by Matt Pizzolo
The germ of the idea behind Young Terrorists came when I was blackballed by a Washington lobbyist for distributing a documentary about animal rights activists who were serving time in federal prison as terrorists. It’s kind’ve a long story, and I go into it a bit in the backmatter of Young Terrorists #1. The point is… we all talk about “the system” and how it works or it doesn’t work, but it’s not until the system turns directly on you, til an insider who really knows how to work the machine identifies you as an individual to be targeted and starts grinding the gears around you, that’s when you get an inkling of the scale of it all… It feels kinda like when the eye of Sauron catches sight of Frodo — some omnipotent power has just noticed you and suddenly you’re very very fucked.
This all happened a while back, when the GW Bush Administration passed a law called The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which made it so any activism against a business that exploits animals is classified as terrorism and punishable under the PATRIOT Act. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a law that was brought to you by (wait for it) lobbyists who (you guessed it) work for businesses that exploit animals.
I only got the tiniest smidge of the lobbyist’s fury, and it was enough to rattle me. And I’m kind’ve not that easy to rattle, which is sort’ve how I wound up in that situation in the first place.
There’s no shortage of people abusing power across America and around the world. I love comics about superheroes who fights mutants and Nazis and various flavors of dudes-in-pajamas, but in this case I was inspired to create a team of superheroes who fight back against an abusive power structure. The power structure we all call home.
Issue 2 came out last week. Technically it’s over a year late. But… looking around at the world we’re living in right now, kinda feels like it came out right on time. Honestly, it’s pretty upsetting when you write dystopia fiction and people start calling your body of work prescient.
If you’re interested in some of the ideas beneath the surface of Young Terrorists, here are a few of the books I was reading when I wrote it. In several cases they directly impacted the actions on the page, in other cases they’re just sources I relied on to remind me why I’m always so pissed off all the time.
By Jonathan Safran Foer
This isn’t the book that turned me vegan when I was 17 years old, that was John Robbins’ DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA. But I’d heard good things about EATING ANIMALS and I wanted to re-acclimate before writing Cesar, since I’d lapsed into being a lazy vegetarian over the decades. And yeah, everything’s just as awful as I’d remembered it. Foer has a sincere, every-new-dad approach that makes the whole thing less polemic and more palatable, but it was a healthy shot of rage with specificity and if you read it you’ll note detailed descriptions of some of the treatment of animals that Cesar ponders in issue 1. EATING ANIMALS didn’t inspire the issue 4 illustration of cows being driven into a shredding machine and forcefed to their brothers and sisters though, that image has been burned into my brain since I read DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA.
THE DIVIDE: AMERICAN INJUSTICE IN THE AGE OF THE WEALTH GAP
By Matt Taibbi, with incredible art by Molly Crabapple
Taibbi is a national treasure for his relentless mocking of Wall Street in Rolling Stone throughout the financial crisis. THE DIVIDE delves into real-life stories that paint a mosaic of how our economic infrastructure fleeces the poor by the millions in order to upstream wealth to the elites. The scenes of Sera and Cesar joining migrants forced at gunpoint across the border directly into the hands of drug cartels waiting to kidnap and ransom them is directly inspired by this book (unless that technically counts as plagiarism, in which case I never read it). Taibbi has the guts to list specific locations and name names, whereas I am way too gutless (also I live closer to the border so fuck that—btw, if you’re in a drug cartel: I’m referring to the Canadian border cuz I live in Vancouver… f’real). Anyhow, if you actually want to learn something read his book not mine.
ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE
By Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera
CONFIDENCE MEN: WALL STREET, WASHINGTON, AND THE EDUCATION OF A PRESIDENT
By Ron Suskind
THE BIG SHORT
By Michael Lewis
By Matt Taibbi
TOO BIG TO FAIL
By Andrew Ross Sorkin
These are various books on the financial crisis, which I’m listing together because only a sociopath would read all of them. THE BIG SHORT is great (I heard it got made into a movie?), GRIFTOPIA is cool, and CONFIDENCE MEN was the one I probably found to be the most enjoyable read (though it’ll really make you grieve Bernie’s campaign), but I ultimately thought ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE was the most thorough account of the financial crisis with a ton of insight and details I hadn’t already heard elsewhere—which is probably why it’s the least popular on the list. TOO BIG TO FAIL was the most popular on the list until Adam McKay came along, and thank god for McKay because TBTF is fucking atrocious and should be stricken from the record—that book helped inspire Sera’s line “history is written by the culprits.”
BLACK FLAGS: THE RISE OF ISIS
By Joby Warrick
I tried a few books about ISIS/ISIL/Daesh trying to get a real breakdown on how exactly they structured a sovereign state rather than just being an insurgent, guerrilla group. Most of the books I found were dumb propaganda, fake-news, or not interesting enough to bother mentioning. BLACK FLAGS is legitimately great though. It’s mainly a pretty thorough biography of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but it also expands to encompass the ensemble of characters and situations that led to the formation and operation of the Islamic State. And if you’re confused about what the fuck is going on in Syria, this book gives an insightful view through several facets of the prism.
THE SECRET ARCHITECTURE OF OUR NATION’S CAPITAL
By David Ovason
I can’t remember if any of the Washington DC architectural stuff from the Young Terrorists FCBD story is actually from this book or not. I think I read this book wanting to find existing conspiracy theories about Washington DC architecture, but I didn’t like any of them so I just synthesized my own. This book is mostly about how a lot of the Founding Fathers were freemasons and how that inspired DC’s architecture. (I also read FAITHS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS which was pretty good and asserts they were Deists.) Third Eye Comics was kind enough to fly me out to Baltimore for a signing, so I went to DC afterward and mapped out how the buildings face each other, that’s when I noticed the Eagle on the Fed building is basically glaring in Lincoln’s direction and I remembered years back reading an observation that Lincoln and JFK were the only two Presidents to go around the central banks and as luck would have it both were assassinated… that observation wasn’t made in this book though, I think it was in Jim Marrs’ RULE BY SECRECY. Which is great and fucking bananas.
THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION
By Aldous Huxley
Huxley’s my all-time favorite writer, but I never read this book because I’m straightedge and I don’t care about Jim Morrison. Turns out it’s pretty rad though, and it finally made me understand the reason I never needed drugs as a kid is because I got the shit kicked out of me so much. Supposedly science later disproved this, but I’m stickin’ with Huxley.