“A Mad Max-esque Aesthetic”: Interviewing Ram V On Paradiso, Plus #2 Preview

by Oliver MacNamee

“Powerful forces are on the move in Paradiso City, but to what end?” 

Writer Ram V’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi series continues apace with the release of Paradiso #2 this week, and keen to catch up, I tracked him down to get some answers to his fascination with cities and their ever-changing facades and characters, his own globe-trotting travels and, of course, Paradiso. I enjoyed the debut issue with its rusting facades and the concept of a sentient city, and you can read more here if you are so inclined.

Olly MacNamee: You seem to have a healthy fascination with cityscapes and incorporating them into your stories as more than just a backdrop. Would that be fair enough an observation? 

Ram V: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve lived in large sprawling cities all my life. I think part of the fascination comes from there. Just watching your environment change, over time. How spaces take on a life of their own. I suppose the need to look at cities as mutable, changing things with their own wills and personalities comes from there. In this specific case, I conceptualised the book with my friend and architect, Rajiv Bhakat. It helps that a lot of my friends are architects and urban designers. A love affair with cities was inevitable.

OM: Where did this fascination with cities and their characters come from? You’ve lived in India, America and now England. Does this fascination come from the diverse places you have lived?

RV: I think the traveling I’ve done and the places I’ve lived in, influence me on a much more fundamental level. I think my need to tell stories comes from there. Each time you go to a city, you’re learning new rules, learning about a new place with its own customs and traditions. You’re learning to make friends by finding commonalities with people who share very little of your own cultural past. I think, these are all things you do when you’re writing / reading / creating stories.

OM: Everyone likes an interesting villain, and in Mr. Dandy and Mr. Honeybad you have just that. Where do you find you inspiration for these two, and indeed for your other leading lights?

RV: Are they villains? A lot of people certainly seem to think so. We’ll see! I don’t know that I can point to any specific place as a source of inspiration for designing these characters. Dual characters are of course a relatively common trope in genre stories. I remember reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and being absolutely enamoured with Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. So Dandy and Honeybad might have their roots there. But the similarities stop there. I don’t really know what inspires the creation of these characters. It might be a voice,  a visual quirk, a way of acting or behaving.

OM: And, what of your post-apocalyptic world? Where did you find inspiration for the world you and Dev (Pramanik) are creating? How much is it your ideas, and how much is Dev an architect, too?

RV: Aesthetically, there are a lot of touchstones for the city of Paradiso. New York and Chicago were influences. You’ll also see a Mad Max-esque aesthetic layered over the whole thing. But that’ll change in every arc. We’ll do something different with each installation, giving readers a new way of looking at the city each time. Much like real cities, Paradiso is simultaneously many different things. Dev’s role is immense in developing the Paradiso you see on the page. He took inspiration from Akira’s Neo Tokyo and a few interesting references of places like Hashima Island. The visuals have been a rather involved and collaborative process and so, definitely, Dev is an equal architect, here.

OM: Like the American Westerns, at their best, the environments mould the heroes. Is Jack Kryznan a product of his environment, or is he a born survivor? He seems to stand above the rest of the ropey cast of rogues inhabiting this book.

RV: Oh he’s a product of his environment alright. And in the context of this story, that takes on a much deeper meaning. I won’t say much for fear of giving things away. But keep reading and you’ll see why. As for being a survivor, I think that’s ingrained into everyone who lives in these times. The world outside of Paradiso is dying. The world within has new rules and a new reality to contend with. In either case, life’s tough and survival becomes second nature. He does stand out from the rest of the cast of characters, though. And the reason for that, you’ll have to pick up as you read.

OM: You’ve worked with Dev Pramanik before, notably on Black Mumba. Where did you two guys meet and how did this sereis come about?

RV: Dev and I had known and appreciated each other’s work long before we actually did any work together. I had known of his work through the Indian indie scene and we’d chatted a few times. Then in 2015, I began working on Black Mumba and while we had started talking about potential collaborations, that’s when it turned into something concrete. In 2016, Black Mumba was Kickstarted and did quite well. I think everyone involved was really proud of what we had managed to create. By that time, I knew Dev’s style would fit Paradiso and I asked him if he’d be interested in working on something longer. A year later, here we are!

OM: And what can we expect form this post-apocalyptic series? Where’s it heading, without giving away too much, of course?

RV: I am a patient storyteller. I don’t believe in giving things away. I believe in engaging, involving and interacting through my work. There is a pact with every reader. There is work involved in reading my stories. They meander, they obfuscate, they ponder the inconsequential bits, but there is a payoff for everything. I do pride myself in being able to weave narratives and threads into the story that will pay off much later. So, sit back, relax, don’t worry about getting all your answers. Stories are more about questions than they are about being told everything.

Paradiso is ambitious. It’ll go to unusual places. It jumps the fence between Fantasy and Sci-fi. It’ll talk about finding purpose and meaning in the context of a dying world. It’ll talk about a hopeful future despite a bleak setting. It’ll ask things about our legacy as human beings. The things we build will outlive us, remember. How then, will they look at us? We’ll touch on all of this. But also, there are space vampires, shared dreams, killer robots, seedy noir bars, crusaders standing atop gargoyles, and so much more.

Paradiso #2 is out Wednesday, the 10th of January from Image Comics.