Tom Morello’s ‘Orchid’ comics: Suicide Girls meets Joan of Arc

Aug. 15, 2011 | 5:44 p.m.

Tom Morello, a man with searing musical ability and scorching political passions, is famous as the guitarist in Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave and increasingly for his solo folk project The Nightwatchman. Now, like his friend Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, the amplifier auteur is moving into a new career as a storyteller in the comics world.  Morello introduced those plans down at Comic -Con International but we caught up with him for a more in-depth conversation about “Orchid,” which arrives in October from Dark Horse Comics and will feature art by Scott Hepburn, who previously worked on the Oregon publisher’s “Star Wars: Nights of the Republic.”

tom morello Tom Morellos Orchid comics: Suicide Girls meets Joan of Arc

Tom Morello (Los Angeles Times)

G.B.: Are comics a new passion for you?

T.M.: I was an avid comic book collector as a kid. At the time my comic book tastes and my music tastes coincided, they were escapist in nature. It was kind of heavy metal, Zeppelin, KISS, Alice Cooper, Iron Man, Avengers and “Weird War Tales.” I had about 6,500 comics that were in my mom’s basement until I recently brought them out here and now I’ve been going through them. But any way back when I picked up a guitar and discovered the Clash and the Sex Pistols, comic books just went away. It just didn’t feel like it spoke to me in the same way. I went on with my rock career and comics were just part of my background.

G.B.: When did that change? When did you also start seeing comics or graphic novels as part of your present and future?

Orchid # 1 (Dark Horse)

Orchid No. 1 (Dark Horse)

T.M.: It was a few years ago that I decided I had a story to tell. I was searching for a medium to tell it effectively. I wanted to tell an epic fantasy tale like “Lord of the Rings” like a “Star Wars” but with a class consciousness. The template was “Star Wars” meets the “Battle of Algiers,” something that had the street politics of terror mixed with an exciting, huge, over-arching story with monsters and escapes and amazing settings. But I did not want to be another jackass with a screenplay and I did not have time to write a 600-page book. So I started researching graphic novels and I found that, as I suspected, they had come a long way since I put them down as a 17-year-old.

G.B.: That must have been a pretty exciting time of discovery for you.

T.M.: It was incredible. It’s a great artistic medium. So then I flushed out a 30-page script of the story from beginning to end. Then I spoke to Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance who introduced me to my Dark Horse family.  They seemed very excited and it’s been quite a ride since. One important component in addition to all of that is that I’m scoring each comic book issue. So when you buy the comic book you will get a free [digital track]; it will be a 12-issue arc and there will be a 12-track CD at the end of it.

G.B.: Did your experience making music for “Iron Man 2” inform that process?

orchid Tom Morellos Orchid comics: Suicide Girls meets Joan of Arc

Orchid No. 1 (Dark Horse)

T.M.: Absolutely. It was inspired by that experience and I’ve scored a few other films as well. I also saw the Ashes and Snow art exhibit in L.A. a few years ago and it was an art show with a soundtrack and I thought, “How interesting is that?” That was on my mind, too.

G.B.: With Rage and with Audioslave you know all the benefits and challenges of being in a world-class band. Collaboration isn’t always easy, either, which you know as well as anyone. This is a new medium for you that is also defined by collaboration. Did your band experience give you insights in this new field?

T.M.: Very much and it also threw up some warning signs. Scott Hepburn is the illustrator and he’s really great but it took a year to find the right illustrator. Some very big names in the comics world threw their hats in the ring and after speaking with them I decided I needed to find someone that I had a great chemistry with. It’s just like in a band, you need that chemistry to effectively convey an artistic vision and have a great experience doing it. When Scott and I began working together it was crystal clear he was the right guy to do it.

Orchid # 1 (Dark Horse)

Orchid No. 1 (Dark Horse)

G.B.: What can you say about the setting, the tone or the characters?

T.M.: There’s touchstones I told you about and then the main character, Orchid, she’s part Suicide Girl and part Joan of Arc. It’s a dystopian future. It’s no longer the haves and the have-nots, it’s the haves and the have-nothings. I wanted the main character to come from the lowest rung of the ladder. She’s a teenager. She’s a woman. She’s destitute. She’s a sex-trade worker. That’s your hero. I loved “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” but the class angle of those stories always irked me. I remember reading “Lord of the Rings” and thinking, “You know those Orcs and the vassals of Minas Tirith have more in common with one another than they do with the king and the dark lord.” So that’s one element I felt is missing from things like “Star Wars” and “Dune” and my other favorites. I wanted to keep the exciting elements from those stories — the big mythology and the battle tableaux and the quests — but it’s also infused with my world views.

