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Superheroes and spandex it ain’t. Described as "The Renaissance of the Horror Comic," Matthew Tomao’s debut 7-issue mini-series Pogrom is scheduled for release in March, and the controversial subject matter is already causing a stir, both inside and outside the industry.

The story of Pogrom takes place in 2070 A.D. where the ‘new world order’ is presided over by the Presipope; a theocratic dictator who commands the greatest army on earth to rule a society according to a literal interpretation of Biblical law, in which anybody who does not conform to this religious dogma is tortured or killed under the strict codes enforced by the Watican.

The preview (available here) opens with the zealous despot delivering a rousing speech that justifies invasion of a country on the assumption it possesses deadly weapons.

You do not need a doctorate in literature to realise the real-world allusions and social-commentary evident from the outset. The parallels with the War on Terror, the Catholic Church and government control through fear are themes that are sure to attract attention from various sections of society.

The central character in Pogrom is the Inquisitor General, once a terrifying enforcer of the Watican doctrine. Resurrected by an occult ritual performed by one of the Avatars of Sin, he is  reborn with human traits of empathy and compassion that force him to question the reign of terror that governs society.

However, as Tomao has stated, this is not simply a tale of good vs. evil, but a multi-layered graphic fiction that features a variety of extraordinary characters, each with their own morally ambiguous and mysterious motivations and a specific role in the dark and twisted landscape of the comic.

This is Tomao’s first series, a joint venture between his own company Hypergraphia and Devil’s Due Publishing, featuring impressive artwork from Josh Mendors (Child’s Play ) and colorist Robbie Ruffs that seems to capture the frightening atmosphere of a world ruled by fear. Even the title Pogrom denotes images of ethnic genocide, massacre and murder; subjects that remain a tragic aspect of the ‘civilized’ 21st century in which we live. The package is topped off with covers by fan-favorite Ben Templesmith (Fell), ensuring this will be an eagerly anticipated and striking debut from a creator to watch out for.

BF interviewed the writer to get to the heart of this fantasy/sci-fi/horror comic and get a better understanding of his reasons for writing such a powerful and controversial tale.

BROKEN FRONTIER: 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 are all classic examples of sci-fi stories that feature a dystopian future in which freedom of expression and basic human rights are strictly regulated by the authorities. Are there any stories that have influenced you to write about this subject matter?

MATTHEW TOMAO: Unfortunately, as a writer, I didn't need to delve too deeply into fictional accounts of untold human suffering and despair to wrack my imagination.

Humanity’s inhumanities; pick up a copy of your local newspaper. And organized religion’s confounded crusade to eradicate any semblance of individuality, and force their misguided beliefs upon others provided all the inspiration I needed.

BF: The theme of a totalitarian theocracy ruled from the ‘Watican’, will no doubt raise a few eyebrows from religious purists. Was this your intention?

MT: No, it wasn't my intention; the "Watican" is actually hybrid of Washington D.C. and the Vatican. The Watican’s despotic ruler, the Presipope, was a former United States Army General … the rest of that back-story will have to be told another time.

On a side note, the concept of religious "purity" is a novel one. Christianity, for example, is an amalgam of pagan practices, beliefs, and rituals baked in the searing heat of the Roman Empire’s draconian doctrines. Imagine a loaf of politically palatable rye-legious bread if you will.

BF: Ben Templesmith is well known for his unique artistic style on popular titles such as Fell. How did this collaboration come about?

MT: The Hypergraphia Comics’ team determined Ben Templesmith’s strikingly unique, and instantly recognizable artistic style would complement the Avatar of Pride upon Pogrom  #1's "Visions of Vice" cover perfectly, so we instigated a dialogue and Ben graciously agreed to illustrate the cover for us. Hypergraphia Comics was extremely fortunate Ben was available at the time. Due to his hectic production schedule Ben’s work is highly in demand!

BF: What made you want to become a comics writer?

MT: I have been asked this particular question countless times by friends and family members, and the answer always seems to raise more questions. Pogrom is my passion in life. I am consumed by it day and night, and putting my thoughts on paper was truly a cathartic experience. The development of Pogrom’s story arc was an organic process for me, and each keystroke literally numbed a painful period of my life.

