Know Your Enemy: Vázquez talks "El Arsenal: Unknown Enemy"

The future won't be kind to Mexico and South America. A nuclear accident triggers an earthquake that breaks off the Baja region of California. Japan launched a full-scale invasion of South America that the various countries are still recovering from. The concept of law and order is a joke and maintained by a corrupt group of UN Peace Keepers, while heavily armed mercenaries settle conflict between major powers. The Mercenaries are recruited and regulated by The System, an underground organization that ranks mercenaries by their so-called "hitting average." This is the dystopic future world of "El Arsenal: Unknown Enemy," a three issue mini-series by writer Salavador Vázquez and artist Daniel Perez coming this July from Arcana Studios. CBR News spoke with Vázquez via e-mail about the series.

The idea for "El Arsenal" came to Vázquez almost 7 years ago. "Back then I was publishing (along with Carlos Garcia Campillo) a comic named 'Lugo,' here in Mexico," Vázquez told CBR News. The idea was to write the story as a screenplay for a short film. It began as a dark comedy/sci-fi/western. I used 'Innagada Da Vida' by Iron Butterfly as a 'soundtrack' and came up with the images and situations. A year after that I began to translate the story into comic book form.

Vázquez recruited "Lugo" collaborator Daniel Perez to illustrate "El Arsenal." Over the next five years the two shopped the comic around to various publishers throughout the US and Mexico. Fate smiled on Vázquez and Perez when a longtime friend sent some "El Arsenal" pages to Arcana Studios' Sean O'Reilly. "The very next day he contacted me via IM and the next thing you know we had a home at Arcana," Vázquez explained "This has been an incredible company and we know it's going to do amazing things!"

The dark post apocalyptic world of "El Arsenal" is also a world full of black humor. "It's all about irony and to make fun of tragedy. We Mexicans are good at that. No matter how good things are going we need a little tragedy to make fun of. We like to mock even death," Vázquez explained. "The irony in the world of 'El Arsenal' is that chaos and anarchy were the result of world peace. There was no apocalypse. Humans and their violent nature were our doom. The post-apocalyptic set up I wrote came from making fun of the current world. For example, Mexico falls apart after Mexico City is destroyed. Why? Because Mexico is a centralized country, and if there is no capital, there is no country."

In "El Arsenal" disputes are solved by gun slinging mercenaries. The top merc and star of "El Arsenal" is Simon Templas Masiosare, who is at the peak of his game because he really enjoys his work. "Despite being a merc, he is a good friend, he likes what every man likes: Beer, Rock and Roll, and Women. In that order. He only takes a job if he thinks it's going to be fun," Vázquez said. "The job he takes on in 'Unknown Enemy' is very well paid, too, so he wants to take the money and retire to a beach in Australia and surf. He is the son of an old Mexican wrestler named 'El Templas,' and from whom he learns the tricks of 'Lucha Libre.' With his fearless attitude and his taste for a good fight, he makes the perfect mercenary for The System."

Simon's job in "El Arsenal: Unknown Enemy" takes him to the small remote Mexican town of Palomuerto, which Vázquez said was inspired by the real town of Real de Catorce. "Simon is the mercenary hired by The System to steal a powerful biological weapon, contained in three cockroaches," said Vázquez. "He heads up to Palomuerto to contact the System's negotiators, but before he does that he stops at his favorite cantina to have a beer. But he is not alone, as a bunch of mercenaries are tracking him down, every single one of them with their own motivations."

The mercenaries are just a few of the interesting characters Simon meets on his trip to Palomuerto. "We introduce the bartender, Czornomas, a wise man and friend of Simon's, always with his useful concepts about love and women," Vázquez said. "Then we have the other mercenaries: Godzukee, a very simple man, an Elvis fan, religious in his very own wicked way. Killing Simon is the only thing in his mind. Zazil, the rookie, beautiful and deadly. Always with her is Carroñas, a real loser, always stuck to her, like a leech. El Toque is the mysterious one, and the most wicked of them all. We have the negotiators, who at first seem like traditional mob guys, but when we get to know them more thoroughly we get to see just how weird they are. And there is Mariana, Simon's love interest, a woman with a real story behind her."

Morality in the world of "El Arsenal" is often fluid and a story can become drastically different based on the perspective. "One of the concepts behind this story is that anyone can be the hero or villain," Vázquez explained.

The tone of "El Arsenal" is a cocktail of genres and ideas. According to Vázquez, the book is noir tinged post-apocalyptic sci-fi with healthy doses of black humor and Mexican folklore/pop culture fun.

A number of influences inspired the creation of "El Arsenal." "I'd have to say some of my biggest influences come from films: 'Star Wars,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Doberman,' Tarantino, John Woo, Robert Rodriguez, Alex de la Iglesia," Vázquez said. "Some comic creators that have influenced my writing are Matt Wagner, Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Kevin Smith."

"El Arsenal: Unknown Enemy" is a complete, self-contained story with some loose ends and Vázquez already has more trips planned back to the world of "El Arsenal." "The 'El Arsenal' will be told in arcs," Vázquez explained. "'Unknown Enemy' is the first one, but I am already working on the next three: 'Luv Story,' 'Bizarre Love Triangle' and 'Known Enemy.' I also have another set of stories that are set apart from the events in 'Unknown Enemy,' in which I explore the past, future and even the 'alternate' life of some of the characters."

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