By Jarrod Jones. A power vacuum leaves 4m3ric4 in dire need of a leader. The only candidate that seems even remotely viable is one armed only with charisma, an agenda, and a propensity to launch a thousand dank memes. The world’s salvations rests on the shoulders of someone who’s really only in love with himself. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s difficult not to see a scathing political allegory in the pages of D4VEocracy, the latest series from IDW Publishing by Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramon.
Luckily in this story there’s D4VE, our reluctant, good-natured hero. But at the moment he’s more than what we have. So maybe I’m projecting a bit when I say we could use a thoughtful robot like D4VE in our lives. When you look at the three-ring circus that is the daily news cycle, it’s impossible not to go searching for a narrative that reflects these darker days. After all, it’s pretty terrifying to watch the multitudes flock to a leader that doesn’t appear to have their best intentions at heart.
“Fireworks, parades, and motorcycle stunts. That’s all it takes,” Ryan Ferrier says, and I sadly nod. But he’s careful to remind me that this is merely a story about robots who have inherited our world, though it’s plain to see that they’ve also been bequeathed our shittier attributes. “The robots, remember, didn’t exactly take on our best qualities — but they sure got some of the worst. D4VE[‘s] maturation just might be the end of them.”
But then he adds: “And yet, you go onto almost every social media stream and see the same stuff. Now that is terrifying…”
Ryan Ferrier took time out of his schedule to speak with me about D4VEocracy, his favorite political thriller, and how art sometimes inadvertently imitates life.
1. Hey, Ryan! Feels like forever since we last spoke. Might as well get this one out of the way — what was the one thing in this past election year that galvanized you to make ‘D4VEocracy’? Or was it merely inevitable that D4VE would enter the political strata, considering this series’ focus on social satire?
Ryan Ferrier: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to chat! The idea for the third arc of D4VE is something that has been kicking around in my head for quite a while now, I’d say during writing D4VE2. When looking at the complete and total arc of the character—all of the characters, actually—it made a lot of sense. D4VE has to save the world. That’s what he’s meant to do, be it programming or—as we touch on in D4VEocracy #1—destiny. So the DNA of the story is very natural and very fitting.
That’s not to say the recent election in the US hasn’t informed any of the story though. The divisiveness of the robot population which will grow in D4VEocracy is, very unfortunately, mimicking real life right now. I do believe D4VEocracy to not be an inherently political story though, and that will be expanded on as the series comes out. This is very much a story about revolution, both for the planet and for the main characters.
2. In ‘D4VEocracy’, we find D4VE at a vulnerable place — he asks about what happens after “all the power” goes out in the world, he articulates a belief (or rather, a hope) in the afterlife… and then he gets the news that President Roombo has been killed. Is it safe to say that you are deliberately tapping into the same existential dread/morbid thinking most of this country seems to have adopted?
RF: While I’m certain many people feel that way, and rightfully so, we’re not deliberately tapping into that specific collective feeling, no. We’ve always strived to make D4VE a wholly emotional character, someone we can relate to on a human level. We’ve also kept in mind the natural progression of D4VE, and where he is at the start of this arc is pretty understandable. He’s done all of these near-impossible things as a hero, but suddenly “saving the world” has taken on a different meaning, one that’s been there the whole time and he just didn’t see it. When we started D4VEocracy, the election was still quite a ways off. It’s been really interesting (and disheartening) to see some similarities. I think readers will be pleasantly surprised with how this arc unfolds though.
3. So D4VE, plagued by regret and fear for the future, decides to run for President just as sinister forces concoct an über-candidate of their own. D4VE, brimming with a sense of duty and self-sacrifice, and S4M, a mouthpiece filled with dank memes, and presumably, a grim agenda. I sense an allegory here.
RF: Ha ha. Again, there’s a little bit of coincidence at play. S4M is part natural progression and part inspired cautionary tale. He’s not meant to parody any actual person, as easy or difficult as it may be to see. When we first made D4VE, we approached the robot civilization as having their language totally informed by the data that existed—namely, the internet. Everything the robots know about interpersonal communication, they learned from Twitter, from YouTube comments, from Reddit, from forums. So to have this presidential candidate be the literal internet personified is really a strategy by D4VE’s opposition.
If you look at D4VE and 5COTTY, where they’ve gone since the first arc, a big part of their stories is maturing. Now they have to face not only the antithesis of that, but massive percent of the population that instinctively supports it.
4. What was in your heart when you developed S4M? What can you tell me about his (their?) position in’D4VEocracy’ — is the character an obvious Manchurian candidate, or will S4m develop personal motives in time?
RF: S4M’s position will unfold in a very, very big way in D4VEocracy. In that he as a character is completely unreasonable and unpredictable. It’s because of this he is the most dangerous threat D4VE will ever face. That’s about all I can say without getting into spoiler territory. But I can say we will see a definite shift in how he operates, and what his intentions are.
5. What will the electoral process be like in ‘D4VEocracy’? Tell me robots were clever enough to fucking abandon the Electoral College.
RF: It’s app-based. As simple as pressing a button. It’s terrifying. There is no electoral college though, no. Without saying too much that will be revealed, the election in D4VEocracy will be an utter unstoppable trainwreck.
6. Favorite paranoid political thriller, please.
RF: That’s tough. The Day of the Jackal. Munich is great. JFK too. Wait, does Bio-Dome count?
7. As fans of D4VE already know, this dude’s all heart. How will his emotional fortitude be tested in ‘D4VEocracy’, especially now that he’s in the midst of an existential crisis?
RF: D4Ve has been through a lot over the previous arcs, and we’re at a place now where he’s kind of at peace with the things he’s done wrong. He maybe hasn’t atoned for them, but he’s more grounded than we’ve seen before. His goals are a bit more tangible. He’s more comfortable in his own skin (except for going door to door, he hates that). For this arc, the very certainty of his life and his family’s will be tested.
This isn’t D4VE the war hero anymore, this is D4VE the lover, D4VE the family man, and D4VE the freedom fighter. The stakes are so much more down to earth for him this go round, and the consequences will be even greater. This is less a physical fight-to-the-death bad guy, and that is what excites us going into this final arc. This is testing D4VE as a, for lack of better words, human being. A consciousness.
8. In the world of ‘D4VEocracy’, consumption is rampant and so are the memes. How can a candidate convince the citizenry of 4m3ric4 (sp?) to unite behind a common purpose, especially when the powers that be have put together an app for that kinda subversion?
RF: Fireworks, parades, and motorcycle stunts. That’s all it takes. The robots, remember, didn’t exactly take on our best qualities (but they sure got some of the worst). D4VE and 5COTTY’s maturation just might be the end of them.
And yet, you go onto almost every social media stream and see the same stuff. Now that is terrifying…
9. I’m sure there have been moments where you’ve put editor David Hedgecock’s congeniality to the test — was there anything you sent over in the production stage that had him all, “Eh, you sure you wanna do that?”
RF: David is a Saint on this earth if there ever was one. The support and encouragement we’ve received from him and everyone at IDW is difficult to put into words, and we’re so wildly grateful to him and the whole team.
Surprisingly or not, there hasn’t been anything in D4VEocracy (or any D4VE arc that I can remember) that was a red flag. Everything’s been met with enthusiasm and support. It’s amazing.
I remember when we we’re doing Hot Damn there was a couple of small things that I ended up tweaking. Kind of a “is this too far?” couple things. Even then we didn’t change too much. For example, the scene in Hot Damn #2, where we see God waking up after a bisexual threesome. That’s still in the book, praise the lord, but the original scene was much, much more explicit. I got cold feet is all. Those were decisions we made as creators, we’ve never once been asked to pump the brakes on anything.
There have been times where I’ve been like “nah, they won’t go for it…” and they absolutely go for it, and it’s an amazing feeling. Bless David Hedgecock and bless IDW.
10. Your optimistic predictions for the next four years on the planet Earth, please. (And that’s “Earth,” not “34rth.”
RF: Optimistic predictions? Given the state of the last few months, that’s a tough one. Okay. My optimistic prediction is that now, as we have done before on this spinning chunk of space rock and possibly more than ever, won’t stand for those who wish to control us for the detriment of others and the benefit of themselves. We will push back for the people. It’s already happening. My optimistic prediction is that we will be okay. I think we will. I hope—I really, really hope—we will. Never thought I’d say this, especially after Hot Damn, but I have faith.