watch any episode of Cheers without seeing another one. Why can’t we do that in comics? I’ve also read just about every comic Marvel put out in the 60s thanks to their Essential collections, and it was the same there. If it’s good enough for Stan Lee, it’s good enough for me.

GP: Can you talk a little about your inspiration behind Woody’s “disguise” in the first issue? I thought that the sewer sequence was a great reminder to not see what you wanted to see.

CH: Clark Kent can convince people he isn’t Superman with a dumpy suit, glasses, and his hair parted on the other side of his head. Why can’t Woody?

GP: You’ve been using the brother’s powers in unique ways throughout the series; do you ever feel you’re in danger of making them competent heroes?

CH: Haha, no I think they are far enough down on the ability ladder that it left some room for them to get a little better without totally destroying their entire deal. That said, one of my favorite things in comedy is when the all around idiot happens to show off the one tiny thing they are good at. A little bit of competence goes a long way as far as character likability goes.

Quantum & Woody #4

GP: Ryan Browne’s linework and layouts have been really exciting at times in this book, especially around the ice-skating scene. I’m always interested in how much direction writers give to artists in scenes such as those. Did it come out how you expected?

CH: Ryan is in my favorite class of artist where he can look at a fairly specific, panel-by-panel, shot-by-shot written out script, see what I’m *actually* trying to communicate, and make changes from the script to do it better, punching up the whole thing. Ryan gets down everything important in the story, and then he just PEPPERS the rest of it with a million fun extra things. It makes the book a very satisfying one to reread several times, honestly.

GP: Was there anything you wanted to include in this series, but had to end up saving it for the next?

CH: I have SO MANY ideas for what I would want to do with Quantum and Woody after this. I sure hope I get the chance. Fingers crossed x1M.

GP: If you could write any other Valiant character, who would it be?

CH: Top choice is easily Archer & Armstrong. Such a great premise, great world, infinite potential for hijinks. Close for second place is Ninjak, just because I am a long time fan. And third place, I’d love to do Bloodshot like an 80s action movie.

GP: Thanks so much for answering our questions!


Check out the exclusive preview below!

Anthony Desiato Takes Us on a Tour and Talks My Comic Shop Country

In 2010 Anthony Desiato began his chronicle of Alternate Realities, a comic shop in southern Westchester, where he had once worked, manning the counter along with a cast of characters that is not easily forgotten. He would follow My Comic Shop Documentary with a series of short features and My Comic Shop History, a podcast that explores one store’s place within the broader framework of the comics industry at large. In his latest feature, My Comic Shop Country, he sets off on an odyssey to discover what makes some of the best local comic shops in America so great.

Anthony was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new project over email.

Graphic Policy: You’ve spoken a lot on your podcast about how you became interested in comics but my impression is that you’re almost as much of a film guy as a comic guy. What was it that got you interested in making films instead of say creating comics?

Anthony Desiato: It’s hard to say why I never really felt that pull to try my hand at writing a comic (at least not yet). As far as film, though, Clerks was a big early influence in my thinking that maybe I could make my own movie one day. Couple that with my journalism background in undergrad, and I think the path to documentary filmmaker gets a little clearer. And since most of my creative output as a documentarian has involved comics, I’ve been able to combine my two greatest interests.

My Comic Shop Country

GP: One thing that struck me about the proprietors of a lot of the stores you visited was that very few seemed to have much, if any, retail experience prior to opening up or being hired at their shops. How much do you think that has helped them to succeed or held them back?

AD: I loved putting that little sequence together where some of our retailers reveal their backgrounds. We have a former teacher, house-builder, and insurance salesman, to name a few. I don’t think the lack of formal business training is necessarily a roadblock, especially since the comics retail model is sort of its own beast. I think the harder task is taking your hobby and turning it into a career and finding the balance between fan and businessperson.

GP: You and I both grew up in Westchester County between the early nineties and the early 2000s, you in Scarsdale and me in New Rochelle. We both remember the vibrant community of shops that existed throughout the county in those days and which has since contracted quite a bit despite its proximity to the heartland of comics publishing in NYC. Did you notice a similar pattern in other areas you visited where a large number of shops had been whittled down to a few?

AD: Not particularly, though I can’t say I was investigating that angle in a significant way for this project. To your point, though, the Westchester comics scene was certainly something to behold, and it’s striking to see how much it’s changed. It’s weird to think that you once had Dragon’s Den and 1 If By Cards 2 If By Comics across the street from each other and Alternate Realities half a mile up the road, and now only one of them (1 If, now American Legends) is still operating and only does a little bit of comics. Westchester is quite the microcosm for the industry as a whole in terms of its contraction.

GP: One thing a lot of comic shop programming like Comic Book Men or You Tube’s Comic Book Palace tend to focus on is talk about actual comic stories but your features have tended to focus on things like personalities or business rather than whether Plastic Man is better than Punisher. What’s the thinking behind this more sociological approach?

