Blank – The Graphic Novel

3517193145_568004460fBlank – The Graphic Novel, is part one of a trilogy. Ian LeWinter is the writer and creative strategist. Don Richmond is the writer & illustrator. Blank was set in motion in May 2009 as the first graphic novel in history to launch and be continuously unveiled on Facebook and Twitter. The story is rich with mythic iconography, psychopathic megalomania, ghosts, murder and bloodshed.

What’s unique about this endeavor is every couple of days, a new spread is released and publicized through various social media channels. When I first encountered Ian through a mutual LinkedIn group they were just promoting week 3 of their content, but their approach was fresh and the story line was intriguing – I was hooked. I needed to know more, and the Brothers of Silence provided us with their personal insights into Blank.

[Nancy] How would you describe Blank to someone who has not read a graphic novel?
[Ian/Don] Blank is a supernatural thriller. The protagonist, John Blank, is an everyman — literally. He is a hitman who subsumes the souls of his prey, creating a psychological complex that is in constant struggle to harmonize internally. Ian had the brilliant idea of killing him in Chapter One and then following his death journey for the remainder of the Trilogy. John is haunted by a girl-ghost who will become his defacto spirit guide in his journey toward realization of his destiny.

As such, Blank is a novel that defies genre. It is a McLuhan hot and cool media experience; which is to say, an experience that vacillates between passive, singular visual media and active, multiple-sense media requiring abstract thought and deep pattern recognition. John Blank has what psychologists term a compromised ego integrity — one that is continually fragmented and redefined, possessing no reliable sense of self apart from his unique capability to kill. The antagonist, Ouranos Gaia, has a psychopathic megalomania that stems from a mythic iconography that has been nurtured by his family for generations. The child-ghost Angel will attempt to enlist John to defeat Ouranos’ purpose and therefore save humankind from extinction.

3709607390_c41a2dba2a

[N] Why did you decide to launch Blank on Social Media sites and not traditional publishing?
[I/D] Our goal was simple: find the most effective means to tell the world about Blank. The medium dictated the solution — social media is free and experiencing growth rates of 1400 percent, while traditional channels were experiencing a decline. We saw our responsibility to the project and to future generations who must know about the Trilogy. Because of this, the book is being launched on several social media platforms with a new 2-page spread viewable every other day. The pages are always viewable free on the website: JohnBlankMustDie.com.

We knew it already worked by the artistic excitement we felt when discussing the project. It had all the attributes of a magnum opus, of a life work on such a grand scale that it would survive for many generations. Whether it worked economically was subsidiary to that fact. The only challenge after that realization was to listen to what the characters were saying and to find the most productive means of telling everyone about the story. Before the project is over, for us to accomplish our goals, we will have published three graphic novels, negotiated a motion picture deal and produced spin-off books. Both Social and Traditional Media must be exhausted as distribution channels.

[N] How has the interaction been with your fans through Social Media sites?
[I/D] It would be impossible to communicate how wonderful the fan reaction was. Currently, for instance, we communicate weekly with close to 30,000 people generally, nearly 2,000 people concretely, and about 200 people intimately. The comments from readers are the fuel for this project. In the past, all writers had to keep a clear picture of their audience in their minds. Now, you can have real-time, two-way contact with your audience as each page is unveiled. That’s a phenomenal innovation that technology has afforded writers.

6455_114561513308_547093308_2330965_2918197_n

[N] Where did you find the original impulse to write this novel?
[I/D] Some brains collect formulas. Some brains collect algorithms. Our brains collect art — whether in words, in visuals, or in sounds. Because of this, our interest in graphic serials began the first moment we touched one. The promise of creating a world in which we can communicate the unique patterns we see in life was and still is the most important discovery we’ve ever made. So graphic novels were a natural medium for us to explore.

The concepts came in parallel from both of us. Don was obsessed by an after-world in the greek tradition in which its inhabitants metaphorically drank from a river of forgetfulness — in other words, its inhabitants were unclear of the reality of a prior existence. Throw in a young girl-ghost who would be the ostensible guide for a hitman who is new to that world. Ian was haunted himself by a megalomaniacal intellectual giant who was raised to believe he was the incarnation of Uranus, much in the way the Dali-Lama is raised to believe that he is the incarnation of the Buddha. Ian also gave John the quality of personality fragmentation, making him a melting pot of competing mental images of self.