I hope that makes sense.

BF: Tell us about the characters that inhabit Pogrom’s world, especially the voluptuous vixen on the cover of issue #3!

MT: Myriad interesting characters inhabit Pogrom’s world! The voluptuous vixen you mentioned is the Avatar of Lust!

Pogrom’s supporting cast include the Presipope, head of the Watican City States, and supreme commander of the Dominion Armies; the Dominion Police Department or "DPD" which consists of Deacons, War Priests, Battle Bishops, Battle Archs and Cadre Cardinals, ranks obviously based upon the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy; the Seven Deadly Sins incarnate; the seven sins' diametrically opposed Virtues; and a hawk-headed extragalactic law bringer to name a few…

BF: Why should I choose Pogrom over the thousands of other comic titles available?

MT: You should choose Pogrom over the thousands of other titles available if you yearn to live a truly unique comic experience.

Imagine being reborn into this world as a senseless specter accidentally resurrected by the Seven Deadly Sins’ Avatars. You're hell-bent upon reclaiming your lost senses, destroying anything in your path, and suddenly you realize the only way you're going to experience the pleasures of the flesh again is if you're forced to relive the world’s greatest massacres!

To top it all off, each sense imbues Pogrom with extraordinary abilities and physically changes Pogrom’s previously ghost-like appearance, but virtually all of Pogrom’s newfound senses possess varying degrees of "handicaps" as well!

Pogrom begins his sojourn as a man who once held the title of Inquisitor General, the most feared enforcer of the Presipope’s commandments before he died. Pogrom actually redeems himself by assimilating the untold suffering of innocent victims thus becoming more and more human each time, and that, my friend, is only the tip of the iceberg!

BF: Was Josh Mendors you first choice as illustrator, and how much creative freedom was he allowed?

MT: Josh Medors was the first choice presented to me. After I reviewed his previous body of work, Medor’s penchant for horror and all things dark and dreary truly caught my eye, and I said to myself, "Ok, Matt! This is the guy! This amazing artist will truly bring Pogrom’s terrifying tale to life!"

Josh Medors’ creative freedom was occasionally curtailed by certain script elements, but for the most part Medors’ creativity was limited to his imagination!

BF: What comics are you currently reading and do you have any favourite creators that inspire you as a writer?

MT: I am currently reading Hack/Slash and Drafted, two of my favorite Devil’s Due titles.

Dean Koontz is my biggest inspiration as a writer. After reading all of his books over the span of two months when I was in the tenth grade, I began my first foray into writing.

BF: You founded the independent comic company Hypergraphia in 2007 with Michael Geller. What were the reasons behind this venture?

MT: Mike and I originally founded Hypergraphia Comics as a vehicle to self-publish Pogrom. Pogrom is Hypergraphia’s first original entertainment property and we intend to successfully expand our line-up beyond Pogrom in the near future.

BF: What do you do when not creating edgy sci-fi/horror comics?

MT: I toil endlessly at my day job, go home, eat dinner with my family, and write comics until my fingers bleed!

BF: Are there any other projects in the pipeline?

MT: Definitely! I am currently working on Pogrom’s seven issue mini-series follow up. The new series begins exactly where issue #7 left off. Pogrom isn’t fully reconstituted until #7 of the original series, so readers will have to pick up the upcoming series to truly experience the former Inquisitor General's unbridled fury!

BF: What advice would you give to aspiring comic writers looking to break into the industry?

MT: My advice to aspiring writers is practice your craft! Read and write as much as possible to hone your talents and everything else eventually falls into place! Add a liberal dose of perseverance and the outcome may shock you!

Steel yourself for a tremendous degree of rejection, a natural part of the creative process, and learn to put aside your ego long enough to relinquish the creative reins to your editors from time to time (if you have the pleasure of getting a good one). I have discovered that my word is definitely not Gospel.

BF: If the General Inquisitor were resurrected on Earth now, what do you think he would set about changing?

MT: If Pogrom were resurrected in this day and age he would focus his fury upon the countless corrupt government officials that make our lives and our children’s futures miserable and return power to the people!

More on Pogrom can be found on the series’ impressive promotional website, www.pogromthecomic.com




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