This latest volume to the series of graphic novellas has young Nina wrestling with keeping her personal fairy Sybil a secret from her family and friends, while King Oberon and Queen Titiana need her help to save…everything. It’s a jumbo-sized fantasy adventure and a coming of age story all in one, as the forces of light and forces of dark unfold over a family drama. Really well done and smartly executed, though best suited for the more imaginative preteen readers out there.
Rodrigue’s story covers a ton of ground, as Nina and her backpack fairy go off with her classmates for a week of horseback riding. But family secrets come forth just as Nina must accept her role in the greater scheme of things. Lots of colorful characters and imaginative scenarios, almost like a Harry Potter setup for younger, primarily (but not exclusively!) female comic fans. While there are many a cute moment therein, the level of drama does keep things grounded, and Rodrigue’s approach to some Shakespearean names is fine and more than adequate. The level of answers given and plot threads tied off in this book are impressively done though, and make for a fine jumping on point for anybody interested in a fun story. These issues are generally self-contained, although there is noticeable continuity, and handled light enough so as to not confuse the young or anyone with a short attention span in general. And really, the payoff at the end is totally worth the huge buildup of this story, and even of earlier issues. Rodrigue clearly has a tremendous imagination, but just as easily writes some rather touching stuff.
Dalena and Giumento handle the art for the Ernest and Rebecca books too, but their work here is a very different style, shades more realistic though every bit as fun and energetic. With Razzi they offer strong panels that serve as windows into this small world where very big things happen. This story obviously calls for a lot from the visual storytellers, and they conduct their efforts stylishly and with tons of flavor. Chiang as well…her recent work for Papercutz has been some of the best of her long career, like the woman is finally able to really cut loose after too many superhero comics. I think there were still some awkward moments to Johnson’s translations here which may have affected the balloon flow, but again this is a large story with many neat factors to it, and the end product is an excellent package.
Like with much of Papercutz’s output, don’t be so quick to presume that this is kiddie fare. The many colorful personas of good and evil in this book alone are stunningly well above and beyond what passes for inventiveness at the big two publishers these days. This is a great work of fiction brought faithfully to the English-speaking market, full of originality and with very human characters in spite of the mythological make believe of the story. Your intelligence will assuredly not be insulted.
The breath-taking finale to the newest Crow tale has Jamie Osterberg, an ikiryu of the yata garasu- an embodiment of the Crow spirit, do the unthinkable as he battles an artificial ikiryu and then journeys into the many literal Hells in search of Haruko’s soul. It is a harrowing and emotional mindtrip as life and death are explored through Japanese mythology in a near future, techno-thriller setting. Science and magicks converge as forces of selfish evil betray their own humanity. Big finish.
And Shirley is a king here, wrapping what must be the finest Crow story since O’Barr’s own original comic strips. Probably the most spiritual, actually. Shirley excelled at finding commonalities between magick and technology especially, such as the insinuation that demonic pacts create wormhole portals directly linking the practitioner’s soul to his new master, like a sublink embedded within a computer virus. Jamie’s own evolution, and deterioration, came off like a retelling of some long-forgotten Asiatic myth cycle, and though we don’t get the fullest closure we might want, we inevitably get what we need. Really, potently effective storytelling on his part through and through.
Colden and Wilson are a dream team after this, giving a flowing style that is light in tone and hues yet striking in its visceral forms and imagery. The designs for the Hell sequences were on par with the very best of the Sandman. And as horrifying as were some of the plot points in this issue, the art maintained a solemn stoicism, never forgetting its emotive base. These are honestly gorgeous pages, and Lee’s lettering style is among the best work from him I have ever seen as well. Even Hotz is returning to his own experimental roots for his covers, though of course O’Barr’s paintings stole the show. His new, impending story is really something to watch out for.
This issue was an appropriately dramatic chapter to an incredibly imaginative modern fable, and one I highly recommend. You won’t find too many tropes of Gothic aesthetic here, just a compelling story and lushly addictive artwork that together present a stirring saga of love at its best, and love at its worst. Brilliant work, violent and moody and wistfully ethereal all in one breath, and far better than what one might expect of the property.
Thomas Gorence is a producer and musician and writer and technophile, and also creator of Time Samplers, a new comic book series that bravely mixes fiction to question fact. He is the man with a plan.
Thomas, I understand Time Samplers has been a mighty long journey for you, but when exactly did you first entertain the notion of utilizing creativity for a higher purpose?