3596284617_9451467e1f

[N] What’s with Ian’s fascination with Death? and how does Don deal with it?
[I/D] Ian became obsessed with death as a child, a fascination which led to a job dissecting human corpses and preparing them for scientific display. But, realize, to say someone has a fascination with Death is to say they have a fascination with Life, for the two are inseparable. Death’s a funny thing. All literature is obsessed with Death because it is simultaneously the great Destroyer and the great Preserver. Think of Romeo and Juliet. The same act ended their lives and immortalized their love.

Don deals with Ian’s obsession by keeping a scramasax in his top desk drawer.

scramasax? like this but sharper?

scramasax? like this but sharper?

[N] Is Greek mythology a heavy influence on the story background?
[I/D] Resoundingly yes. The Greeks created a marvelously insightful mythology around their pantheon, so much so that giants like Shakespeare and Freud relied heavily on their typologies. No matter where you go in philosophy, the Greeks have already been there.

As such, their philosophical landscape was the perfect backdrop for Blank. The ideas that were the book’s underpinnings — hierarchical domination, matronly nurturance, universal retribution, familial heritage and betrayal, the afterlife, hubris, hamartia and agon — had all been worked out in great iconic detail by the Greeks. We felt that appropriating them for Blank was the right first step since they provided us with an inexhaustible vocabulary for action, thought and feeling.

[N] Who is Angel and what does she mean to John?
[I/D] The root of Angel is Persephone, but she has transformed into something more intimate, more vulnerable. A better question might be to ask, “What does John mean to her?” John is Angel’s mortal obsession. She is Arwen Evenstar out-of-step with Aragorn. Angel is at once too young and too ancient to consummate a relationship with John. Yet her love for him is the fundamental motivation for her orchestrated campaign to save humankind and correct the imbalance in the In-Between.

[N] How long do you intend to tease us by releasing tantalizing double page spreads at a time?
[I/D] Until we can say, “Tetelestai”, “It is finished.”

[N] How was your reception at Comic-Con?
[I/D] We were overwhelmed by the positive response. Everyone we talked to became part of the million fan movement. So far we have been thrilled at the enthusiasm. It is a strange phenomenon that we are only beginning to understand. The power of connectivity is inexorable and exponential. The Blank Network is growing at an astonishing rate and is heading for a tipping point. We are now seeing natural, unsolicited growth. Our goal is to have a million Blank faces by 08-09-10.  If we extrapolate the current acceleration, that goal will be achieved.

We also had some wonderful discussions with publishers. And, for our part, we saw some of the most amazing projects being promoted. The artists, the storytellers, the producers, the fans. We can’t say enough good things about the experience. Graphic novels are, without a doubt, a mega-burgeoning market. We are poised for a new age in this genre. These are exciting times. There are people entering this arena who will amaze and inspire beyond our comprehension. Publishers are recognizing this fact and expanding their labels. Fans are what this market is all about and they are driving the generation of the most creative work seen in decades.

3795681038_40bfee3cc6

[N] Are you willing to give away anything at this point?
[I/D] Ian’s really dead.

[N] What are the major themes of your work?
[I/D] Humankind’s dual expression of positive and negative; Personality fragmentation and the self; Destiny, betrayal and redemption.

[N] What do you think people search for in a graphic novel?
[I/D] That magical moment when image and icon and word and metaphor collide to create a sense of stopped time and frozen heartbeat.

[N] Do you have advice for up-and-coming graphic novel writers?
[I/D] Stay true to your vision. Learn the fundamentals, then throw them away. Pay attention to what moves you — and we mean really moves you. If you want the whole earth to perish, then so be it. If you want to have a character talk in an archaic, biblical fashion, then go for it. If you want your 12-year-old heroine to have skeletal hands, right on. Dozens of people may offer advice on what they would do instead. Thank them for their wonderful input and then go write YOUR story. If you stay true to your vision, then there isn’t any reason that your project can ever be anything but a success.

Ian LeWinter & Don Richmond

Ian LeWinter & Don Richmond

BLANK IS AN EVER-EXPANDING UNIVERSE
The LARGER Blank community, as of Friday, August 20th, 8:00 am PST:

Followers of Blank on Twitter: 22,579 BlankMustDie
Fans on the Facebook Fan Page: 333
Members on the Blank-thegraphicnovel.com website: 276
Page Requests on the Blank-thegraphicnovel.com website: 24,068
Views of Blank the Blog: 995
Views of Blank on My eBook: 5312

John Blank must Die … Pass it on

egram-footer

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 12:06 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,