Following up on his long-running alternate history series “Rex Mundi,” which concludes this week with issue #19, writer Arvid Nelson brings readers a one-shot full of teenage mayhem and wrought from the messy mingling of fantasy and reality. Illustrated by Nick Stakal, “Deadlocke,” which is based loosely on the young adult novel “Venomous” by Christopher Krovatin, ships in November from Dark Horse. CBR News caught up with Nelson to discuss the project.
“Deadlocke” follows the story of loner Locke Vinetti, who prefers to imagine himself as a comic book hero Deadlocke. As Locke, though, he's recently been welcomed into the social elite, which might prove even more violent than his comic-inspired adventures.
“Locke’s a very introverted person. He lives in his own fantasy world,” Nelson told CBR. “In my experience, people who are social are naturally attracted to introverts, and vice versa. There’s something mysterious about the 'other side,' I guess. Locke finds this new world that’s unfolding to him -- a world of sex, partying, and social mayhem -- very exciting. It’s a chance for him to live out all his fantasies. But it’s very dangerous when the lines between fantasy and reality get blurred. Everyone in the story starts transgressing into worlds they’ve never been in before. They’re playing with fire.”
Though “Deadlocke” is a very different story than Nelson's work in “Rex Mundi,” the two books do play on a few similar themes or dynamics, such as a more-than-usually tumultuous love triangle. “In this story, Locke is caught between Casey, his new friend, who also happens to be gay, and Renee, his new girlfriend. Locke himself isn't gay, and Casey's attraction to Locke always lurks just below the surface, but it's there,” the writer explained. “Both stories are also about the different attitudes men and women have about sex, and how those differences lead to so much pain and destruction. Sex is usually portrayed as this wonderful, exciting, cool, amazing, terrific thing on television and in movies. And it can be, but I think for most people, in real life, it's mostly pretty awkward and complicated.”
The theme of escapism seems close to the heart of “Deadlocke,” and of course comics have often been described as escapism, whether in a positive or negative sense. “Everyone needs a little escapism every now and then, but it can also be very dangerous,” Nelson said. “That’s exactly the problem Deadlocke deals with. The private worlds people construct are very fragile. Letting the wrong person inside can be disastrous. Locke finds that out the hard way!”
There is also the sense that fantasy holds the potential to be either a constructive or a destructive force in a person's life, and the structure of “Deadlocke” plays on this both in the telling of the story itself and in the particulars of Locke's character. “I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a story that’s 'just a story.' There’s always a deeper level. The author is always telling you something about him or herself, even if they don’t mean to,” Nelson said. “In fact, it’s the things people don’t mean to reveal that are really interesting.
“So fantasy has enormous potential, both for good and for bad. If you write a story about social inequality, or whatever, it’s easy to put that story into a box. But with fantasy, you can deal with a subject in a way that’s much more powerful and much more subtle at the same time. It penetrates very deeply, whether or not the reader wants it to, whether or not he or she is even aware of it.”
As to whether Arvid Nelson's next project will be a shorter story --six issues like “Zero Killer,” now in progress, or one issue like “Deadlocke” --or another massive epic like “Rex Mundi,” Nelson said to expect a mix of both, with an emphasis on longer projects. “You know, I've got some really exciting projects lined up, but I can't talk about ’em! The one thing I can talk about is a novel I'm working on. It's definitely more in the 'long form' camp. Doing shorter pieces is really refreshing for me, it gives me the energy to persevere with this new epic I'm trying to write. I guess when left to my own devices, I tend to be attracted more to really long-form stories. It's easier for me to write a six hundred-page saga than a three-page short story. I guess it's just the way my brain works!”