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DigitalNoob Interview: Orchid’s Tom Morello

By
Posted on December 17, 2012 AT 10:33pm

Orchid, the terrific limited series published by Dark Horse Comics, is set to end with the upcoming issue #12. To celebrate the story and those who have created it, series writer and creator Tom Morello (also known for his work in the world of music with bands such as Rage Against The Machine and Nightwatchman) was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about the series and how it came to be.

DigitalNoob: What inspired you to write Orchid? Also: Was twelve issues the plan for the series, or did that just feel like the correct place to end the story?

Tom Morello: It was about four years ago that I had the idea for Orchid. I had a preliminary outline scribbled in a notebook amongst song lyrics and set lists and then began to flesh out the ideas into a complete narrative and post-apocalyptic world. Initially, it was a story before it was a graphic novel idea. It was only after much consideration that I decided to realize the story in the world of comics. My first plan was that Orchid would be one large tale, beginning to end in a graphic novel book. The suggestion to make it episodic and twelve issues came from Dark Horse, which gave the story some distinct advantages. I love the idea of writing cliffhangers and giving a pause between dramatic events and issues, though there was a good deal of discussion about how many issues it would take to tell the story of Orchid. The Orchid story is a big one, and after[artist] Scott Hepburn and I discussed the pacing, I thought we might be able to squeeze all the narrative and action into twenty issues. Dark Horse countered with eight, [laughs] and we eventually settled on twelve, which thanks to the brilliant story-telling pacing of Scott Hepburn’s artwork, we’ve been able to pull off a complete and satisfying world and story in twelve issues.

DN: Orchid has a pretty complex world that accompanies the story. How much of a hand did you have in the creation of the hybrid creatures and overall landscape of the environment?

TM: The ideas for the individual creatures and the overall landscape of the environment was intact in my initial outline, but Scott Hepburn and [colorist] Dan Jackson really brought them to life. I would send Scott notes like “I want this monster to be like a huge fur-covered millipede with a beak like to vultures biting each other at the same time, go.” Or “I need scorpion bears, go.” And he would use his tremendous talents to realize those crazy monster visions bouncing around in my head. The overall landscape, the post-drowned world is set near what is modern day La Paz, Bolivia, and that was the starting point for that environment. The real life starting point.

DN: Making new music for the series as Nightwatchman was a cool idea. Was that an intentional part of creating the comic, or was it something that just happened to work out during the creation process?

TM: Writing music for the comic actually came up in the aftermath of deciding that Orchid would be episodic, and I had the idea that a new song could accompany each issue and eventually become a twelve song musical score for the comic. I have a lot of experience scoring film and doing musical cues, and bringing that skill set to comics has been a really enjoyable part of the experience for me, and really got me out of my safety zone as a hard rock shredder and creating atmospheric music that really matches the tone of the book.

DN: You seem pretty adept at writing for comics. Were you a fan growing up, or did you fall into it another way?

TM: I was a huge fan of comic books growing up and collected thousands of them that remained in my mom’s basement in Illinois until recently when I moved them out to California. But when I started playing guitar at seventeen is when I lost touch with comics. And it’s really in about the last six or seven years that re-immersed myself in the comics medium. Originally, when I first stopped reading comics it was because the escapist nature of the Hulk versus Thor didn’t appeal to me as much as the music of The Clash. But comics have come a long way in the interim years, and I thought that comics would be a great home for realizing an uncompromising vision for Orchid. As far as being adept at writing for comics, I’ve always been known to spin a yarn and tell a story, and I wanted to use those storytelling abilities to help flesh out the story, as well as injecting the story of Orchid with my world view. It was crucial to me that it be a fast paced, exciting action-drama, but that the underlying themes of class conflict which are absent from so many artistic mediums be a part of the DNA of Orchid.

“I would send Scott notes like “I want this monster to be like a huge fur-covered millipede with a beak like to vultures biting each other at the same time, go.” Or “I need scorpion bears, go.” And he would use his tremendous talents to realize those crazy monster visions bouncing around in my head. “

DN: Are you planning on writing any other comics in the future?

TM: Basically, I had a story to tell, and that story was Orchid. And as we’re wrapping up issue twelve, that story is going to be told. I don;t have plans beyond Orchid, but if I were to write comics in the future, it would be in the same world as Orchid, as that is a world that is near and dear to my heart.

DN: Did writing music help prepare you for working in other mediums? Did writing in another medium influence the way you create music?

TM: Certainly writing music has helped me in working in the comics medium. It was my explicit goal when creating Orchid that it had all of the visceral excitement of a Rage Against The Machine show, or the dark introspection of a Nightwatchman performance. In the musical realm, I know how to make an audience react, and I wanted to affect an audience in a meaningful way with comics as I try to do with music.

DN: How did you wind up getting together with Dark Horse to publish the title?

TM: Gerard Way (lead singer of My Chemical Romance and author of The Umbrella Academy) is a friend of mine and I sent him an early draft of the Orchid story outline. He seemed to like it and passed it along to Dark Horse, and that is how we first became acquainted. Gerard and I first met on the telephone during a radio station auction for tsunami relief when there was the big South Asian tsunami some years ago, and he was auctioning off a comic book drawn and written about your life. And I was actually in the studio with one of the guys from Linkin Park and we were bidding against each other to have Gerard draw a comic book about our lives. And the bidding got up to some super high numbers, maybe in the tens of thousands of dollars, we were in this macho bid-off, and at the last second some super-fan of Gerard’s called up and outbid us both, and she got the comic drawn of her, and that’s how Gerard and I first met.

“It was my explicit goal when creating Orchid that it had all of the visceral excitement of a Rage Against The Machine show, or the dark introspection of a Nightwatchman performance.”

DN: Any other projects you’re working on that you’d care to speak about?

TM: My main focus lately has been Orchid, and in bringing this series home in a big way. With all of the great help from Scott Hepburn, Dan Jackson, the whole lettering team and the Dark Horse team, it’s really been the fulfillment of my artistic vision for Orchid. it’s something that I’m very proud of, both musically, visually and narrative wise. I’ve been putting all my eggs in this basket, and looking forward to it having a life out there in the world outside of issue twelve. The next thing I’ll do is continue realizing the trade paperback editions of Orchid and making sure those have spectacular extra content, as Scott and I have a lot of notes and drawings that give a real insight into what the book is. Finishing up the music for Orchid, and then continuing doing my Nightwatchman folk-rocking around the planet. So there you have it. Thank you very much to all friends, fans, readers of Orchid and FBI Operatives who are keeping a close eye on what I’m doing as well.

Special thanks to Tom and everyone involved with Orchid. Anyone who hasn’t read the title yet should definitely take a look at it, especially with the impending final trade on the way in the near future, and the entire series becoming available in either trade or single issue formats after the release of Issue #12.

Russ Pirozek, known as "Noobcrawler" to some, is a gamer and comic book fan who sometimes gets around to writing for DigitalNoob.com. He's also awesome. If someone looked up "awesome" in the dictionary, his picture wouldn't be there, but that's because he's too busy being awesome to pose for a photo.


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