Michael Moreci and Matt Battaglia Introduce ‘Indoctrination’
Indoctrination is an upcoming Z2 Comics series from writer Michael Moreci and artist Matt Battaglia about two cops working with a terrorist to investigate a dangerous death cult. A supernatural-tinged thriller with a political twist, Indoctrination has a lot of big ideas to deliver on, and first-time comic artist Battaglia has to weave these elements together to create a sinister atmosphere of suspense.
In order to get readers better acquainted with the world of Indoctrination, the creative team has provided ComicsAlliance with an exclusive commentary breaking down the elements of the first five pages of issue #1. It's a fascinating look at the choices they made, and the ideas that informed the series.
Michael Moreci: Hi there! Thanks for joining Matt and I for the creator's commentary track for Indoctrination #1. If you don't know, Indoctrination is a new series coming in June from Z2 — it's about a pair of FBI agents who get ensnared in an international terrorist/serial killer's web. Think Sicario meets Seven, with shades of True Detective. It's horror, it's crime, and it has a political strain coursing through it, touching on our world's battle against radicalism.
That said, let's start with, well, the start...
The first couple pages of Indoctrination are meant to me an announcement of how this book is going to present itself. I don't think I've written a first issue with as much deliberation as I did this one, if only because I was trying to do something very different — different from what I'd done in comics previously, and different from what we're all accustomed to seeing in most comics.
Primarily, of course, Matt and I are setting the scene for the entire series — we have the murder, we have the locations, we have the characters. In that regard, we're doing all the typical things you're supposed to when introducing a story. But, what really drove Matt and I — not only in this scene but the entire book — is presenting those elements in a different way.
What we're trying to do is evoke a certain feeling through the way the story is being told. If you look at the first page, it's very indirect; we don't see the characters, so we don't know who's talking; we don't capture the entire scene, so we don't know what they're talking about. And this mystery, on one level, is adding a layer to the mystery that drives the plot. But, also, it helps establish some of the more nebulous things we're dealing with, about ideologies and religious doctrine and things like that — all things are totally unknowable in a concrete sense.
Our main characters, Trent and Georgia, are very much obsessed by who and what they're pursuing, but at the same time they're stymied by not understanding what it is they're pursuing — i.e. The religious death cult that believes it is their calling to be catalysts for the apocalypse.
Matt Battaglia: Yeah, this was all stuff we discussed pretty early on when building out the book, from what I recall. The other thing was, we didn’t know where this book was going to end up, because we knew the story we wanted to tell — it’s not exactly light fare.
So we structured the first issue around short scenes because we were producing it in small chunks, which I think really adds to the feeling of the issue, it’s these vignettes that are really built to get the tone across in a few pages. I really wanted everything to have high panel counts and to work with these Mike Mignola-style quick glimpses at the environment. It’s all establishing tone and to get everyone into the fact that we’re not rushing here — this is a slow burn.
With these first few pages I wanted to show the passage of time, so we’re at the crack of dawn and the sun’s rising — and by the end of the scene we’ve gone from relative darkness to really bright burning light, and when we cut into the second scene we got to this green and blue pallette, so each scene was also made to have a very specific feel.
And side-note: these first five pages are like the last traditionally illustrated pages I did.
MM: Opening up to the spread is something I’m really happy with. Here’s the thing with Indoctrination: Matt and I are dealing with some tough, tough subject matter. It’s about radicalism and how radical thought leads to radical action. And that — that’s very challenging to deal with, because you’re talking about religion, politics, and more. But, we promised ourselves that if we’re going to do this story, we’re going to do it right and be committed to what we’re trying to say.
And in the thing we’re saying, we’re not supposing to have the answers. Again, this is so complex and dense, and we can’t suppose to understand what makes someone join a death cult and, say, storm into their workplace and murder their colleagues (as happened in San Berdino). We only have the questions and the ideas driving us. We’re presenting pieces, and it’s up to the reader to make the whole.
This goes back to the indirect storytelling choices we’ve made. In his TED Talk, writer/director Andrew Stanton said that audiences, down deep, don’t want 4. They want 2 and 2, and they want to make 4 on their own. A lot of my storytelling is like this. I worked this way in Roche Limit, and in Burning Fields, and I’m definitely deploying it here. In more way than one, we’re giving readers 2 and 2, and letting them make 4. When it comes to the actual plot, that 4 is more concrete, without question; when it comes to the underlying elements of the story, that 4 is definitely more nebulous, and it’s supposed to be.
MB: Yes, that was totally something we were talking about right from the get go — presenting the pieces and not saying this is what we want you to think. It helps that I don’t think either of us have done the thing where we’ve built up our impenetrable “thought bubbles,” so we’re at least perceptive to a variety of points of view on the subject — which helps keep things at the “pieces” level.
So the opening presents you, the reader, with a bunch of pieces, there’s a narrative going on — but it’s cut up a bit, not disjointed, but fragmented. Which really is how the rest of the first issue unfolds, we jump around locations a bit, we spend fragments of time with our characters slowly building out the players.
MM: And the thing is, the essential pieces are there. We give you the plot and, as you can tell on pages four and five, we give you the entire picture. But the title of the book isn’t Indoctrination by accident, and part of the idea is to capture the sense of being indoctrination and the disorientation, as is the strategy with any cult, that goes along with that. We carry this through the entire issue, the entire series (I assume), and it’s for good reason.
But, other than that, it also looks cool. The pages are all very different and unique in layout and design. Matt and I have really pushed each other to make the Indoctrination reading experience as fresh as possible, and this goes all the way to the bottom of the page, with the footers running there. I mentioned Roche Limit, and I did a similar thing there with the marriage of art and design, though Matt and I are taking it to a different level because the opportunity the story affords us.
Ultimately, the one thing we can promise is a fresh and unique ride that’s going to hit people on a lot of levels. As a horror/thriller, we’ve got some crazy things in store; as a politically driven book, there’s a lot to chew on (and we’re drafting friends to help — two important political figures, Matt Kibbe of Free the People and Eric Stoner of Waging Nonviolence, have contributed amazing back matter articles for the first two issues).
Indoctrination is the right book at the right time, and Matt and I can’t wait for it to hit store on June 22!