Lying can sometimes save a life, but in the world of "Shadrach Stone," the new Penny-Farthing Press graphic novel by writer Stuart Moore and artist Jon Proctor, double-dealing holds the key to saving an almost infinite number of lives from across the multiverse. It's just too bad the world's biggest liar suddenly finds himself unable to do what he does best.
"[Shadrach Stone] is a literary agent who learned at a very early age that you can get everything you want by just telling people what they want to hear," Moore told CBR News. "After a traumatic event, which is a real historical event, he finds he cannot lie any longer and that destroys his career in a day because that's everything about him. His entire being is wrapped up in being able to lie."
As if losing his career wasn't enough, Stone suddenly gets inducted into a secret society that discovered the existence of alternate realities that are intimately connected to the process of lying. "I can't really explain too much more without giving a lot away," said Moore. "From that point it turns into a vaguely paranormal conspiracy theory story about alternate worlds. The fact that this guy has been a liar all his life and now cannot lie. It's a little bit of a metaphor for America and the rest of the world."
The event in question hits very close to home for Moore, who originally shied away from naming the historical incident. "I haven't been saying it out loud, but I might as well at this point. It's 9/11, which is an event I was in Manhattan for and a lot of my friends were," he said. "It's obviously something that caused a real shift in the national consciousness. I've been a little hesitant to talk about it in regards to the book because it's such a hot point and I don't want people to think I'm using it for shock value and that's not the case at all here. It's absolutely integral to the story and the theme of the book."
As for the idea behind the character of Stone, while a manipulative literary agent seems like something Moore could have pulled straight out of reality, the writer admitted that actually isn't the case here. "I could lie right now, but to be honest I don't remember," laughed Moore. "I do remember that I had an image of a man who, during the attacks on the World Trade Center, while everyone is running away from it, is transfixed by it and drawn to the sight. That's the image that the whole thing started with."
However, after developing that mental image, Moore ended up sitting on the project for a while-at least until a brief stay in another world gave him the next piece of the fictional puzzle. "I was briefly working on a re-launch of 'Nightwing' for DC and I had come up with this whole idea for a secret society that had their eyes on Nightwing. When [DC] elected not to go ahead with it-which is fine and their prerogative-I realized it was a completely perfect fit for 'Shadrach Stone,' and that was when the whole story came together."
That character grew into a key member of Force Majeure, a legal term referring to "act of god" and the name of the secret society that ends up recruiting Stone for their multiverse-spanning mission. "They're a top secret organization tasked with investigating alternate realities and for them, for reasons explained within the story, Shadrach Stone is the most important person in the world," explained Moore. "A lot of the worlds are dying. They're dying when Force Majeure first discovers them and they're dying from the moment they're created in some cases. There's a specific reason for that. In a lot of cases when they visit the world, there is a time factor involved. Force Majeure needs to get there, find out what they need to know and get out before everything collapses."
Beyond Shadrach Stone himself and the members of Force Majeure, Moore said there is one another major character in the book-Shadrach's girlfriend Vida. Their relationship provides a major underlying thread in the graphic novel. "She's a high fashion model and has been in a relationship with him for a while," Moore said. "They're kind of a power couple, but she's been lying to him, too. She's not what she seems. They both have to get past that and learn to trust each other if they're going to have a real relationship, which is one of the threads running through the story."
Although Moore laughed and acknowledged that many relationships continue despite little white lies, he said that it all depends on the level of deceit. And with Shadrach and Vida, that level extends in long and unexpected directions. "There are people who make little white lies, but there are also people who make very big lies. Then there are people who live whole double lies and don't tell their partners about it," said Moore. "Without getting too much into it, Shadrach is a liar by nature. He does it with every breath. But in the long run, his lies to [Vida] probably aren't as big as hers to him. It's something they both have to get over. Big, big external events in the story kind of drive that along."
As a fan of science fiction -- indeed, Moore headed DC's Helix imprint, which launched "Transmetropolitan," among other sci-fi titles in the 1990s -- the writer keeps up with the various theories behind alternate realities and based his premise on one of the more prevalent ideas. "There has actually been a lot of work done in the last decade of two about alternate reality theory and alternate world theory. There is a theory that space itself is so vast that if you travelled far enough, just by the sheer laws of probability, you will come upon alternate worlds that are almost exactly like ours but slightly different," Moore explained. "That's a hard one to wrap your head around. It's almost like the million monkeys typing and eventually coming up with the works of Shakespeare. Another type is the more traditional science fiction one where you have worlds formed by different decision and branching paths that people take and the world takes. Those realities, theoretically, you can't visit them, but you might be able to. That's closer to what we're doing in 'Shadrach Stone.' But the mechanism and the ways the alternate realities are created are somewhat different. I think I've come up with something a little unique there."
Through that idea of alternate realities, Moore said that while this particular graphic novel wraps up the story of Vida and Shadrach Stone, he does leave the book open at the end for further adventures."This graphic novel is a completely story, but it is also intended to kick off what could be a series," admitted Moore. "Certainly when you start playing with alternate realities, there is literally an infinite number of places you can go. This story focuses primarily on Shadrach and Vida, but there are members of Force Majeure who are introduced and play a part, but hopefully if we get to do more, I'll get to push them further."
"Shadrach Stone" by Stuart Moore and Jon Proctor enters our reality's comic book shops on September 15 from Penny Farthing Press.