Blood Will Tear Us Apart: ‘Sacrifice’ and Sam Humphries [Exclusive Preview + Q&A]
On sale next week is the first issue of Sacrifice, the new six-part indie comics miniseries written by Sam Humphries and drawn by Dalton Rose. The book finds a troubled teenage boy lost in the ancient Aztec empire, where he’s become a central figure in a religious conflict. Humphries earned superlative praise for his and Steven Sanders’ self-published Our Love Is Real, and Sacrifice has already inspired praise from Uncanny X-Men and Phonogram writer Kieron Gillen, who said: “What happens when two of history’s greatest death cults meet up? Aztecs vs. Joy Division fans. You haven’t an answer. You haven’t even thought of such a thing. Humphries and Rose have. Listen.”
ComicsAlliance has an exclusive teaser for the first issue of Sacrifice along with a brief chat with Humphries about the new project. Check ’em out after the cut.
While he contributed to the well received C.B.G.B. anthology from BOOM! Studios and Archaia’s popular Fraggle Rock series, Humphries truly made a name for himself with his and Steve Sanders’ self-published one-shot Our Love Is Real, a sci-fi sex satire that became a much sought after collectible, a textbook example of how to market indie comics properly, and eventually a widely distributed book from Image. Illustrated by Dalton Rose, Sacrifice sees Humphries take a chance on self-publishing a more ambitious and personal narrative.
ComicsAlliance: In Sacrifice, a young man finds himself transported through time and space into the heart of a thriving Aztec civilization caught up in a kind of religious schism. We’ve seen modern day men and women sent to King Arthur’s court or to the future and even to Mars, but Tenochtitlan is new territory in a lot of ways. What about the Aztecs struck you as fertile ground for a time travel adventure?
Sam Humphries: The Aztecs are a real life sci-fi/fantasy story hidden in our own history. They were a large and advanced society that evolved in complete isolation from the European and Asian influences that are so central to the dominant cultures of today — in other words, an alien civilization on Earth.
If we discovered a city the size of Singapore on the dark side of the Moon tomorrow, we might begin to understand how Cortes and his conquistadors felt when they first encountered Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire.
CA: What kind of research did you to do to add authenticity to the Aztec component of Sacrifice? Were there any details you grappled with, or did your narrative accommodate historical details pretty easily?
SH: I’ve been obsessed with the Aztecs for about eight years now. I’ve read up on tons of books, and been back and forth to Los Angeles’ gorgeous downtown library a million times. On TV I’ve compulsively watched everything my DVR can find that has “Aztec” in the description. I’ve studied poetry, maps, and military techniques, I’ve been to museum exhibits, I’ve even taken an Aztec cooking class. (Short answer: delicious!) It was my research that motivated Sacrifice, not the other way around.
Sacrifice is a portrayal of the Aztecs that most people are probably unfamiliar with. The historical angle of the comic stems directly from a book called The Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. In this book, Matthew Restall deconstructs the most egregiously false aspects of the story most of us are taught in history class. It is a thorough, ruthless, and mind-blowing takedown, like a killer diss track by Jay-Z, or President Bartlett lecturing an evangelical on the Bible.
For example, the idea that the conquest falls into the historically-acceptable category of one country (Spain) waging war on another (the Aztecs). In reality, Cortes and his conquistadors were little more a crew of upjumped mercenaries acting in defiance of a royal order. They were like a bunch of rogue Blackwater contractors trying to get rich or die trying and damn the consequences, not the standing army of a sovereign nation.
Also false is the concept that the Aztecs were so simple, they thought the white men were gods. Or so backwards, that a handful of Europeans could crush them with ease. Restall’s book is a summation of a new movement in academia that has redefined our understanding of the Aztecs, but that understanding hasn’t yet gone mainstream. When you use science and research to peel away the centuries of prejudicial bullshit (most of which was generated by Spain 500 years ago), the Aztec world is a beautiful, dangerous, and complex place to be. Even when our portrayal of the Aztecs in Sacrifice falls short of total authenticity, it was important from the start to make sure we stay firmly within the spirit of this new understanding. That was the manifesto.
Plus, lots of swearing and blood and psychedelics.
CA: Tell us a little about Hector’s taste in music — we know he digs Joy Division — and how it might factor into Sacrifice.
SH: There are two reasons why Hector feels a connection to Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. But I’m not gonna spoil it.
Other music on his iPod would include the Smiths, OFWGKTA, dubstep, and the soundtrack to Akira.
CA: What was your personal soundtrack while working on Sacrifice?
SH: Jeez, hard to say, I’ve been working on this book for about a year, and I’ve burned through a lot of music. Some albums that have stuck with me include:
Ladytron – Gravity the Seducer
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
Das Racist – Relax
Beyonce – 4
Bikini Kill – The Singles
Tune-Yards – W H O K I L L
Plus a collection of New Order singles
CA: You raised your profile quite a bit by initially self-publishing Our Love Is Real with a limited print run and access on comiXology, with it being picked up for wide print distribution via Image Comics. As your second self-published project this year, what can you tell us about your ambitions for Sacrifice in both the print world and the digital space?
SH: My ambition with Sacrifice and Our Love is Real was pretty straightforward. About a year ago I decided I was going to publish these comics by any means necessary, whether a publisher was on board or not. If so, great! If not, I’m doing it anyway. The train is leaving the station! You can’t stop this crazy diamond from shining!
Our Love is Real set the stage for Sacrifice, and Sacrifice sets the stage for the next thing. It’s like the guy who started with a paperclip and eventually traded it up for a house, except I will start with Our Love is Real and trade up to a giant vault full of gold coins and a swimming cap.