With the forthcoming release of Image Comics’ “Paradiso”, Geek Genie caught up with rising creative star Ram Venkatesan to get the low down on this eagerly anticipated release.

Can you introduce yourself and the rest of your creative team?
Sure! I’m Ram Venkatesan. I’ve been writing comics as ‘Ram V’ since 2012. I started off by writing an ongoing series called Aghori, back in India. I self-published a graphic novel called Black Mumba in 2015 after moving to the UK. I also occasionally write prose short stories which have appeared in anthologies and e-publications. My most recent projects are the upciming Grafity’s Wall with Unbound and PARADISO of course, with Image Comics.
Dev’s a long time collaborator of mine. He’s a self taught artist from India who’s been in love with the medium as long as he can remember. Dev’s work has appeared in comics by Graphic India, in Nightbreed and Adventure Time from BOOM! studios. Dev also worked on two of the stories  in BLACK MUMBA.
Dearbhla Kelly is the colourist and designer on the book. She’s also an illustrator in her own right. Apart from PARADISO she’s also working on DC’s Michael Cray.
Aditya is the letterer of PARADISO and many many other books. He’s done stellar work on titles such as BLACK CLOUD, DRIFTER, MOTOR CRUSH and far too many excellent books to mention.
And I want to mention my friend and architect Rajiv Bhakat who originally conceived of PARADISO with me and still consults on the book in his capacity as a urban designer and architect.

How did you guys get together for Paradiso?
Rajiv and I first came up with the Idea for PARADISO long before I had begun writing professionally. Back then, it was a hobby and we wrote short stories and vignettes to give shape and structure to the world. By 2015 Dev and I had met and worked on a few things. We were just about wrapping up the last story in Black Mumba when I suggested we work on something longer. We agreed to create a pitch for PARADISO and see where that went.
Aditya and I had also met while working on Black Mumba. He lettered 3 out of 4 stories in that book and has pretty much lettered everything I’ve done since. We initially started the project with colourist Alex Sollazzo on board but a little after the pitch had been picked up, he had to step out due to unavoidable circumstances. I’d just started getting to know the Irish Comics Scene back then and I’d found Dearbhla’s work. It had commonalities with Alex’s painterly style that I thought would seamlessly fit in with the work we had  already done on the pitch pages.
There you go, that’s how we all came together. Mostly relationships built over time, struggling together to make comics. And a little bit of good luck, because I’ve really got the best people to work with, here.
The artwork is amazing! How much license did Dev and his team have to dream up the visuals in the book?

It’s a difficult question for me to answer. My scripts are pretty tight in that I do tend to describe the visuals and often give visual directions on the script as well. But, then again, my collaborators know that these are more suggestions than anything else. They know I trust them to take my scripts and change and bend and warp things to let them do the best they can. This is especially true with Dev. We really brainstorm through all the pages and often, things change a lot from the script. It helps that Dev and I are usually on the same page. And I’d like to think that I’m the kind of writer that scripts for his artist.
Dev’s work is just amazing in any case. I doub’t the guy could draw a bad page if he wanted to. So, it’s easy to script for someone like that!
Please tell us a bit about Paradiso. Set the scene for potential readers.

Paradiso is only truly dystopian in that there is certainly a sense of a world gone wrong. But beyond that it isn’t trying to make commentary on the future of humanity. It’s not trying to be oracular or didactic in anyway. The post-apocalyptic world really provides a lens with which we can look at characters under duress. And I’d like to think that Paradiso, eventually is a story about the resilience of life, human or not.
In terms of the practicalities it is quite distinct from Blade Runner or Mad Max. This isn’t really a futuristic society, in that people have lost touch with most of the technology that exists around them. But neither is it the kind of society we see in Mad Max. Technology is not lost. It’s still there. The city herself still exists and is functioning. There’s power and magic still running in her veins. But human understanding of technology has gone backward and so everything ancient is actually futuristic. Everything technological is to an extent magical and mysterious.
Tell us a bit about the main characters?
There’s quite a few and I’m not going say which characters become important or if they’re antagonists or protagonists. There’s Jack Kryznan of course. The young man with a haunting memory from his past who shows up at the border to Paradiso with the Pneumas, trying to get in. There’s Noira, whom he meets at The Bunks in Aquarius. She seems nice at first, before she decides to betray him, that is. Then there are the Guardians – Cyborgs that wander the city of Paradiso, getting up to their own mysterious machinations. Of these, we meet Dandy and Honeybad to begin with. They’re pretty important to the story, of course.
There’s more you’ll meet in Issue #2. They’ll all change and pick up bruises and scars as the story unfolds. Good ones will turn bad. Bad ones will turn good. They will all go through hell. The ones that survive will never be the same!
What themes does the story attempt to explore?
The sentiment at the heart of Paradiso is one that is entirely human and common to us all. It’s the search for meaning. And, it layers over all the narratives that we’ll follow as the story of PARADISO unfolds. The survivors contending with their new reality are looking for new meaning to their lives inside this living city. The cyborg Guardians are looking for meaning to their existence, outside of serving the function that they were meant for. The city herself, once inanimate, now immortal, trying to understand the meaning of her life by looking at the people who live within her. That, in particular, is a beautiful contradiction in a sense. How can a thing we made, an intelligence we constructed, ever comprehend the meaning of her existence if we could not comprehend the meaning of ours? But I want to be careful not to come off as trite. I don’t have answers, I don’t think anyone does. I think these are the kind of answers you find for yourself by observing people and life. Which is what the story does!
Image Comics has always been synonymous with innovation and diversity, how important do you think it is to have an Indian voice telling us new stories?
I do think it’s very important. And part of the reason I’m so excited to have this book out at Image is that I’ve always found their editorial choices to be very eclectic and encouraging of new and distinct voices. I grew up in India reading fiction that was largely written as a part of the American or European canon and I loved every bit of it, but I know what it’s like growing up without representation. With there being very little in common between my reality and the fiction that I was reading. In the world we live in today, I think it is a travesty to not have and encourage stories from diverse voices.
Every so often is there is talk of a lack of original stories and how all fiction is recycled over and over. I’d argue that it isn’t. Image has been at the forefront of new and original content for as long as I can remember. And I can see why.
Geek Genie is huge supporter of creator owned projects and supports independent comic books. What advice do you have for aspiring creators looking to bring their stories to life?
On the creative end of things, my advice to new creators would be to tell original stories. Something only you can tell. Something that carries a bit of your DNA in the writing, drawing and the telling of it. If we only aspire to produce fiction that is inspired by other fiction, how can it be anything but a paler reflection, mired in nostalgia and/or mimicry.
On the craft and graft end of things. Always remember, you can make things happen. Don’t wait to be discovered. Don’t sit around hoping for that big break. Decide if you want to be a creator or if you want to be ‘known’ for being a creator. There is difference. Just tell your story, Make your book. Be uncompromising when it comes to quality. Find collaborators who believe in the project and it might take longer and it might be harder to finish. But do it. There is nothing more freeing, encouraging or empowering than the realisation that you decide what happens to your endeavours.
Paradiso is published by Image Comics and will be available on release on 6th December, 2017. Order your copy today!

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