A Conversation with MONOCYTE Creators MENTON 3 and Kasra Ghanbari

 

I spoke to Menton and Kasra after issue 3 of MONOCYTE (which you can read here)  and immediately we decided to get back together upon issue 4 being completed. Issue 4 came out May 30th and wraps up the first chapter in MONOCYTE. I was invited back to their studio to speak to Menton and Kasra about their final issue, MONOCYTE’S soon to be hardcover release, mortality,and whats next for both creators.

Comic Vault: So in Issue 4 during the fight between light and Monocyte/Augustus , there is a pivotal moment where Lapis which is Monocytes helmet says “In the land of the blind the One Eyed is King” from that moment there’s a sudden shift in Augustus . Can you expand on that moment for me?

Kasra Ghanbari: The Subtitle for the whole miniseries was in the land of the blind the one eyed is king. That scene was written almost musically, more so about pacing. So you have Augustus and you see him in full spread standing up making a declaration of what he has experienced in the face of this light creature. You turn the page and at the top of  next page you see the helmet and we have the creature talk. Partly to let you know hes a witness to this and also a harkening back to the subtitle which we haven’t alluded to anywhere else in the series. But it’s also a little bit musical as a pause. You’re right from that moment on there is a very clear escalation in what he has said and Augustus is overcoming Light based on what the creäture has said.

MENTON 3: Throughout the whole book when the helmet talks versus Augustus we changed the color of the bubble image. It was important for me that the creäture in the helmet said its last thing but it’s really making a joke. When we see Monocyte with the helmet off  he does have one human eye. Which is pretty much the only human eye we have in the entire book. This is one eye-ball viewing from that perspective this entire world. So what I wanted to let everyone know is that the helmet influences him in ways that we didn’t really understand and still don’t as far as the ending of this particular book. In a sense Augustus is sleeping inside of a shell kind of like a locust. So when the helmet comes off he gets to really talk without the psychological and physical resistance from the helmet. Right after that occurs its time to go get my prize , to actually die now. So the statement from the helmet is a conceit. It was making fun of Augustus but at the same time conceding that they are fucking blind.

CV:Following that Augustus Finally meets the Green Man. The Green Man addresses Augustus and I found it interesting that Augustus claims that he doesn’t want to be addressed by that name anymore and in fact Lapis is the one who ends up carrying on the conversation. So as a reader I was surprised that this meeting meant more to Lapis as a character than Augustus.

M3:Absolutely, Augustus doesn’t want to be a pawn but he doesn’t have another option. Augustus would love a reason to live but doesn’t have one nor is he willing to accept one. Lapis is consumed with the idea of playing the game. So the motivations for Monocyte have always been from Lapis and not Augustus. The humanity from the story takes place in that portion , that there is a disconnect between the two of them.

CV:I Really like the reveal that Lapis was responsible for creating The Olignostics which in turn paved way to the war in the first place. Green Man seems to have a better understanding of how this universe works than anyone and you give him one of the best moments of dialogue in the entire series. (Referring to the Anyone may look around and see the problems in this world.) Were you always planning on having that character have such a pivotal moment?

M3:You got to understand the Green Man knew the story. He actually searched for this creature because he thought by having this creature he may be able to win the war. Monocyte is even a myth to him, but he’s cool enough and collective enough that he actually knows whats going to happen here. He’s not going to fight this because whats happening is probably the wisest thing.

KG: He sees the entire order and confluence of events and rather than fight against it he recognizes the confluence and becomes part of it.

M3: He really helps, really one of the biggest heroes of the book is The Green Man. If the series continues we will talk more about The Green Man.

CV: I feel like you give him one of the biggest moments in the series , right before he passes away he has a last few words for Monocyte. The “How would you have it be” speech. Did you always plan on giving him that line and have that be such a pivotal moment?

KG: In a way for us emotionally that was the end of the book. The delivery mechanism for the book was that page.

M3:  When Monocyte went to The Olignostics in issue 2 the Conduit was not willing to die. He was pretty much begging like a little bitch. Its kind of like the 40 Days o Night in the desert type thing where Monocytes like what a piece of shit humanity is. People don’t realize that that’s what Shakespeare was talking about in that Soliloquy in Hamlet he’s actually talking about what a piece of shit we are. People will use it and be like “what a piece of work this man has done” but at the end he has the line “but yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?” which is a condemnation of humanity but they don’t read that line. I’ll see famous actors recite that and they will literally leave that line out which is like leaving out the ending to Apocalypse Now. You missed the entirety of the point in everything.

CV: Right they take what they want out of it and leave out whats uncomfortable for them to acknowledge.

M3: Exactly which is fine do that with any literature that you want. I’m a huge Hamlet fan and I’ve probably read that book into the high double digits. The other reason to do MONOCYTE for me was to deliver some of the information the way i saw it in that book. I didn’t want to recreate Hamlet because who the fuck could do that but I definitely have a disgust for the people I see around me . I don’t feel like I’m above or below them but I don’t feel like I’ve ever been part of that Tribe. That isolation was something I had a lot of fun exploring in the book. So the Green Man was completely wise to that. In a lot of ways he was one of the bigger heroes in the book even though we didn’t talk about him that much.

