Ram V and Dev Pramanik talk PARADISO [Interview]

PARADISO is a brand new dystopian sci-fi series from Image Comics, the first issue of which goes on sale this week.

The brainchild of writer Ram V, and featuring artwork from Dev Pramanik, the series grabbed our attention from the moment we laid eyes on it, so we were absolutely thrilled that both creators were able to take some time out of their busy schedules to sit down and have a chat with us.

But just what is PARADISO all about, I hear you ask?  Well, who better to tell you than Ram himself?

RAM V: Paradiso is a post apocalyptic, sci-fi adventure set inside a living, breathing metropolis in a world where a cataclysmic event known as The Midnight ended civilization. Now centuries after that event survivors try to build a new life inside this sentient city even as the city herself tries to understand life by observing and manipulating the people who live within her.

If you’ve played Sim City – imagine the city was the player and the game was to manipulate the lives of the people within her.

Our story begins with our protagonist Jack Kryznan showing up at the border to Paradiso City with a device that can bring dead technology to life in his possession. Even as he tries to bargain his way into the city, his arrival there is about to embroil the settlers, cyborg creatures known as Guardians and the city herself into an old and complex conflict.

BCP: Tell us a little bit about Jack.  What’s his story?

RAM: Jack Kryznan is a seemingly average guy thrown to the wind. Caught in the currents of events larger than himself. All he’s trying to do is stay afloat and maybe stand his ground but life’s hardly ever that easy. I think we’ve all been there at some point, just trying to keep things together while the world turns. I think that makes Jack immediately relatable. He’s not heroic. He’s not a champion. I think characters like that are more interesting. Especially when they find unexpected fonts of courage and audacity. I like my characters to pick up scars along the way. I like them to be shaped by the story rather than arriving fully formed.

I will say this. Even Jack does not realise who he truly is or what role he has played / will play in the events that are about to unfold.

BCP: Ram, what was it about Dev’s artwork artwork that you thought would be a perfect fit for this story?

RAM: I’ve been familiar with Dev’s work for a while now. We’d worked on Black Mumba before this and I’d been aware of his work in indie comics circles in India. The thing that struck me while working on Black Mumba was Dev’s ability to deliver tone and atmosphere through his textural inks– apart from his characters, their acting and such. His ability to transfer that intangible bit of storytelling made me instantly fall in love with his work. It is evident in Black Mumba and it is evident here. I think that quality is rare and priceless regardless of the story to be told. You can picking up drawing buildings. You can pick up perspective and proportions if you practice enough. But that inherent understanding of the emotive content of a panel. That is hard to teach/pick-up/articulate and Dev has it in spades.

BCP: And likewise Dev, what was it about PARADISO that really appealed to you as an artist?

DEV PRAMANIK: I just loved the idea of drawing robots fighting and huge cityscapes and deep character moments and storytelling elements all within one story. It felt like an amazing opportunity for me to evolve. And the story Ram came to me with was pretty awesome. Who wouldn’t love to draw a book with a city that’s alive? The possibilities boggle the mind!

BCP: What has the collaborative process been like between you on the visual side of the book? Did Ram have a particular visual aesthetic in mind when he originally came up with the idea, or is that something the pair of you worked out between you?

DEV: Ram did have a particular set of ideas about the characters and the landscapes and the cityscapes, but we did sit down and solidify thing a lot before i got onto the pages. The collaboration was strong with this project. We set about crystallising our ideas before I attempted any character and showed Ram what i had in mind and then we would go back and forth over the design till we hit the right pitch. Same goes for the aesthetics of the world itself.

RAM: As Dev said, we did come into the book knowing what we wanted it to look like. Nothing specific, just a broad idea of what we wanted. For instance, we wanted the whole place to feel like the ruin of a future city. So that element of retro-futurism was important to the visuals. The second thing was that we felt the whole ‘nature reclaiming cityscapes’ was over done, so we went for a dry, arid look to these parts of Paradiso that you see. Dev brings that arid and sparse structure through to PARADISO so well.

BCP: Almost as much as the humans in the story, the city of PARADISO seems very much like a character in itself.  How did the pair of you go about designing the look and feel of the city, and were there any particular visual or architectural inspirations you drew on to help bring it to life?

