Much to this writer’s chagrin, clichés are part of the comic medium. Ideas and plot devices are recycled over and over using character achetypes that we’ve all seen before. What makes a project stand out is passion and the motivation behind the story. Be it events during childhood that trigger a story with such vigor, the evolution of an idea that is formed over time, or somewhere in between, many creators write what they have felt in their life…creating a labor of love as we call it in the business. Matthew Tomao is doing just that with his initial project Pogrom, set to be released next month from Devil’s Due Publishing on March 26th. Religion and politics can be a hot button for people no matter your country or ideology of origin, and yet Tomao is tackling both topics with this series. I got the chance to ask Matthew how this all got started, and just how in the world his feelings about organized religion came about. He and DDP also generously provided a 19-page preview inital 48-page issue.
Chris Murman: The first issue starts off really heavy. Sort of a “end of days” time in Earth’s history. The exposition establishing the universe in which this story takes place is very grim, setting the Pope (or rather the Presipope in this case) as the man that breaks the wall down between church and state. Setting aside the easy comparison to current political leaders, why combine religion with politics for this story?
Matthew Tomao: Pogrom’s Faustian fusion of religion and politics symbolizes my interpretation of a post-apocalyptic, theocratic dystopia hell-bent upon eradicating individuality and controlling the human spirit. Much to my dismay, human history is ripe with glaring examples of religion’s corrupting and undue influence upon the political machine, and I simply expounded upon the twisted tales that graced my fingertips.
CM: Not only with the Presipope, but other aspects of the issue seem to present a very religious mindset. Are we looking at the result your religious upbringing with this series?
MT: No. Actually, you are witnessing my distaste for organized religion’s hypocrisy.
CM: Is it hypocrisy you personally experienced or just observed over the years?
MT: Unfortunately Chris the hypocrisy runs the gamut.
During my adolescent years I dated a wonderful Jewish girl whose parents objected to our relationship due to my Catholic upbringing. Eventually, the constant pressure exerted by her parents drove a wedge between us, eventually forcing our separation.
Years later I discovered her father had cheated on her mother with a Catholic girl…
Pogrom was never intended to serve as a religion bashing vehicle, and I believe that is quite evident based upon the multi-faceted point of views expressed during the course of the story.
Albeit, certain story elements do shed a negative light upon the hypocrisy I have observed.
CM: Next up is Pogrom, the title character and focus of the series. The solicitations describe him as the specter of a dead torturer. Where did this cat come from, and what is compelling about him being the lead of the series?
MT: Pogrom was formerly the Inquisitor General Sabbath, the most feared enforcer of the Presipope’s commandments before he died. Sabbath was killed during the Dominion’s invasion of Pax Africana, and he was accidentally resurrected by the Seven Deadly Sins incarnate during a botched ritual intended to open the door to doomsday.
Pogrom compels the reader to view the world through the unfettered eyes of an amoral torturer reborn as a rage full specter forced to relive massacres in order to reclaim his lost senses.
CM: When he enters the issue, Pogrom sits outside a dead clergy members tomb and goes on about the seven deadly sins. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the direction of the issue?
MT: Issue one’s direction touches upon the former Inquisitor General Sabbath’s mission to escape the Watican Necropolis and reclaim his lost vision. Hence the title ”Visions of Vice!”
CM: What I found interesting about Pogrom is the mixing of genre’s involved, with political satire, sci-fi, fantasy, and others playing a role. Where did this story come from to you as a creator?
MT: Pogrom’s story came about from my undying love of all things sick and twisted and exhaustive research into the dark side of Christian history.
CM: What kind of research did you do to prepare for the project?
MT: My main sources of historically factual information was derived from three books: The Dark Side of Christian History by Helen Ellerbe, The End of Faith by Sam Harris and Witches, A History of Persecution by Nigel Cawthorne.
The internet also provided a wealth of information.
CM: Josh Medors handles art chores for you on this title. How are you acquainted with Josh and how has he been to work with on this story?
MT: Josh Medors was referred to me by Devil’s Due Publishing’s sister company Kunoichi, and Josh has been an absolute pleasure to work with.
CM: I noticed many symbols associated with Pogrom and the seven deadly sins. Did Medors just take the idea and run with it or did you have specific ideas about the imagery associated in the issue?
MT: My ideas were quite specific and Josh did an excellent job of bringing the imagery to life.
CM: How has the collaboration process been for you trying to get visual interpretations of your vision of the script?
MT: The collaborative process has been a sight to behold! Josh Medors is undoubtedly the most dedicated, hard-working artist I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
Albeit, certain script elements had to be removed due to their outright complexity and what I wanted to see and what was possible were two entirely different things.
I have been told Pogrom’s script writes more like a movie than a comic book. That being said, keep your eyes peeled!
CM: Speaking of imagery, in parts this issue is really graphic in regards to art and story elements. On a positive note, it’s nice to see a book let loose and lay the gauntlet down for what it hopes to show the reader through the series. Adversely, however, this isn’t something to hand young kids. Could you tell us about the tone you decided to take with Pogrom?
MT: Pogrom’s tone is a visceral manifestation of an extremely dark period of my life. Certain aspects of Pogrom’s story mirror my feelings during that bleak episode.
CM: Since the dark times harkens back to a previous period of your life, what is it like to look back on those times? I know this isn’t a literal interpretation of that time, but surely the proof pages gave some sense of nostalgia.
MT: That dark period of my life is a constant reminder of how far I have come and how much further I have yet to go.
CM: Forgive me for stating it this way, but it would seem we have a coming of age story for the undead on our hands [Laughter]. What can we expect as Pogrom explores more to the world he inhabits currently?
MT: You can expect the unexpected Chris! Pogrom’s mission to reclaim his lost senses and forgone humanity will whisk readers away to the far corners of the globe and beyond!
On a personal note, this writer firmly believes in God and the idea that organized religion can be a good thing at times. However, I think that Matthew’s ideas and thoughts on the topic are refreshing and his creative method of communicating them are welcome on my bookshelf any time. Pogrom will hit store shelves on March 26th. Be sure and check it out.