KG: Representation-ally and thematically The Green Man because of where he comes from historically we used him to represent what constitutes a leader and what does that actually mean. Part of being a leader is having a different perspective on what  constitutes sacrifice.

CV: One of the things I noticed this issue is that it seemed other than The Green Man everyone else seemed to have their own selfish motivations for Monocyte and Augustus. I loved seeing Monocyte return to Azrael and having him acknowledge that what Monocyte has done is the most selfless act as an individual that can be done.

M3: The way that we saw it and the way I intended it forever is that Azrael knew all this shit and knows what happens into the future. Azrael was very smart and knew the whole fucking thing and knows whats going to happen to Monocyte too. He’s death and he loves Monocyte very much but knows what the future holds for Monocyte as well. I wanted to touch on Brotherhood because that’s one of the things I think we lack as a society. I’m not saying I’m big enough or smart enough to judge society but I do think we lack Brotherhood. What I am saying is that if somebody is in need its very rare that we can help them but we donate to huge charities and say that we’ve helped people. Like for instance we fund high-speed trains barreling through the city but we cant figure out how to feed a homeless person on the street. We live in all this pretense where we don’t even know how fucking  idiotic we are. So the way I tried to write Death was from the perspective that he knew how idiotic that was. Where we had ended up as humans. The Vampires in the book even the way we were writing Moses at one point they were human. This is what they had evolved into so even though their Immortal were still talking about humanity. That was one of the things I had a hard time talking about in interviews was when people would ask what about the humans. These are the humans you know? Even The Olignostics were humans these are the worst qualities we see in humans. Azrael knew the whole thing and that’s one of the things I loved the most about painting and drawing and writing  him as much as I could because he’s a really good guy. People view death like “oh my god I don’t want to die”  but it’s really like if you take a plastic flower that’s made its beautiful and each individual pedal is flawless but there’s nothing more beautiful than an actual flower. One of the reasons that flower is so beautiful is because its mortal.  When you take away our mortality you take away our beauty. Like I don’t want to die you know, I have a wife and kid I love but I will accept my death when it comes. I just hope I have long enough to fear it. Where it’s like this wonderful experience like everything else.

CV: Chris Newman shares art duties with you guys. Did you feel any apprehension about handing over art duties for such a pivotal part of the series?

M3: You know I have no ego in that regard. I have a horrible ego and I’m a terrible person but in that regard no ego what so ever. It was a joy because Chris Newman hasn’t done comics before but he wants to because he doesn’t have a name yet, but he should because he’s fucking brilliant. It was an honor to give him that platform. My onset for issue four was that I wanted to view for Beatrice to be from a different perspective. So I started experimenting with a different art style but as I started to explore that art style I was just like this looks like Chris Newman so why not have him do it. I thin he did a wonderful job. At some point we would like to continue the story and his voice is an important part of that. I don’t like to touch Beatrice too much…

Chris Newman's take on Grod for MONOCYTE issue 4

CV: I wanted to touch on Beatrice as a character for a moment while were speaking about her. This issue she finally gets to see Augustus again and she want to address him as a human again letting him know that he’s loved and it seems to little too late.

M3: Part of him doesn’t even hear that yet. If we continue this story a lot of what the story is about is between Beatrice and Augustus. Beatrice is a really important character to the story. We didn’t explore her a lot because I always felt a little bit strange painting her. I don’t know if I’m the right artist for her. I like her too much to paint her, she definitely the Sophia of this whole thing. I’m a little sad that we couldn’t fit a lot of her story into this.If we explored her more people would really like her and Sheppard too. The thing I was jealous about Chris Newman was that he gets to paint Sheppard because there’s nothing more than I like to paint in this world then the Sheppard. The Sheppard is this wonderful correlation of  the woman who wont fuck you and the teacher that treated you like shit. So I was jealous of Chris’s Sheppard’s and I thought he did Great with Grod too.

CV: His Grod was great! It’s the first time your seeing him be completely out of his mind evil.

M3: If we continue the story Grod gets much worse. Can I ask you a quick question as to what you think happened at the end.

CV: At the end I thought Beatrice was motivated by her own selfish desires for Augustus / Monocyte so I thought that when she went in front on Grod and told him that  if Monocyte dies so does he and all of the Olignostics that it was all a lie. I thought that in the end Augustus died and we are left with Grod saving Monocyte which is now an empty shell and becomes a body or Religious figure-head for him to worship.

M3: I don’t mind addressing that and going full on into it. When Monocyte killed the very first human that was the first thing that had died like that in along time. He then legitimately became the conduit. He didn’t know that but Death did. Then when he killed the first Immortal Ryul he became the Death Conduit. So what Beatrice is telling Grod is true. If Monocyte dies every one of the Olignostics die. So it’s not a lie but I love the idea that other people may think that it is. The one thing I don’t care about blurting out is that when Monocyte killed The Green man it had the same effect on the Antedeluvians. So when Monocyte dies they all eat it. So now you have a situation where the Villains now have to attempt to keep the hero alive.

