With this week's release of "The Megas" #1, Jon Mostow –director of such hits as "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "U-571" – is the latest Hollywood A-lister to join Virgin Comics' Director's Cut line, which also includes works by John Woo, Nicolas Cage and Guy Ritchie.
Told as a political 'What If?," "The Megas" explores the lives of America's elite ruling class in an alternate universe where the United States is no longer governed by a democracy but by a monarchy, complete with a King, a Queen, princes and dukes, each blessed with a near-luminescent head of white hair.
In issue #1, one of the Megas is murdered, and it's up to Bureau of Royal Investigation agent Jack Madison to solve the crime.
"I never meant 'The Megas' to be preachy, and I don't see it as much of a case of Democrat versus Republican," Jon Mostow told CBR News. "Where I sit, it seems like we are living [in] what, frankly, England became many centuries ago, which is a two-class society.
"The great thing about America is that anybody born in America can grow up to be anything. You could grow up to be President. You could grow up to invent the automobile and become Henry Ford. But the way our country seems to be evolving is that you are either born into some degree of privilege so you can afford to go to college and pursue a certain track in your career or you are not. And the majority of people in this country are born with no advantages whatsoever -- in fact, with a lot of disadvantages. And college and a lot of things that people take for granted are simply not accessible to these people and that leads us to a two-tiered society of the haves and the have-nots.
"We already have an the elite class, debating over deck chairs on the Titanic while the whole ship is potentially sinking because the thing that made us great as a country is kind of fraying apart.
"But there is another prism to look at 'The Megas' through, which is that we live in a society where there is this very, very elite class of celebrity and CEOs who rake in $50-100 million a year and hedge fund managers and all of these people and they are just living a completely different life existence than you and me. These people never see the inside of an airport because they're flying around on private jets. If I ran over some homeless guy, I would probably go to jail. But it's impossible to imagine the same thing happening to someone like Bill Gates. If Bill Gates ran over a homeless guy, well, do you see Bill Gates going to jail? That's not going to happen. There is a different justice system for these people."
It is Mostow's belief in a two-tier American society that made a concept like "The Megas" come to life so easily on the comic book page – which is drawn by Peter Rubin from a script by Mostow's collaborator M. John Harrison, of the "Viroconium" series of science fiction stories and novels.
"The Megas" is planned as a monthly four-issue miniseries, and after reading issue #1, there will be plenty of unanswered questions to keep readers guessing. "There are some surprises coming for Jack for sure, in future issues, that will not only effect his investigation of the crime but will also provide a bit of a journey for Jack too. He's going to learn some secrets about himself," teased Mostow. "We also have the whole 'Da Da Da' movement, which is basically this revolutionary, anti-monarchy movement to explore. And we learn what that is and who is behind it and how it is being manipulated.
"We learn about the conspiracy that exits within the royal class. As is true of all monarchies through history, there is always tremendous back-stabbing and politics."
Why the Megas are each topped by a head of flowing white locks is a question that will also be addressed. "You will definitely learn more about that," laughed Mostow. "The thing that I am really happy about in the book is that the printing is usually never exactly like what you are used to seeing on the screen. But they got the hair perfect. The hair almost glows. The idea is the Megas are a slightly superior race of people. They are just 10 percent better than the regular humans. And one of the markers of the Megas is that they have this fantastic mane of white hair.
"It's our obsession with the glitterati class of people," Mostow continued. "All we do is obsess about them; we write about them, we watch gossip shows about them, we put them in talk shows and magazine covers and yet we resent their privilege. And yet we envy them at the same time. Isn't that exactly the relationship that the proletariat had with royalty? The royalty were essentially institutionalized celebrities.
"In my travels, I have spent a lot of time in the company of movie stars. And you walk away from these encounters and feel these people are special. They do have incredibly special gifts. Some of these people truly do have some kind of magic quality about them, that's what makes them special. And that's really what The Megas are. They have some special --in this case, genetically inherited --quality. It just makes them that extra five to 10 percent more special, more than the average human being."
Mostow came up with the idea for "The Megas" some years ago, but he could never figure out what to do with it. "I had one initial conversation with a friend of mine at a television network and his eyes sort of glazed over a little bit when I explained it," laughed Mostow. "And I realized it sounded like an eighth grade social studies civics class or something. I knew there was something in there but I didn't want to pursue it as a movie or a TV show so I just kept the idea germinating.
"Virgin approached me last year about doing a comic and I thought, The Megas is an idea that I could really explore visually in a comic book and it would also be a way for me to figure out if, in fact, there is a future life for it in other media. The comic book allows me to realize some visuals. You try to explain it to people, but seeing it is a different thing. When you take the Lincoln Memorial or something and you give it this ornate twist so it suddenly feels like it's out of British monarchy, there is something arresting about that image, I find."
Short of quoting John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, the historian and moralist, who coined the phrase, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men," Mostow said people love to watch powerful people be, well, powerful. "Certain ideas are inherently cinematic, and power, in the currency and trading and exchange and grabbing of and losing of power, is often very cinematic. So we are going to test that in the comic medium. The quest for power has always been strong concept, so we are just bringing it to the comic book world."
"The Megas" #1 is on sale now from Virgin Comics.
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