AD: It’s definitely a conscious effort on my part to chart a different path, and there are a few factors driving this approach. At my old comic shop, Alternate Realities, we certainly all came together initially over a shared love of comics, but in terms of what fascinated me about that place, the comics were really secondary. It was the personalities, particularly of the owner and some of our more colorful community members. So that was my starting point: the people. For me, comic shops have been a wonderful backdrop and vehicle to tell human interest stories, and I suppose that’s where my ultimate interest lies. Regarding that Plastic Man v. Punisher debate in Country, I’m far more interested in the fact that those guys are having that conversation, and why they feel comfortable to do so, than I am about the specifics of their argument. Also, as much as comics fans are the natural target audience for my projects, I genuinely believe they can speak to a wider audience, and the more sociological approach, as you put it, is sort of aimed at that.

GP: Were there any stores you would have liked to include but couldn’t due to timing, travel issues or lack of a personal connection to the store owner?

AD: I’m genuinely pleased with the mix of shops in the film, and I 100 percent believe I was able to tell the story I needed and wanted to with them. Would someplace like Mile High Comics been cool to visit and include, especially given the sheer size of their operation? Sure. But no regrets on the casting front.

GP: This is a time unlike any other in the history of the comics industry. How are the stores you profiled coping with the pandemic and the hopefully temporary implosion of the comics distribution system? What’s the most interesting response you’ve seen to Covid-19 as you’ve followed up with your subjects?

AD: Almost every shop I follow is adapting in some way, whether it’s curbside pickup, mail-order, live video sales, or some mixture. They’re spotlighting older content, making mystery boxes, and engaging more via social media (and video in particular). It’s legitimately inspiring to see what they’re doing to keep product moving. I don’t know that there’s any one thing I can point to as most interesting per se, but I have been very impressed by the speed with which they’ve adapted. Necessity is the mother of invention, of course, but still. I tip my hat to them. And it’s amazing to see customers rally around these efforts.

GP: Now more than ever change is inevitable. What do you think is the biggest change that is needed for the American comic book store as we know it to survive? What does the future of comic book retail look like in 2025?

AD: There’s a lot to unpack there. People always seem very quick to declare the comics retail industry dead. I certainly do worry about shops weathering this, especially smaller, younger stores with maybe a small customer base or lack of reserve funds. But overall, I think shops will endure as they have in the past and as they are right now. We’ve seen shops pivot in so many creative ways during this time when they’ve had to keep their doors closed and didn’t even have new product flowing. I definitely think that many of these innovations–Facebook and Instagram Live sales, online ordering, and so on–will become a regular part of the workflow. I am curious about whether DC will continue to distribute through other channels besides Diamond once this crisis has passed. Big-picture, though, as far as what change I feel is most needed? I’m sure a lot of retailers would point to returnability or something along those lines. But I genuinely think there needs to be a large-scale awareness campaign about comics undertaken not even by publishers, but by their parent companies. Improving efficiencies in the day-to-day of the comics retail industry is certainly needed, but really taking a wide view, there needs to be true growth.

GP: Do you think that there is anything more for you to say about comics after three documentaries and 6 seasons of the podcast? What other topics would you like to explore within comics and without?

AD: Ha, are you saying I should give it a rest? Candidly, I’m currently weighing my options about where to take the podcast in the future as well as where to turn my attention film-wise. On the film side, I don’t necessarily see myself doing something shop-centric again. I feel I said what I needed and wanted to say about shops in Country. Looking ahead, I was developing an idea for another film elsewhere in the comic book world, but the pandemic and its fallout have made me rethink it a bit. As far as the podcast, you know I like to shake up the theme each season. I definitely feel like I told a full-circle story on the podcast from 2015 to 2020. What the next story is hasn’t quite revealed itself to me just yet, but I’m sure it will. The aftermath of the pandemic sure seems like the obvious choice, but I think there may actually be a different path forward.

GP: If Alternate Realities were to somehow return from the dead in true comic book fashion as a permanent store, what would be the perfect location for it to return assuming its old spot were unavailable?

AD: While the spirit of AR could theoretically be reborn anywhere, in my ideal scenario it’d be somewhere on Central Avenue in lower Westchester. While rents tend to be quite high there, it’s such a major artery in the area that you can pull folks in from all parts. And given AR’s long history on Central, its return there would make quite a splash.

Julia Mechler Takes Us Through Time with Hymn of the Teada

Hymn of the Teada

Time doesn’t work the same for all. As an imminent invasion looms over old Ryukyu, the high priestesses are engaged by Ryotetsu, a court official in the old kingdom. He embarks on a mission to find the one with the power to change the course of history, and discovers it’s a 17-year-old high schooler from far away.

One of the debut series from Heavy Metal‘s Virus imprint Hymn of the Teada was created by Julia Mechler, written by Morgan Rosenblum and Matthew Medney, featuring art by Santa Fung, color by Julia Pinchuck, and lettering by Voodoo Bownz.

We got a chance to talk to Julia about this brand new series and how much it’s based in reality.

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Hymn of the Teada come from?

Julia Mechler: The concept of the Hymn of the Teada, in many ways, comes from my upbringing and roots in Okinawa. It is a tiny island off the southern tips of Japan, which used to be a kingdom, just like Hawaii, before being annexed to Japan. Okinawa has a peculiar history and culture, which has not been conveyed well to the rest of the world. I wanted to make use of the creativity of today’s Okinawa (Japan) to convey Okinawa’s culture and history.

