Earlier this week, IDW Publishing announced a new project that brings readers in the middle of a war between two feuding immortal races with one immortal necromancer standing in their way. “Monocyte,” a story created by “Zombies vs. Robots Aventure” artist Menton3 and co-written by fellow studio member Kasra Ghanbari, is an occult action-adventure story with political, social and philosophical themes that all loop in to one action-packed plot.
Amidst preparations for Comic-Con International in San Diego, Menton3 took the time to go in depth with CBR News about his new book, providing full details on the immortal necromancer, how he became the avatar of Death, the ongoing war and his planned soundtrack accompanying “Monocyte.”
CBR News: Menton, tell us about “Monocyte.” What’s the concept and how did the book get started?
Menton3: I got hired to do a commission of a superhero, and by chance it was a superhero that I’d loved as a kid. So I went back to read some older and newer comics to get reacquainted with him, and to be honest, somewhere along the way I had put things to this superhero that simply were not there. The way in which I remembered him was not really the way he was at all. I had made him something “else.” Sitting there reading those comics, I started to think about why I had placed such notions in there, when they simply did not exist.
I started writing down all of these things I had invented, along with the idea of what would be a superhero that I liked as an adult and who I am now, and within about fifteen minutes the basic construct of “Monocyte” was sitting in front of me. To be honest it was like a semi metaphysical experience, it was as if “Monocyte” had existed in my own internal architecture for years, I felt at that moment as if I already knew “Monocyte,” like seeing an old friend.
I started talking with my friends about the experience, and one of my closest friends (and art rep), Kasra, really responded to the idea a great deal, I loved the question he asked, they really made me think, and together we started building this world.
Obviously, most people aren’t going to recognize “Monocyte” as a superhero, but this is probably as close to writing spandex as I’ll get!
What can you tell us about Monocyte and how he becomes Death’s proxy? And what exactly does Death’s proxy do?
The world as we find it is inhabited by two warring immortal races, the Olignostics and Antedeluvians, who have reached immortality through technology and magic, respectively. These races both have human slaves, which they use as part of their immortality apparatus, and the souls of these slaves are harvested at the time of their body’s death. So as you can conclude, death and duration no longer exist in this world.
Death, Azrael, no longer has purpose, as even the trees, plant life and animals died long ago from the wars. His prolonged irrelevance has eventually forced him to take physical, impotent form. But he has a plan, set forth with impossible patience, and he needs someone to execute it for him.
The title character, Monocyte, is himself an immortal necromancer who for an age has wandered the world searching for a way to die. In his complete failure to do so, he went to sleep as a way of approximating death. This sleep lasted a long, long time, long enough that the remaining inhabitants of the world had more or less forgotten him, or at least relegated him to myth and legend.
But Azrael didn’t forget about him, and he calls forth Monocyte and enters a pact with him to complete Monocyte’s training in the art of necromancy in order to destroy the immortality power sources, in returning granting Monocyte his long-sought death. This changes everything, and sets out a series of events no one could have foreseen, not even Azrael.
What about the warring immortal races? What is the conflict they’re battling over?
This is a long, long story. I could write a book to this question, in fact we did! Ha! There is a great deal of backstory here, and some of it will be revealed in the story, but to put it simply, they convert one another in this time. When our story starts, they have been at a stalemate for a very long time, so there has been no blood shed in many years, but through Death’s manipulations, they are about to begin a new battle, for reason that or more or less unknown to most of them. You see, at this point they cannot kill one another, so they send their human slaves to fight for them. But even when the humans die, their life force is still sucked up. This is a land where nothing or no one dies anymore, to war is true hubris, which tells you a great deal about who the Olignostics and Antedeluvians truly are at heart.
Tell us about the world and universe you’ve created for these characters. What makes this world different from ours and how does it play into the war of the immortal races?
