Visitors to the London Film and Comic Con in September would have seen a stand by a new venture in online comics, The City Of Thamesis. Running through its website, www.cityofthamesis.com , this is an episodic graphic novel set in a dark parallel London, and we learn from executive producer Zack Slatter that it’s rooted in the traditions of British myth. Slatter took time out to talk to us about the creation of the world of Thamesis.
SFX: How would you describe the artistic style of the digital graphic novel you've created?
Zack Slatter: "Slick dark digital grime. It's new Fumetti - ultra picture stories."
SFX: Without giving too much away, can you briefly describe the plot of your digital graphic novel for our readers?
ZS: "There is trouble in the Kingdom of Albion. In the capital city of Thamesis a civil war is brewing. A power struggle between the monarchy and the increasingly controlling Britomart Corporation who govern through psychic technology is brewing. It has become a city of torn loyalties and divisions."
"Down in the inner city streets, beyond the reach of either power, dangerous outlaws have successfully hacked Britomart’s technology [the TechGnosis patches] for their own gain, boosting its power exponentially. Some use it only to escape their daily grind while others maliciously spread terror on the streets. As the city plunges towards civil unrest, can anyone bring order to the streets of Thamesis?"
"The new king Jonathan of the Rose has made it his duty to stamp out increasingly levels of patch crime, weaken the Britomart, and return his nation to its former glory. He has enlisted the help of a scarred and embittered war hero (The Lion) and a beautiful young female psychic (The Unicorn). And so the Defenders of the Realm are mobilised. Their mission will eventually bring them into the dirty city; the realm of The KID, whose inability to control his ‘gift’ turns him into a wanted criminal and brings him to the attention of the Defenders."
SFX: And what is the TechGnosis technology? Where did the idea for the patches come from?
ZS: "The Gnostics believed in igniting the scintilla the spark of divinity in man. TechGnosis is the artificial activation of this spark not through study and self discipline but through the application of a circuitry laced patch to the skin. The ultimate quick fix culture – off-the-shelf enlightenment. Originally TechGnosis was a drug taken as pills or injections. Patches were developed to be a more satisfying, graphic, iconic representation of this idea."
SFX: What was the inspiration behind the whole universe of Thamesis?
ZS: "Where to begin? Obviously being raised on a steady diet of comics, science fiction books, TV and movies from an early age planted a great big seed. The alternate realities, new myths and allegorical fantasies of Orwell, Blake and Lewis Carroll provided further depth. Plus there was an underlying desire to create a new British legend and in so doing re-brand British pride as something that was all-inclusive. As well as making something that looked really, really cool."
SFX: Why London? Are you Londoners, and do you think the story has anything to say about the current real-world capital?
ZS: "'Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner... That I'm such a rude and inconsiderate bastard.' We were born and raised in London, and feel that London is already a fantastical city. It only needed a little twist to shift into the realms of science fiction. The story isn't a social commentary on London, it is attempting to give London its own myth that Londoners can believe in the same way New Yorkers and Parisians believe their own (albeit very different) myths."
SFX: What opportunities are available to you through your interactive website, that aren't available to traditional comic creators?
ZS: "Other than being infinitely expandable and capable of containing a wealth of information that would otherwise have to be crowbarred into awkward dialogue, it also puts us in direct and immediate contact with our audience. We can also consider the opportunity to include games and other forms of participation such as the ability to pursue side stories and quests."
SFX: Have you had much feedback, and is it what you'd hoped?
ZS: "The feedback has been great, extremely positive. People seem to 'get it' - the bigger concept that is, as well as engaging with the characters on a personal level."
SFX: Do you guys still have to have day jobs or is this going to be a lucrative project?
ZS: "Our ambition is to create a tale that appeals to the rebel in all of us. We haven’t commercialised it yet. People kind of expect online content to be free so in order to produce the next 24 episodes (our volume one) then we need to find a sponsor and distribution partner. This could be in the form of a suitable advertiser and a social network. Basically, we are keen to pursue all publishing opportunities across any platform including print, TV, mobile and gaming so we can turn this into our full time job. The business models are still emerging in this sector."
SFX: What are your other favourite comics at the moment? Are there any other digital works that you think we should check out?
ZS: "Read the Joss Whedon Astonishing X-Men, that was pretty cool. Also the retelling of the Superman origin by Mark Waid was great. Had a little look at the Marvel Zombies stuff - looks crazy. Recently bought all the Invisibles graphic novels had held off reading them before now in case there was a conflict of interests. Turned out all right - but those Matrix boys owe Grant Morrison a drink. With regard to other digital material the Metal Gear Solid graphic novel for the PSP was pretty slick."
SFX: What does the future hold? Have you got great plans for the Thamesis world?
ZS: "We wanted to see the reaction to the prologue digi-comics on our website first. We're currently developing a 3D demo environment which could form the basis of an online game or community destination. We've also started work on the 24 episodes that will make up volume one with writer Jaspre Bark."
Thanks Zack! Remember folks, the first five episodes are available to view now (the most recent was on Friday) with the final episode appearing on 26 October. As well as the main website ( www.cityofthamesis.com ) you can join the community and find out more on the character-focused MySpace page ( www.myspace.com/the_k_i_d ) and the official YouTube profile ( www.youtube.com/cityofthamesis ).