Right after I graduated from college I worked at an anime/video game company in California as a motion graphic designer. During that time I felt the representation of Japan from the anime was lacking in true colors of diversity in Japan. I saw many Samurais, Kendo, and other traditional mainland Japanese cultural themed anime, but none about Okinawa.

Since I practiced Okinawan traditional dance since my childhood, and loved hearing the mythologies of the Ryukyu Kingdom, I wanted the focus to be on traditional performing arts and the myths. In order to fully convey the uniqueness and the interesting side of them, I thought it will make sense to show the history of Okinawa, when it used to be the Ryukyu Kingdom. I didn’t want the story to be just about the history, so I decided the characters who are living in the current world will need to travel back in time to make it more relatable and interesting.

Hymn of the Teada

GP: The story is steeped in Japanese and Chinese mythology and history. How much research went into the series?

JM: I think that history and mythology is a tremendously rich resource for creativity. A lot of research was put into them as I was forming the concept. When I just moved back to Okinawa to start this project, I needed to get a job on the island. I thought, if I had to work, might as well work at a place where I can fully research the history of Okinawa. So I worked with the foundation that managed all the history/art museums and the old castle from the Ryukyu Kingdom (Shurijo Castle). There I worked with the Research team where I was able to get hands on with the ancient artifacts, scripts, scrolls, art pieces, and even saw the excavation sites where archeologists were unearthing the ancient coins and jewelries. I also spoke with history professors to get the facts correctly with the timeline of the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

GP: Was there anything about this time period that surprised you?

JM: Along the research, there were lots of surprises. According to the account written by Basil Hall, a captain of the Navy from the UK who visited the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 1800s, people of the Ryukyus possessed no weapons nor army. They strictly relied on diplomacy. When he reported to Napoleon, he did not believe such country could exist.  In addition to that, as I read through the journal of the last king of the Ryukyu (King Sho-Tai 1843-1901), the king described in details how his court officials have warned him that the Japanese Imperial Army was going to come to the Ryukyus to take over and conquer the island. Instead of arming for defense, he ordered everybody to go to the prayer sites to pray to God. That really surprised me as it is difficult to understand the concept of being completely disarmed and choosing a path without war in such situation. As a result of him not fighting back, the lives of the Ryukyuan people were saved as the Japanese Imperial Army only had to take the king away and occupy the castle.

Hymn of the Teada

GP: How did the team come together for the comic?

JM: I am truly grateful for having been able to put together a truly global, diverse, and talented team thanks to this project. I have to thank Matt (CEO of HERO and Heavy Metal) for introducing me to his wonderful production team. Matt and Morgan (creator of Treadwater and CCO of HERO Projects) brought the concept I had to a beautiful script, and that became the foundation of Hymn of the Teada. The artists visualized what I had in mind beyond my expectations. The characters became alive and the Shurijo Castle which has burned down from last year’s fire was revived.

GP: The comic is one of the debut series from Heavy Metal’s Virus imprint. What drew you to Virus and how does it feel to be one of the launch titles for something that’s so new?

JM: I’m very excited to be part of the launch titles for Virus! I was drawn to this because I already know that whatever the CEO Matt does will be exciting and fun and also I liked the title of it. It turned the name “Virus” which can be so depressing with the current outbreak, to something positive and exciting. I was feeling down for the past few months as I work in the entertainment industry and all of my big projects in NY and Vegas has been postponed, but when I was told about the Virus, I thought it as a great opportunity for not just myself but for all creators.

Hymn of the Teada

GP: I got a bit of a Studio Ghibli vibe from reading the first two chapters. What influences were there on the story?

JM: Ghibli is always my favorite and its series have affected my creative thoughts. I love all the little creatures in Ghibli and the nostalgic feeling I get from watching Ghibli anime. I wanted to incorporate some of the elements from Ghibli such as the little Shisas in Maka’s room. In addition to that, I think it is interesting how they are able to show the social problems or political issues without describing them directly into their stories. While it is nice to be known as a popular resort destination in Asia, I wanted to shed a little light to Okinawa’s complicated history and political situation just how Ghibli does with difficult social and political issues.

GP: The story involves time travel and there’s a lot of different ways for time travel and timelines to work. Did you come up with your own? Any rules the reader should know about?

JM: During the brainstorming phase of the story, I thought about having Maka to time travel through the cave under the Shurijo Castle which was used to do religious rituals to pray and make offering to the God of the Ryukyu. After discussing with the team, we realized that the use of cave limits the location of the time traveling. Another way we came up with was using a magical stone to time travel, as many worshipping sites in Okinawa has large rock formations and stones. There is a belief that rocks or stones can emit some sort of energy. We also wanted to make it more interesting by limiting the numbers of the time travel, so Maka cannot go back and forth easily. Therefore we came up with the rule that only by breaking the stone in half you can travel in time. When you can no longer break the stone in half, you’ll no longer be able to travel in time.

Hymn of the Teada

GP: The art is fantastic and the design of the characters in the past to me feel authentic (not that I really know this history). What research went into the outfits and design of the buildings of the 1800s? Was it important to try to be accurate?

JM: I wanted to be as accurate as possible. When I worked at a foundation who managed the history museums, I was able to look at the picture scrolls, paintings, and clothing that were made during that era. The foundation also managed the castle (world heritage site) which unfortunately has burned down due to a massive fire last year. I wanted the audience to know how the castle looked like so I wanted to be as accurate as possible. Although most costumes are accurate, I made changes to the main characters’ costumes so they stand out from the rest of the characters.