The true spark of creativity for this project in particular was ignited sometime around 2003, and started more or less as an idea for a concept album. The original intention was to put politically aware lyrics into catchy songs. Our group managed to work with a few popular artists, and the higher purpose was to try and educate a wider audience about complex topics. Mind you, this was before the popularity of the Truther and Occupy movements, and way before Kanye and Jay-Z started referring to Freemasons and Illuminati. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there weren’t many musicians touching on political issues (specifically concepts revolving around the New World Order) aside from legends like KRS-ONE, and other underground artists like Immortal Technique and groups such as Killarmy.
Eventually, the idea for a concept album slowly evolved into an idea for a series of animated music videos. Adding a visual medium allowed for more information, and also seemed to appeal to a wider audience. The first one of these crudely animated videos was created around 2004. In the process of creating that (and others), I realized this was what I wanted to do, so much so, that I parted ways with the military and started to work on music and animation full-time.
It’s taken close to a full decade, but Paranoid American and Time Samplers are finally here, as an extension of that original intention to bring years of complicated research to a wider audience.
Whose was the first creative voice (from whatever medium) that really spoke out to you when you were younger? I mean like borderline obsession. Was it the style, or the content that drew you in?
The first creative voices that really spoke out to me were from various factions of the Wu-Tang Clan extended family. It was certainly a mix of the style and content that drew me in. Blending classic samples from songs I grew up with on the radio, with raw drums and hypnotic beats, that style is also what inspired me to focus on music production as a creative outlet. The first real outlet I had, which felt natural and uninhibited.
Albums like the Gravediggaz’ 6 Feet Deep (1994) and Killarmy’s Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars (1997) really blew my mind, and changed what I thought about music. Not only were these the first rap groups I had listened to outside of Fat Boys or Fresh Prince, they were the first artists to ever spark an interest in people like William Cooper and Jordan Maxwell.
Adding fuel to the fire, in the summer of 2001, just before 9/11, I went to Orlando (also known as the 8th borough to the Wu) with a group of friends to see Killarmy and the west coast Black Knights. After the concert ended around 2am, we all went to a Denny’s – and an hour later, in walked the members of Killarmy. They must have seen the huge “W” we had written in the condensation on the windows, and then saw our eyes light up a bit when they came in – because while a couple of them placed an order for take-out, 9th Prince of Killarmy (RZA’s younger brother) came over to our table, and after a quick chat looked at me and said we’d probably cross paths again someday. If I could pinpoint a specific moment as the source of inspiration for what I’ve been trying to do ever since, it would have been right there and then.
Do you think history repeats itself? And if so, are we all doomed after all?
I don’t think it’s a matter of doomed vs saved. Everything exists within cycles, so yes, history will continue to repeat itself, forever. The sooner everyone can accept that, we can collectively decide to use these cycles to elevate ourselves – or just remain ignorant and let those cycles turn into a downward spiral, like water going down a drain.
The main difference between now, and any other point in history, is that knowledge and information used to be fairly hard to come by, and limited. Now, we’re all saturated with information from all angles. There’s less of a reason than ever to be ignorant…although there is also a seemingly endless number of ways to be distracted too.
Misinformation is also easier to come by these days, unfortunately. What would you say are some required reading materials for beginning the path to higher grounds?
I agree – and would also suggest that misinformation has been boiled down to a science at this point. Being able to blend just the right amount of truth with lies is a powerful way to attack anyone nosy enough to learn on their own about history, science, religion, etc. I don’t really believe there are any sources of pure “truth” out there though. Instead, knowledge is all about widening your perspective.
As for required reading materials, Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm are outstanding introductions to an overbearing state. The other main books for me are Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper, The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall, Matrix of Power by Jordan Maxwell, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, and a very long list that I could go on about for hours.
There isn’t really a great “beginner’s guide” that I’ve come across yet. Everyone has a different reason for wanting to learn more about various topics. However, depending on a specific theory or topic, I could easily list a library’s worth of reference materials that would help point in the right direction. I believe that Trine Day (http://www.trineday.com/) is probably one of the best places to start, they publish all types of books that I consider to be invaluable. Feral House is another.
Is it a coincidence than many of the largest conspiracy theories out there all suggest economic manipulation of some form or another? Is Capitalism the New World Order?
The economy touches all classes and demographics. It affects the poor and rich, both sides of the spectrum. There are many forms of control – media, culture, politics, religion, etc. however economic issues are the common denominator. You can ignore media, you can identify with counter-culture, ignore politics, etc. however there’s no way to ignore economic manipulation. It pervades everything. Even those who denounce money and fool themselves into believing they are living off the grid…fluctuations in the economy dictate food supplies, transportation options, and even the severity of legal consequences.
