By Sean Willett
Recently, a string of domestic terrorist attacks have taken place across the United States. These attacks, which include the shooting in Aurora, have drastically changed the political climate in America. In light of this, what kind of reaction would be elicited by a graphic novella centred on a group of armed high schoolers taking their teachers hostage? As it turns out, not much of one at all.
The novella in question is Wild Children, written by the enigmatic Ales Kot and illustrated by Calgarian artist Riley Rossmo. Although the comic was not intentionally released to coincide with the recent domestic terrorist attacks in America, it was still created with the intention to provoke a strong reaction from readers. Surprisingly, the response has been almost universally positive.
“We didn’t get any backlash,” says Rossmo. “When Ales [Kot] wrote this he said that he was going to send it to Christian mothers groups, and he did. But everyone was okay with it. Even with the shooting in Aurora, there’s been nothing.”
Featuring scenes of gun violence, drug usage and self immolation, Wild Children appears to be the perfect storm of offensive imagery. Despite the heavy amount of media attention the comic has been garnering, there has yet to be a strong reaction from right-wing groups — the people that Kot and Rossmo were attempting to provoke.
“Ales [Kot] really wanted to offend right-wing people,” says Rossmo. “There is even some pretty weird sex stuff in the beginning of the book. And nobody really cared, which is encouraging because maybe our society is actually pretty alright.”
However, Rossmo also believes that while one of the reasons for the lack of outrage is that our society is becoming more accepting, another may be that we are much more desensitized.
“It does make me think of how much farther we have to push to get a reaction,” says Rossmo. “With a book like this, we made it with the intent that people are going to get offended, and people are either accepting or just desensitized. How far do you have to go then to offend the Republican right? To wake people up, to challenge them?”
Even with all of its political issues, Wild Children is still at its heart a comic. It takes full advantage of the medium, occasionally going as far as breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging that the story exists inside of a sequential 2D plane.
“It has this political edge to it, but it’s still very much a comic book,” explains Rossmo. “It is a little bit pretentious in parts, but it’s self aware.”
Rossmo, who has worked on such titles as Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking and Green Wake, made drastic changes to his art style for Wild Children.
“I tried to make it clinical,” says Rossmo. “From the get-go we talked about the aesthetic a lot, and how we would design the characters. It was supposed to be institutional, which was very hard for me. Every line had to mean something, when normally I would do more expressive stuff. Like, ‘Oh, this part isn’t that important so I’ll just put some squiggles on it.’ With Wild Children, there’s no squiggles.”