GP: The real history of the region seems to be a lot of tension between China and Japan with Ryukyu caught in between. There’s still a lot of tension in the region today and I was wondering if that crossed your mind at all while creating this?

JM: The tension has definitely crossed my mind. Growing up, there were always political tensions (constant protests around the US military base, etc) on the island as it is the host to 75% of the US military bases in Japan. My father was in the US Air Force, and my mother is Okinawan. Growing up in an American Okinawan bicultural family gave me a unique perspective on the political tensions in Okinawa, which led me to study a lot about WW2, Okinawa’s history, and the relationship between Okinawa and mainland Japan. I thought Hymn of the Teada could be the “bridge” between the different cultures and countries. I wanted show how we should learn from history and think what we as individuals can do for the future, instead of repeating it. I want the readers to think what we can do for the future to solve political or social issues.

GP: The issues are coming out digitally. Did you make any changes to the series to play off of the digital aspect at all?

JM: I assumed from the beginning that this series will be distributed digitally, so I didn’t have to add any changes. I do hope to make this into an anime series someday.

GP: Any other projects coming up?

JM: Right now I’m still working on completing the Hymn of the Teada series. I’m hoping I can finish the series by next year. After Hymn of the Teada, I’m thinking of making a series completely different with a more realistic drama type of story, with the element of Okinawa in there.

Mathew Klickstein Talks You Are Obsolete in a Post-COVID World

A disgraced journalist is called to cover a mysterious story on an isolated European island. As she investigates, she discovers the children have taken control and are somehow killing off all adults by their 40th birthdays. Now, she must discover the truth behind the killings while staying on the good side of the children’s harsh leader…or she’s next.

Published by AfterShock Comics, You Are Obsolete is a spine-tingling thriller that evokes 1970s horror. Written by Mathew Klickstein, with art by Evgeniy Bornyakov, color by Lauren Affe, lettering by Simon Bowland, and a cover by Andy Clarke and Jose Villarrubia, the trade paperback is out June 16, 2020.

We talked to writer Mathew Klickstein about how this series has changed in a post-COVID-19 world.

Graphic Policy: Where did you come up with the idea for You Are Obsolete?

Mathew Klickstein: For quite a while, I’d been considering writing a sci-fi/horror story revolving around a kind of Logan’s Run meets Children of the Corn with a twist of John Carpenter’s They Live concept involving apps, cell phones and such “devices.”

Coincidentally, it was around this time that a film development guy at the literary agency at which I was repped sent out a memo suggesting to clients ideas for books/stories that might be adaptable to film/television, considering current trends. One such vague idea was something along the lines of “a video game that kills people.”

BOOM: Seemed like a reasonable impetus to start back on that concept of mine. I brought it up to a trusted friend I was having drinks with at a bar – we even brought in the bartender to the conversation, and I joked with him that we’d have to give him “associate producer” credit if the story were to ever become a movie – and later that day, I got home and the three-page “confessional” from the perspective of protagonist Lyla Wilton just poured out of me and essentially “pitched” the fuller, more specific narrative of what would ultimately become YOU ARE OBSOLETE.

Everything else built off of that three-page summation. Blame it on the Angel’s Envy bourbon I was guzzling at the bar that day with my friend and our bartender.

GP: It’s your first comic, what prompted you to create a comic and what were some of the surprises you didn’t expect when doing so?

MK: I’ve brought this up multiple times in the past (and, boy, wouldn’t it be just dandy if it were still to happen?), but I was originally pitching around what would become YOU ARE OBSOLETE as a film.

Courtesy my extensive background in film and television production, I was able to reach out to a number of people and organizations to whom I could send the aforementioned three-page “confessional”/summation from Lyla’s perspective. I received a great deal of positive feedback, but after a few months I began hearing from friends in the comics industry that the idea sounded like a good fit for a comic.

Two or three of them nudged me toward AfterShock, I connected with executive editor Mike Marts over there, we had a good series of email and phone conversations, the company evidently flipped over my concept/Lyla’s confessional and we very shortly after that had a deal.

I’d say the one real “surprise,” which was very positive, was just how refreshingly quick everything moved. Normally, while working on a project – particularly one of my documentaries or non-fiction pop culture history books – things move at a glacial pace. Working on the comic, however, we moved so swiftly from concept, to story meetings/development, to writing the scripts, to going over them with my editors Mike Marts and Christina Harrington, to incorporating the edits and working with the production team on how each issue would look before off it went to the printers and, finally, the stores.

It was a real shot in the arm to my creative anima. To be able to come up with an idea, mold it and work on it in such a frictionless and efficient way, before so quickly seeing it realized was truly thrilling. It doesn’t typically work like that in the other mediums in which I’ve engaged over the years.   

GP: How did the rest of the team come on board?

MK: This was one of the many advantages of working with an established and robust brand such as AfterShock. They brought on the team, all of whom did a spectacular job and made the process of collaboration as joyful and easy-going as earlier indicated. I was especially pleased with the stellar artwork of Evgeniy Bornyakov and work of colorist Lauren Affe.

