Master of the Temple: An NYCC Exclusive with Richard Carbonneau of 'The Marvel'

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When I originally reviewed Richard Carbonneau and Robin Simon’s The Marvel, a graphic biography of scientist/sorcerer Jack Parsons, I was struck by how passionate it was about its subject matter and how unabashedly it pursued the story it wanted to tell.

I’ve reflected on The Marvel a lot since originally covering it, and recently at the 2010 New York Comic Con I was fortunate enough to run into writer Carbonneau at the Cellar Door Publishing booth where he and I chatted a little bit about his work in comics.

BROKEN FRONTIER: To start, tell me a little bit about the book, The Marvel.

RICHARD CARBONNEAU: It’s a biography of Jack Parsons told as a comic book. It’s based heavily on his own writings and a lot of firsthand research that I did in and around Pasadena, CA. Jack Parsons, of course, was a rocket scientist; he developed stable rocket fuel that NASA eventually used to launch a shuttle to the moon. He was also an occultist, a devotee of Aleister Crowley, and headed the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) out in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

BF: Of all the occultists in history, why does Jack Parsons interest you so much?

RC: He’s a badass. He was a scientist and didn’t see any sort of distinction between magic and science... for the most part. It was all a part of his life: one was his earthly work, and the other was the work of his will. Also, his life is literally explosive and very visual and really makes for a good comic story.

BF: How did you first come across Jack Parsons?

RC: Originally, I think it was an article, but that kind of slipped under the radar; I read it but didn’t really process it or let it strike me. And then I was doing research for something completely unrelated and I came across his name again, so I started getting into things that he had actually written, like Analysis by a Master of the Temple, which really set the framework for the story and was what really grabbed me and made me realize that this needed to be a comic.

BF: When did you originally start the book?

RC: Probably about six years ago.

BF: So it’s been a long time.

RC: Yes, it has. There’s been a lot of research involved and we really took our time, Robin Simon (the artist) and I, just making sure that we had a lot of the historical details accurate: a lot of the clothing, the buildings, the architecture in Pasadena, and so on. A lot of those were firsthand photos that I had taken and sent to [Simon] for reference.

BF: How did you find Robin Simon as your artist?

RC: It was sort of trial and error. I had put an ad up on Digital Webbing, like so many people do, and I had some people who were interested and then when they found out about the content turned it down for conflict of ethical, moral, and religious reasons. But Robin sent me some samples and I knew right off the bat that he was the right guy. Since, we’ve actually developed a really good relationship working together, and we’re probably going to do so again in the future.

BF: If you had to pick a favorite occultist, who would it be: Jack Parsons or Aleister Crowley?

RC: For Crowley, there’s such a wealth of material from him out there and it’s just too much for me. I can relate a little bit more to Jack Parsons. For that reason, I like him a bit more.

To learn more about Richard Carbonneau and The Marvel, please visit his website.

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