There is another world close to ours. This world is like our own in many ways. However, on our world science, governs reality and on this world magic is real and reality is mutable. A rash of murders involving a bizarre methodology known as science mark the beginning of a sinister plot that could doom the magical world and our own. The fate of two worlds rest upon the shoulders of a maverick homicide detective from the magical world. This is story of “Paradox,” a four-issue mini series by writer Christos Gage and artist Luis Henrique Ribeiro from Arcana Studios beginning this October. CBR News spoke to Gage about the dimension hopping mystical mystery.
The idea for “Paradox” came to Gage a few years ago. “One of my favorite things to do is mix genres that wouldn’t ordinarily seem to go together, and when I first started writing for ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ I began thinking about ways to put a new spin on the police procedural,” Gage told CBR News. “The idea of combining it with fantasy seemed so outrageous that I had to give it a shot!”
Gage originally wrote “Paradox” as a screenplay, but felt that the budget required to make the film would be astronomical and keep it from getting the greenlight. “By that time I had started writing comics and knew I’d found the perfect format for the story. My collaborator on DC Comics’ ‘Deadshot‘ miniseries, artist Steven Cummings, introduced me to Sean O’Reilly of Arcana Studios, an up and coming independent publisher based in Canada that recently won the Joe Shuster Award for outstanding Canadian publisher.” Gage said. “Sean was intrigued by the concept behind Paradox and inquired about publishing it… and here we are!”
“Paradox” is a story that combines multiple genres including fantasy, but it’s set primarily in another dimension that’s similar to ours. “The world of Paradox is like ours in most ways – it’s not a medieval, ‘Lord of the Rings’ type place; they have vehicles, skyscrapers, and cell phones – but their technology is all powered by magic,” Gage stated. “Rather than electricity, they use mystic energy, usually in the form of crystals that function like batteries.
“The citizens of this world use magic spells, but most people only know one or two – it seems the average human mind can only contain that much magic at a time; if you learn a new spell, you forget an old one,” Gage continued. “Generally, a person learns a spell or two that they use to make a living – firemen summon wind or rain to put out fires, gardeners can cause plants to grow rapidly, etc. There’s an element of destiny to it as well – just as we say certain people have a talent for math or music, some folks are drawn to one type of magic or another; what you can do defines who you are. ”
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However there are a select few that can wield a large amount of mystical might. “These individuals, called wizards or sorcerers, have a natural aptitude for magic, and can wield far more spells than most people,” Gage said. “Even among wizards, however, there are ranges of power – just like in the NBA, where you have bench warmers and you have Michael Jordan; MJ can make the bench warmer look like a fool, but the bench warmer can play rings around the weekend ballers on the playground. The level of a wizard’s power dictates his position in society – the most powerful will often be political leaders, business magnates, or celebrities.”
The protagonist of “Paradox” is Sean Nault. “Sean is a Los Angeles based homicide detective who is respected but not liked – and he really couldn’t care less,” Gage stated. “His fellow officers think he’s arrogant, aloof, and superior. This comes partly from the fact that a lifetime of seeing the worst in human nature has led Sean to keep people at arm’s length; but a big part of it is that Sean, unlike most cops on his world, doesn’t use magic in his police work. He prefers to rely on instincts, his keen mind – and, when necessary, a good ass-kicking. It’s not that Sean believes in science, but deep down he senses that, in depending too much on magic, something is lost. Yes, you can cast a spell to make a suspect tell the truth, but it’s unreliable – the perpetrator’s consciousness is altered, like he’s drunk; he won’t lie, but he might forget or overlook important details. Sean prefers to get a perp alone in a room and intimidate or trick them into confessing voluntarily – every detail. Sean can also be intense and obsessive – these qualities make him a good cop with an impressive record of solved cases, but they’ve also led to the dissolution of his marriage.”
Sean’s approach to crime solving is unique and different from the way police work is normally carried out in his world. “Police work there is more dependent on spell-casting, which makes Sean something of an anomaly because he prefers to rely on his instincts,” Gage said “He catches some flack for this and is considered a maverick for using dubious techniques like fingerprinting, which aren’t admissible in court. The overall structure and organization of law enforcement is like ours; there are uniformed officers, detectives, medical examiners, crime scene techs – the ranks and specialties are more or less the same. It’s the methodology that’s different.”
The crimes police encounter on Sean’s world are mystical tinted mirror images of the crimes that plague our society. “They’ve never heard of cocaine; on their world, a popular drug is Tanis root, which gives users a high that intensifies their senses, but can also have the side effect of turning them into werewolves,” Gage said. “Guns fire bolts of magical energy, not bullets, so ballistics is an unknown art; on the other hand, crime scene techs can ID the particular energy signature of a deadly mystic bolt from its residue on the victim’s body and match it to a given weapon or person.”
“Paradox” begins with Sean Nault trying to solve a series of homicides, a baffling serious of murder committed by a means he’s not seen before – via science. “With the aid of Lenoir – a member of the ridiculed subculture of ‘pragmatists’ who believe science is more than the stuff of myths and children’ s stories – and the 130 year old sorcerer Winston Churchill, Sean uncovers an apocalyptic plot that will lead him to another dimension – ours – and the realization that, unless he prevents it, both earths could well be destroyed,” explained Gage.
