DMZ Volume 01: On the Ground (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2006)
DMZ Volume 02: Body of a Journalist (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2007)
DMZ Volume 03: Public Works (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2007)
DMZ Volume 04: Friendly Fire (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2008)
DMZ Volume 05: The Hidden War (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2008)
DMZ Volume 06: Blood in the Game (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2009)
DMZ Volume 07: War Powers (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2009)
DMZ Volume 08: Hearts and Minds (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2010)
DMZ Volume 09: M.I.A. (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2011)
DMZ Volume 10: Collective Punishment (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2011)
DMZ Volume 11: Free States Rising (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2012)
DMZ Volume 12: The Five Nations of New York (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2012)
DMZ Book One: Deluxe Edition Hardcover (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2014)
DMZ Book Two: Deluxe Edition Hardcover (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2014)
DMZ Book Three: Deluxe Edition Hardcover (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2014)
DMZ Book Four: Deluxe Edition Hardcover (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2015)
DMZ Book Five: Deluxe Edition Hardcover (DC Comics/Vertigo, 2015)
The final volume in Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's contemporary classic collects issues 67 to 72. With the beginning of the healing process and reconstruction burgeoning on the Isle of Manhattan as the backdrop, the arc focuses primarily on the final fate of series protagonist Matthew Roth. We tour the titular new “Five Nations of New York” as Matty seems to finally accept the city as it is, avoiding the temptation to label, itself a form of control. When he finally sees New York for New York, it’s as if he’s finally accepted as one of the city’s own. Matty finally comes to terms with his role in events, acknowledges the need for accountability, and seemingly identifies the one way out that allows him to salvage some sense of integrity. If he entered the DMZ as an insecure boy, he’s now determined to exit as a man, no matter what the personal cost. “The Five Nations of New York” is an emotionally satisfying conclusion to a resilient urban culture and an epic series that engages the reader and reveals as many personal truths as it does political realities.
Brian, for “The Five Nations,” we have Lower Manhattan, Chinatown, Parktown, Midtown West, and Midtown East. Is the idea behind redistricting a way to try and avoid labels and marginalization?
I figured it was natural, as reconciliation takes place and power shifts and consolidates, this seemed to be a likely breakdown. Based on how I’d treated the city over the course of the series, of course. But all that happens off-panel, so you gotta’ just take my word for it. Truth is, I had that title, “The Five Nations Of New York,” in my head for YEARS. I knew it had to be the final story, so I made sure I could use it.
If you change the hair color, “The First Nation” guy that Matty and Zee visit in Lower Manhattan looks like artist Riccardo Burchielli, no?
Yeah, he’s done that many times… in some cases, it’s obviously him (he’ll draw his tattoos on the character or have the guy holding a pencil), but in some cases it has to be an accident. The same way with Erik in his NORTHLANDERS story. Traits of him, physically, keep appearing. I hope he’s not embarrassed to read this!
Matty is mourning privately and coming to terms with his final actions, but the arc opens joyous and hopeful with the war over. I’m curious about any alternate endings you may have considered? [Senior Editor] Will Dennis was joking with me that Matty and Zee are probably not going to get married, move upstate, and start a family. On the other end of the spectrum, half of those charges were trumped up, but even if you accept them at face value, Matty got off light with a life sentence. You could have rightfully executed him, no? Was his ultimate fate a sort of difficult compromise between two extremes?
I wasn’t prepared to see Matty die in any circumstance. But that’s less about my affection for the guy, because I think that’s actually the lighter sentence. Both for him as a person, and in terms of impact for the reader. Much more complex and evocative is the image of him sitting alone in a prison cell, chewing all this over in his head. At least I think so.
And hey, here’s an exclusive for you: some notes written by me, for me, in early 2010 regarding the end of DMZ… as I saw it then. This is heavily edited, but only to take out irrelevant bits:
60-64 “Diplomacy Alone” or “The Free States Of America” or “Free States Rising” (will be collected as volume 11)
Following the political events of the last arc, this war in America goes hot again, truly hot, with a wholesale military invasion of NYC from both sides, with suggestions that the same is happening all over the country… I want to stress that this is total war, like nothing we’ve seen in the book. The civilian population is driven underground, probably literally, there are tanks and armies in the streets, air strikes, you name it. It’s like everyone involved has finally given up on any notion of preserving the Union or minimizing collateral damage, and just want to accelerate whatever has to happen for the war to end.The major events in the arc are… Parco being found and killed, most likely by soldiers, for ‘crimes against humanity’ (the nuke blast), a la Saddam.