GP: The comic is a horror thriller and in a COVID-19 world, it’s even more unsettling. Just wanted to get some of your thoughts about how the series might be viewed a bit differently now.

MK: Yes, this is certainly something that has come up more than once while we’ve been dealing with the release of the trade paperback of YOU ARE OBSOLETE. The original release of the trade edition was of course postponed a few months and during the time we’ve been waiting on that, I’ve been going over elements of the story that are, perhaps serendipitously enough, now rather “obsolete” themselves.

The story and concept turned out to be quite prescient about various aspects of what would happen to our society psychologically and culturally (among other ways) if we were suddenly driven far more profoundly toward our dependence on and addiction to our mobile devices, online engagement and interfacing with screens in general.

Well, now all of a sudden here we are, we’re stuck inside for the most part, we have little else to depend on for communication, entertainment, education, supply delivery and social connection aside from our screens/devices/online engagement. So, yes, it’s been fascinating to see how the world of YOU ARE OBSOLETE turned out to be rather apt and how its “speculative”/futuristic sci-fi elements are no longer necessarily “speculative”/futuristic nor sci-fi anymore.

The most direct example, for instance, is an entire page in Issue 2 in which the protagonist Lyla Wilton is exploring an abandoned schoolhouse with her new friend Kadunud and Kad is explaining to her how all the children on their island have taken to going to school online. Certainly, and as Kad elaborates during this scene, online schooling is nothing particularly new, but during the COVID-19 containment period, it’s not the least bit uncommon or peculiar.

Luckily, we can more or less reconcile such anachronisms brought on by YOU ARE OBSOLETE perhaps being a little too prophetic in its speculative sci-fi machinations by the fact that the entire five-part series is told from that point of view of Lyla’s confessional of what happened a little while back … So, I guess we have our excuse for having components in the story that proved my inner Cassandra wasn’t just whistling dixie, I suppose.

And, besides, I think now the series could also be seen as something of a very pertinent time capsule of the period of time just before the pandemic took hold.   

GP: Let’s dive into some of that specifically. The comic’s horror is driven by the young outliving the older individuals and technology used to choose who dies. It eerily has some echoes of today with the young’s mortality rate so low and in this case the lack of available technology resulting in higher mortality.

MK: Yes, the theme of the elders in our society being put out to pasture before their time and replaced by the next generation – with the aid of new technology, in particular – is a running motif throughout the entire series (hence the series title as well as Issue 2’s title of “Planned Obsolescence”). And it wasn’t lost on any of us later when the actual pandemic to come turned out to follow a similar pattern of mostly going after the elderly, something that has been heartbreaking and worrisome for all of us to behold, of course.

While working on the series, the “OK Boomer” slogan/epithet/memes etc. really started becoming more ubiquitous even beyond the online realm. To play off of the idea in something of a darkly ironic way that I hoped would showcase how horrific and repugnant that slogan is, I had AfterShock nearly last-minute change the title of the final/fifth issue to “OK Boomer,” later disclosing my apprehension about the decision in the intro for the upcoming trade paperback edition.

For some years now, ageism has been a blight that has devastated many people in my life (and, believe it or not, more than a few times rather explicitly, myself despite only being in my late thirties). It’s been really hard watching friends and family who are 50+ treated so poorly and feeling (and, sadly, being) pushed out or left out of collective society solely because of their age.

Personally, I’ve never understood why anyone would attack someone who happens to have far more life experience and sage wisdom and a far more developed understanding of how the world works than they: It’s one of the reasons most of my friends, even when I was much younger, were usually older and why I’ve enjoyed a lifelong love of older movies, books, TV, radio shows and music.

I’m with late, great playwright Herb Gardner who reminds us in his immortal play dealing with the subject of ageism, I’m Not Rappaport, that older people are survivors and because of that might just have something to teach us if we give them a chance and we keep our ears open.

I would hope that post-COVID, those who so gleefully bandied around the “OK Boomer” epithet or were ideologically influenced by the commensurate mentality will think better of it in the future and be more compassionate and empathetic toward those who are older than they. This was always one of my goals with YOU ARE OBSOLETE.

GP: There’s also the kids having so much more control over technology than adults. We’re seeing that with the hijacking of technology as lives move online, like school Zoom presentations, by kids. That generation technology gap seems really important to the comic but we’re also seeing it play out in real life now.

MK: When I was still living and working in LA some years back, one of my production partners on a series of film projects I was engaged in had a grandfather who I absolutely adored. He was funny, extremely bright, a terrific storyteller and had had many adventures in his life that he recounted for us often. We’d go to his apartment for a visit every now and then, and he’d show us classic old movies like 42nd Street and Pal Joey, and he’d make us little dinners and we’d scarf down Hershey Kisses from his always-filled candy dish on the coffee table. It was great. I had a profound degree of respect for the man.

But every few days or so, wherever we were in the city, if my production partner’s grandpa needed to get some cash, we’d have to do our best to go find him wherever he was … because he was so incapable of using a computer, he had never learned how to use an ATM machine. He just couldn’t do it.

We might have to drive twenty, thirty minutes – sometimes an hour or more – to go find this man and help him get his cash out of the ATM. I didn’t mind it so much and it never interfered with our work. But I’ll never forget having to go all over the city to get to this guy and help him use an ATM just so he could get his money out of the machine.