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The pragmatists feel that magic has become a crutch that humanity relies on too heavily. “The best parallel might be to the Amish, if you took out the religious element. Pragmatists (most people refer to them derisively as ‘scientists’) are people who choose to live in a way that willfully avoids conveniences of life (i.e. magic) that most people take for granted and use to make their lives easier. They do so because they believe their way of life is ultimately healthier, more pure. Lenoir and other pragmatists feel – not without reason – that a reliance on magic has deadened the human spirit, suppressed a drive to discover new things and break new ground.”
Winston Churchill, considered one of this parallel world’s most powerful sorcerers, shares the views of the pragmatists. “Like his counterpart on our world, Churchill was a British statesman and World War II hero who fell out of favor after the war, but in this case he lost his stature because he publicly advocated the study of science as a legitimate academic pursuit,” Gage stated. “Discredited in his home country, he relocated to Los Angeles where he lives in seclusion, his life span prolonged by the magical energy in his body. As a sorcerer who is also an expert on science, Churchill seems to be the perfect person to solve the crimes Sean is investigating – or the most logical suspect.
“Other supporting characters include Helen, the medical examiner, and Sean’s Lieutenant, Papillo, the only two people in the law enforcement community who Sean trusts, and Senator Booth, a wizard who can be of help – or might have something to hide,” Gage said.
Gage wants to keep the identity of the villain or villains of the series a secret for now, but he did reveal some of the enemies Sean Nault will encounter in his search for the truth. “I can tell you that some of the adversaries he’ll face include golems, gargoyles, a werewolf, the sorcerous might of powerful wizards, and (for him) far more bizarre threats like automatic weapons fire!” Gage explained.
“Paradox” is a mesh of a number of tone and thematic elements. “Just as, say, ‘Blade Runner’ was a merging of the classic noir detective story with futuristic science fiction, Paradox combines a police procedural with the fantasy elements of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ using the type of ‘what would the world be like if…’ premise we’ve seen in movies like ‘Minority Report,'” Gage said. “It can get dark at times, but also has the thrill of discovery as a major theme. And I should mention there’s nothing in the content that would be rated R – while I think adults and teens will get the most out of the concept, I’d hope that anyone who finds the Harry Potter books interesting would feel the same way about ‘Paradox.’ In TV terms, ‘Harry Potter’ would be the 8:00 show and ‘Paradox’ the 10:00 show.”
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The range of influences on “Paradox” run the gamut from long running television shows to classic genre films. “Obviously, my background writing ‘Law & Order: SVU’ was an influence, as well as films ranging from ‘LA Confidential’ to the aforementioned ‘Blade Runner.’ Alternate-world, fantasy and/or dimension-hopping stories I’ve read over the years, from ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ (the comic, I hasten to add) to the ‘Harry Potter’ books to Piers Anthony’s ‘Apprentice Adept’ novels, all informed my work on one level or another.”
Artist Luis Henrique Ribeiro joins Gage on “Paradox,” this being one of the Mexican artist’s first American works. “[Luis] clearly knows comics – one recent page he turned in, which depicts a man transforming into a werewolf, had a familiar feel to me, but I wasn’t sure why. Then I saw a sign on a wall in the background that said ‘After Neal Adams,’ and I realized it was an homage to Adams’ classic cover for ‘Marvel Spotlight’ #2, featuring the debut of ‘Werewolf By Night.’ What impressed me was that Luis did not slavishly copy Adams’ style or poses, but rather evoked the flavor of that historic piece – the general idea behind it – using Adams’ work as an inspiration for his own creativity rather than a crutch or something to rip off. When we began, I was a bit concerned about a possible language or cultural barrier, but Luis has obviously done his research, getting details of Los Angeles just right. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen thus far.”
“Paradox” is a complete and self contained story but Gage would love to revisit the world he created for sequels. One idea he’d like to explore is the origin of the magic that governs the world. Another idea he’d he wants to expound on is the alternate history of the magical world and how it mirrors our own, an idea that he touches on in this series. “There will be tantalizing hints – how King Arthur’s sword Excalibur figured into the defense of London from the Nazis, for instance,” Gage said.
A number of Gage’s friends and family assisted him in the creation of “Paradox”. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the input and help of my friends Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who contributed a number of great ideas and suggestions to the story – the look of the crystal gun you see Sean wielding on the cover of the first issue was designed by Amanda. I’m very grateful to them for being so generous with their creativity,” Gage explained. “My wife and screenwriting partner Ruth also contributed a lot to the story, as she always does. I also want to thank Steven Cummings for his great work on the cover to #1 and for introducing me to Arcana Studios in the first place.”
Gage has had a great time writing “Paradox” and is looking forward to the October release of issue 1. “This is my first creator-owned comics project, and I’m really excited to be doing it with Arcana, whose production values are top notch,” Gage stated. ” ‘Paradox’ was an idea I wasn’t going to do unless I found the exact right situation and I found it here.”