At the New York Comic Con earlier this month, Radical Publishing announced The Last Days of American Crime, a new book by writer Rick Remender and artist Greg Tocchini. I caught up with Remender for a brief Q&A on the book, working with Radical and the screenplay he's already working on based on the property.
JK: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Rick. What can you tell me about your new book from Radical, The Last Days of American Crime? What's the book about?
Rick: The skinny: The U.S. government has perfected a broadcast signal that will extinguish criminal thoughts. Enter fifty-four-year-old burnout, Graham Brick, a grifter who, with only 10 days before the signal goes live, discovers the crime of the century that he’d been planning suddenly transformed into the last crime in American history—if he can pull it off.
The not-so-skinny: In the not too distant future, as a final response to increasing domestic terrorism and crime, the US government plans in secret to broadcast a signal that will make it impossible for anyone within it’s range to engage in any unlawful behavior. This broadcast, labeled the American Peace Initiative, will be a new omnipotent police, enforcing all laws absolutely and effectively ending all crime in America.
The government has successfully kept The US population distracted from any knowledge of the A.P.I. broadcast by another controversy as they openly prepare to convert from paper currency to a new system based on Federal charge cards.
Career criminal Graham Brick has discovered a way to secretly steal one of the charge machines. With the government none the wiser and this currency machine in his possession, Graham would be free to endlessly charge his money card and enjoy the ever so elusive “good life”.
Two weeks prior to the planned broadcast the Washington Post breaks this story to the general population sending the country in chaos.
With the sudden knowledge of the broadcast, Graham now has ten days to complete what he originally anticipated having three months to pull.
Unable to finish the job himself on such a short schedule, Brick is forced to enlist help. Enter Kevin Cash and the beautiful Shelby Dupree, a couple of young, slick, and potentially psychotic safe crackers who hook up with Brick after answering his coded call, taken out in a local rag. The story revolves around these three vipers, each with their own agendas, and the bloody road they travel on the most difficult job of their lives.
JK: I can't help but think it's partly inspired by things like the Patriot Act and other Bush administration policies. Is that accurate, or am I reading too much into it?
Rick: You hit the nail on the head. I developed the nuts and bolts of the story in response to Bush politics and American’s willingness to sacrifice a perceived yet totally artificial sense of safety in exchange for their personal freedoms and privacy. How far would we allow that to go if w were attacked again? What if we were attack six times in one year?
JK: One of the common themes I've noticed in your work is that the characters you write are usually in that moral "gray zone," if they have a moral compass at all. What's the appeal of writing these types of characters?
Rick: We’re all in that gray zone depending on who is gauging our ethical fortitude. There is no universal right or wrong, these are human constructs to help us get along with one another. I like to write characters that understand this, who look beyond the socially accepted ideas of what is appropriate and make their own determinations. A character that lives life by some ethical guideline that was predetermined by a majority of strangers isn’t someone I find every fascinating.
JK: You've worked with numerous companies on your various comics work over the years. What was the draw of working with Radical on this project?
Rick: It’s hardcore crime with apolitical bend. It took someone like Barry and Radical to see the potential of such a thing to not only make a great comic but potentially a great film. Different companies have different sensibilities and this story fit in with what the folks at Radical want to be making.
JK: In addition to writing the comic, you're also working on the screenplay based on the book. Was that part of the initial deal with Radical, or how exactly did that come about?
Rick: Barry called me after reading some of my other books and thought my voice would translate well into film. I’m currently finishing up the writing of a screenplay for my Image series XXXombies, with Kieron Dwyer, so this won’t be my first go of it. I’m writing the comic in screenplay format so the two aren’t too far afield form one another. It’s really given the comic a cinematic feel. Series artist Greg Tocchini is turning in some wonderful work. He’ll be digitally painting the entire series, it’s gong to be legendary stuff. We’ve also got variant covers for the entire series by Alex Maleev. Hopefully enough great stuff that people will have no choice but to pick the book up.
The Last Days of American Crime will be a three-issue mini-series at 48 pages each for $4.99 -- the new format Radical is implementing this year. It hits stands later this year.