RAM: That is very much the intent. Paradiso was originally conceptualised with my friend and architect, Rajiv Bhakat. So there was definitely a sense of architectural authenticity that we tried to bring to the designs. Beyond that we extrapolated the visual aesthetics of Paradiso partly by looking at places like New York or Chicago. As far as the city looking / feeling like a character. That part of the design really comes from the intangible. It is a feeling. Nothing that you can put your finger on. I guess, when you realise you’re able to pull that off, you know you’ve got a good team!

DEV: I took a lot of inspirations from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Neo Tokyo, and researched a lot of cities to make sure the Paradiso, while futuristic didn’t look too silly or weird. The sense of uncanny comes from the character of the place. Just little hints of strangeness in places. So I loved referencing and researching real life cities which have just fallen apart because of lost infrastructure. For example, I took a lot of inspiration for Hashima island off the coast of South Japan, which is well-developed city that was abandoned. These inspirations came together and helped build the feel for Paradiso.

BCP: In what ways do you think Paradiso stands out from the other dystopian science fiction comics on the shelves today?

RAM: I think Paradiso is only a dystopia in a very broad sense of the word. In that, life is hard and resources are difficult to come by. Everyone’s looking for an edge over everyone else. Survival, is the need of the hour. But you only need to look beyond that to see that Paradiso is a story that focuses on resilience. On exploring a new reality without being burdened by the need to say that it is ‘bad’. Humanity is faced with a new normal. One where they must share in symbiosis with this city they’ve built. One where the city herself is unsure or who or what she is. I think that is the central theme of Paradiso, more than one of struggle and despair. Paradiso is less about the loss of the world gone by. More about the potential of a new one.

BCP:  Do you think your cultural backgrounds growing up in India have helped shape the way you tell stories, Paradiso in particular, and how important do you think it is to have Indian voices telling stories and being a part of the global comics community?

RAM: Yes. I’m sure my cultural background in India has helped shape my stories. So has the time I spent in the states and now my years in the UK. Writing is certainly influenced by location and and cultural context. When I first began writing, I dismissed this idea. I thought I was influenced primarily by the fiction that I had read and consumed. But that’s a dangerous road to go down. If you’re only influenced by other media and consumed fiction, you’re not adding any depth. Only producing what is likely to be a pale reflection mired in nostalgia of cynicism. So I began reaching into my cultural influences, personal experiences and realised there is where my voice lies.

I grew up in an era where Indian characters and voices, except for rare exceptions, had very little representation in genre fiction. And now that I am trying to create fiction, I recognise that post-colonial baggage I grew up with and I see the need to discard it. Going forward, I think the only way is to be inclusive of voices and perspectives in fiction. Too often I heard the idea bandied about that nothing is original anymore. Perhaps it’s time people began looking beyond their comfort zones to realise that there are a million new stories to be told, you only need look a little farther beyond.

DEV: Well, being Indian and having grown up in a culture entirely different from the communities comics usually come out of, i have felt that i have been able to develop an observer’s sense, being able to look at stories from the outside, be objective. It always helps being exposed to different cultures. The one thing that we have a lot of fun with is making the cast of Paradiso just as diverse as possible, because it makes sense in the scope of the book. In a world that has broken down, other people are your only solace regardless of where they’re from. Apes strong together, man.

BCP: Without giving too much away, what should readers be expecting from the series as it unfolds?  Any personal favourite characters or moments we should be looking out for?

RAM: Space vampires, Killer robots, flying buildings, Hallucinogenic post-codes and few more but we’ll keep some surprises. But of course, you can expect the story to get weirder, more intricate and build toward the central need / central desire of the story. Arc 1 is merely scratching the surface. We have plans for about 4-5 volumes and there’s a lot of Paradiso still left to explore! You’ll learn of The Midnight and you’ll learn to love characters you might hate now and despise characters that you think are heroes, soon!

BCP: And finally, what would you each say to someone who was on the fence about whether or not to pick up Paradiso to help convince them to give it a try?

RAM: I’d probably say reading is probably a lot more comfortable than sitting on a fence. Seriously, drop into your LCS, sneak a peek, read a page or two. Pick up an issue, strap in, sit back. You’re in for a ride!

DEV: It has cyborgs and humans living in a broken down city that’s alive and doing some pretty weird stuff. And that’s just the first issue. It’d have to be a really gorgeous fence, at this point.

PARADISO #1 goes on sale in print and digital on Wednesday the 6th of December 2017

ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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