65-72 “The Five Nations Of New York City” (will be collected as volume 12)
Major points: a failed attempt at an insurgency forces Wilson to negotiate to keep Chinatown intact. A return of the Delgado Nation, named in honor of Parco, but dedicated to peaceful means… a true people’s revolution.These two, plus the U.S. enclave, the Free States enclave, and the Community, a self-run section where Matty and Zee reside.
And going back a year before that, an even rougher take on the end of the series. This was written around the same time I was writing “The Island,” issues 35 and 36.
This next arc, probably #35-40, called (maybe) SEEKING TO ACQUIRE or ACTIVE MEASURES, will show a post-election DMZ fracturing dangerously and Parco attempting to heal it through force. The acquisition of the bomb is made in utter secret - Matty and like three or four other people know about it. It’s buried in the Park.
DIPLOMACY ALONE (#41-45), the following arc, is about all the other players (FSA, USA, Trustwell) coming to terms with the Delgado Nation as a major, major threat. They all want Parco gone, they want the bomb, they want the city and they want to keep the peace, which is going to be a tricky thing. They need to undermine Parco’s popular support without giving him a reason to either use the bomb or even MENTION the bomb. And that means going through Matty.
TOTAL WAR (#46-60), a trilogy of arcs that deal with final battle for the city. Matty hits the lowest low and struggles to redeem himself during this all-out battle for the city. This needs some serious thought and outlining, obviously, but one thing I definitely wanted to show was Matty completely fucking up and subsequently having a total breakdown. His personal redemption being tied to the fate of the city.
end/epilogue (61-65): THE FIVE NATIONS (suggesting the five boroughs) - The lines are drawn, the treaties ratified, and finally a lasting peace: the DMZ is now Chinatown, the Delgado Nation, the US enclave, the Free States enclave, and the Community, a protected anarchist-type section of the city where Matty and Zee reside.
There’s also a lot of notes in my book on a story I called “The Battle Of Broadway,” meant to be a BLACK HAWK DOWN-style account of a single DMZ battle. Matty wasn’t meant to be in it, it was pure military. I wanted it to be a side mini-series, but it never came to pass.
I like the balance shown in the way the city starts to heal, with Jamal, Lau, and everyone grieving differently and trying to figure out what’s next. I thought the denouement of Soames was sad as hell, here’s a guy who tried do something good and basically ends up a raving loon. Does this scare affect Matty’s ultimate decision any or has he already decided by that point, is it fait accompli?
I never really explained how Matty felt about Soames, other than what you could glean by looking at his face. The Ghosts were Matty’s first story in the DMZ, and as proud as he must have been about that, the association was tainted by having to go and buy a fucking nuclear bomb from them on behalf of Parco. I think, that as far-gone as Soames was at the end, Matty could feel little more than personal shame when looking at him. Shame for what he, Matty, did.
Ok, this is probably the most important question I’ll ever ask, but what’s the deal with the tape on the bridge of Matty’s nose? Does it just never heal right? Is it just an aesthetic? My brother-in-law pointed out to me that it just shows up one day with no explanation (at the end of issue 2 there’s no bandage, then it appears in issue 3). It comes and goes in different arcs all the way to the end of the series.
I think it only went away once. At some point, Will Dennis suggested we retire it. I wasn’t so comfortable with that, since at that point I considered it part of his “uniform,” like Spider Jerusalem’s glasses [TRANSMETROPOLITAN] or Jesse Custer’s white jeans and collar [PREACHER]. But we did it and it just felt wrong. We got LETTERS about it! No one liked no-bandage Matty, so we brought it back and all was right in the world.
In reality, Blackwater rebranded as Xe; in DMZ, Trustwell has a subsidiary company named XET that you show during the reconstruction period. Is this comparison suggesting that some degree of corruption is unavoidable, or that these insidious things are cyclical, like the more things change, the more they stay the same?
