Tom Morello has famously lent his axe-slinging skills to such acts as Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and his one-man band The Nightwatchman.
But for his Dark Horse Comics series Orchid, Morello has traded pyrotechnics on a Fender Bassman for a simple pen. The guitarist told io9 his plans for this post-apocalyptic rebellion tale, which sees a prostitute-warrior named Orchid rising up against the mutants and dictatorial rule of the warlord Tomo Wolfe.
Where do readers find Orchid in the upcoming issues?
The story from the first issue builds small. The idea was to take it to a very humble place, that is a common teenage prostitute scrambling for a living. She begins to discovers the limits of the society has imposed upon her.
The tattoo on her collarbone says "Property" and the brand on her arm says "Know Your Role." You might mistake these for being the same thing, but they end up being very, very different. She discovers that her role is one far greater than the one she was born into.
As far as where we are in issue #9, there's a major development in issue #8 that sets the tone for the story. Tomo Wolfe's forces have decided to exterminate the Bridge People. The mysterious masked man has eluded his possession and that throws him into a paranoid rage. This haunts his reign, so he believes it's going to be a cakewalk to eliminate them.
How are you finding the monthly schedule of penning comics?
My esteemed editor Sierra Hahn is constantly cracking the whip for [series artist] Scott Hepburn and I to make deadlines. I love writing Orchid — it's a passion project of mine, and it provides an intellectual outlet as well. For me, it's about exploring a completely different art form. In my rock life, stuff gets done when it gets done. I like the work ethic that Orchid imposes on me. And when we're done talking, I'll march up to my studio to polish the ninth and tenth issues! I immersed myself in comics as a teenager, and it's a welcome return. The fans have been great.
What sort of real-world events and political movements inspired the story of Orchid?
My favorite fictional characters have their grounding in some historical or fictional precedent. In Orchid, it's the naming of places — the town of Gath is named after the birthplace of Goliath. Fortress Panuel is named after the Biblical spot where Jacob wrestled the angel.
The character Orchid is a composite of some of the drug addicts and prostitutes I met when I first moved to Los Angeles. I felt a lot of personal and professional rejection from the Sunset Strip heavy metal scene. It was only when I became friends with fans off the beaten track that I met this fascinating group of people. I shared my stigma with them and was surprised by their intellect, caring, and kindness. These women were both damaged and beautiful, so there's a lot of personal history there.
As for a character like Tomo Wolfe, he's a composite of Nietzsche, Goebbels, and George W. Bush. [Laughs] With regards to the politics, the four revolutionary characters — Orchid, Simon, Opal, and Anzio — have their roots in real history.
Anzio represents the liberation theologist, someone who has a strong faith and belief in helping the poor and oppressed, but is willing to pick up a sword to do it. Opal is the prototypical idealist freedom fighter. Simon is weak in military background but provides the ideological underpinnings. He's like a Lenin or Trotsky meets C-3PO. Orchid — the Spartacus of Whores — has the drive and bent that you might refer to more as a terrorist than a freedom fighter. It'll be interesting to see how her anger fuels her desire to fight back.
You've been recording a soundtrack to accompany the comic. What sort of musical cues are informing these songs?
I wanted to be able to create a beautiful, desolate soundscape for this. Two of the inspirations were Peter Gabriel's Passion from The Last Temptation of Christ and Ashes and Snow, a beautiful art show I attended several years ago that combined music and photography. That got me thinking that mediums other than film could have a soundtrack.
Orchid #8 hits stands June 27; Orchid #9 hits stores September 12. The first volume of the collected Orchid hits stands July 11; Tom will be on deck that evening at the San Diego Comic-Con for a Q&A and signing. Interior artwork in this article by Scott Hepburn; covers by Massimo Carnevale.