Image: Black Mask Studios. Calexi #1 art by Amancay Nahuelpan and Tyler Boss.

In the wake of the election of a near-fascist US president, what happens when one of the country’s most liberal, most economically powerful states decides to cut all ties from the union? That’s the premise of Black Mask Studio’s provocative new series Calexit, and we’ve got an exclusive look at the disturbing picture it paints.

Announced after the first month of Donald Trump’s time in office, Matteo Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan’s Calexit imagines an even grimmer reality than some dismayed American citizens might find themselves in at the moment. The series takes fears of an emboldened far right to their furthest extrapolation by putting a vindictive authoritarian in the White House, and following a cast of characters horrified to live in a country where their fellow citizens no longer see them as fellow Americans. Check out a few pages from the issue below, making their debut here on io9.

“We didn’t know how timely Calexit would become when we started cooking it up last year. The book was conceived during that toxic stew of the US presidential primary campaigns where it just felt like everybody was fighting with everybody and even generally likeminded people were at each other’s throats—and the people who weren’t likeminded with one another were literally punching each other,” Pizzolo said in a statement provided to io9.

Advertisement

“And in the context of the militarized police presence growing throughout urban America, the Federal Government backing down in the Bundy standoff, the rage of cities like Flint who can’t rely on the government to even provide them with safe drinking water, and the constant outcries to wall in our country... it didn’t require a literal President Trump for a dystopia like Calexit to feel all-too plausible. The big shift for us has been that our burden as storytellers went from making it feel potentially plausible to making it feel actually fictional, because the real world is catching up to our dystopia at a rapid clip.”

Although Calexit initially started out as a twisted extension of fears about the resurgence of the far right, Pizzolo is alarmed at just how swiftly its concepts have gone from thought experiments to alarmingly realistic in the time it’s taken the series to hit comic shelves. “In the time since we cooked this fictitious world up,” Pizzolo continued, “Trump was elected President and pushed through his controversial travel ban executive order, with numerous states refusing to enforce it and the Supreme Court ruling largely against the states. When President Trump pulled America out of the Paris accord, California responded by co-founding the United States Climate Alliance with other states, in direct defiance of the Federal Government, and California even went so far as to forge a unilateral climate agreement direct with China. And Trump threatened to deputize the National Guard. It’s all really startling. When we put this book together we weren’t hoping for ‘prescient’ to be the word buzzing around it.”

But Calexit isn’t just a fictional sideways step, however—and not all of it is as relentlessly grim as it sounds. As well as telling the ongoing story of resistance leader Zora and the battle to free California as its own sovereign state, each issue of the comic will also come with insight into real-world political discourse and activism, featuring interviews with activists small and large about what Americans can do to become engaged in the political process in the run-up to important House and Senate elections in 2018. “The first issue features interviews with Amanda Weaver, who is a political organizer with Reclaim Chicago; Lexi Alexander, the director of Green Street Hooligans and Punisher: War Zone, who has been a powerful voice for diversity in Hollywood; and Bill Ayers, a lifelong organizer, activist, and educator who is probably best known for his role in the Weather Underground,” Pizzolo told us. “We focused the interviews on inspiring things people are doing and real actionable steps anyone can take if they haven’t been part of the political process before but suddenly feel a need to participate more.”

“For me personally, Calexit’s non-fiction section was inspired by Brave New World Revisited,” Pizzolo continued. “When I was a kid reading Brave New World I fell in love with the characters of John and Lenina and Bernard, and then after finishing the story I came upon the Brave New World Revisited section in the back where Huxley digs into the non-fiction elements inspiring the story’s fictional world. And I didn’t even read Revisited the first time, because it’s not necessary for enjoying the story. But I knew it was there and eventually I went back and read it, and it pierced the veil between the fictional world and the real world in such a cool, unique way.”

“So it seemed like there was an opportunity to do something like that here, but I’m no Huxley and I don’t have any of the answers, so we’re really lucky that some actual brilliant activists took the time to help us connect Calexit’s dark story with real-world steps we can all take to maybe make the future a little bit better for all of us.”

Calexit #1 is in stores July 12.