Ezra Clayton Daniels may not be a name you're familiar with right now, but it's one you should get to know. An emerging talent on the comics scene, his self-published series "The Changers" brought him rave reviews, but what's currently turning heads is his contribution to the second issue of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents," the revived Dark Horse anthology series available online for free and exclusively through MySpace.
(Note: you'll need to scroll half-way down the page and click on issue #2 to see Daniels' work)
Daniel's contribution, "A Closed Circuit," tells the story of a teenaged girl named Del in possession of a machine -- a helmet acquired through unspecified means – which she believes will show her the way to her soul mate. The story begins just as her five-year search finally comes to an end.
The original idea of the soul-mate-seeking helmet came from Daniels' thinking about the theory of Universal Consciousness. "On a really elementary visual level, I saw the universal consciousness as a web of streamers that connected every person to someone else," Ezra Daniels told CBR News. "What if you met one of the people you were directly attached to? Would you feel an intense connection or even a psychic link to them? What spiritual logic or natural occurrence would have connected you to them in the first place? Going far beyond the primal element of sexuality, would this person, whether it was a crotchety old woman, a dimwitted teenage boy, or anything in between, be your true soul mate? What if someone somehow created a machine that would allow you to actually see your streamer? Would you even want to know who it was you were connected to?"
The story in "A Closed Circuit" is a very personal tale driven by Del's need to find substantive connections, and its tone was heavily informed by where Daniels' mind was when he wrote it. "When Dark Horse approached me to contribute to 'MySpace Dark Horse' presents, I was in the middle of a pretty difficult break-up," Daniels said. "I just decided to take a deep breath and allow myself to completely delve into those feelings of longing and rejection and loneliness and regret and ultimately falling back on the support of family. There's a lot of catharsis to this story, especially in the drawings, but I guess that's the great thing about making stuff like this is that it really helps you deal with the turmoil of real life. Lucky us."
Daniels came to the attention of Dark Horse through their New Talent Discovery Search, an initiative whereby Dark Horse searches through artists' pages on MySpace to find potential contributors for future issues of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents," a project designed to showcase emerging talent.
"My first book, 'The Changers,' which I put out myself, earned me a bunch of comics friends, so I guess I was pretty well networked and not too hard to find," Daniels explained. "Assistant Editor Sierra Hahn recommended my stuff to the editor, Scott Allie, who actually knew of my work and gave me the thumbs up."
"A Closed Circuit" is the first comic Daniels has drawn in over three years. If readers compare the work in this story to the "The Changers" pages on his Website, they'll discover his art style has evolved quite a bit since 2003. "With 'The Changers,' I used a really unstructured 'broken glass' panel logic that I thought created a sense of unease and impending danger," said Daniels. "And I used a really dense, highly graphic illustration style to visually imply the complexity of the underlying moral dilemma that drove the story.
"My intention with ['A Closed Circuit'], though, was to use a lot of fixed viewing angles and a really rigid panel structure to kind of slow down the pace and help accentuate the bizarre premise of the helmet itself. And I hoped the delicate, hatch-heavy illustration style would help bring the reader more into the world of this emotionally and physically vulnerable girl. I wanted the lines to feel like they could blow away if you breathed on the page too hard.
"And with my astoundingly talented colorist, Richard Lee, we really tried to go for a classy, but distressed feel to the hues and textures of the colors. I wanted it to look like a faded, vintage rock poster, with decaying colors that seemed just left of what you'd expect and Richard embraced that aesthetic and completely brought the art to life."
The future looks good for Daniels, who since the end of "The Changers" has been in full writer/entrepreneur mode. "I started a line of comics-themed, fill-in-the-blank greeting cards featuring original art by all kinds of talented indie cartoonists called 'Loaded Blanks.' Our second series, with cards by Lilli Carré and Dame Darcy, among others, actually just came out this month, so check it out, please."
Additionally, Daniels is pitching two new comics projects, one of which is a horror story set in Chicago's underground hipster art scene. The second pitch is tied-in to "A Closed Circuit." "Del is just a minor character in the longer story [I'm pitching], and though it does kind of set the stage for its invention, it really has nothing to do with the helmet itself," said Daniels. "It's a similarly-toned science fiction tale about elderly people and their malformed clones.
"I do have vague ideas for expanding the story of Del's own quest, and I would love to explore that someday, but I never even thought of using the device of the 'soul-mate-seeking-helmet' to tell a series of episodic stories featuring different characters. That's actually a really good idea. I might steal that. Thanks!
"I'm also right in the thick of writing my first novel, which I've been describing as a cross between 'Mad Max' and the 'Bad News Bears.' On ice."
Courtesy of Dark Horse, enjoy the first four pages of Ezra Clayton Daniels' "A Closed Circuit," from the second issue of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents." To see the complete story, visit MDHP, issue #2.
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