I don’t believe that capitalism is a result or cause of the New World Order. The NWO will forever be under way, regardless of the socioeconomic construct currently in place.
Right on, man. Play the armchair psychologist for us for a minute. Why would people even feel the need to control others? What is it about our species that needs to fill a collective inferiority complex like so?
I think it’s a bit simpler than that, and probably more biological than psychological. Once you’re at the top of your class, industry, political party, whatever, you want to stay there. It’s a natural motivation that we all have for self preservation. It’s often said the government never gives up power once gained voluntarily. Well, governments are made of people, and that characteristic of governments is just a reflection of our own nature.
There’s another explanation as well, which hinges on the idea that most people are just begging to give up control themselves. A bit cynical, sure; but there’s plenty of research that can back this up. As long as there are people out there willing to give up control, there will always be those interested in taking it. Because of that, obtaining and maintaining control has evolved into an artform and science unto itself over the course of human evolution. No inferiority complex needed, just culture, legacy, and instinct.
With Time Samplers, you gathered a great roster of collaborators. Was it at all awkward exploring so much of an anti-establishment theme with a number of talents, or has creative fires and the quest for truth proven relative enough?
For the first few years, before I had any good concept art or solid scripts, it was very hard to explain the Time Samplers – and I do remember getting a few strange looks. After teaming up with Humberto Cunha (http://home-ice.deviantart.com/), a really talented artist out of Santos, Brazil, the story of Time Samplers had some visual anchors that helped convey the attitude and story a bit more.
The process working with artists, writers, and editors hasn’t been awkward at all. In fact, it’s surprising how many people resonated with the idea right away (after a bit more concept art and writing was fleshed out). The only awkward part so far has been discussing the work with some especially-dedicated conspiracy theorists. It’s a broad spectrum – everything from fervent religious angles, to people accusing me of being in the CIA and using “magic manipulation” to control them through the comic.
Do you believe that such efforts exist out there in our culture, of false truths masquerading maliciously as arrows leading the way? I mean, spin control is a regular thing in any media. But something that set Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 apart from Brave New World and 1984 was that the biggest setback for civilization comes by all substance being removed from culture. Where everything serves as an advertisement for yet something else. It’s arguable that we are already in that world.
It would be tough to argue that any form of mis/disinformation isn’t malicious in some way. As for the techniques of spreading false truths – why choose just one? If you’re open to entertaining the idea of a global conspiracy of any kind – each approach would be just another tool in the bag. Modern marketing and press campaigns are made from an almost purified and crystallized form of Orwellian doublethink. We’re slowly being surrounded by cameras everyday, and it’s not just the state either. Without any form of coercion that was prevalent in 1984, the digital village of today, 2012, freely uploads every personal moment and every bit of information to social networks, just for fun.
The form of control described by Huxley in Brave New World was based on overloading our senses with various forms of entertainment. A great case could be made for all of these works, since they were all reflections of what really happens.
As for the biggest setback of civilization being the loss of substance in culture, that’s open to debate. For example, the late (and great) Terence McKenna makes a good case that “culture is for other people’s convenience and the convenience of various institutions, churches, companies, tax collection schemes, what have you. It is not your friend. It insults you. It disempowers you. It uses and abuses you… It fetishizes objects, creates consumer mania, it preaches endless forms of false happiness, endless forms of false understanding in the form of squirrelly religions and silly cults. It invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanize themselves by behaving like machines – meme processors of memes passed down from Madison Avenue and Hollywood…” (http://youtu.be/iYB0VW5x8fI)
That said, if Time Samplers, like everything else, is trying to sell something, what are some of those deeper themes you hope shine through the most? What are some avenues that are just never explored enough in the limelight?
Make no mistake, Time Samplers and Paranoid American are without a doubt trying to sell something. We’re trying to sell a completely new perspective on history and culture – and the idea that there are always multiple angles to information. It would be much easier if the main goal was to move products and sell goods. Instead, our focus is a bit less tangible – and probably not as easy to define in terms of profitability or market appeal alone.
If there was one thing thing that Paranoid American could bottle and sell, it would be the seeds of curiosity and skepticism. We’re still working on those seeds, but the Time Samplers comic is a great start.
How far ahead do you map out your plot ideas? And do you have a set end in sight, or might Time Samplers go forever?
