Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Midtown Comics Book Club: Guerillas Vol. 1 with creator Brahm Revel!!

This past Friday, I attended Midtown Comics Book Club. This month's book was Guerillas by Brahm Revel. If you haven't read Guerillas yet, it is a war story, following a young private as he learns to deal with war and becomes a man. Oh, and his entire platoon is chimps.

I was lucky enough to meet Brahm Revel at the book club. This discussion was expertly moderated by Midtown Comic staples Thor Parker and Zoe Gulliksen. Revel jumped right in answering a lot of questions about the book. As he tells it, the original idea came when he was watching a war movie. The troops walking reminded him of monkeys walking. Guerillas was born, although only much later in process did he add the title. Revel did say he had gone through a lot of bad titles before settling on Guerillas but refused to tell us what they were.

In the series, the hook keeps the apes out until the very end of issue 1. Revel did this purposely, because he wanted the first issue to look like a traditional war comic. He hoped to give a satisfiying hook for readers while making sure to develop his characters. My favorite part is when he develops John Francis Clayton, the human private of the tale, as a character. He did it to get Vietnam and Clayton out of the way in first issue. He wanted to make sure that the reader was up-to-date before the chimps arrive. As the book continues, we get to see Clayton grow up as he deals with his father issues. In a way, Goliath becomes his father figure.

Zoe asked him about the major themes of the book. Revel kept coming back to this question every few minutes, when the discussion brought up a new theme. One of the themes includes seeing the journey for someone not built for war become capable for that world. While some boys "go to war to become a man", this book explores the irony of Clayton learning to be a man in war from chimps. A theme for the chimps' story is Instinct vs Training. No matter what the chimps are taught, they still go by instinct and that is why Clayton is alive.

The most interesting thing I learned was Revel based all of the chimp names on Jane Goodall's chimps from her research. The names were not based on chimps' personalities, they were just used as markers. Revel used the exact names except for one. The only change was Mr. Worzel to Dr. Worzel for the story's flow.

I had only read the book as a novel, so I was interested to learn that originally it was an Image series, with each book chapter as an issue. Revel chose to keep his rights when he went to Image, which also gave him some freedom. He realized that he may have hurt himself by only going to Image at first. However, Oni showed interest when he was at Image, so when he decided to switch publishers, they were on the top of the list.

Revel didn't give away any spoilers, but we did learn that Vol.2 won't be out until April 2012, which means you have plenty of time to get Vol. 1. While I don't really want to wait a year to find out what happens to Clayton, Revel did say this is better as a graphic novel than a single issue series. I guess I will just have to be patient. 

 If you are in the area, come join us next month when the Midtown Book Club will be discussing Madame Xanadu with artist Amy Reeder Hadley.

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