Even though it’s a comic book, Off-Grid is not for young kids, nor is it a superhero story, although there is at least one super-powered character in the book. Instead, it’s an attempt to communicate ideas such as prepping, living off the grid, and the misuse of technology by government to average Americans.
The interesting thing is that the author and writer, Plaid Klaus, incorporates a lot of contemporary ideas about off-the-grid life, some of which come right out of Col. John Robb’s thinking about Next Generation warfare. Most of the technology mentioned in the story I read is based on real concepts being developed by our friends at DARPA, including the Big Dog, a four-legged robot being tested by the Marines.
The plot is a fairly standard story that is similar to Lost and The Walking Dead, the popular AMC zombie show that’s also based on a comic book. A small group of survivors tries to adapt to and survive in a radically changed world. A big difference is that the menace they face is based on real world possibilities, not fantasy creatures like zombies.
There’s little or no politics mentioned in the story; instead, it occurs a year after a mysterious event shuts down all the electricity in the United States. After the event, the government orders everybody to move to major cities or “habitation zones”. Those who don’t go along with the new status quo and remain in rural areas are branded terrorists and hunted down and eliminated by killer robots.
The free story online focuses on two near-future hippies who encounter a band of resistance fighters, renegade military personnel who are trying to stay free. It does a pretty good job of communicating some basic ideas, including the idea that you can be tracked through cell phones. In the story, drones use smartphones to track and kill anybody who doesn’t go along with the New Order.
Klaus tells a good basic story here, and I especially like the way he avoids a lot of the silly political content that tends to infect independent comics and make them a real drag. Instead, he focuses on basic ideas and actually communicates them in a way that average people will understand.
Although I’m not very fond of Mr. Klaus’s artwork – it’s rather crude and cartoonish and overstylized – I think the story would be more effective if it were drawn in a more realistic style reminiscent of Brian Bolland or Jim Aparo. The story might reach a larger audience with a better artist.
Intelligent Prepper Entertainment
In an interview with Off The Grid News, Klaus indicates that he is very familiar with a lot of the concepts motivating modern preppers and off-the-grid thinkers. Klaus is very familiar with DARPA and its creations, and he notes that DARPA laid the groundwork for the Internet.
It is refreshing to see somebody creating a piece of entertainment that takes these ideas seriously. It’s also nice to see a story featuring this kind of next generation technology in a sort of messy situation like you might see in the real world. No obvious good guys or bad guys, just average people trying to survive in a very scary situation.
Klaus does a good job of raising serious ethical issues and modern developments without preaching. Instead, he throws out ideas and asks the reader to actually think about them. Klaus has some real frightening thoughts on the matter.
He believes that we’re moving towards a global military police state of some sort, although he doesn’t elaborate on his politics, which I think is good. This kind of material won’t work if it is blatantly political. Instead, Klaus does a good job of showing how some of the technology coming out of DARPA could be abused by an out-of-control government.
Off-Grid is an intriguing and well-written comic book. I’m reminded of the better work of Allen Moore and Frank Miller and some of the really smart comic books of the 1980s here. The art isn’t up to the standards of Marvel and DC, which is a real shame because I think this work deserves to reach a mass audience.
Hopefully, a producer or a major comic book publisher will pick up Off-Grid and give it the treatment it deserves. This story would make a really entertaining movie or a TV series. It might also work as a series of prose novels.
A word of warning: Off-Grid is not for younger kids. It isn’t that violent, but it does feature some pretty strong cuss words and female characters with prominent breasts. Yet surprisingly, it isn’t that violent or graphic, which adds to the story’s effect.
Off-Grid is produced by a small publisher called Mind Comics and the first issue is available free online. If you’re looking for a good entertaining read or a way to introduce people to some of the concepts we discuss here, it’s well worth checking out.
Off-Grid isn’t perfect, but it is a good start in creating intelligent prepper fiction and entertainment. Intelligent entertainment is something that the prepper movement is going to need if it wants to go mainstream and reach somebody besides true believers.