The big picture is mapped out fairly well, but the individual stories are written pretty much as we go! This very organic approach has been the most engaging (and fun). Each of the main characters in Time Samplers has been fleshed out into a great amount of detail, their relationships between each other thought out, motivations behind their various actions, their strengths, weaknesses, flaws, Jungian archetypes, which elements they would represent, astrological signs, etc. With lots of backstory to work with, sending the characters off onto these adventures into conspiracies and secret societies is exciting, and feels natural.
In addition to all of the thought out characters, the adventures revolve around years of meticulous research. The amount of material we have to draw upon for Time Samplers seems like enough to keep the series ongoing forever. There’s so much research to present, that it will also be coming out through other comics, games, and goodies from Paranoid American.
There is no “end” in sight for Time Samplers. The current plan is to wrap up the first story-arc by the fourth issue, and then see where we go from there.
Just from the first few stories, I think the implied depth to the characters is very clearly portrayed. I could imagine myself on a DMT journey and accidentally wandering into the pawn shop. But as you yourself are a musician, and having specifically made tunes for the Time Samplers world, and also with the impending game, have you weighed going all out with the multi-media experience, like an interactive live performance ala Gorillaz?
Certainly. In fact, the Gorillaz project has been a huge inspiration of blending multimedia with music since the early 2000s. I’ve actually been out to LA (with some great friends of mine), and pitched the Time Samplers idea to a few animation studios, mainly for advice and to develop some contacts in the process. There was quite a bit of interest, however the concept was hard to explain verbally, much darker than most animators were used to, and I had not found the right concept artist yet to visually explain any of the characters. Ultimately, the cost of putting together a 4-7 minute animated pilot, casting for voices, and the overall management of the project was far too expensive and time consuming. The comic medium seemed like the perfect fit, since it can be done over a longer period of time, with a smaller team. Plus, the comic could serve as a great base to build on when it’s time to try the animation angle again.
As for the impending game for iOS and Android, “Escape from Jekyll Island,” developing games and apps is an everyday routine for me, so I don’t need a large team for those. They’re also great ways to help develop the story outside of the comics, and into an interactive space.
I like to think that if we don’t think outside of the box, then what exactly is it there for? And you certainly are doing just that. I wish you the best of luck in every battle you take on and man, thank you so much for checking in with the LP!
Been a pleasure, and thanks for giving me a platform to spout conspiracy theories from. And of course, support independent comics (like Time Samplers)!
As funny as the whole money system is, the silliness of the body politic in thrashing about for solutions to the economic crises is laughable. There are two easy routes that could be taken, if Church and/or Business did not control the State to such extents.
If the Conservative Right is in bed with the Christian ideology, and Christians preach that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and that the meek will inherit the Earth, then where is the compassion for the lower classes in these trying times among the GOP? Especially as the lower the class, the harder their sufferings now? The unholy marriage of Church and State does not promote morality, it only prohibits the rights of others. I have written about this ad nauseum and I will say it again- if we absolutely must have taxes, then we should revoke the tax-exempt status of all religious bodies and tax them as we do any other wealth/power-accumulating agency. Churches are not about spreading ethical or virtuous health, they exist now only for the few to have power over the many. As such, they should be taxed right along with any other corporation if they want a seat at the table in DC. This would equate to a gigantic revenue stream that would allow for lowered taxes for individual citizens. Unfortunately, like corporations, churches actually have more power than do tax-paying individuals.
Personally, I think we should dismantle the IRS entirely. And certainly the Federal Reserve as well, as they merely make up whatever dollar amounts they can dream up, leaving it to the taxpayers to payback with interest the imaginary figures. I also think we should remove all welfare- food stamps, unemployment, medicare and medicaid, WIC, everything. And in turn, no more tax breaks or subsidies for companies either. No welfare period, for anyone or anything. Plug up that government spending left and right.
But what really scares me is that no voices in the media question the logic of running the nation like a business. A government is not a corporation, it is not about accumulating wealth or power, it is about managing the resources already extant. However, if we place so much emphasis on this imaginary economy that continues to weaken year after year while spending increases year after year, then what is wrong with a universal, flat sales tax on each and every good sold, including food stuffs? It wouldn’t matter if it’s a candy bar or a yacht, let’s say…five cents per dollar from all items sold will go to the Federal tax pool. No more arguing over whose earnings are getting taxed, let’s just tax what’s sold. If you want to avoid taxes then you just won’t buy anything (including food), but the more you buy, the more taxes you pay. Obviously, a blue collar family will not be buying as many golf club memberships as white collar families, so there would be a differentiation in taxes paid, although only in terms of the worship of materialism. If you’d wish to have the very nicest things, to show off or to hide away in offshore safe deposit boxes, then you’d have to pay the piper. Five cents per dollar spent from everyone regardless of caste is entirely fair.
