Few comics creators have enjoyed such a meteoric rise to prominence as Rick Remender. In spite of establishing himself early on as both a writer and an artist, it wasn't that long ago that he was primarily thought of as an inker on Marvel's 'Avengers' comics. Then, in 2005 the Remender revolution began. He reasserted himself as a creator, launching a fleet of creator owned books such as 'Sea of Red', 'Strange Girl' and 'Fear Agent' to name a few.
And last week, we reported that his latest effort was set to be adapted as a film with Remender writing the screenplay and actor Sam Worthington starring and producing. Remender talked exclusively with Mania about this exciting new comic from Radical Publishing called 'The Last Days of American Crime'.
Mania: Let's talk about your book, The Last Days of American Crime
Remender: Comic book, yes.
Mania: Can you describe it for Mania readers who might not have heard about it?
Remender: At its heart it's a classic heist story with touches of science fiction and socio-political business around the perimeter of it. The story takes place in America eight or nine years in the future where a few spats of domestic terrorism have caused a spike in public paranoia.
In this climate the U.S. Government, in secret, has been developing a broadcast that neurochemically inhibits anybody within the range of the broadcast from doing anything they know to be unlawful. Their response is to seize every radio tower in the country, broadcast this beam and no more crime, no more illegal activity, no more jay-walking, no more anything.
A couple weeks before this broadcast is set to be turned on, the Washington Post breaks the story, and so America goes nuts. It's chaos and pandemonium, mass exodus to Mexico and Canada. Anyone who can afford to leave is leaving. Anyone who can't is either holed up in their house with a shot gun or they're on the streets raping and pillaging. It's basically a last chance for everyone to either get their yah-yahs out, or hide.
The broadcast is labeled the American Peace Initiative by the current administration at the time. They try to put a spin on it but no go. Everyone is going nuts. But of course, there's plenty of people who like it and are happy about it. It further polarizes the country. If you're on the streets of a major city it's like a zombie film, in that it's very dangerous.
That's the basic setup.
Mania: That all sounds like it dovetails with where the country has been in the last 10 years or so, with the government cracking down and trying to take control of things in ways that infringe on your freedoms. Was that your intention with writing this?
Remender: For sure. The idea was born in 2004, right in the middle of the Bush administration. 9/11 had spooked everyone so much they were willing to give up [any] civil liberties the Bush gang asked for and the Bush gang was glad to take them. When you throw in the sci fi elements and a slight tweak on reality where such technology is plausible, it isn't hard to imagine a situation where another act of terrorism on our shores could spur the government to implement a mind-control ray, to keep people from every committing crimes.
And, of course, where does it stop? If Bush demonstrated anything quite clearly it's that one leader's ideas of what's best for the people can differ greatly from what is actually good for the people. Or what another section of the population agrees with.
This idea came to me as taking that idea of the government as your protector and their going to watch out for you and keep you safe, you just have to let them do whatever they want, and give them whatever they ask for. As someone who doesn't believe security is a thing that we can achieve any way. It's sort of a fictitious idea in a world based mostly on chaos. I found it fascinating to take that idea to the Nth degree.
Now ultimately this is the backdrop to the story.
We then take this fun socio-political backdrop and focus down on a grifter, a safe-cracker named Graham Bricke. Graham has been planning a heist for some time now.
The second major element that adds to the sci fi...is that the terrorist acts and all criminal endeavors are being funded with American cash money. The solution to that is that they're going transfer all money into a digital format that will be charged onto fiduciary charge cards. The banks are slowly converting to these places where you can go in and get your money charged onto a card.
Graham has been working security at one of the banks that does this. He has been working a plan to steal one of these charge boxes so that he can then move to a beach in Mexico and use it for charging unlimited currency and live the high life.
When the American Peace Initiative is announced with the broadcast set in two weeks, this heist that he was going to spend a couple to three months to complete, the pace has been moved up, forcing him to bring in a few people he's never worked with before and make fast moves, which eventually lead to sloppy decisions. Things go, as any heist story should, not according to plan.
Mania: I've read quite a bit of your stuff, but have you done a straight-up crime thriller before?
Remender: I haven't. I like to genre-hop. I like to study what makes a genre work.
You know the last arc of "Fear Agent" we infused it with a Leone style Spaghetti Western theme. "Sorrow" was a nice 1970s style possession horror story. ...A lot of miscellaneous super-hero stuff, and hard boiled science fiction in "Fear Agent" as well.
So I like to hop around. It keeps things interesting. It's another genre to study and dissect and see what makes it tick.
In terms of this, it's really motivated by Mamet's "Heist" film, which I think is brilliants, and James Ellroy's "American Tabloid". Those two speak to it and what I'm trying to do with it. Ellroy being an example of the kind of hard-boiled crime that has socio-political backdrop, and Mamet's "Heist", a very well though-out heist film that focuses on the heist itself. It's an incredibly well-executed batch of ideas and when the zigs and zags come, you believe them because the characters have shown their intellect via these very intricate heist plans they've put together.
Mania: You say you study a genre or dissect it. What's that process like for you?
Remender: It's immersing yourself in what you think are the best examples of that genre. Once immersed, it's trying to figure out what you respond to emotionally and trying to figure out the classic trappings and how you can spin them to make them a little more unique or add something a little more personal to them. I just have a blast with it.
In terms of something like "Sorrow" and took a 70s horror film. I added in some of the possession aspects from "Twin Peaks", which I was always creeped out by. It's a lot of soup-making basically, trying to take aspects and aesthetics and elements from things that I like from pop-culture and films and television and novels and find a way to pull them through my own mind. Hopefully what I excrete is something unique that still has that classic feel that you want to get from a genre piece.
Mania: How did you come to bring the book to Radical Publishing.
Remender: They came to me and they were looking for new projects. This was one, in 2004, I was penciling a book for Dark Horse and storyboarding for Electronic Arts, I was spending my free time at night writing. I had written "Fear Agent", "Strange Girl", "Sorrow", "The End League", "Night Mary"...I had written a bunch of pitches and bibles for them. "Last Days of American Crime" was the last one of those.
It was the only thing that I hadn't pitched or put together any place. When Barry [Levine] at Radical asked if I had anything I pulled it out and said, "This is something that's very personal to me and I think could have not only a lot of fun to be a very hard-boiled, fast-paced gritty crime story, but maybe even have something to say."
Barry agreed. He fell in love with it.
They told me to get the art team that I wanted. I usually art direct my own projects. I got to put together a great team. They brought in Alex Maleev to do covers. We've got Greg Tocchini doing painted interiors. The thing is just a labor of love. Everybody is bringing their A game. Radical has given us the time to build it slowly so there was no rush and everybody got to put in the amount of time to make the thing great.
It's turned out. It's turned out great.
Mania: So when does the book come out?
Remender: December. The week before Christmas.
Check back with Mania tomorrow for part two of our chat with Rick Remender, where we talk about the development of the 'Last Days of American Crime' movie.
Interested readers are directed to check out 15 pages from the book on Radical Publishing's MySpace page. If you want to pick up the book ask your retailer about it, and help them out by providing the ordering codes for issue 1 (OCT091056 - Alex Maleev cover, OCT091057 - Greg Tocchini cover) and issue 2 (DEC090978 - Alex Maleev cover, DEC090979 - Greg Tocchini).