This takes place in an uncountable amount of years from now, the Earth is completely unrecognizable. It is a horrible place, full of a constant stream of vices, but not even the vices bring the joy they once had, nor does the flavor of power over others bring that much fruit. It is all at a complete stalemate, until Death’s plan starts to show itself.
You’ve worked on a few other IDW titles in the past, including “Zombies vs Robots Aventure” and “Silent Hill: Past Life.” How did your work on books like these help or influence your work on “Monocyte,” if at all?
Those books were really critical for me to understand some of the hardcore elements of the comic book medium, like the choices involved in panel construction and storytelling, pacing, the best ways to render the art in each situation, how to convey emotion and even how to collaborate with other creators.
But eventually you get the itch to do something your own, something deeply personal, to sit down and spend countless hours crafting page after page, panel after panel, infusing all the things you believe and want to experiment on to try and pull off. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love working on other people’s properties, and I always will. But for me, the payoff is having the opportunity, especially in a creator-owned situation, to be totally free to lay down all the things you’ve learned and believe so that you can test those things. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with “Monocyte!”
While the world may be different, the book boasts a number of recognizable themes – how do these themes (political, social, philosophical, technological) come into play?
We’re trying to say some things in this book, but first and foremost, this is an occult action-adventure story that’s going to be a lot of fun to look at and read! Those themes represent important facets of how we see the world, so they can’t help but be represented in the story. They’ll be there if you want to look for them, and in some ways they’ll form their own story, but you’ll never get distracted from the hopefully fresh story and visuals we’re trying to give you. Trust me — after reading the book, if you’re looking at all, you will see what we are trying to say.
Tell us about your process working with Kasra Ghanbari. How does “Monocyte” go from concept to script to art?
The way we’ve worked is to literally spend hours and hours, day after day, month after month trying to “live” in this world we’ve created so that it becomes more and more multi-dimensional and accessible to us. It’s a process that’s work real well thus far. We both end up seeing, thinking and feeling things within this world and then talking about it, which enriches the world. Then, we just keep moving forward.
After that, it’s pretty straightforward. Kasra takes the lead with pen to paper for the words, and I take the lead with brush to surface for the art. Since we share a studio in Chicago, it’s constant feedback and debate and tweaking throughout all of it.
You’ve mentioned on your website that you’ll have mini-stories at the back of each issue starting with two stories, one by Riley Rossmo and one by David Stoupakis. What’s the story behind these and how do they relate to the main story of “Monocyte?”
We wrote the script for “Monocyte” and then realized that we weren’t going to be able to explore the human slaves and their story as much as we would have liked. The script had gotten pretty tight, and it just wasn’t fitting in naturally, especially for the kind of elaboration we were looking to do.
So we came up with the fun idea to get other creators we love to do these mini-stories in the back of each book. We built a basic outline for the human story arc over the four issues, picked artists we thought could be perfect for each book, and then gave them free rein to interpret their story exactly as they wanted.
It’s worked out great! And I think people who pick up “Monocyte” are going to have a lot of fun seeing this world through the eyes of all these diverse, amazing artists.
You’re also doing a soundtrack to go with “Monocyte,” which is not something that usually happens with comic book titles. What’s the record going to be like and how does it tie in to “Monocyte?”
Yeah, I have a music project call Saltillo, and I will be doing a record that will more or less be a soundtrack to the book. For me it’s another way to tell the story, trying to live in the world so you can write from it. I do not just see things, I hear things as well. So this is going to be a great deal of fun.
What has been most satisfying about creating “Monocyte” for you?
Being able to bring something from the internal to the external, and knowing that people will have a real chance of seeing it. For me that is what art is, just externalizing the internal world. It is amazing to be able to such a stage as this to live out my ones fears, hopes, anger and desires. To have the chance of saying and showing what I would love in a comic. Also, I should add that Ashley Wood and Bill Sienkiewicz have done variant covers for this project, and on so many levels that is a dream come true. I am living the dream.