The Midnight Event forever changed the world. Now, centuries later, Jack Kryznan arrives on the outskirts of Paradiso City, haunted by fragments of childhood memories and in possession of a mysterious device–one with the power to change the destiny of this living breathing metropolis: the people who dwell within, and the guardians who strive for and against it.
The first issue is out December 6 of this year. Writer Ram V and artist Devmalya Pramanik took time out of their busy schedules to sit down with AiPT! to talk about Paradiso.AiPT!: Hey there, Ram and Dev! Thank you for taking the time to speak with AiPT! about your new book, Paradiso. It’s a beautiful book with a remarkable start to a dystopian story. Where did the idea for Paradiso originate?
Ram V: Hi David! Our pleasure to be talking to AiPT! about Paradiso. Thanks for having us and for the kind words about the book.
Paradiso has a rather strange history. Before I began writing professionally, when writing was only a hobby, I wrote mostly prose and short stories, often in collaboration with my good friend and architect, Rajiv Bhakat. I think we were on a vacation visiting historic cities in North India when we first began talking about setting a story in a living city. I remember we were on an overnight train and the idea just exploded into a billion concepts all at once. We wrote short stories and vignettes after that, giving shape and solidity to the concepts that we’d discussed. But the project just sat there as an idea and a hobby for a while.
Fast forward to 2015; I self-published a graphic novel called Black Mumba. I had begun writing comics professionally and with a level of seriousness. I worked on a couple of stories in that book with Dev and we’d begun to talk about doing a longer project. Paradiso had turned into something much bigger and much more complex, by then. When I sent Dev the concept, he jumped at it right away. We worked on a few pages and pitched it to Image at Thoughtbubble in 2016.
A year later, here we are, ready to send this story out into the wild!
AiPT!: For newer readers who aren’t familiar with your work, how did you two first get your start in creating comics?
Ram V: I used to write mostly prose and I’d had a few short stories published with online markets when I first began thinking about writing comics. I was in India at the time and there was a burgeoning indie comics scene there. I wrote a comic called Aghori in India and it gained a lot of attention there. By 2014 I’d contributed short stories to a few anthologies with American publishers and I’d begun working on a graphic novel, Black Mumba, which I would then go on to kickstart.
Black Mumba did quite well, we funded in five days and went on to garner a lot of praise for the work we’d done in the book. I’d also gotten a fantasy/adventure series called Brigands picked up with Action Lab at the time. So, my comics writing had begun to pick up. I sent Black Mumba and Brigands to editors at other publishers. Some of them were interested in the kind of work I was doing. Since then, I’ve written for Titan and I’m working on another graphic novel with Unbound in the U.K. I’ve got Paradiso coming out with Image and another creator-owned thing lined up for 2018.
Devmalya Pramanik: I started working in comics when I was in college, studying engineering. I worked on a few Indian comic productions at the time and continued after I was done with college. Then I landed my first international gig working on Nightbreed with BOOM! Studios. Ram and I began working on Black Mumba around that time and a year later, Paradiso! It is my most ambitious project, so far.
AiPT!: Dystopian tales have always been a type of warning to mankind. Eventually all the failures catch up and lead to a dismal future. What sets Paradiso aside from other dystopian stories we have seen?
Ram V: I don’t think anything in Paradiso is meant to be that didactic. The dystopian backdrop becomes a lens with which we examine the things that make us human. In fact, I’d argue that dystopian stories serve to briefly highlight the glimmer of hope and beauty that exists within humanity. Set against the bleakness of the world, the tender moments become that much more valuable. The collapse of civilization in Paradiso was spurred by humanity’s tendency to create and investigate without restraint. And yet, it might be those very things–our need to build and to understand that may redeem us, after all.
Pramanik: To me, our dystopia says, ‘for new things to come, old things must make way.’ It’s the story of one thing giving way so that something new can come into the world. Change is always a violent and messy process. Paradiso is a book about that change and how that affects us. It’s more about human resilience and beauty in the face of a bleak future. That’s what I think sets Paradiso apart from other dystopias.AiPT!: The characters in Paradiso are diverse and interesting. I like Dev’s style, especially the steampunk noir-looking monster at the beginning of the book. Ram, when you created these characters, were they all original, or based off of people that you know? Dev, how did you come up with the brilliantly drawn characters we see in the book?
Ram V: They’re all original characters. I think all characters contain bits and pieces of people I know. Personalities, ticks and quirks, of course. But I don’t think I can say that I modeled them after any specific people, no. There are interesting commonalities in my work, though. I like tragic characters so everyone’s a little broken. Everyone’s trying to put things back together. Even my antagonists. I think people will appreciate that.
The Guardians or the more cyborg-esque characters you see, they have interesting back-stories of their own and it’ll be pretty exciting to discover them as we tell the story! Dev’s done an incredible job of designing them.
Pramanik: Attention to detail and making things look perfect was our main concern. We did multiple passes for a lot of characters, and we tried to stick with the motif we had in mind for each character. And sometimes our image of a character was so vivid and in sync that I would just draw and introduce him/her/it on the page itself. Especially the character you’re referring to was put directly onto the page and everything about him just seemed to work!
AiPT!: The future doesn’t look good for us! But Dev, you created a beautiful wasteland. What was it like getting the first few pages of Paradiso and beginning work on them? Did you have an idea from the start or did the scripting help mold Aquarius Point?