All of what you said is true and I agree with it. In the case of XET, it was a personal joke I made for myself. I couldn’t believe that Blackwater would do something so lame as to change their name, and I doubly couldn’t believe it that what they changed it to, Xe, is pronounced “Zee.” So, yeah, I wanted to mirror that in the book. There’s a lot of things in DMZ I love dearly, truly miss, and Trustwell is one of them. I’ve created a similar type of thing in THE MASSIVE with Blackbell PMC, but it’s just not the same somehow. Although “Blackbell” is a much better name than “Trustwell.”
President Obama officially ended the war in Iraq in December 2011, the same month you ended the war in DMZ and the final issue shipped. Is that a weird synchronicity or what?
I’m cynical about all of that, and perhaps it’s also telling that I didn’t make that connection until you pointed it out. Or maybe I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I helped elect a President even more hawkish than the last one.
I remember in early February, the US closed the embassy in Syria. You mentioned that in the DMZ world, Syria was one of the conflicts the US gets involved in. How you do you feel about this “prescient” label that people throw at you and your writing?
There’s this thing that has stuck in my head since 2003. It was right after the shock and awe campaign, and the subsequent invasion, and what they called the liberation of Baghdad. In some media circles, there was a feeling of “what’s next?” Meaning, Afghanistan and Iraq down, who can we topple next? This was a serious discussion for some, and Syria was often cited as evil enough, I guess, to be next in line. A co-worker, I remember, changed his AIM chat icon to a read “Syria Next.” So that’s where the Syria thing came from.
I get the prescient thing, I did way back with CHANNEL ZERO, and now. I’m really not trying to be that, and I think when I come up with these near-future scenarios the only “trick” is simply looking at what’s going on now and applying some generic common sense to figure out worst case scenarios. When enough of those come to pass, you look prescient. It’s a far more depressing thing more than any point of pride, believe me.
Is the identity of the girl in the final issue important or is she just an average POV character to see New York City through the eyes of? I’m tempted by the thought that maybe she was a reincarnated Zee, after Zee just kind of disappears and fades away. Maybe it was her, the soul of the city, now living on in this new manifestation.
I get this question a lot and I decided to always decline to answer it so I don’t change anyone’s perfectly valid interpretation.
I hate you.
At 72 issues, DMZ is your longest series to date, and quite an accomplishment for any series these days. First, just… congratulations, man! Second, how does it feel? What did you learn?
Man, I could write a book about what I’ve learned. Christ, where to start. This was my first ongoing book, and my first story over six issues in length. I really learned as I went. First off, I now know not to write another 72-issue series. It’s cool that I did it, a book of that length, and it’s great on the resume, but I don’t think it suits me or makes for a good story. At least part of the reason I kept it going – and this is how every writer feels, even if they say they don’t – is fear of losing the steady income. That’s no way to do things, even as understandable as that is. It feels good, I feel proud, humble, all those things. I feel tired when I even think about DMZ, I feel pretty burned out on the subject matter. I couldn’t even bring myself to participate in anything Occupy because of that. The way things ended with me and DC colors it a bit. That’s most of the negative stuff.
The positive is pretty indescribable. DMZ took me around the world (well, at least halfway a couple times – had I agreed to that Singapore Con, it would have), made me friends all over the world, fed my kids, built my career, got me a full page in THE NEW YORK TIMES… I could write an endless list. I remember something Warren Ellis said, around the time TRANSMET ended. The exact phrasing I don’t recall, but it was something like “Finish a big multi-year project like TRANSMET and you find you can do anything afterwards.” His implication wasn’t personal, but commercial. Meaning that doors will open up for you. It took me getting out from under DC to see it myself, but that was one of the things that kept me at my desk writing DMZ even when I didn’t want to. So, everything I’m working on now was because of DMZ. Had I stayed at DC, I’d have started some Vertigo book that would have launched low, and been kicked around to a few of the D-list New 52 titles, if I was lucky. In retrospect, things worked out great.
When DMZ #1 came out, I was still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, was working a different job, didn’t have kids yet, and I remember Will Dennis saying you were in a similar state, still living in SF, not married yet, no kids, etc. I guess my question is how does your real life inform your writing? I definitely saw maturation in the tone of DMZ and even NORTHLANDERS. For example, I don’t think a writer who wasn’t a father could turn in a story like the one with Hilda and Karen in NORTHLANDERS.
