We had the chance to talk with Iqbal Ali, creator of Attack of the Marauders, about his comic. We found plenty to like about Attack of the Marauders‘s themes of perception and reality set against a convincing sci-fi backdrop.
Ali kindly gave us his time in chatting about the genesis of the comic, along the way we discuss such things as classic 70’s sci-fi, Brexit, and the immense power of the written word.
AP2HYC: Where did your initial idea for the comic come from?
Iqbal Ali: The idea came from watching and reading the media response to specific world events–world events for me, anyway; local events for a lot of people.
I don’t think it particularly matters what those events were, and I wouldn’t want to tie the story too closely to them specifically. Instead, I wanted to explore the effects of the media on our perception of the world.
AP2HYC: What were your influences in terms of your story and art?
Ali: Seventies sci-fi was a huge influence–especially films like Logan’s Run and Silent Running. They clearly had something to say, whether it was about the environment (Silent Running) or about specific aspects of society (Logan’s Run). I wanted to aspire to do the same with Attack of the Marauders.
There is actually another version of this graphic novels where I did the art. In that version, the references to those influences were perhaps even stronger, right down to the choice of clothing, etc. There was only one problem with that version: my art was rubbish. And since I wanted this graphic novel to actually be good, I had to find an artist to work with! I was grateful to come across Priscilla Grippa to redo the artwork. She brings this European style to the story which I think creates a unique atmosphere.
I think it’s also worth mentioning Ken Reynolds and his work on the lettering. I really wanted to create a city of words–influenced by some of the great work I remember seeing in some graphic design and typography books. However, the vision I had was a little too ambitious for my artistic skills. So I’m glad Ken was on board to help visualise that aspect.
AP2HYC: What would you say Attack of Marauders was all about?
Ali: There’s an expression: “sticks and stones can break my hones but words can never harm me.” I heard that a lot growing up, and I don’t think that statement gives enough credit to the real-world impact that words can have.
So I guess Attack of Marauders is about exploring that impact. A poster in the book at one point says: “Words are the scaffolding for reality,” and I think that pretty much sums up what the book is ultimately about (or rather, what I wanted this book to be about).
Hopefully that doesn’t sound too pretentious. And hopefully the graphic novel saves me from having to go around saying that to people!
AP2HYC: The story felt like an interpretation of the themes of perception v. reality and us v. them. Where these themes meant to be relevant or was it just chance?
Ali: The themes were relevant at the time I wrote the story too–at least, they were relevant to me! The difference now is that maybe there is a wider acceptance of these things existing as issues. Especially, as we explore social media’s role in the 2016 US Elections as well as the accuracy of information playing a role in Brexit. People being able to choose the news they want to hear can be dangerous.
I don’t mean to rag on social media, because in the past we didn’t have a choice in terms of perspective on the news and we just had to trust what we were told was impartial. It’s just that now that we have a choice, in terms of news outlets and voices, the result can be a lot of noise to filter out. And I don’t think many of us are good at filtering out the noise from the truths.
AP2HYC: Do you have any other projects that you would like to discuss?
Ali: Oh, man. Where to start?
I don’t want everyone to think that all my work is “political” (if you’d describe Attack of the Marauders like that). For example, the graphic novel that I’m currently finishing off with Priscilla is very different. It’s about plants and is set in a world where plants are seen as being dangerous to humans and as a result are illegal to own. The story itself is a procedural crime drama where the suspect of a murder is a plant and the key detective in the case is a “plant sympathizer” (she also illegally owns a plant–one that’s really sick). All that might sound a little crazy, but–actually, yeah, it’s crazy. It’s just a little weird. But I’m really pleased how it’s turned out so far. I have no idea what the title is going to be though…
I’m also working on an all-ages book series called Aya Begum: Paranormal Investigator about a girl paranormal investigator. The setting is a rural village in Bangledesh. The first book is already out, and is about a local forest being possessed by a weird entity.
The second installment is about possessed teachers and is almost done. The third is written and Francesco Maldanado (the artist) should hopefully be starting the artwork on that soon. I’ll start writing the fourth book in a couple of months. Each of these stories are standalone, but there’s an overall story arc which builds through the series.
Also, I have a fifty-page graphic novel that I wrote a while back. It’s called Nightingale Protocol and is set in a world where artificial intelligence software is installed in humans, so when the host falls ill, the software activates, and a tiny holographic doctor and nurse team come online to work through the emergency. It’s basically a medical mystery with artificial intelligence thrown in. I’d want to revisit this world for future stories.
I’m also working on a lot of short comics with various artists. I’m posting these for free on my Tumblr site. I’m really enjoying writing these as I get to try out stuff without investing too much effort and time.
There’s more that I’m working on as well, but it’s probably too early to talk about them.