Off-grid living after a societal collapse in America is the focus of a new (and sure to be a huge hit) comic book by graphic artist Plaid Klaus. The accomplished creator recently sat down with Off The Grid News to discuss his new series and the many troublesome issues United States citizens currently face.
OTG News: What prompted the idea of an Off Grid comic book?
Plaid Klaus: Technology has exponentially advanced in the past 20 years. Many of the advancements come out of U.S. military-sponsored programs, specifically this really strange department known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). In fact, the groundwork for the Internet was developed by DARPA, along with many wireless communications and advanced machine technology—“Terminator-looking” stuff. I’ve started to become aware of the groundwork for some very disturbing military advancements. Much like the invention of the atomic bomb, there are certain military measures we should be preventing the use of in the 21st century.
DARPA is developing self-balancing machines—both the quadruped “Big Dog” and the Bipedal “Petman.” They’ve also recently funded a $2 billion project to create human thinking machines. On top of that, the NSA is building the world’s largest spy center in Utah to monitor and store all communications. Added to that are the unmanned aerial drones that can view the movement of people in a 5-mile radius. We also have face recognition technology, mobile phone tracking abilities… it all starts to look scarier than George Orwell’s 1984. All these sweeping changes seemed to happen in a very short span of time, and I think a majority of the public aren’t really getting the picture of what this could mean for the future of our civilization.
My goal was simply to tap into the zeitgeist and manifest a science fictional scenario in which these fears were explored fictitiously in attempts to prevent our society from traveling too far down this road.
OTG News: Tell us a little bit about the main characters?
Plaid Klaus: The reader is introduced to the story through two young hippies, Kai and Starchild, who are venturing illegally into the off-grid areas. They are stopped by Jeep, a young ex-marine who has taken it upon himself to lead this small sect of the Resistance, whose goal is to destroy the mainframe of the machine force. They’re protected by secret black ops machine-human hybrid, Khaled, whom the group has captured from DARPA and reprogramed to defend the group. Mac is the hacker who controls Khaled and there are two other members of the group whom I don’t want to reveal too much about this early on.
OTG News: Is the comic book designed to appeal to just adults, or is it appropriate for teenagers as well?
Plaid Klaus: I definitely see it as something teenagers would enjoy reading, although there is some choice language. Considering a lot of the characters are ex-military, I didn’t want to use the words “darn” and “shoot,” it just didn’t seem realistic. I’m not looking to “sex up” or make the comic overly violent, so if a teen’s parents are ok with a few curse words, the comic is perfectly suited for teens as well as adults.
OTG News: Who is the target audience for the intriguing new series?
Plaid Klaus: I really want to tap into the growing interest in survivalism. It’s for comic fans for sure, but also the prepper audience. I want the book to portray humans reconnecting with nature and questioning our growing dependence on machines. It’s an attempt to examine the relationship between us and our creation (artificial intelligences). So the story is for preppers, sci-fi nerds, and comic book fans.
OTG News: What is the basic premise for the Off-Grid comic book series?
Plaid Klaus: The story revolves around a civil war that breaks out after the nation’s grid system is shut down for three weeks and the government mandates all civilians report to the major city habitation zones. It explores the underground fight between the modern day high-tech war machine and a small group of ex-military and anonymous hackers who call themselves “The Resistance.” The novel also explores emerging technologies such as nano-bots and technology that is implantable into the human body.
OTG News: Will the comic book series go into detail about off-grid living as the characters hustle to stay alive once they leave the protected zone?
Plaid Klaus: I want a large underlying aspect of the comic to be about survival. Humans have found themselves at the top of the food chain. We no longer really have to worry about predators in a most of modern civilization, so the robots become like a new form of predator. Essentially, the artificial intelligence has evolutionary advantages that make it a threat to our species. On top of attempting to survive being hunted down by robots, the characters still need to find food and shelter to survive. I want the group in the story to develop into a tribe surviving on the land.
OTG News: You developed a passion for drawing as a young child. Is Off Grid your first comic book series creation?
Plaid Klaus: No, I’ve worked on other comic books for various writers, three other published works. However, this is my first original solo creation and I’m really enjoying the process. Being in control of the art and the story allows me to make sure each aspect reflects the other appropriately. Also, there is a less diluted vision from the imagination to the page, because only one creator is involved.
OTG News: Off Grid comic book has received stellar reviews. What are you long-range plans for the series?
Plaid Klaus: The first major character arch involves Khaled, the human/machine hybrid, discovering what he is and having to decide whether he empathizes with humans or machines. For him, it’s a struggle for self-identity and trying to understand his creator, does he have a soul, that sort of thing. The important challenge for the group is to attempt to hack into the hive mind and tear it apart from the inside. Beyond that, there are some really esoteric and conspiratorial angles I’m going to explore, but nothing I can give away this early without having some real spoilers.
