In this piece, Carolina Contrarian interviews a young Southerner, known online as “Electric Dinosaur” (old ideas, new technology) about his new graphic novel series entitled “Rebel Yell” featuring a Confederate superhero.
C: Can you give us some background on who you are and tell us a little about yourself?
ED: Sure. I’m from the rural Deep South. I enjoy the countryside, drawing, and telling stories. I’m in my twenties. I think that storytelling is a craft which is often underappreciated, and is generally something at which Southerners excel.
CC: How did you become interested in Southern history and identity?
ED: It was definitely my rearing. At an early age, I recognised there was something different about the South, even if the particulars weren’t worked out until later. Of course, family is the greatest influence, and my parents and grandparents helped form me. Like any proper culture, you’re in it before you realise just exactly what it is, it being so natural.
In later years, I was a member of the SCV along with my father and grandfather. There was a website called Southern Nationalist Network which was also really good (I remember Lewis Liberman did some graphics for it), but then it fell off the map, sadly. Then I found the Abbeville Institute and, more recently, Reckonin’, both of which are greatly needed. We need fellowship of like-minded people.
CC: What gave you the idea to create a graphic novel?
ED: Ideas are always floating around, but this one didn’t come concretely until 2015, after the terrible Charleston Church shooting. I was so disaffected by the various State governments’ spinelessness that I wanted to do something. Most Southerners, it seems, weren’t standing up for their flag, so I wanted to show in a simple way that it is a symbol for good. Superheros seemed an accessible way of telling stories, especially given their popularity both at that time and presently.
CC: I assume you're a fan of the genre. Are there other characters or series that you especially like?
ED: I was raised reading comics - all manner, mind you, not just superheros. But the superhero comics we did read were really good. Primarily, these were from the Silver Age (c. 1955-1970), during the heyday of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Batman, Green Lantern, etc. Even then, especially during the late 60s, comics began to get kinda depressing. DC especially turned to more mature themes, like the drug problem. One Green Lantern/Green Arrow special in 1971 even had Green Arrow’s kid-sidekick do drugs (a vice which he ultimately kicks, but the inclusion was just strange). And then of course politics took a heavy hand in many. So when Obama makes an appearance in Spiderman, it doesn't really surprise me.
One enjoyable character was Cannonball, a Southerner from Kentucky who appeared in The New Mutants (an X-men spin off). Speaking with a drawl, he at one point remarks that he’s used to outnumbered fights, as his ancestor had served in the Confederate army (which I believe may be where his particular moniker came from - he could turn himself into a human cannonball). The early issues especially were well-written and with a good cast of characters.
Some contemporary superhero comics which are pretty good are those published by Arkhaven Comics. One of their characters is called Rebel, a girl from Alabama with superpowers. They’re really taking the initiative in trying to offer some alternatives to the mainstream comic book industry. I have a soft spot for them because they’ve been publishing the works of PG Wodehouse as comics - a really stellar job.
Of course, there’s a great site in the Digital Comic Museum, where you can read slews of old comics that are now in the public domain. There’s some really good stuff out there, often overlooked or ignored because it isn’t Batman.
CC: There are several other contributors named in the first book. How did you find artists and others to partner with for the finished product?
ED: There’s an online artist forum called DeviantArt where people can exchange ideas, post their own work, or hire others to help them. It’s all very freelance and flexible. Overall, the site is surprisingly Southern-tolerant, so far as symbols go (no purge yet). I had seen one artist advertising way back in 2014, I believe, and reached out to him the following year. I would have drawn the first few issues myself, but other duties impeded. Finding the colourist was much the same. I really wish we could found a forum of Southern artists, though there are online groups.
CC: How long did the development process take?
ED: The first issue, because I wasn’t tackling it seriously and sat on it for so long, actually went from 2015-2018. When the thought finally struck me to crowdfund the printing, everything was done but lettering and editing. The actual development process (say for issue 3) takes maybe two or three months, from writing the script, turning in the pages of the script and references, and waiting around for the page roughs. Colouring is a quick return. Formatting can be tricky and causes the most headache. But, with the experience gained from issues 1-3, the time span keeps getting less and less. I’d say three months tops for new work.
CC: I like how you name the dystopian setting "Vandal City." It really illustrates the destructiveness of the enemies of the Rebel. How do you plan to flesh out the "villains" of the series?
ED: Thank you, the name was fun to create. I was surprised no one had taken it yet.
Superheroes themselves are neat (and obviously the main attraction), but the good guys have good standards. They have to act in a way that, while maybe not predictable, is probable. They have to be good, and the reader should like them.
Villains, on the other hand, have a destructive freedom. They can be bad guys who are hated or bad guys who are loved. You can make them off-puttingly bizarre or as commonplace as you want. Not only this, but they serve as illustrations of ailments facing modern man, whether it be greed, ambition, or other errors. Take the diabolical distortions of tech-guru “Synicon" from a future issue:
Of course, at the end of the day, bad guys are bad no matter how much we enjoy writing them, and the writing itself should reflect that. If there are shades of gray, these should be rare.
CC: The nods to 1980s pop songs were a neat touch, that I, as a Gen-Xer, particularly appreciate. What gave you the idea for that?
ED: Glad they pleased! I’m a millennial myself, though I do enjoy earlier music. The whole first issue - especially the villain - was a little observance on culture. We have some outlandish punk-pop baddie attempting to take revenge on his former girl, who herself can’t find her place. The whole city is sort of a throw-away culture, cheap and artificial (like superhero comics generally, really). The Rebel enters in opposition to the noise with his own voice.
As for the name “Rebel Yell,” both it and the first villain, Gunther Glitz, were inspired by a particular artist, so it only seemed fitting to fill the pages with song references from that era.
CC: What do you hope readers get from Rebel Yell?
ED: I foremostly want them to enjoy it. Then I hope they can see our symbols as something good. Let them know they have a voice and are themselves something unique.
CC: I see that the second issue is in development. Can you give us any hints about what to expect in this next installment?
ED: The second issue was actually supposed to be launched after four or five other issues, but I decided to step up the date because of the continued destruction of our monuments. The issue centres on such vandalism. It’s not as heavy on story as the other issues, but rather spotlights a big brawl between our hero and some modern urban redecorators. Expect some high energy.
CC: What are your long-term plans for the series?
ED: I have a dozen issues of Rebel Yell scripted, three or four of which I hope to launch a year (all total, over a hundred pages annually). I hope to get enough of a base that we can expand into some other minor areas as well. I have a pop-culture magazine, reminiscent of the old gem Nintendo Power, that I’ve been working on. It’s about halfway through. I don’t know if there’d be much interest in that, but it’s fun nonetheless.
You can find out more about Electric Dinosaur and purchase Rebel Yell on his website here. You can help fund the next issue here.
The Carolina Contrarian, Anne Wilson Smith, is the author of Charlottesville Untold: Inside Unite the Right. She is a soft-spoken Southern belle by day, opinionated writer by night. She loves Jesus, her family, and her hometown. She enjoys floral dresses and acoustic guitar music. You may contact Carolina Contrarian at CarolinaContrarian@protonmail.com.