By Alasdair Stuart
Alasdair Stuart: What's the basic premise of System S.H.O.C.K.?
Geoff Wessel: System S.H.O.C.K. is essentially a behind-the-scenes of the machinations of a techno-terrorist group like Cobra, HYDRA, SPECTRE. The group is called S.H.O.C.K., and you'll see it has had something of a "change in management," and will go in a different direction from what they've done before. It's deconstruction, sure, but also sort of a different way of looking at such groups, today, when we've had real terrorism jammed down our gullets and up our asses for the last decade and a half.
AS: How did you, Neil and Jim come to work together?
GW: Jim Campbell [letterer] has been my go-to letterer for a few years, he's done Keeper and Takedown, and a few other things for me as well. He's also done a lot of the design work for my strips too, logos, newspaper headlines, etc. So of course when the opportunity came up to do this for Aces Weekly, how could I not ask him?
Neil Ford [artist], I met via… it was Millarworld or Whitechapel or Weaponizer, I can't recall exactly, but we've been friends for a while, and again, it was as simple as asking him to do this with me for ACES, and he went for it, and here we are!
AS:What's it been like working with Aces Weekly?
GW:So far it's been fantastic. David Lloyd, a true legend, has been real supportive of the strip, giving it a chance as he has. Funny considering we met each other because one of the pilot strips announced for Aces Weekly, here at Bleeding Cool in fact, was initially titled Keeper, so, y'know, I had to enquire about THAT!
Well, rather than getting snippy, it was all rather cordial, and I also ended up talking with and becoming internet acquaintances with Yishan Li, the artist of the strip that became The Kept Woman when it finally ran in Aces. I actually got to meet David at NYCC this past October, so that was great. David and the rest of the behind-the-scenes crew at Aces Weekly have been awesome human beings to work with.
AS:How long is each installment?
GW:The setup of Aces Weekly is, each Volume is seven "issues," and each serial is 21 pages, split into 3-page instalments per each issue. So, it's about the length of a regular US comic book when it's all said and done. But there's also 7 or 8 other strips running with System S.H.O.C.K., by a whole host of people including Val Mayerik, James Hudnall, Jasper Bark, Lew Stringer, Reza Benhadj… quite a mixed bag really! As anthology comics should be.
AS:How has that changed the pacing of the book?
GW:I don't really think it has, to be honest. I came up with System S.H.O.C.K. with Aces Weekly in mind, so it was pretty easy to keep within that format. I just knew I had to take it 21 pages, and every third page we need to have a good cliffhanger to bring readers back next week, and to wrap it up with a BIG DRAMATIC cliffhanger at the end of the 21 pages so they come back for more when the next volume we're in comes around!
AS:How long is it projected to run?
GW:I'm projecting it to go 8-10 serials worth, as long as David Lloyd will have us that long! I'm writing the second serial as we speak, in fact. I'm aiming to have a new serial in every second or third volume so we don't clog up the space for other strips too, but that way we get it on a semi-regular schedule.
AS:What's the biggest influence on it would you say?
GW:I hate to sound real pretentious and say "The real world," but, erm… Honestly, one of the things that's really struck me is how we've come full circle from when I was a kid in the 80s, we're awash in another War Culture that's sprung up post-Communism post-9/11, the best-selling videogames tend to drift towards military fantasy games for any number of weeks, G.I. Joe has made somewhat of a comeback… I just figured how do groups that were always supposed to be "The Bad Guys," that were meant to be Eastern Europe in bad costumes, how do they ADAPT to the way of this world? That's what's influenced System S.H.O.C.K. mostly. It's dark satire, really. In this second serial, I'm doing something nasty to Golden Dawn, the Greek fascist party. So, y'know. A lot of that sort of thing. We already had to re-do the logo to the series because we figured it may run too close to comfort to an actual British fascist party.
However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that one of the two things that inspired the series was a tweet by fantasy writer Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Moon) saying words to the effect of "There still has not been a decent policy-based argument against Cobra." That, and a pretty well-done Baron Strucker cosplayer I saw at C2E2 last April. Ideas, eh?
AS:What's next for you all?
GW:Well, I can't speak for Neil, besides to say we're all going to be getting more System S.H.O.C.K. done. I'm getting a couple of Sci-fi pitches together to show first to artists, then hopefully publishers who will jump on them yesterday. One is decidedly more low-brow than the other, but sci-fi is really where my heart's been lately as far as comics writing, so I'm very excited to get these together and out there one way or another. Otherwise… I have a Lovecraftian Arabian Nights manga called The Sultan of Thieves that I'm hoping will be out the early part of next year, by a female artist named Ogawa Burukku who lives in Japan and works in the industry, and we'll have it out here AND there as well. And I'm trying to fill a vacancy for the artist of Keeper, as Jeff Simpson chose to leave the book after Issue 2 was finished. I'm still on the hunt there, but I should have some news about that very, very soon. I just feel bad as there's been no new Keeper material in about a year, and it was getting some good attention, so, y'know… need to rekindle that flame a bit, but I'll have something to announce shortly I hope.
Thanks, Geoff. System S.H.O.CK., will run in volume 8 of Aces Weekly, starting December 16th and available from their website.
Alasdair Stuart is a freelance journalist and RPG designer. He hosts the podcast Pseudopod (www.pseudopod.org), co-hosts it's sister show Escape Pod (www.escapepod.org) and has genre journalism at least three quarters surrounded at this point. He can be found online at www.twitter.com/AlasdairStuart