And I remember thinking how dreadful it must feel to be in a world where you can’t even get access to your own money that you spent a lifetime earning solely because you may not be able to interface with the new technology that has sprung up so rapidly around you.

True, an ATM machine is incredibly user-friendly and there was really no reason that my friend’s grandpa couldn’t just give in and learn how to press a few buttons so he could get his money himself.

But ever since then – more than ten years ago now – I can’t help worrying every now and then about what might happen if the new technology that does continue to so rapidly spring up all around us – whether we want it to or not, whether we agree with how it functions or not, whether it’s deleterious to our environment/minds/bodies/culture/economy or not – were to become so inaccessible and so arcane to certain segments of our society (or, yes, myself) that we too were to suddenly find ourselves in a world where we can’t get our money, can’t pay our bills, can’t communicate with the outside, can’t buy supplies, etc.

What will we do when that day comes – and the wizards in Silicon Valley funded by their billionaire CEOs are doing all they can to bring that day as close as possible – in which suddenly we turn around and realize you’re “obsolete” from this society if you don’t put that chip in your head?

These are the themes I wanted to explore in YOU ARE OBSOLETE and which has been particularly frightening to witness developing further in real life during our COVID-19 containment.  

GP: The other thing that stands out to me now is this attitude of older adults resigned to sacrificing themselves for that next generation. We’ve seen that attitude echoed by politicians in the real world, as hollow as it might be. But, in a pre-COVID world, that thought of the next generation felt like it waned a bit. In the comic I got a sense it’s almost a feel of inevitability that this is just the way it is and a cycle of life in a way.

MK: One of the more ominous aspects of what’s happening in YOU ARE OBSOLETE – the children of the isolated island we’re on killing off anyone over 40 with a new app they’ve developed – is that there are those adults in the community there who are actually in favor of this gruesome development.

A scene that I’m so proud of how it came together includes the talent show in Issue 4 in which the kids are rolling out a newer version of their murderous app, just as a tech company would exhibit such an upgrade at a trade show or something … and we show in the audience that whereas there are of course those parents/adults watching who are understandably terrified by this, there are also those who are clapping and proud of the “creative innovation” and vision of their children.

Rather than everyone in the community being scared of what’s going on, wanting to do what they can to stop it from happening, wanting to stop the mindless killing of anyone over 40, I thought it would be much more interesting if there were a lot of those who were actually in favor of this, who supported if not were complicit with the vicious children’s mission.

It gives some dynamic nuance to the story, takes the reader on some unpredictable turns they might not expect (including alliances forged and broken throughout the story with other characters, etc.) and, I believe, this is also – sadly – more realistic to how our culture actually operates.

I talk both directly and indirectly about the work of Hannah Arendt in YOU ARE OBSOLETE, and though she later rather regretted it, she popularized the notion of “banality of evil.”

A contemporary analogue here would maybe be something like the so-called “hive mind” or what some refer to as “mob mentality,” or what more recent psychological mavens might call “pluralistic ignorance” or “cognitive dissonance.” The idea that people tend to follow along with something that might be utterly reprehensible or despicable (in Arendt’s case, she spent her career analyzing how/why something like the Holocaust could happen) because of some kind of collective mindset or ideological imperative they’re not even aware of.

They simply become like lemmings, “following the leader” or following the party line, more to the point, and if they’re made to believe that new technology is always beneficial no matter what – even if it’s leading to the death of the elderly because of “inevitability” in the eyes of those pushing that agenda – well, they’re only following orders and doing “what everyone else is doing.” It’s similar to the more abstract idea behind the “Nuremberg defense.”

Being so influenced by Arendt throughout my own career, it’s no wonder I delved into these notions in YOU ARE OBSOLETE. But I have to say, that really the principle inspiration for having some of the adults in the story’s village actually supporting if not condoning what’s going on with the children came from similar dystopian sci-fi stories like 1984, its semi-pastiche Brazil and other books such as Fahrenheit-451 and Brave New World. It goes back to Logan’s Run here, or a similar film such as Soylent Green in which older people are killed off as a daily part of life.

You have in these stories parents of children who are proud that their kids might rat on them to the oppressive government officials lurking all around, proud of the fact that their kids have become such dedicated soldiers to “the cause,” so to speak. People who are actually proud and supportive of the terrible things being wrought by the totalitarian governments, technology and culture they rules their lives.

I’ll add that I also see a connection here to how there are those among us who actually seem to think that staying inside and, more or less, forever connected to the online realm is a good thing. I find it pretty frightening myself, and anyone who’s read or watched enough speculative sci-fi that deals with such super-technological dystopian societies (e.g. the “Fifteen Million Merits” episode of Black Mirror or George Lucas’ THX-1138) know better.

I’ve for a long time felt there’s a growing push in our society toward staying locked up inside, afraid of the outside world, afraid of other people, away from anyone and everyone … except those we connect with through the computer, through the screen. “Buy things on Amazon, watch things on Netflix, meet mates on Tinder/Match.com, talk to people on social media, order food on Grubhub, etc.”

This fear I had about such social nudging toward this isolated, technologically-dependent lifestyle was another driver for my creating and writing YOU ARE OBSOLETE.

And now, once again, here we are, and this technological/isolated terror is not only much more real … but, yes, there are people who seem to be championing it and almost appear to want it to be our new way of life. Like it’s the next step in evolution. Like it’s inevitable anyway.

Rather like how the children in YOU ARE OBSOLETE justify what it is they’re doing in killing off those over 40 with their new app while some of their parents and other adults in the community applaud them for their efforts as a mode of “progress” and that all such “progress” should always be supported or at least not interfered with.

Of course, what they’re forgetting is such so-called “progress” can also lead to the atomic bomb, Global Warming and – as we’ve seen more recently – at least two generations whose attention spans are so depleted they probably can’t even finish reading this very sentence.     

GP: There’s this interesting use of a journalist to reveal what’s going on. As she discovers the truth, we discover it as well. I couldn’t help but think about “fake news” and how this might play out in the real world. Did that cross your mind at all?  There’s also this conspiracy aspect of it all that I couldn’t help but think about.

MK: I have a uniquely complex connection to the news/Media due in large part to the fact that I’ve been a professional in the field since I was 15 years old, more than half my life, and most of my friends and colleagues nationwide are in some way connected to the sector as well. I see a lot of things go on and have seen a lot of things go on beyond the velvet rope, behind the Wizard of Oz curtain that not everyone gets to see, that not everyone would believe and that I’ve learned to more or less keep to myself.

I’m also something of a student of the Media and am voraciously reading books on the subject – both old and new, both criticisms and paeans alike, and everything in between. I enjoy documentaries on the subject. I enjoy going back to the oldest records and analyses and data on the subject I can find and truly get excited when I discover some century-old article or comic strip or interview or something that might so compellingly connect with what’s happening with our modern Media milieu today.

For whatever reason, I find “the Media” as a thing unto itself extremely fascinating and have both written extensively on the subject and have instructed various seminars/classes on Media analysis, as well. So, it’s no wonder my fascination with the Media crept into the topicality of YOU ARE OBSOLETE.

It also helped that I knew I wanted to tell the story in a relatively modern or even post-modern way, and that by having it told from the perspective of a confessional by a member of the Media, I could really have some fun with how I played with the storyteller’s credibility, biases and nuances – all things we’re regarding more and more these days when it comes to how we as news consumers relate to the news and those behind it.

This gave the story a bit more relevance, I hope, and connected well with the general themes of new tech, generational shifts and – again – the idea of “banality of evil” or the “hive mind” concept that run throughout the series.

The idea of the main character of my story being an “unreliable narrator” who was once a prestigious journalist hopefully will be a reminder that whereas news/Media is vital to any society/culture, we also need to make sure we’re not taking in everything we read/see from that societal sector at face value. Always dig deeper, is perhaps the message here.

GP: We see a cold calculation from the kids’ leader and we’re seeing that today. It feels like compassion and empathy is lacking in the comic and real world. Was that part of what you were conveying?

MK: Absolutely. As described earlier, this was one of the reasons I decided to have my editors change the title of the fifth issue right before it went to print to “OK Boomer.”

I was so repelled by how blatantly ageist, hateful and intolerant certain pundits, celebrities and even government representatives were being in declaring this phrase while espousing its underlining ethos that I felt like I wanted to do something about it with what platform I had available to me at the moment and thus, yes, decided to subvert its meaning by titling the final installment of a horror story with (spoiler alert, kind of) a rather horrific “downer” ending with the same despicable phrase.

I hoped that in connecting with the story, its themes and the characters within, readers of YOU ARE OBSOLETE would indeed maybe revisit and investigate any superficial generational rancor they might be holding onto so stubbornly. Now with the pandemic impacting these older generations more than the young, I do also hope that those who were more ageist before will find it in their hearts to be more compassionate in the future.   

GP: The comic takes place on an isolated European island. What made you choose that location?

MK: It was actually fairly arbitrary. I knew I wanted the locale to be some place rather isolated and unknown, but I also wanted the atmosphere to be rather hauntingly cold and eerie. I’ve long had a strange predilection for Eastern Europe – despite still not having had a chance to go there, which perhaps bolsters its strange “mystique” for me in my mind (especially after I had many friends in bands back in the early 2000s who toured around the region and would come home with this outlandish and amazing stories of what it was like over there).

So, I thought Eastern Europe might be a good fit for the mood I was trying to establish and, honestly, I just began looking up basic search terms such as “Eastern European island” and that sort of thing. I found a few candidates, and – again, rather arbitrarily – just looked through pictures and decided on Estonia’s Muhu because it looked rather like how I saw the village where the story would take place in my head.

Because I do hope to one day go to Eastern Europe, I thought I would find a place that I may actually want to go to if the story were to ever become a film/TV show and I was able to head out to the production, should it be filmed on location. (What can I say? Muhu just looked cool.) A little silly and immature, sure. But, it was my thought process and I do have to say, I wonder if anyone in Estonia or especially Muhu is even aware that I set my story on their island.

GP: Steeped in horror, what were some of the comic’s influences?

MK: Obviously, one of the big ones is The Twilight Zone. I really love the eerie, slow burn, atmospheric terror throughout much of the episodes, and having grown up on the series, I’ve always been extremely influenced by its storytelling and methodology regarding character development, messaging, style and tone. As source material for my artists, I more than a few times used screenshots from the episode “It’s a Good Life” in which the little boy thinks people away to the cornfield or turns them into horrible monstrosities just by looking at them.