— Geoff Boucher

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Comments


15 Responses to Tom Morello’s ‘Orchid’ comics: Suicide Girls meets Joan of Arc

  1. workatbby says:

    Wow no way man that is just way too cool!
    http://www.anon-tools.int.tc

  2. Wally Burr says:

    Speaking of collaboration and tossing one's hat in rings, I'm not clear as to whether recorded dialogue is part of Morello's "Orchid" project, but if it is, I'm the guy who cast and voice directed the 1st gen (98 episodes) of the animated "Transformers" plus it's movie and the 1st gen (92 episodes) of "G.I. Joe" plus its movie, and for slightly more sophisticated stuff, the 1st gen of "Exosquad." [A lot more at http://www.wallyburr.com]

    • Screamers says:

      I think I speak for most fans when I say, I'd love to see you work on future projects, Wally! Truthfully, I don't think Transformer or G.I. Joe would have continued as it had, it if it weren't for the hard work and dedication that went put into the original series.

  3. Shawn says:

    Don't you have to be dirty and unshaven to be a Suicide Girl?
    http://www.senuke.co

  4. Pablo says:

    Good for Tom! I look forward to picking up one of his issues and seeing where he is gonna go with it, sounds cool.

  5. Anifan says:

    Wow! Is that the REAL WALLY BURR? Just saw him at the screening (at the Aero) of original TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE. The guy's a legend in and out of the animation world. He was a hoot and had the whole theater in stitches for the post- discussion. I hope this animation legend is directing something now. I can't remember if he said so or not.

    This story, by the way, is also a WOW!

    • Screamers says:

      I'm positive that's the real Wally Burr and I have to agree, if it were for the hard work Wally put into those cartoon and projects along the voice actors, those cartoons wouldn't have stood the test of time, as they have!

  6. Joe Flood says:

    Why am I seeing Wally Burr's name popping up? If Burr is part of this adventure I'll kill to see it. I'm an old timer and Burr is a legend in my neck of the woods.
    Joe Flood

    • Screamers says:

      Ya know.. I'm so spreading the word on this, I've been following Transformers and G.I. Joe since the eighties and I'd love to see Wally working on this project :)

  7. Paul Eiding says:

    Wally Burr is the MAN! Having worked with him on several animated projects, I can attest, the dude knows his s**t. I was one of those Gen 1 Transformers, (Perceptor) and have tons of respect for his knowledge and execution. Wally still has it. He also has tons of fans. The right man for the right gig. Good luck…I'm lovin' Orchid.
    Paul Eiding

    ps No $ has or will change hands because of my comments. :)

  8. Antonio says:

    Tom Morello,

    I agree with the other comments in this section. If you are looking for a director of voiceovers for your Orchid animated project, I heartily recommend Wally Burr. He has tons of experience as a director of voiceovers. He was the director of the Transformers Sunbow cartoon from 1984-88 when I was watching it as a kid. I still have great memories of that cartoon. Each Transformers character had a different and distinctive voice which is impressive since there were a LOT of characters in the cartoon. I have corresponded with him personally and can say that he is a workaholic and a perfectionist. He loves doing this kind of meticulous work.

  9. Shannon Farnon says:

    I can't think of a more qualified director in any arena than Wally Burr. He directed my voice work at Hanna Barbera for years as well as an on-camera commercial. He's the man!
    Shannon Farnon (the Voice of Wonder Woman)

  10. Tut says:

    This project sounds really exciting, just the comic art in the article has me intrigued–it's like "Blade Runner" meets "Heavy Metal". Can't wait to see it! AND if they get Wally Burr to direct the voice work, I couldn't wait to HEAR it, either! I am also a "true-blue" fan of the original Transformers and the unforgettable voices that he cast and directed for it are one of my favorite things about the show. Take it from the fans, get Burr on board and you will have a new classic on your hands!

  11. Can't wait to read this comic it should be a great one! I am always interested when writers use historical figures in their work

  12. WindowInstallation says:

    This is great, love the animation too aside from this entertaining post you've shared.
    ____________________________
    Window Installation in Alexandria

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