I became a better writer as I went, for sure, but DMZ was always detached a bit from my personal life or my personal thoughts. I don’t mean that in a negative way; what I mean is that I didn’t pour myself into it in the way I did with NORTHLANDERS, heart and soul. DMZ was intellectual, while NORTHLANDERS was emotional. NORTHLANDERS became so connected to my identity, more than anyone else will ever know. Losing that book was hard, and I know at some point I’ll write another series just like it.
Is there some issue, some moment, some “thing” that you’re most proud of? Are there any particular high or low points related to this series for you?
High points for me are “Friendly Fire,” which was nuanced the way I wanted it to be, and offered no clear answers, the way I like. It was tragic as hell. Parco was a fun creation and I’m proud of how that all unfolded with him and Matty’s fates tied together. Wilson, for sure.
You mentioned about half a dozen times in these interviews “I wish I had more time with…” x character or x idea. Would, say, 100 issues have gotten it all out of you, or do you think story ideas could have kept popping up indefinitely?
I can’t even imagine. 100 issues… I probably would have imploded long before that. But in theory, yeah, I can see ideas being generated for at least that long. Ideally, I would have used another dozen to address things I missed that I felt actually mattered. But all that’s hindsight. I think being a better writer would have done the job properly, not needed some extra issues.
Where does the property stand in terms of adaptation to other media? With the DC/Warner Brothers relationship, the film rights are automatically optioned, right? And now Syfy is in the picture?
Yeah, there’s a bunch of misconceptions out there about the nature of DC/Vertigo’s media... there’s also a lot of truth. But as simply as possible, DMZ, as a comic, is owned by Riccardo and I. What DC has, or rather what Warner Brothers has, is an option on the media and merchandise rights for as long as they want it. So a DMZ film or TV show is at the discretion of WB, and while we've had some near misses in the past, everyone hopes the recent option with Syfy works out.
You’ve mentioned Nick Stahl or Bryan Greenberg as Matty over the years. Any other ideas in terms of dream-casting a TV show or film just for fun?
Yeah, Zoe Saldana as Zee. It’s also fun to imagine Sen Dog as Parco Delgado.
I’ll add Giancarlo Esposito as Parco, Jennifer Morrison as Kelly Connolly, and I’ve always wanted to see Jim Caviezel doing a cameo as Decade Later. For Matty, I find it difficult to find someone who can look age appropriate, but has the right swagger. I think Patrick Wilson comes close.
How do you want DMZ to be remembered?
As something serious and respected. It’s grim material, but that’s not what I mean by serious. I want it to stand the test of time and be taken seriously, not to become dated and trite over time.
I know you’re already like 6 months into the next major phase of your career, and might not give DMZ much active thought, but when was/is it “over” over in your mind? When the final trade shipped in June?
For me, it was over some time in the mid-#60s, when I knew 100% how I would execute the ending. It was over for me when I committed to ending it. When I handed in the script, I wanted that to be the definitive ending, I wanted to burn backup CDs and call it a day.
But there’s a million tiny things to do after that – approve pencils, proofread the lettering, do the variant cover, do the trade cover, write the back of trade copy, make a handful of little decisions about this or that. Do interviews. All that kind of robs you of the hard stop, when you can feel 100% done. I’m not there yet, I may never be there.
You’ve mentioned before that your DMZ audience can easily follow you to THE MASSIVE. Why is that? What’s the loose connection there?
It’s tonal, really. A socially-aware story in the skin of an action comic. Nothing beyond that, no narrative connections.
Brian, now that we’re at the end of this series, it seems only fitting that we start at the beginning. Would you be willing to share the original pitch document with us?
Here you go, from October 13, 2004. May it live in infamy.