In fact, in the earliest stages of development, when we were trying to come up with what would happen when the kids in YOU ARE OBSOLETE used their new app on a person over 40, for a brief period I was considering an outright homage to this episode and actually having people transported in some horrific manner to a cornfield. But, I thought that would be a little too fantastical, would take the reader out of the “reality” of the story and, frankly, would also seem too similar to Children of the Corn, which also of course is comprised of certain elements that inspired YOU ARE OBSOLETE along with, not surprisingly, Village of the Damned (both old and new).

As per the introduction to the trade paperback of YOU ARE OBSOLETE, I’m also (again, quite obviously) a huge fan of the films of David Cronenberg, and these definitely had a very direct influence on how the comic came together. I’m particularly thinking of what I believe to be Cronenberg’s masterpiece, Videodrome and also somewhat of the semi-update he did some years later which is also quite good (and, as with the former, extremely prescient in its vision of how we would interface with technology in the future), eXistenZ.

For the tone and feel of the township in which the story takes place, I really wanted there to be a kind of disquieting and eldritch quality, hence the idea of making sure it would feel very cold, very isolated, even when it was day time a la what you feel in that incredible opening sequence to Night of the Living Dead or throughout much of Carnival of Souls. I pulled some shots from the similar village in John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness for same. 

The almost gentle creepiness of the atmosphere in these films works so well, I wanted a piece of that in YOU ARE OBSOLETE and took inspiration too from similar scenes in The Stepford Wives (original), The Shining (original), The Wicker Man (original), Rosemary’s Baby (original), Repulsion, Jacob’s Ladder (original), the Australian film Wake in Fright (aka Outback), ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (aka Who Can Kill a Child?) and the opening sequences of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original).

When you’re watching these movies and scenes, you don’t know why, but even when it’s light out, you feel unsettled and disturbed, uncomfortable and unnerved. This is what I was trying to achieve with YOU ARE OBSOLETE, especially since I believe so much of the horror aspect is about the environment and atmosphere of the world created.

This is why I also wanted to be sometimes a little absurdist or playful – to create this kind of “carnival-esque” and childlike feel at times and to grant little tonal shifts to make sure the reader doesn’t ever get too comfortable. For instance, there’s a scene where Martina, the main child running things, is mindlessly playing with the dead body of a person she’s just killed with the same indifference as if she was shoving her thumb onto a colony of ants on the sidewalk or something.

There’s also the opening sequence of the story in which everyone’s wearing these cheesy and garish birthday hats with this big, bright pink cake … despite the fact that clearly something awful is going on between the lines. It’s the whole Twin Peaks melding of horror and absurdity that David Lynch is so adept at, and so of course that show helped me to consider how I would walk that line myself in YOU ARE OBSOLETE.

Lars von Trier, at his best, is quite good at this too – melding brutal, visceral horror with playful, almost cartoonish absurdity at times, particularly in his short-lived television series Riget (aka The Kingdom) and his most recent film, The House That Jack Built.

Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric fame nailed what I’m talking about here with his psychedelically nightmarish music video for Tobacco’s “Streaker.”

Actually, if you truly like this kind of thing, you can’t do better than the Japanese horror/musical/comedy film from 1977, House. It’s truly unlike any movie you’ve ever seen, even if you think you’ve “seen ‘em all.” 

GP: Any favorite horror films?

MK: Aside from those I’ve already mentioned, I suppose I should add that though I’ve been pretty disappointed over the past few years over what the new crop of horror films has to offer, there’s a handful that I’ve not only really enjoyed and have found truly scary on a visceral level but also had some impact on how I developed YOU ARE OBSOLETE.

These include Midsommar and  Assassination Nation (you put those two together and I firmly believe you have the film adaptation of YOU ARE OBSOLETE!), The Final Girls, Relatos salvajes (aka Wild Tales) and Michael Haneke’s original version of Funny Games, which for the longest time after I first saw it in theaters I thought was the best movie ever made.

In fact, I tend to gravitate toward “horror” films that are much more realistic and “colder” in tone. Less monsters and jump scares, more eerie and peculiar human nature along the lines of the great classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Combat Shock (aka American Nightmares), Cannibal Holocaust, Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q or the boss of it all, Pasolini’s Salò. (Although, I must confess to an obsession with guilty pleasure 80s slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night, too.)

Horror along the lines of A Serbian Film or my good friend Adam Rehmeier’s The Bunny Game possess a unique quality that connects with the viewer in ways that feels much more intense and authentic than what the more “mainstream” horror scene (such that it is) seems to be spewing out at the moment.

Among my COVID containment reading has been the collected short stories of Franz Kafka, which I revisit every few years and I felt would be apropos to what’s going on right now. I realized I never read the back cover before. The description reads in part that “Franz Kafka created a new genre of fiction, combining fantasy and horror in his narratives of quotidian life in a way that has come to symbolize the terrors and anxieties of the twentieth century.” If I accomplished even a hint of that with YOU ARE OBSOLETE for the twenty-first century, I suppose I did my job.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting and giving us such a deep dive and look into your thoughts and process about the series!

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