Exploring Ales Kot's Material – Look! It Moves! By Adi Tantimedh
Adi Tantimedh writes,
Ales Kot is the kind of creator who can't stop experimenting, testing, pushing the boundaries of the comics form. Having just completed his deconstructionist spy series Zero and the subversive superhero satires of Secret Avengers and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, he has launched the teen dystopian Science Fiction series The Surface and will be launching the supernatural thriller series Wolf and Material.
It's Material that I'm most curious about, a series that deals directly with political and philosophical issues with a ripped-from-the-headlines urgency without sticking to any single genre category. State surveillance, police brutality, Guantanamo Bay, revolution, potential first contact, media and propaganda, there are all issues covered by the book. We sat down for a brief interview and preview.
AT: MATERIAL marks a new direction for you after the hyperreal spy and violence of ZERO and the earnest teen dystopian science fiction of THE SURFACE. What was the inspiration behind the new series?
b The entire world. The entire universe, really. And a yearning to become more honest and be a better writer. ZERO is me working through a hereditary and world-intense imbalance between the feminine and the masculine. THE SURFACE is me working through…I don't know, I have no idea what the last issue is about. Dad issues? Probably. Self-hate? Could be. Some deep nasty shit from my past? Definitely. But I don't know how it all folds together yet. I just know it's a bit of a headfuck.
MATERIAL…is what it is, and what it is is what it tells me it is. Vaclav Havel and plenty other writers stated, in one way or another, that the role of the writer isn't just to arrange being according to his own lights, but that he or she or they or it must also be a medium to being, remaining open to its often unfathomable dictates. This is how the work transcends its creator or channeler and becomes something more than a mere sum of all premeditated parts. Diving in is essential. MATERIAL has to be true, has to be poetry. It has to be something I can't put into words.
AT: The political themes are still consistent: current affairs, concern about the surveillance state, state oppression, freedom, engagement, the part movies and the media play in shaping events and consciousness. What prompted you to write this as a character drama rather than a thriller?
AK: Boredom with genre and a steadily growing awareness of how many works of art I truly love do not fit any specific genre(s). Not a sudden realization, by any means, but still — eventually the bath had to overflow. Mad Men, the sense of poetry of it, propelled me forward, that's for sure. Charlie Kaufman, too, and plenty writers, plenty people on the street, news on twitter, the national climate, the post-national climate. At the core of MATERIAL lies my yearning to make a story about what it feels like to be alive now. I don't see it being made, and I feel we desperately need more mirrors in order to grow healthy as a culture. We are nowhere near close to that now. But I'm not interested in political agitprop. I'm interested in conveying a vast sphere of human — and maybe some non-human — experience of what it feels like to be alive, right now.
AT: Can you talk more about the decision to write what feels more like an ensemble social drama and how this differs from the more thriller-oriented titles you write before?
AK: A key part of my progress as a writer and a human being in the past years is a process of unlearning what is not mine, unlearning what I no longer want. Part of that is learning that I don't really care what people think of me and my art, and that I don't really care about whether people accept me or not. Don't get me wrong: I do care, but I also don't. The distinction is crucial: I care about people, so I care about their perceptions, their experiences, their lives, but I don't care about their judgments of me as a human being and as a writer/director/whatever kinda creative enterprise I go for next unless I choose for their judgments to be relevant. You know how many people in the past year told me I'm amazing at genre and reinventing it? Probably about fifty, or more. You know how many want me to just go on doing that because it's an easy cash cow situation? Many. But is that everything I'm really interested in? Not at all. I'm not interested in any half-assed comics or movies or tv shows. I'm interested in making whatever it is that feels right, and Material feels so right it hurts, in a good way.
Which doesn't mean I'm not interested in genre or reinventing it. I mean, WOLF speaks to that. But MATERIAL…that's my life, that's my heart on a level I can't really describe in words. I don't really know how it works, I just know it does. It's about people, so it's about empathy, and empathy is at the core of every story ever, probably. I'm bare naked every time I wander into making this. I have no idea where I'm going. And I hope to bring that bravery to every single thing I do, in comics, in tv, in movies, in life, everywhere.
MATERIAL feels less like I'm that older version of Ales who wants to be liked very much and more like the new version of Ales who just says what he has to say and gives you space to deal with it.
AT: I notice the way you're addressing politics and violence in the story, how that spreads and influences subsequent generations. is this part of your personal enquiry into those themes after thinking about how it's affected you and your own family history?
AK: Yes. For more on that, I'd recommend the readers read my second newsletter, 'Housekeeping,' which is free to read here.< And if they fancy subscribing, they can do so here. Everyone is welcome.
To go back to that initial "yes" — I don't really know. I rarely consciously process the subtext of MATERIAL when writing it. The process is very feeling-based.
AT: Every writer would like a story where they get to throw everything in, one unencumbered by any single genre or convention. So is this the series where you want to talk about everything you're interested in?
Material #1 will be out on May 27th.
Everything is material at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh