Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello will take his crusade for social justice from the rock and roll stage to the comic book page in October, with the release of the first issue of Orchid, his new series for Dark Horse Comics. The comic, which Morello will write in collaboration with artist Scott Hepburn will follow the adventures of a teenage prostitute in a dark future in which the rich have utterly dominated the poor, who must fend for themselves in a wilderness overrun with strange new breeds of predatory animals.
“My goal for Orchid was that it would combine the epic story arc of stories like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Stephen King’s The Stand or Tomb, but inject it with class-consciousness,” Morello tells Rolling Stone. “That’s something I’ve always thought was missing from those stories, where it’s always, ‘Let’s get the king back on the throne,’ ‘Let’s get the princess back in the castle,’ you know? And all these poor serfs and peasants are getting mowed down on the battlefield to try to get that king back where he belongs. That element always sort of rang hollow with me, and that has been corrected in the story of Orchid.“
Morello grew up as a comics fan, buying issues of The Incredible Hulk, Power Man and Iron Fist, Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man at pharmacies and convenience stores, but strayed from the medium after discovering music as a teen. “When I picked up the guitar and political consciousness was at the time when I put down comic books,” he says.
The guitarist – whose next solo album (as the Nightwatchman), World Wide Rebel Songs, is out August 30th – found his way back into the medium through works such as Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Ari Folman and David Polonsky’s Waltz with Bashir and Christian Gossett’s The Red Star. “Those books made me realize that the entire emotional, philosophical and political scope that you can address in music, film, or literature you can do in comic books as well, and that’s when I decided that I was going to tell my story of Orchid via the comics medium.”
Morello got hooked up with Dark Horse Comics through My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, who writes the popular – and deeply eccentric – Umbrella Academy series for the publisher. “He’s a friend and the first time that we became acquainted was in the aftermath of the big tsunami, like, five or six years ago,” Morello recalls. “A radio station in Los Angeles was doing a benefit where different rockers were donating things. Gerard’s thing was that he was going to illustrate and write a comic book of your life for the highest bidder. The two highest bidders were myself and the guy from Linkin Park. We bidded up into the tens of thousands of dollars, but at the last minute some super fan swooped in and made the highest bid.”
“Anyway, once I had a working 25-page synopsis of Orchid, I sent it to Gerard knowing that he was in the world of comics, and he forwarded to his company,” he says. “They loved it, and I’ve been working with them since.”
Morello’s involvement in Orchid isn’t limited to writing the scripts. “I’m scoring every issue,” he says. “When you buy the comic book you’re going to get a free song, which is the musical score for that issue. Over the 12-issue arch of the story, there will be 12 musical pieces that make a complete musical score for it.” Morello, who has some experience scoring films such as Iron Man, is up for the challenge of writing music to accompany the comics page. “One one hand, it’s a broad guitar assault, but it will have a haunting orchestral quality to it as well.”
Reporting by Patrick Doyle