Pramanik: It was amazing. The going was slow, because I realized that this world was bigger in scope than anything I had ever done. It was both exciting and terrifying working on it. I knew we were going to make this book no matter what. So, I knew that we were going to tell the whole story. And everything had to be consistent and had to have a sense of awe and wonder. It was a challenge but exhilarating to work on. As for Aquarius Point, it was something Ram and I had detailed discussions about before I attempted to put it on paper. Rajiv, I’m sure had a lot of architectural pointers. And it was great fun making Aquarius look like it was salvaged into an inhabited place and coming up with all the different ways it could be done.
AiPT!: We are introduced to the main character, Jack Kryznan, two times in the book. When he is young, we see him obtain a curious-looking device. Later, he is now an adult and claims he used to be a Tinkerman’s apprentice. He still possesses the device that appears to have the capabilities of powering machines. Jack must have had a crazy journey to get here. Will we learn much more about his past?
Ram V: I think so, yes. But there might be surprising revelations about Jack’s past even before this arc is through. I’m not a huge fan of doing backstory, except in small snippets that add to the present narrative. So, we’ll pick up bits and pieces as the story goes along. That makes for a much more interesting narrative, I think–discovering the character even as the character discovers his own journey and arc.
Pramanik: I would love to draw a story of Jack becoming a grown-up and going through the hardships of navigating a broken world!
AiPT!: What can we expect to see in Paradiso, in the issues and arcs to come?
Ram V: I’ve always intended for Paradiso to be a longer story. I know what it’s about. I know how it ends and there are complex and interesting concepts I’m exploring with the book. We’re going to push the idea of a living city as far as we can take it. Both visually and conceptually.
Another interesting thing we’re doing is that each arc takes on a distinct flavor of its own. I’d expect readers to get a Mad Max vibe from the opening arc. But there are Sci-fi Vampires, Malevolent fogs, Hallucinating city-scapes and so much more to come. I cannot wait to start unfurling this story for the readers.AiPT!: Ram and Dev, you guys are teamed up with Dearbhla Kelly, Alex Sollazzo, and Aditya Bidikar. Your combined talents have produced an incredible-looking comic book. What has it been like working together?
Ram V: I’ve always had a difficult time finding the right colorists for my projects. Maybe it’s because we go in with a rather formed idea of what we want the pages to look like. Or maybe it’s a matter of not having spent enough time in comics and knowing enough people. The first time I worked with Alex, it was that feeling when things just click. You don’t have to articulate what you want because the colorist is on the same page as the rest of the team. Then, due to unavoidable circumstances, Alex stepped out and when Dearbhla joined us, the first few pages she did, it was that same feeling again. She just knew what to do with Dev’s textural and often intense inks. That kind of serendipity is not to be taken lightly. I do think Dev and Dearbhla make a talented team when it comes to the art and I hope we’re all collaborating over the entire length of Paradiso!
Aditya Bidikar letters all the things I’m working on. And as the issues of Paradiso go on, you’ll see Aditya put in a virtuoso performance with the letters as well. He is such an integral part of the creative team on this book!
Pramanik: Working with Ram has always been easy and intense at the same time. We are usually on the same page with everything. We usually discuss the story and plot points and figure out where to go from there. And Alex was amazing when he was coloring Paradiso. Then Dearbhla brought her own aesthetic to the style that we’d established. Working together on Paradiso has been a seamless process, a lot of it aided by Ram and Aditya and Lizzy. I only ever have to focus on drawing and know that Dearbhla will work magic on the pages. And, Aditya is just a wizard with his lettering. It is amazing what he does, at times!
AiPT!: I usually ask this question to every creator that I interview because I find it fun and fascinating to learn how others waste time. So this question is for each of you. What is your favorite way to procrastinate when you should be working?
Ram V: Drawing. I doodle a lot. Mostly because it helps me think but also because it lets me cope when the writing isn’t going well, without leaving the desk. Without discarding the pen and paper. I think that’s an important thing. If the writing isn’t flowing, I’ll tend to procrastinate. If that happens, it’s important for me to stay at the desk. So, I draw. I did some of the thumbnails for Paradiso. It’s a miracle Dev could use them but it’s a useful skill to cultivate!
The thing I feel the guiltiest about is videogames. I am a gamer. Sometimes that’ll eat into writing time and I’ll feel awful about it. But it’s also a font of ideas for me. So, I’ll indulge on occasion.
Pramanik: Hah! Yeah, we all procrastinate for sure! My poison has got to be games. I love strategy, RPG, story-based games. Shoutout to Darkest Dungeon for being awesome. Also, does looking through other people’s incredible artwork count?
AiPT!: Yes, looking at other’s artwork counts, I waste time on Twitter a lot. Ram, I see you are in London. I currently have the Arsenal/Manchester City game playing in the background as I compile these questions. Are you a soccer fan? Wenger in or out? Haha!
Ram V: Ha! Out. Wenger out. He’s done amazing things for Arsenal and they will go through tough times when he’s out. But, there has to be a sense of rebuilding and change around the club. And Arsene deserves a proud sendoff not an acrimonious one. I do watch the footy a bit, can you tell?
AiPT!: Yes, I can tell! It is rare I can talk soccer with a creator. That was a fun question for me to ask. Thanks again Ram and Dev for taking the time out to talk with us. And for all you readers out there, Paradiso comes out December 6. Tell your local comic shop to stock up and grab a copy!