KG: Thats the lingering question we want to leave with readers. How is Monocyte going to come back? What happen to Lapis?  Theres that early story where we had The Sheppard coveting Lapis. So you have Grod set against everyone wanting power in absolute form. You have Monocyte who wanted to die and is now brought back but we don’t know in what form.  We have Sheppard roaming around as the Chaos element . The Green Man is now gone and the Antedeluvians are spread out all around. Make no mistake Grod places mark on Monocyte to bring him back in order to maintain control with the goal of nothing short then ultimate power. The question then becomes how physically and otherwise subservient is Monocyte going to be to Grod and if he controls him how is that going to change over time.

M3: People are like “well you don’t really have an ending there” But the ending is a very real ending. That even with this amazing selfless act by a few key individuals no one has learned shit. Their completely happy to live in Hubris and to me that was the exclamation point to put in the book. We sat down and we knew in this book we wanted to ask the question how would you have it be? That is the lingering thing. Is there a definite of what Monocyte is now? Not necessarily but we do elude to it  throughout the entirety of the series. When people pick up the collected version of this and reread it they will pick up on certain things that weren’t in there. I will definitely say that there are clues upon clues upon clues. Some of the diagrams and the wordings….We really worked way to much on this book and spent way more time on this than anyone would believe.

CV: I think it shows in the work that was done on the series and the level of quality in the book.

KG: Something I would like on record is that we made a great deal of effort to put this book together. It was important enough for us to do this book just to ask the question how would you have it be and have the reader take that question seriously internalize it and consider it.

M3: In the end I want to make art, I like making art. To me this was a book of art. It was the best I could do given what I had at my disposal at the time. The fact that the book even exists is completely enough for me. If we sold two copies it might have hurt my feelings but all I wanted to do is make the book. Kasra and I have been able to do that together without killing each other which is really hard to do in my case because I’m really difficult to work with.

(Kasra remains quiet takes a long drawn out sip of coffee after Menton’s comment and we all laugh)

CV: Can you guys share with me if your working on anything else together at the moment?

M3: We have one story were talking about right now that were both strangely in love with. The funny thing about this story is that it will be really simple to understand. It wont be nearly as Esoteric as MONOCYTE. For me the strange thing about it is that I’m strangely excited to do a book like that. I say this now and then the book is going to come out and people are going to be like “I don’t understand this book”

KG: One of the things with MONOCYTE and we’ve been told this over and over so I hope I don’t sound pretentious by saying this  is that its pretty singular than other things that have been produced. Which I think makes it pretty easy for Menton and myself to be typecast. This book we are working on now were just as excited and involved in and it will completely destroy any semblance of being typecast or any expectation that anyone else has of us and that is amazing.

CV: I appreciate that you guys are self aware as a reader.

M3: Well self aware , but at the same time horribly pretentious in that regard. I’ve got to do other books you know. I did Zombies Vs. Robots and Silent Hill and those are a lot of fun to do. If I’m going to do my own books I have to do shit I like. We arrived at this other story form an excitement stand point.

CV: You also have the Collected edition of MONOCYTE coming out soon. I know prior you had mentioned possibly adding a story to it. Do you plan on still doing that and if so will we see some characters return?

KG:We ended up not including an additional story for the collected edition. We went with a straight curatorial slant for it. We have a gallery of Menton’s early developmental sketches. Early Olignostics sketches, early Sheppard sketches. Then we went straight into what ended up being a very large gallery of art by world-class people. The last 40-50 pages of the book end up being a straight run through of 9 x13.5 inch unencumbered full-page art relating to the ascetic , the vibe , certain elements of the story they all relate to. We really struggled with the idea to include a new story and I’ll tell you part of me felt that it was a bit gimmicky. Like were playing a little bit  with someone who was invested in the story having to get the hardcover to get those additional pages. Instead lets just give them art and interpretation with a behind the scenes and let them read the story as it was intended.

M3: It does include the digital prequel that deals with the Sheppard as well which will be nice because that will be the first time you will be able to read that in print.

CV: Anything else you guys want to mention before we wrap this up?

M3: Actually yeah I do. Me , Kasra , Ben Templesmith and a guy by the name of Nicholas Odell that owns a comic book shop in Chicago are about to go on a new adventure. Were about to start a Kick Starter Campaign for soon about a project were in love with and MONOCYTE in some ways is a bit of an Alpha program for that. We fundamentally believe comic books are art period. Whats the Sistine Chapel but an amazing graphic novel painted on the walls of an amazing building? So were going to put our dicks on the line and are going to do something about it. Steve Niles is involved , David Stoupakis is involved , and George Pratt so if anyone likes whats going on with MONOCYTE we have a project in the works now that they will love. The Kick Starter will be out soon so keep an eye out for it.

CV: Thanks For your time again guys

M3 and KG: Thank you


The Collected Edition of MONOCYTE comes out July 25th and Kasra and MENTON’S Kickstarter project should launch late June early May.

Mike DeVivo

Follow me on Twitter @pandasandrobots

 

 

 


 

Matthew Sardo
Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.

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