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Interview With Musician, Activist, and Orchid Comic Creator Tom Morello!

Tom Morello live star

Tom Morello is a man I have always looked up to. From Rage Against the Machine to The Nightwatchman (and everything in-between), his unique guitar style is grounded in fundamentals, yet fused with unorthodox methods that smash boundaries and sound amazing. Music is really only part of the reason why I respect Mr. Morello so much. He has worked tireless for years as an activist, to bring change and justice to unjust national and international social issues and policies. From Free Tibet benefits, to the exclusion of third-party candidates from nationally televised debates, to founding the political action group Axis of Justice with System of a Down front man, Serj Tankian, and so much more; Tom Morello isn’t just a man who talks the talk. He is a man who puts his beliefs into action. As if the reasons above weren’t enough to make me admire him, now he is a writer of the new Dark Horse comic series, Orchid! Even though the first issue of Orchid has just come out, I am already a fan, as you can likely tell by reading my Orchid review here on Comic Booked.

Tom Morello Orchid

This week The Nightwatchman made the Seattle stop on their tour. Before the show, Tom was nice enough to stop by my LCS, Zanadu Comics, to take part in an Orchid signing event. I had quite a few things for him to sign, and he commented on the low $1 cover-price of Orchid #1 was “a recession buster” and gently ribbed me as to whether I would be selling these things on E-bay later (short answer: hell no). I told him that I had bought even more copies, but had given some away to Occupy Seattle demonstrators. What transpired next Tom Morello at Zanadu Comics in Seattlewas a stroke of pure luck. During a short lull in the line, I inquired as to whether Mr. Morello would ever be available to take part in an e-mail interview for Comic Booked. Minutes later (after Tom checked out the shop, looking for graphic novels to fortify him during the long stretches of time spent on the tour bus), I was seated next to Tom Morello, conducting an improvised one on one exclusive interview.

As I sit next to Mr. Morello, I can instantly tell that he is a passionate and congenial person. His disarming smile and welcoming nature help to ease my nervousness and excitement at being given this unbelievable opportunity. He is dressed casually in jeans, a worn leather jacket over an Army-green hoodie, and a gray union tee with a yellow graphic. He seems very genuine and unaffected by the inevitable fame resulting from his meteoric music career. We start off by talking about his comic title that this event is being held for.

Comic Booked – How did the comic project come about with Orchid?

Tom Morello – That’s an excellent question. About three years ago I had an idea for the story of Orchid. I wanted to combine the epic adventure of things like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, but into a story with a class consciousness. I considered different mediums to do that in. I didn’t want to be another Hollywood jackass with a screenplay, and I had rediscovered my love of comics and graphic novels.

Comic Booked – Were you a fan of dystopian science fiction and comics?

Tom Morello – Not so much. I collected comics up until my mid-teens, when I started playing guitar and became politically aware. The comics I was a fan of as a kid were all the very escapist in nature ones. You know, the ‘Hulk punches Thor’ kind of vibe? [My] re-entry drug to the world of comics was V for Vendetta and Red Star.

Comic Booked – YES!

Tom Morello – Those two books made me realize that you could write about an entirely new set of ideas here in 2011.

Orchid comic art "know your role"

[I am interviewing Tom Morello. Due to many of the social themes in Orchid and his activist history, I HAVE to ask him this next question. I likely will never get this chance again.]

Comic Booked – What do you think about the current Occupy Wall Street movement?

Tom Morello –[Tom’s eyes flash and he quickly measures his response] I performed at Occupy LA and Occupy Wall Street, and visited Occupy Seattle today. I think it’s a healthy expression of the deep resentment that a lot of people have about the gross inequalities of economic policies.

[Remembering that I AM in a comic shop AND writing for a comic book website, I resist the urge to to ask him 20 more questions about social issues.]

Comic Booked – So Orchid is going to be a 12 issue-long comic series?

Tom Morello – Yeah, yeah!

Tom Morello signed Orchid #1

Comic Booked – Do you foresee any other comic projects in the future, after this wraps?

Tom Morello – Let me tell you, this Orchid is a LOT of work as it is [laughs], plus the fact that there’s a soundtrack for each issue; there’s a musical score with each issue. The first issue features a song off of the new Nightwatchman album called “It Begins Tonight.” Issues 2-12 will have instrumental scores, like a film-score in relationship. So I have bitten-off quite a lot, and now it’s my job to chew it. This is a project that is three years in the making, and I am really putting my all into it. Beyond it I don’t have any new plans.

Comic Booked – Where did the idea for all of this come from?

Tom Morello – Part of it was seeing, sort of, a lack of… You know in those big epics, with great monsters, dramatic escapes, and big battles? It was always about getting the king back in the castle or saving the princess at the end, or things like that. I could never relate to things like that. I wanted something with the epic sweep of Dune, but also had the gritty street-terrorism of movies like The Battle of Algiers.

Tom Morello tour bus, rolloing into a town near youComic Booked – Do you have other events like this signing planned for stops in conjunction with the tour?

Tom Morello – Yeah, on almost every tour stop I think there is a comic shop.

Comic Booked – Where should people check to find out about upcoming events? The Dark Horse Comics website?

Tom Morello – Dark Horse website likely, but it should be on my website [The same site that people will use to access the Orchid tracks.]

Comic Booked – And people can always follow you on Twitter!

Tom Morello – Yeah, yeah, yeah! That’s correct. Yeah, I was just on there, telling people “Hey we’re coming down!”

[About this time I see that there are a still people accumulating and awaiting their chance to meet Mr. Morello, and I don’t want to monopolize all of his time. Everyone should get the chance to meet him and get their posters and copies of Orchid signed, after all. Not to mention the fact that Mr. Morello has already been so very he gracious.]

Comic Booked – Awesome. Thank you so much for coming, Tom, and giving me a little bit of your time. It was a pleasure to finally meet you.

Tom Morello – Of course! No worries. It was nice to meet you as well. Thank you for your thoughtful questions.

Zanadu Comics Seattle Staf fwith Tom Morello

Huge gratitude to Zanadu Comics for hosting this event, Tom Morello for everything, Dark Horse Comics for publishing what looks to be another amazing title, and Tom’s manager Joey for helping all of it come together and his sweet assist in the audio recording department!

We have other great Orchid and Tom Morello related content up, here on Comic Booked, including:

An Interview with Orchid artist Scott Hepburn from NYCC

First-hand Coverage of The Watchman’s NYCC Live Performance

And my previously mentioned Review of Orchid #1

As for one of those extra signed copies of Orchid? Retweet this article on Twitter before Friday October 28th, 2011 to be entered for you chance to win it! The winner will be randomly drawn from all of those that enter, and be contacted via their Twitter account for mailing information. Thank you for reading!

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Comments (6)

Cool interview! Gotta stop and check out this book. Like the part where he says "It was always about getting the king back in the castle or saving the princess at the end, or things like that. I could never relate to things like that." That is SO true!!!

Excellent work Robb. What a coup.

I really like this trend of matching music to comics. First time I encountered it was with Jim Mahfood's 'mixtape suggestions' with his comics, but Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim and Paul Cornell's Wisdom have featured the same idea.

Rage Against The Machine man, that takes me back 🙂

Fantastic, man! I met Tom VERY briefly at a signing at NYCC, but even when he's signing his way through a rather impressive (if unsurprising) line, that "congenial… welcoming nature" you describe shines through.

Wonderful interview Robb* Keep up the excellent work. You seem to get your foot in where many have tried and failed. Something good to say about those size 12's (wink)

I was really happy to get to finally meet him after being a fan for all of these years!

And for those keeping score at home, @BackThatElfUp won the signed copy of Orchid in the random drawing! Congrats.

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