OTG News: The failure of the power grid or living a life without the aid of modern conveniences due to some type of disaster is a common thread among disaster movies, films, and books. The vulnerable and over-taxed nature of our power grid is a concern for millions of Americans. Do you think a power grid failure like the one which occurs in Off Grid is a real possibility?
Plaid Klaus: Absolutely a possibility, but at the same time, humans are incredibly adaptable. I think people would really come together in a crisis and figure out how to maintain an electric grid. It really depends on the cause of the blackout. If it was software oriented, I think that would quickly be overcome. I don’t see a mechanical failure affecting the entire grid system, so we would likely find ways to patch up the dead zones as needed. There have been theories about solar flares causing some kind of EMP effect and blowing out the system, but I’m not a scientist and can’t really speak to the possibility of that.
I will say, if the grid went out completely, Manhattan would be completely screwed. The city isn’t designed to maintain this population without power. I think most rural areas would find ways to adapt. I really don’t know what would happen to the major cities though. Entire populations rely on transported refrigerated foods, without which there aren’t enough natural food systems to feed those numbers. I guess people would start eating rats, pigeons and raiding the preserved foods at grocery stores. Who really knows?
OTG News: Will current events or evolving national concerns play a role in the comic book series?
Plaid Klaus: I’m definitely going to tip my hat to events as they happen. Current evolving events are the basis for the novel. Simply watching the developing tech world and the growing military nation state has led me to write Off-Grid. For instance, in Utah, the NSA is building the largest spy center ever constructed. It’s a 1.5 MILLION square foot “spy center” built for the US intelligence community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation. I’m getting really tired of this loss of privacy in the name of protection. It’s like the old, Alan Moore quote: “Who watches the watchers?” Ultimately, my goal is to rub people’s faces in this rapid race to a global military police state in the name of security that’s getting really far reaching. It’s the reason there are so many protests around the world, and people are done with isolated and elite leadership. I think the Internet is bringing the struggling populations into direct communication and we’re hopefully going to become less divided around politics and united around the idea of not wanting to be ruled by the few.
OTG News: The viewership is recording breaking of The Walking Dead series and it began as a graphic novel. Once Off Grid becomes a popular as you hope, would you like to see the characters come alive in a television series or a movie?
Plaid Klaus: Absolutely. The story lends itself to television, and it combines a lot of the elements that are currently trending in TV shows these days—survivalism, authority resistance, societal meltdown, and futurism.
OTG News: Off-the-grid or doomsday series have become extremely popular. In addition to The Walking Dead series, Fallings Skies, Revolution and Doomsday Preppers have also enjoyed large audiences. Why do you think the post-civil unrest or disaster dramas are resonating with the American television viewing audience?
Plaid Klaus: I think the world is at a boiling point, due to the interconnectivity and the ability to get new information through the Internet. Leaders are being held accountable in ways that were never before possible. It’s causing revolutions around the world, and I think right now our current culture is weighing the benefits of our societal structure—security, stability, etc.—with the costs to the individual encroachment on privacy, TSA body scanners, and police and military growing presences. I think leadership knows a revolution can spark in an instant… we’re seeing it happen in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Brazil. So, in response, our government is attempting to control any possible uprising by collecting all our data, monitoring our communications, and currently there is one of the largest attacks on the press. I don’t get into left or right wing, because it’s not about politics, it’s about the government as a whole. You have to view large systems like corporations and governments as entities, with many arms pulling in different directions. Each person involved is like one cell of the system.
I think entertainment helps to personify the authoritarian control system we’re living under. By giving a face to this amorphous “evil entity,” and then allowing the viewer to battle vicariously through the heroes in the show, these dramas are a way of coping with our present paradigm. Walking Dead specifically deals with the world, post-collapsed government, what if we all have to fend for ourselves. In areas around the world, after the fall of governmental rule, you see these post-apocalyptic feeling environments. So, Walking Dead is merely an attempt to bring that condition to our current culture. Zombies are merely starving or desperate people seen as enemies. Again, it’s all about personifying a fear in the cultural psyche.
So yeah, I guess it’s a combination of people addressing the idea of a collapse of society, perhaps a mental escape. I think subconsciously people wonder if a more primitive style of living would be more exciting and rewarding than clocking into a desk job for 9 hours every day. I mean, we’re secure and safe, but are we fully realizing our potential? In a world where you have to survive every day, you would really start to see the human survival instinct explode.
OTG News: If the Off Grid comic book series did hit the small screen, who would you love to see play the main characters?
Plaid Klaus: I’m actually a big fan of bringing new faces to stories. I think, especially with a TV series, it’s great to see a completely unknown actor envelope the part of a character.
OTG News: How can folks get their hands on the first Off Grid comic book?
Plaid Klaus: Easy! Go to mindcomics.com and click on Off Grid. Issue two came out July 2nd, and you can get a combo pack of the first and second issue for just $4!