The Previews Party: What is Polarity all about?
Max Bemis: Polarity is the story of a young man, a 22 or 23-year-old guy, who is an artist living in Brooklyn. He has a manic episode and discovers he is bipolar. He deals with it and he gets on medication. He goes back to loving his life, but he still hates himself, because he feels uncomfortable that he has the disease. He feels alienated, especially because a lot of the story focuses on the type of society that he lives in, which is this Brooklyn hipster mecca. So, he feels very out of place.
Then, over the course of the story, he discovers that he isn’t just bipolar, but that when he goes into a manic state, he achieves physical superpowers and some mental superpowers, as well. So, the crazier he gets, the more powerful he becomes. He becomes stronger. He has limited telepathic abilities. He’s faster. It is as if the way you feel when you are actually manic, which has a lot of these qualities of experiencing life. It literally happens to him. So, as where someone who in real life who is bipolar feels like they can read people’s thoughts or they’re invincible, he actually becomes these things.
The story is really about how he deals with that and the people surrounding him. He gets introduced into an adventure as might happen when you develop powers like that. It is all framed through the lens of a super dark comedy. The way that me and my friends who read it, have described it, is that it is sort of Curb Your Enthusiasm meets Spider-Man.
The Previews Party: What inspired you to do this new take on a superhero story?
Max Bemis: Well, to be honest, the roots of this story didn’t really have anything to do with superheroes, or powers, or anything like that. Nor is there really any superheroing going on in the finished story.
At the same time, I came up with the idea before I even knew I was bipolar. It’s funny because I based our entire first record around the concept of this character that can’t control his honesty. He is in this completely hypocritical, youth-centric society of hipness and indie freshness, but he can’t keep his mouth closed. He’s forced to expose the raw truths of those around him. That’s what I wrote our first record about.
Then, during the recording of the first record, I had a manic episode and a breakdown. I found out I was bipolar. So, in this really meta sense, I went through this experience where I became that guy. For years, after I got my act together, so to speak, it was this really incredible experience. I can say so objectively. Yes, it was really crazy, but everybody who knows me is like man you’ve seen some terrible stuff.
I always had it in the back of my mind to develop this story into a screenplay or for a while we thought it might be a musical. Then, when I started talking with BOOM!, they wanted me to pitch some comic ideas. I pitched three or four ideas, and threw this one in there just to see what they thought, never thinking it would be the one. They came back and said this one, Polarity, is the story. So, I decided to make it a comic.
The Previews Party: You’ve collaborated with your band on music, but what has it been like collaborating with artists to tell this story as a comic?
Max Bemis: It has been a great experience. My artist, Jorge Coelho, is incredible. Our colorist is awesome. The people at BOOM! from Ross (Ritchie) to the editors to everyone have been really great. They’ve offered ideas that have helped to make the book better. They’ve all been really great, and the process has been painless. Working on this book has been wonderful.
The Previews Party: Since this is The Previews Party, what comics would you suggest for people to read?
Max Bemis: I recently read Brian Wood’s Conan. That was awesome. In fact, I’ve been reading a lot of Brian Wood lately. I picked up the collections of his earlier work, the Couriers and Channel Zero. Wood just sort of has this stamp of approval, that no matter what he is writing or what it is about, you know it will be good. I also recently have been reading a lot of manga. I never really had gotten into it before, but then I started reading some and am really enjoying it. I think a lot of people think that manga is just strange Japanese fantasy comics, but there are actually some really great stories and really talented creators.
The Previews Party: Ok, pitch time. Why should people be reading Polarity?
Max Bemis: This book really has a great sense of humor. It is sardonic and kind of dark. It really captures like a Larry David-style humor. I think a lot of comics nowadays try to be funny, and a little goofy, but don’t always hit this level of humor that we have in this book. I think that will really help us stand out.
The other aspect of this book is that I’ve really tried to capture the young indie artist culture. A lot of writers try to write about what it is like to be young in America today, but don’t always get it right. It often feels like an older person looking in on that culture. I think I have really been able to capture it, and even make fun of it a bit. So, those are the two parts of this book that I hope will really grab readers.
The Previews Party would like to thank Max Bemis for joining me for this interview and the fine folks at BOOM! Studios for setting it up. If you want to get your hands on this awesome, new series from Max Bemis and BOOM! Studios, make sure you pre-order the book! In the meantime, you can learn more about Polarity by checking out the BOOM! Studios website.
Until next time, keep reading.
- Jason Enright