Radical media, politics and culture.

Cla$$ War Comix Postponed by WTC Attack

hydrarchist writes: "

So you're a writer, and you've got this really cool series that's set to ship from Com.X in November called Cla$$war. The series, which is getting loads of pre-publication buzz, is about superheroes in a world just like ours - one ruled by multinational corporations, where politicians are corrupt at best, the strings are pulled by big business, and America's foreign policy is a joke and a half. Believing itself to be the most powerful nation on the planet, the powerful in Cla$$war's America believe it's population is too complacent to rise up or even unite for a cause, and it's mere reputation, superheroes, and financial might is enough to keep attacks of its borders from occurring. Frankly, it was a view of America that, aside from the superheroes, many held.
Writer Rob Williams and artist Trevor Hairsine were set to enter the world of comics in a big way when Cla$$war #1 hit the stands.

But something else hit first on September 11th.

As a result of the terrorist attacks, Cla$$war’s November release has been pushed back to 2002, the publisher opting not to bring out a book that has what some might see as views of America that are less than favorable in light of the attack. Cla$$war will come out – just not for a few more months.

However, we still wanted to take a look at the series from Com.X as well as speak with its creators, so here we are. As a side note, these interviews were conducted a week prior to the attack, and any comments made by Williams in no way are meant to reflect on America after the terrorist acts of the 11th.

The more dour stuff over, on with the show…

A native of South Wales, Rob Williams is a professional journalist who’s written for the likes of SFX, Total Film, and GQ. He also spent three years scripting and directing videos for a small production company, which he called, “perfect training for writing comics.”

“I've always been a keen writer, when I can keep my inherent laziness at bay, and I'd written a few plays in the past,” Williams said. “I'd been a comics reader and fan since I was about three when my mum brought home with a copy of JLA which, for some reason, I still remember really clearly. But I'd never really considered writing them. Then, about three years ago, the obvious idea finally presented itself to me - You love comics, you love writing. Hello?

“I just realized this was what I really wanted to do. I find it amazing that I'd never really tried it before because I've always been so passionate about comic books - and that's increased as I got older,” Williams said. “So I started looking into how to do it, nagging every writer I could get in touch with for advice, contacts, whatever. Cla$$war issue one was my first script. I figured, let's write one and see how it goes. I was pleased with how it turned out and so I gave a copy to Com.X at a con. Three months later they rang, having finally read it, said they loved it. And here we are.

Along with being based in England, Com.X proved to be a perfect fit for Williams primarily, he freely admits, because they actually read his script – something he found not many other publishers were willing to do with any seriousness. “I was lucky that I caught them when they were just starting, probably a year before they launched Bazooka Jules, Puncture and Razorjack,” Williams said. “In the UK there' s really just 2000AD in terms of comic publishing. Now, that's been a great comic over the years and has launched people like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis, but they're not going to print your 22-page story no matter who you are. And as for the majors? It'll be a miracle if they even read your pitch, let alone sign you up. Mike Carlin gave me some good advice - get a book out, even if it's self-published, and if the majors like it you might get a gig with them. Also, with Cla$$war's political content, I figured there was no way Marvel or DC would touch it.

“Com.X were a rookie's dream - a small company looking for new talent who'd be totally supportive of the editorial content and who would give the book the best production qualities in terms of paper stock. They've backed me all the way on Cla$$war. I've been involved in just about all the decisions, including marketing the book. And they were always willing to allow Cla$$war to be creator owned, which has got to be a huge incentive for any writer. They made a commitment to providing a forum for new talent, something they should be commended for.”

From the moment Williams turned the script in, Trevor Hairsine was the artist Com.X wanted on the book. An 8-plus year veteran of 2000AD who’d left comics for video games (designing, not playing), but, like Pacino in Godfather 3, got pulled back in. “Ed and Russ from Com.X approached me with Rob's script,” Hairsine said. “I read it and then handed in my notice at the computer games place. Pretty much there and then.”

For Hairsine, whose influences range from Neal Adams, Mick McMahon, and Alan Davis, to Bryan Hitch, and Adam Hughes, Williams had only two requests – that he be able to draw distinctive, classic super-hero looking characters and be able to tell a story.