“Free States Rising” runs from issue 60 to 66, and is comprised of two smaller arcs and a single spotlight issue. The first arc chronicles the birth of the movement through the eyes of one man’s induction into the FSA, as he turns from being an arms dealer riding the profitable tide of war to full-fledged FSA leadership. Shawn Martinbrough delivers this two-parter in his dark and ominous style. Issue 60 is aptly titled “Middle America,” and touches on the disenfranchised American Heartland, while “The Jersey Shore” in issue 61 depicts the takeover of the Lincoln Tunnel. Brian Wood’s trademark newsfeed informs us that the US has nearly one million troops deployed in the Middle East, including places like Yemen and Syria, entrenched in a campaign of 39 years of combined war on 6 fronts around the world. Riccardo Burchielli returns to the series he helped launch with the “Free States Rising” arc, captured in issues 62 through 65. In his newly minted role as official UN Observer, Matty witnesses the aftermath of some of his actions and reaches a mental tipping point, as the final surge to Broadway opens with an air strike, and is followed by an intense ground war. We learn definitive revelations about the Indian Point nuclear detonation, as well as the final fate of Parco Delgado. Issue 66 is the last solo issue focusing on Zee Hernandez, recapping the story of her corporeal existence in the DMZ, but also solidifying the figurative notion that she is the physical manifestation of New York City.
Brian, seeing the title of this arc, it’s impossible for me not to think of the Bruce Springsteen song “The Rising,” which he wrote as a response to 9/11. Any subconscious connection there? Does your musical taste even swing toward The Boss? C’mon, tell me you’re over there hammering out the guitar riff from “Born To Run.”
My go-to Springsteen track will always be “Glory Days.” Although, I really like his recent forays into Americana and Irish folk. Anyway, I like “The Rising,” but no connections that I’m aware of.
In the Shawn Martinbrough issues, the idea of the FSA seems to be evolving fast. It’s a movement, it’s a prelude to civil war, and there’s even thought given to the idea that it’s just a means to an end – to force the end of foreign wars and draw troops home. I’ve seen a lot of reviews (mine included) that tend to project their own ideas of what they think the FSA is into the work. It’s tempting to dismiss them by wrongly classifying them as just redneck militia from The Red States. So, in your own words, for the record, what’s the FSA?
The FSA has always been more of an idea than a standing army. The idea of resistance, of a popular civilian uprising, rather than soldiers in uniform per se. So, as such, the FSA is disorganized and fluid in its actions and motivations, and also nearly impossible to point at with a gun and kill. For a decade, America’s tried to point a gun and kill an enemy in Afghanistan.
I’ve consistently shown the FSA as having come out of the Midwest, or Montana, and I get how that plays into the stereotype of rednecks. Early on, I think I saw the FSA as having been born out of the survivalist movement, which is neither Red nor Blue really (of course I did research), but soon after I evolved it into a more national concept. When I knew I was going to be winding down the Commander character, I wanted to show his origins.
And the Commander, a favorite of mine, was one I deliberately tried to write as contradictory as possible. He’s all over the place in terms of ideology and even loyalty, both a friend (born from familiarity) and an enemy to Matty. A pot-smoking long-hair defending the Lincoln Tunnel, what’s not to like?
You’ve always said “the FSA is an idea,” and honestly that took a while to finally click for me. But once it does, you realize what a powerful idea this is to the status quo. It’s the idea of an asymmetrical foe that can be faceless because it’s just a mindset of resistance or opposition. The FSA as, like, America(ns) as a slumbering giant, that might actually wake up long enough to keep their government in check. That’s always there in the background. Dissent as patriotism, a government fearing its people, not people living in fear of their government. Wait, I think I just quoted V FOR VENDETTA…
This was back when the war in Iraq was turning out to not be the slam dunk we were promised, and Rumsfeld was on TV whining that the enemy wasn’t playing by the rules, i.e. lining up politely to get shot. They were not in uniform and were blending into the population, etc. An impossible enemy to find and kill. Sorta’ reminds me of how we won the American Revolution, in part.
Yeah, I think it was Howard Zinn who said that from the perspective of the British Crown, the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare of something like the Boston Tea Party was not some liberating birth-of-a-nation moment, but a terrorist act by a local insurgent cell. Perspective is everything.
There’s this full page shot in issue 61 of ConEd taking down the power grid and for a moment we see the spire of the Empire State Building lit up. When I was in NYC last summer, I went to a midnight wedding on a rooftop down in Tribeca, and was really struck by how iconic that beacon of light is. Do you think that building has become the de facto skyline image with the WTC gone? Shit, this is a long-winded question, but what I really wanted to get to was how do you think that a New Yorker reads DMZ differently than someone not as familiar with the city’s geography?
