(This is an email interview that Owen Johnson, Titan Books’ Senior Marketing Officer, did with Tom Veitch.)
May 27th sees the release of The Light and Darkness War a truly classic saga created by the Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, – the acclaimed team behind the legendary Star Wars spin-off series, Dark Empire. This riveting and wondrously illustrated tale has been fully restored and remastered, and is packed with stunning new arts and in-depth features! In this expansive interview, I discuss with writer Tom Veitch his the origins of the graphic novel, the reasons it was created, and what readers can expect from this brand-new edition.
~ Owen Johnson, Senior Marketing & Press Officer, Titan Books
Tom: If you have ever watched a child pick up a comic book, you know how totally involving comics can be. They connect directly to the visual centers of the brain and to the parts of us where imagination comes from. Visual storytelling has existed since the stone age. The prose novel didn’t exist before the 18th century (although it descended from traditions as old as campfire storytelling). Stories told with images were painted on cave walls and had become a formalized method of record-keeping and communication by the time of the Egyptians. Modern comics are a continuation of that ancient artform.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE LIGHT & DARKNESS WAR?
Tom: The Light and Darkness War came out of my anger and sadness over the Vietnam War and what it did to an entire generation of men. As Steve Bissette notes in his Afterword, The Light and Darkness War is an outgrowth of underground comix about the Vietnam War I did with artist Greg Irons, especially “The Story of Vince Shazam.” Most significantly, perhaps, the story also arose from my intense dream-life and my own belief in an afterlife.
WHAT CAN READERS EXPECT FROM THE COMIC?
Tom: Our central character, Lazarus Jones, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Basically he is eaten up inside by what the war did to him, and by the loss of his brothers-in-arms who died when their Huey helicopter gunship crashed and burned. Laz survived that crash with both his legs amputated, and is cared for by his loving wife Chris. As the story develops, Laz is drawn into a visionary connection to an afterlife universe where earth-side warriors go when they die in battle. He finds his friends, and they invite him to join them in fighting a 10,000 year war with the forces of darkness. Laz joins the fight, and the action spins out of that.
Our mythic hypothesis is that Heaven and Hell don’t exist. What exists beyond the wall of death are alternate universes that are actually created or imagined by the billions of people who have gone before us. After people die they join these collective visions of other worlds, good vs. evil, or perhaps realms of peace and pleasure. But warriors who die in battle on earth have dreamed up an entire galaxy at war — a war in which weapons from all the ages of mankind are still being used.
I’ve written a background briefing which is appended to this collected edition. That essay, together with Cam’s terrific sketchwork, will give you an idea of the detail we have gone into in imagining the context of this tale. It was fun to do, and I have to admit I thought of myself as Tolkien’s kid brother, smoking my clay pipe by the fire as I dreamed up an entire universe!
WHAT ARE YOUR KEY INFLUENCES?
Tom: The list is very long. Tolkien of course. And the great science fiction writers of the 1950s, including the EC sci-fi artists and writers. For visual storytelling, nobody can match the influence on me of Carl Barks and Jack Kirby. There’s also no doubt the Star Wars films were a big influence. But curiously enough, Star Wars was heavily influenced by the same sources I cited earlier — especially Kirby’s “Fourth World” stories.
WHAT DOES CREATING THIS COMIC BOOK MEAN TO YOU?
Tom: Writing it was a privilege, because of the freedom we had has creator-owners of the property. And getting to work with Cam was another privilege. He’s a wonderful man, high-spirited and with a great sense of humor. To top it off, he’s just about the best war artist going. And I was fortunate that he’s the kind of artist who prefers to work with a writer! We hit it off very well. After showing The Light and Darkness War to George Lucas, we went on to create Star Wars: Dark Empire together. The international phone bills for several years were just insane. Fortunately I also have a huge file of our written correspondence from the years before everybody switched to e-mail.
THE LIGHT AND DARKNESS WAR
STORY: Tom Veitch ART: Cam Kennedy
208 – FC – $24.99 On-sale in comic shops May 27th
Bookstore sales begin June 23
“In the spirit of some great books like Alien Legion and Cluster, The Light and Darkness War delivers on some gritty action.”
“Pulls, pushes and shocks you backwards and forwards through states of reality and dream with words and visuals…Beautiful stuff indeed.”
Down The Tubes
[This interview is also available with preview images at comiccrusaders.com ]