"American had to be Superman-ish and so on," Hairsine said. "Instant familiarity. It should be that much more effective when we put them thru the ringer. They all start off in the late eighties, colorful, cheesy superstars and over the coarse of a decade degenerate into something darker and grayer. “That said, I wanted to keep the designs simple. I'm really not keen on overbaked shoulder pads covered in stars and stripes, spikes and all that. Not my cup of tea. All in all though, I usually draw fairly ugly, hard people so pretty superheroes was something new.”

Hairsine’s uncertainty in his initial work is lost on Williams. “The guy's insanely good,” Williams said. “His action sequences are outstanding, he does jaw dropping splash pages and his visual storytelling is brilliant. Considering this is my first comic I've been hugely lucky to get him. I really think that he's going to get a lot of positive attention in the industry when Cla$$war hits the shelves. People are going to see this and just go, ‘Wow.’”

Enough about the creators for the time being – let’s talk about where this series came from and what it’s all about anyway…

“Cla$$war was generated by my dual love of political writing by people like Noam Chomsky and John Pilger and bloody great, intelligent superhero comics,” Williams said. “I figured, let's mix the two and write about something I'm passionate about instead of just knocking out yet another spandex book where a nondescript cackling evil villain tries to take over the world.

“If you believe what Chomsky writes about globalization, then there already has been a world takeover by western corporations, it first germinated in the 1950s and it was quite deliberate. Industrialists and world leaders gathered together and decided they couldn't allow another world war that would result in millions deaths so they set about creating what was effectively a one world government, at the expense of democracy. Fifty years on every mall has the same shops, every shopping center has become a mall, we all wear the same clothes, listen to the same records, read the same news that's delivered by a subsidiary of the same corporations that sold us the products that we're wearing. The real world has been taken over in a way that Doc Doom and Lex Luthor could only dream about.”

Given the world as Chomsky and others see it, Williams wanted to try mixing it with the concept of superheroes in a realistic manner. “If super-powers did exist they would be developed, owned and used by the government,” Williams said. “They'd be used as the ultimate weapon - the next level up from the atomic bomb - whoever had them would rule the world.”

Appropriately enough to Williams’ atomic bomb comment, the American super-team in Cla$$war is called Enola Gay, named after the plane that carried the first atomic bomb to Japan. Enola Gay decisively won the Cold War and ended the conflict, which became the Gulf War in our reality, in a matter of days.

"If you screw with America they're going to come down on you - hard," Williams said. "They're also celebrities, three of the team were chosen by a marketing team purely on the basis of their good looks. One is the ex-Heavyweight Champion of the World and the other two were the only people who came through the experiments alive and could handle their particular powers. The main 'star' of the team is American. He's no intellectual but the killing he's had to do for his country eventually gets to him - he starts to question what he's fighting for."

As American begins to question the motives behind his missions, he’s contacted by Isaac, an ex-CIA operative who gives him the information that shows him, in black and white, just how his strings have been pulled throughout his years with Enola Gay. As a result of the revelation, American turns his back on the government in order to tell the population that their beloved democracy is a lie – a move that puts him at the top of Enola Gay’s list of enemies.

“Cla$$war is basically the story of two people, American and Isaac, trying to tell the population the truth and to redeem themselves for their past actions in the process,” Williams said. “And it's got bloody great action sequences too.”

And while Williams admits that the series works well set in America, it would be virtually as effective if it were set in any Western nation. “The themes would be the same if it were set in Britain,” Williams said. “The current Labor Government could just as easily be the focal point when it comes to business interests and greed taking precedence over the good of the public. We're no different over here, unfortunately. Bill Hicks summed it up: ‘All Governments are liars and murderers.’ Placing Cla$$war in America just gives it more scale.

“I've always had a huge interest in America and, let's face it, if you're going to write a story about the current climate of the western world the canvas is just so much bigger if you use the States as a subject. Corporate greed, wealth, democracy - where else would you want to set a story about these things at the start of the 21st century? I'm certainly not judging or damning America in any way - although I come down quite hard on US foreign policy. In fact, the story's 'heroes' are fighting for things that are at the basis of everything America was supposed to be - truth, freedom.”

Like the rest of the world though, Williams sat watching in horror as America and the world changed forever on September 11th, and as a result, the description of Cla$$war’s America at the Com.X website – written months before September - comes off as far more eerie than Williams ever expected: "Modern day America, A sedated nation. A land of authoritarian corporations, corrupt politicians, and imposing wealth.” It’s a quote that now is slightly outdated. No one would call the America of this moment in time sedated, but again, Williams had no idea how much the world would change when he wrote the script two years ago.

Another eerie coincidence was Williams’ choice for the leader of America. “One of the main characters was a Texan Republican President who, to put it bluntly, didn't appear to be overly bright,” Williams said. “I think that George W. Bush hadn't even had the Republican nomination at that point so I had a kind of perverse interest in his campaign when he announced his candidacy. I could never bring myself to actually support the guy but I must admit that, on election night and during the constant recounts with Gore, it did more than cross my mind that if he got in it would be really good for Cla$$war.”

As one could guess from Williams’ political inspirations for the series, the villains – more like the ‘opposing forces’ who stand against American and Isaac in Cla$$war aren’t wearing kewl armor, aren’t locked in a secret hideout, and don’t stroke white cats obsessively. And hey – there’s not even a single giant gorilla to be seen, dammit.

“They're industrialists and politicians and a super-team who all share one idea - they're looking out for themselves,” Williams said. “The pursuit of power and wealth is what drives them. They're no different from the head of a sports corporation who makes millions while his products are made overseas in crippling sweat-shops or a world leader who sends his troops into another country in order to win an election back home. These people are willing to build their success on the suffering of others - does that make them your traditional villain? I'm sure Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger didn't think themselves evil when they ordered the bombing of neutral Cambodia in '69 killing tens of thousands of people but, then again, I'm sure it haunted them afterwards. At least, I hope so. There's an ambiguity about the ‘villains’ in Cla$$war because they don't see themselves as evil. The only out and out psycho in the book is a pyrotechnic member of Enola Gay - Burner. He's just a nasty piece of work, and he's a lot of fun to write as a result. Everyone else is just compromised, which is a very human trait.”

And in Cla$$war, as in real life, the hands of the people are somewhat tied when it comes to changing their government in any appreciable manner, which allows the system Williams’ describes in Cla$$war to continue.

“I think the general apathy in voting these days can be directly equated to the fact that people don't trust today's politicians,” Williams said. “They just see two shades of the same color. There's no left any more. In Britain, Labor is center-right and the Conservatives are just a bit further to the right. And that's your options - two different levels of self-serving greed. It's the same in the States, except it's further to the right. MPs are discovered to be taking cash for questions; Senators are questioned over the disappearance of girls who they may have been having affairs with - it's all the abuse of power. Even the good ones are hugely compromised. Mr. Smith doesn't go to Washington any more, if he ever did in the first place.”

While Williams isn't about to disagree with people who want to pick up Cla$$war just to enjoy a good comic, there is an underlying message that he hopes reaches some readers. "People should question more," Williams said. "Don't just accept what the news and the television tells you, because mostly these days it's just sound bite journalism that can't possibly tell the whole story. People like Chomsky and Pilger talk about what's really going on in the world - there are things in their books that the news never covers. To use a totally original quote - the truth is out there, you just have to look for it."

As mentioned earlier, as a result of the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Cla$$war’s release has been pushed back to the beginning of 2002. Running six issues initially, Williams and Hairsine are set to go for another six if the series catches on with readers. “I'd love to bring it back and finish the story off,” Williams said. “I've got it all planned out and there's some great scenes that I wasn't able to include this time. It'll really depend upon public reaction and sales. If we're all sitting around the office lighting cigars with $100 bills in three issues time, then it'll be back for more. If the only person to buy a copy is my girlfriend then it'll probably never be heard from again. Com.X really like it, they want to do more but there are certain realities that come with running a small company. We have to wait and see. Having said that, we've go t a superb artist and, in my opinion, a damn fine read. Cla$$war's a bloody good comic book.”

As for the post-Cla$$war future, Williams sees more comics. “I've got another project that could be happening with Com.X in the near future that I can't talk about at the moment,” Williams said. “I've got a mafia series called 'Family' that I'm going to be pitching to all and sundry soon - I've got an interesting angle on it and I'm dying to write that. It'd be cool to work with Trev again on something else. I've got a great take on Adam Strange, if DC are willing to let me write it - he was in that copy of JLA I was given when I was three so that'd be fun. Writing comics is what I want to do. We'll have to see what happens.”

The original story and some sample frames from Cla$$ War Comix are to be found at:

http://www.comicon.com/ubb/Forum12/HTML/000068.htm l"