Future Imperfect: Jamie Delano talks "Narcopolis"

As reported in this week's LYING IN THE GUTTERS, Jamie Delano, best known as the original writer of Vertigo's "Hellblazer" starring John Constantine and the acclaimed cult series "20/20 Visions" and "Outlaw Nation," is penning a brand new miniseries for Avatar Press called "Narcopolis" with artist Jeremy Rock. CBR spoke to Delano and took an exclusive first look at the new sci-fi series.

"Narcopolis is an imaginary, near-future, fortified, island city-state, with a technologically advanced, complex but self-absorbed population," Jamie Delano told CBR News."Its citizens enjoy a relatively comfortable existence, gratefully protected from an omnipresent threat of violence from the 'outside' -- which occasionally is randomly realized -- by an elite, diligent and all-pervasive security apparatus: T.R.U.S.T.

"Most of the population appears content to exist, incurious and unquestioning of the status quo," Delano continued. "But the odd one or two are disturbed by the rhythm of a different drum, unsettled by the vaguely conscious suspicion that the state -- represented by a sickly 'maternal' philosophy/brand known as Mama Dream -- may not be as benevolent as commonly perceived."

The etymology for Delano's fictional city combines the greek root "narco" --meaning sleep-- with the term "necropolis" -- or "city of the dead." "Narcopolis is a city-state whose citizens exist in a kind of somnambulistic inebriation, intellectually numbed, inoculated against empathy with a suffering world outside the security of their enclave by propaganda, freely available recreational drugs and self-indulgent sexuality: a classic 'bread and circuses' socio-political scenario," Delano said. "Whereas the denizens of a necropolis are physically deceased, in those who inhabit Narcopolis it is the intellect that molders."

The world of "Narcopolis" does bear some thematic resemblance to the dystopian futures described in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and George Orwell's "1984," but while Delano does count both novels among his influences, the comparison ends with the superficial. "The Joos so routinely imbibed by the citizens of Narcopolis is certainly a kind of Soma," Delano said. "The language employed in the story is less a direct reference to the Newspeak of '1984' than an attempt to have fun and add value by portraying the evolution of language in both a social and political context."

The protagonist in "Narcopolis" is an everyman named Gray Neighbor. "A production line worker in a Narcopolis munitions plant, Gray's personal doubt in the state is catalyzed by a vision experienced one day at work," Delano said. "His imagination follows one of his products - a missile - to its ultimate explosive destination on the other side of the planet. Neighbor's disturbed response sounds 'anomaly alarms' in the halls of the security service."

The task of investigating Neighbor's abnormal behavior falls to T.R.U.S.T. Agent Angel Love. Neighbor's actions lead T.R.U.S.T. to suspect that the factory worker is an agent of BadEvil and a carrier of FearPure. Love's investigation proves inconclusive, "but it does lead to a sexual attraction, rapidly requited, and Neighbor's eventual recruitment as a T.R.U.S.T cop.

"Neighbor's induction into the security service gives him the opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of Narcopolis," Delano continued. "Whether privileged information and the benefits of being in the system will bring him onside in the face of the inevitable, or his rebellious instinct continue to seek the truth and find a means to oppose its horror, is the theme that powers the story."

The seeds of the "vaguely" allegorical sci-fi/horror story were already rattling around in Delano's head when Avatar Press approached the writer about creating a book under their banner, and the publisher and "Narcopolis" proved to be a perfect fit. "My last project for DC Comics ('Outlaw Nation,' now available in a collected edition from Desperado Publishing) was prematurely terminated due to a perceived lack of interest, and I felt that it might be a good time for me to diversify -- move a little away from the mainstream, both in terms of outlets for my work and its nature," Delano said. "William Christensen at Avatar supported this aim by giving me a free rein to have fun."

Avatar tapped Jeremy Rock to pencil "Narcopolis" and Delano couldn't have been happier with their choice. "I'm happy he agreed to the commission and grateful for his considerable contribution to the development of the visual world we have brought to the pages together," Delano said. "Jeremy Rock has done a fantastic job in visually realizing my crazed imaginings."

Though there are no current plans to tell further stories in the world of "Narcopolis" after the miniseries is complete, Delano said he wouldn't rule out the possibility. "The scenario is certainly designed to allow the possibility of further exploration -- most likely through the medium of self-contained stories, probably featuring other denizens of Narcopolis."

The prolific writer has another Avatar miniseries scheduled called "Raw Bone," a pirate horror story. Additionally, "Hellblazer: Pandemonium" with artwork by Jock is due out from Vertigo in the spring of next year, and "Cruel and Unusual," the Vertigo series co-written with Tom Peyer, with artwork by John McCrea, has just been reissued by Desperado Publishing. "Meanwhile, I continue a collaboration with an L.A. producer to bring a version of my Vertigo series '2020 Visions' to U.S. TV screens while fooling with a novel and various other screen or comic oriented projects," Delano said.

Look for the first issue of "Narcopolis" in February of 2008 from Avatar Press.

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