Either option would resolve much of the debt concerns. Consideration of the fact that if the states could go five minutes without pissing off the rest of the world then maybe we wouldn’t need to maintain a supposed military dominance would also be nice. Let’s just cap the defense annual budget to one billion even, with no chance for inflation. We’d still be spending more on guns than any other nation on the planet. And put the savings towards paying back all of the other countries of the world (the literal source of most of our debt), or towards rebuilding our infrastructure so that episodes like Katrina or Sandy never again hurt so many citizens, rich and poor alike. Managing money is not difficult. I may be homeless and gainfully unemployed, but I have no debt. I never have. I live frugally regardless of how many employers are fucking me over, and I always find a way to get by and at least break even, without falling behind. And that’s fine by me, having no pipe dreams of rags to riches rubbish. Or running around screaming that the sky is falling, when times have always been tough for those not pocketing the world’s money. Screw the economy, and the enablers of the fetishism. The answer to the supposed economic problem has always been right there staring us in the collective mug, but Church and Business insist on possessing all of the pie without putting their wealth where their mouths are. These circumstances will just never be resolved, regardless of which party holds which office, because the system is set to serve the ones they ultimately serve, not the taxpaying citizens. Nuts to that game, and to the lemmings fretting over the fiscal cliff.
Featuring the lovely Siobhan Hewlett as Faith Harrington, Act of Faith is written by Alan Moore and directed by Mitch Jenkins, and serves as a prelude to Jimmy’s End. Faith is the entire show actually, with other voices heard but no other faces really appearing on screen. This may be the last evening in the life of the poor girl, depending on your definition of what exactly life may be. She is successful enough of a young woman to be rather lonely, but one whose extracurricular activities are overpowering her days, like a penultimate nightmare remembered at the worst possible time. The cameo by a Faith No More album serves as an inadvertent commentary upon the lead’s role as much as a probable shout out to Moore’s friend Mike Patton. The pacing of the story is well-envisioned, with excellent cuts and transitions presenting a creeping paralysis for the viewer, like some bawdy peepshow into the life of another that you just cannot tear your eyes free of. The shocker ending is chill-inducing, and in fact, the idea that she has no physical encounters with other persons suggests she may already be a ghost of sorts, caught in some repeat cycle as ghosts tend to do.
Jimmy’s End, written by Alan Moore and directed by Mitch Jenkins, is a short film that curiously and skillfully explores dream logic as a dramatic narrative unto itself. Jimmy, played emphatically by Darrell D’Silva, is the everyman, who after a night of drinking is finding himself caught in a strange part of town, and an even stranger private club. All of the cast of characters seem like caricatures, and though some will see similarities in spirit to the weirder moments from Lynch or even Fellini, in truth this film is wholly a thing unto itself. While the core of the conflict is very much internal, the atmosphere of the setting is perverse with cheeky voluptuousness and oblique wisecracking, and an almost wistful longing for older times that comes off as rightfully suffocating. This is a morality fable, perhaps, but moreso I see this story as still existing inside of Moore’s mind, even though his words have been turned into film, and his lines have been read by and brought to life by a wonderful selection of skilled actors. Indeed, though Jimmy is clearly the core player, we know virtually nothing about him or his background prior to the start of the movie. And while Faith reappears in this film, no real explanation is offered for how she got from the closing scene in the prelude to her current status as a seeming prisoner of a mobster-like, blood-coughing mover and shaker. Though we become most accustomed to this “Adam and Eve” all of the faces on screen seem to be under a cloudy fugue state where, as in dreams, their actions are limited to the surrealistic. These are not real people, and even more are not full characters of a fictionalized drama, but rather are somewhere inbetween as one and all struggle with the sublime terror of the setting as much as struggling with the notion that they are incomplete- moreso for the main faces and exponentially less for the lesser faces. Incomplete, because they are yet figments of Moore’s own mind. This is a story of limbo, and of the shadows that lay there forever. And as this is a story of limbo, then the appearance of Moore himself as the star among stars on stage suggests that the author, like the role he plays, is the harbinger sharing this shadow world with the rest of existence. No matter your thoughts on the occasionally controversial Moore or his work in general, this film is not what’s expected, and gloriously so.