Ramon Govea is new to the field of comics, but his first comic series Alt Control Delete turned some heads with its interesting concept and engaging visuals. We had a chance to talk with him about his new series and some of the inspirations that he drew upon.
Graphic Policy: What is your inspiration for the series? It seems like there is some Matrix in here, as well as some Hunger Games, and maybe a bit of Avatar.
Ramon Govea: I’ve always been a science fiction fanatic. I grew up watching pretty diverse material ranging from Star Trek and The Twilight Zone to the 80’s and 90’s blockbusters like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Robocop, so you could say that the seeds were planted much earlier. When I saw The Matrix, I was blown away by the integration of dystopian themes with some of the Ancient Greek philosophies that changed my worldview in High School.
I actually had the idea for this before I was aware of the Hunger Games franchise, but they definitely share some elements of the genre. The idea behind Alt Control Delete stemmed from the notion that since its inception, digital gaming has increasingly dominated so many aspects of global culture. I wanted to explore a world that had progressed beyond some of the common tropes of dystopian sci-fi. When I was brainstorming the world, I knew what I did not want it to be: no desert wastelands, no robots, no water crisis, and no aliens. That’s not to say all of that is off the table down the road, but I wanted to create a world that was relevant to what is happening on our planet right now – technology and social interaction seem to go hand in hand these days, and I wanted to take it a notch higher, to see what 11 looks like, so to speak, and this seemed logical.
GP: Part of the subtext of the series is that it is about an alternate way to do warfare. Do you think it is something that we will move beyond, or something that will always be with us as part of the human condition?
RG: I think war is ultimately a misplaced expression of anger and frustration. We have had values like patriotism and religious zeal instilled in us at a young age and here in the US they often motivate our collective desires for freedom of expression. On the flip side, the desire for revenge can be a potent and devastating fuel behind these same ideas. On the microcosmic scale I see competitive sports as a healthier expression of this camaraderie and unified goal, where the stakes are usually far less severe. I think at some point our species will realize that we’ve been going about things all wrong. Something is not working when millions of people are unnecessarily dying every year because of war. I think the survival of our species is dependent on a shift in perspective.
GP: The story is broken into two segments, the somewhat drab dystopian-like real world and the fantastical video game world. Were there any specific games that you drew from to help design the video game world?
RG: I’ve played a lot of video games in my lifetime, so there are a ton of games that I have drawn inspiration from for the series. In the first issue we introduced a classic team deathmatch that takes a surprising twist, but there’s a lot of Halo influence there with some fantasy elements thrown in. In future issues we’ll see puzzle games, racing games and some more war games.
GP: This is set in the far enough future, but the main characters are still using gaming slang. Do you think it is with us to stay?
RG: It’s funny, because just the other day I was remembering how often I got scolded as a kid for using the phrase “my bad” and the other day I think I heard someone say it in a TED talk. Without giving too much of the story away, I will say that the evolution of language has fascinated me for a long time. I was reading at an early age, so for “fun” my parents would have me read from the dictionary for guests for amusement. Eventually, I enjoyed Spelling Bees in grade school. So, somewhere along the way etymology became a cool thing in my book, and I think since gamer culture is such a massive influence on young kids right now, gamer slang is bound to live on.
GP: The main character is Tess, a female player that is pretty good at what she does. Do you see a connection about the future of games and comics and women taking a bigger role in both?
RG: Absolutely. It’s inevitable. I think there’s a huge evolution of consciousness happening right now and women around the world are regaining their power in this patriarchal global culture. It goes beyond just comics and games, but pretty soon we’ll see more and more women at the forefront of these industries too. I hope that by focusing on a female protagonist and collaborating with a woman on this book, my production editor was Heather Antos, who has since been hired at Marvel, I can contribute to this evolution.
GP: Part of Tess’ in game design has her donning a costume that incorporates fishnets, a fairly common feature in women’s clothing in comics. Why do you think they remain so popular?
RG: Funny you mention that, there’s a particular look that I wanted Tess to have in this game world, because this story will actually explore the exploitation of the female body in comics and games. It speaks to a larger issue. As much as I absolutely adore this genre, I am sick of seeing homogenized dystopian futures where women are one dimensional and there is a multi-cultural drought. The fishnets were a design that was pitched by the artist, Eddie Nuñez, and because I have this larger theme I want to explore, I thought it was perfect.
GP: Dystopian futures seem to be a common theme for comics in recent years. What do you make of the renewed focus on broken futures?
RG: It just speaks to a generation of people who recognize that many of our systems are just that. We live in a world where you have obesity on one end of the spectrum and people dying of starvation on the other. There are severe gaps in resource and wealth distribution and a huge opportunity for improvement in education around the world. Oppression, in varied forms, is still a huge problem in many countries, so films like Elysium, District 9, Divergent, and The Hunger Games are so relevant. People want real freedom.
GP: Can you give us an idea about where the series is headed?
RG: At the core, this is a story about a woman who is tired of her confined lot in life. We’ll follow her and explore a few different parts of the city. It’s a mix of noir inspired thrills, action, and mystery set in a place that’s just familiar enough to get your bearings. Tess is getting ready to go through a gauntlet that will challenge her perspectives. It will be a fun and hopefully unpredictable ride, but I really hope to bury some deeper philosophical ideas into the story and lay the groundwork for the next chapter of the saga when we finally learn the true meaning of the title of the book. This arc is hopefully just the beginning.