Among the new projects announced by Archaia, Syndrome distinguishes itself with an extremely interesting premise. Essentially, according to its creators, it’s “Mulholland Drive meets A Clockwork Orange as directed by Michael Mann”. We talked to two of those creators, co-writer R.J. Ryan and artist David Marquez (co-writer Daniel Quantz was not in attendance), in order to get inside the “Syndrome”.
Ryan outlined the specifics, explaining, “[Syndrome is] an original graphic novel, 100 pages, hardcover . . . it debuts at San Diego.” He placed the story in the thriller genre; it’s a mature readers tale that involves a build-up of suspense and some elements of speculative fiction.
“The spine of the story,” Ryan said, “is that we have a scientist that comes up with a scientific explanation of human evil.” This brings up a number of dilemmas, including the question, “What if you could vaccinate for evil?”
Despite the proclivity for most new projects to launch with an ongoing series or sequels in mind, Ryan declared that this is a self-contained work. While it does build a unique world that required about two months of design work ahead of time, the present intention is have everything the reader needs in one volume.
Ryan noted that he and Quantz were initially developing a different project, but discussions with Archaia led them to put together something that went in another direction. Ryan offered a lot of praise for the publisher, explaining that “the great thing about them is that they’re willing to do graphic novels . . . willing to make things with mature themes.”
Artist David Marquez came to the project a bit later, but immediately began work on character and location designs. He commented that a lot of the art is “grounded in reality”, and that while he did give particular look to a location called “The Facility”, it still carries echoes of a look that could make it seem like part of the reader’s world.
Marquez and the writers worked to “make each chapter have its own unique feel”. He and Ryan flipped through several pages, explaining the “blue-sky world” look that mirrors the attitude of one character, while a more sinister person in the story carries “all black panel borders”.
In terms of his approach to the work, Marquez did just about everything digitally. “I use Photoshop almost exclusively,” he said, though he does occasionally use Sketch-up for certain real world objects to “speed up that process”.
For his part, Marquez is no stranger to sci-fi inflected worlds of suspense. As an animator, he worked on A Scanner Darkly. His background in film editing contributes to his understanding of story layout and flow.
Ryan expressed enormous respect for Marquez’s art. He said, “This looks like a mainstream book, but it’s really more subversive in terms of storytelling.”
Syndrome makes its debut at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2010.