Carl Sagan once said: “You have to know the past to understand the present.” For fans of Valiant’s 4001 A.D. event, that means going back to the origins of the first Rai, as depicted in Rai #13, in order to understand the monster Father has become in 4001 A.D. #2.
With both issues on stands now, Newsarama asked Matt Kindt to help us unpack the events of the past in order to better understand the dangers of the present in our ongoing discussions about Valiant’s summer event, "4001 A.D. Chroncicles."
Newsarama: Before looking at what we can expect from 4001 A.D. #2, Matt, I’d like to go back and take a look at the story from Rai #13. Although I’m not sure we see you painting Father in a particularly sympathetic light from his retelling of how he came into being, we definitely get a picture of humanity helping to create some of the problems they find themselves facing in the main 4001 AD story arc.
The first Rai essentially helps Father perfect his creation in New Japan with the creation of the replication sectors, which provide multiple venues for humanity to live in a world of their own choosing. Yet, there are still those who are discontent with this arrangement. Why is that? Would this be like a second chance at Paradise?
Matt Kindt: I think there’s a layer of discontent and resentment over having this paradise just handed to humanity. It’s not earned. And I think humanity (at least in New Japan at this stage in its development) – is in its adolescence, and it doesn’t want to be told what to do and how to do it. But it wants and needs help at the same time. It’s an adolescence paradox. Being a father and having been a teenager, that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to channel here. New Japan’s “Father” is trying to do the right thing – he’s desperately trying to understand his kids (humanity) and doing everything he can to raise ‘em right.
Nrama: I’m also really curious about the way in which the first Rai is visually depicted. How intentional was it on the part of you and Cafu to not only make him a young boy, but also use a slightly more animated look and feel to the character when compared to his previous human self?
Kindt: This is the first Rai, so we really wanted him to have a heart-breaking innocence to him – which represents Father’s optimism and the idea that this is exactly what humanity needs at this sort of low point in New Japan’s history. He’s a beacon of hope. The animated look is actually more of a visual cue to some of the best manga in existence – Astro Boy and everything by Osamu Tezuka – which I have always been a huge fan of. This Rai is a big nod and love letter to his work.
Nrama:That evoked a certain empathy from readers, with this friendly and familiar appeal to his attackers met with the fact of him him effectively flushed down the toilet.
Kindt: I’m glad you felt something! Comics is a powerful medium, so if you didn’t feel bad at the end of that issue, I’d question your humanity! I really wanted to show the depth of compassion and inhumanity that people are capable of, as a way of showing how Father’s A.I. ended up learning his patterns of behavior. There’s a lot going on in this series – light sabers would have ruined that horrible moment! [Laughs]
Nrama: This is basically the moment where the “worm turns” for Father, isn’t it? We hear him state that as a result of the loss of the first Rai, New Japan would need “a new kind of protector” – one that would rule the people with a far less open hand and more of an iron fist?
Kindt: This arc is really as much about Father as it is the history of the Rai. It’s showing his growth and development as a somewhat benign A.I. into what we know him as in 4001 A.D. which is a despotic father-figure that is hell bent on whipping his “kids” into shape. So each issue is a step down the path – leading to the Father we know and hate in 4001 A.D.
Nrama: Now, jumping ahead to our most current iteration of Rai, we find him locked in direct combat with the dragon form of Father. Although Rai fights to save the people of New Japan, it’s a bit of a Catch-22, no? For every wound he inflicts on Father, he hurts those whom he seeks to protect.
Kindt: Yeah. He’s got the toughest choices of his life coming up. 4001 A.D. the series – and the Rai series proper – have all been leading up to the moments we see in #2 and #3. It’s messy and heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful, I think.
Nrama: At one point in the middle of the issue, Rai tells Father “If you won’t let Japan go … Then I’m going to take it from you.” What does New Japan look like apart from Father, especially if he is the sole reason keeping it in orbit above the Earth?
Kindt: We will definitely find out what that looks like. That is all I will say!
Nrama: Shifting our focus to the visual elements, I noticed the vast majority of the pages made heavy use of consecutive, stacked wide panels. Was this just a simple creative choice Clayton Crain made, or was there a particular reason you (both) had in mind in laying out the story like this?
Kindt: It’s building to the visuals of issue #4. But that’s really a conscious decision by Clayton – to tell this story in a really wide grand way. It’s the biggest thing we’ve done and he’s really opening it up. In Rai, we really started out small with some personal stories and then we slowly expanded and pulled back to show more and more of New Japan and finally Earth – and now it’s as big as we’ve ever seen. The entire series has really been getting bigger and bigger – leading up to what we had planned from the beginning. It’s big.
Nrama: Between Clayton’s painting the main storyline and then David Mack’s watercolor intro, I’m curious what benefits you feel there are for this story in applying these styles as opposed to more traditional line work that we see in most Valiant comics?
Kindt: This book isn’t the same without Clayton – he is such an integral part of the look and feel of the series. I end up feeding off of the pages he turns in and he’s always surprising me with little touches – character designs and accessories like the rings that Lula wears. He’s got his own internal backstory for all of the things he sprinkles in that I haven’t put in the script, so we talk in depth and really feed off of one another. It’s a true collaboration that you rarely get to be a part of in mainstream comics. And I think David Mack’s pared-down lines work as a great counter-point to the lush work that Clayton’s using for the main story. It really helps give the entire thing a sense of history.
Nrama: Without giving things away, it seems like Rai, Gilad, and Lemur in for a big game changer as we get to the end of the issue. What sort of hope will our heroes have moving forward?
Kindt: Not much. I think they’re hoping to survive…so we’ll see! Some of them will. But I’m a cruel writer that likes sad stories more than any other kind. [Laughs]