I don’t know a single New Yorker that claims to love the Empire State Building in the same way they might the Flatiron or the Chrysler or the Woolworth. But, it’s so recognizable, and I tried to include it as much as possible since DMZ’s audience is global, and probably only .005% of those readers are familiar with NYC like the locals are.
I was at a function about a month ago that was on the 50th floor of a Midtown building and witnessed all these die-hard New Yorkers just awed by the view of the Chrysler Building. Not much tends to awe our cynical, blackened hearts.
While in New York, like every other tourist, I walked by Ground Zero and was surprised to find that my reaction wasn’t very positive. All these families were taking pictures with their kids, like it was Disneyland or something, and it really twisted my stomach. It was a real carnival atmosphere. It just cheapened the whole thing. I expected more… reverence, I guess? I couldn’t wait to get out of there and not be part of the problem. I couldn’t help feeling that this revulsion must be how Zee and the locals partially feel when outsiders come into their city. What do you make of this phenomenon?
I’ve actually never been. I mean, I’ve walked by the construction site a lot (my wife works a couple blocks away), but I’ve never seen the memorial or walked on that walkway or anything like that. It’s not out of any particular emotion other than pure lack of interest. But I think it’s a fair comment about Zee… the idea of tourists wanting to gawk.
I like the symbolism of this guy having to get through the Lincoln Tunnel as it starts flooding. There’s a spiritual transformation with those baptizing waters of the Hudson as he enters NYC. I just want to confirm, this is the origin of the infamous FSA “Commander” we see pop up at various points throughout the series, right? How does he go from being an arms dealer loosely affiliated with the FSA to full-fledged FSA believer, and a leader of the movement?
Well, like I said, the FSA is pretty loose. What I wanted to tell with this mini-arc (the first part of “Free States Rising”) is how he sort of came into the fold of the FSA and then left it and went off and did his own thing. I guess you could call him a cell (maybe?) affiliated with the larger movement. I don’t know if he was ever a believer. He joined up for the amnesty, for the cover, mocking the “brotherhood” language one of the REAL true believers used.
This might be a question for Riccardo, but is that an old Fiat 500 that Matty is thrashing around in? He’s gotten pretty good at power-sliding it around corners.
Any chance I get, I give him a chance to draw that Fiat! He first did way back, maybe in volume 3, and I remember he was so proud of it, representing the Italian automotive icon. I’ve never forgotten it. I think we see it in again in the last volume.
I have a very specific question here and then I’ll follow up with my theory. There’s a panel in issue 62 where Matty is almost entirely in silhouette and there’s white text against him as the background. He’s talking about how you can’t control chaos and have to give into the tide of events. It seems to be this little Zen moment of clarity. What’s that about?
Less clarity than just trusting to the fates. It’s not the clearest scene in the world, but he essentially walks out into the open and is trusting the city not to kill him (very much like the rooftop scene in volume 2). Matty is very much in this mindset now, much less concerned about self-preservation. It’s all part of the wind down.
I thought it was truly the first time that Matty becomes self-aware, on that precipice you talk about, knowing his decisions will steer his future. I think this is the precise moment he becomes a man, he decides that nobody is going to use him, not the FSA, not the USA, not the military, not even Zee and his need to belong, not his dad, Liberty News, or Parco Delgado. And yeah, he’ll walk out and take his chances; if he dies, he dies, if it works out, it works out. It’s like a switch flips and he knows what he’s going to do regardless, he’s not appealing to anyone’s approval, but to his own internal moral compass.
It’s certainly when he first walked the walk as far as that’s concerned. At the end of the “M.I.A.” arc when he was talking to his dad and turned down immunity from prosecution, that’s a fantastic and brave gesture, but it’s all just talk until he physically and literally commits, which he did here.
There’s finally a very terse conversation between Parco and Matty. Even though Parco clearly used Matty, he does call Matty on his victim trip, saying that he didn’t make Matty do anything he didn’t want to. It seems like this was an important conversation for you to get on the record?
I think it’s ultimately true, and there is one thing I wanted to be very clear about: Matty is guilty as hell, of capital offenses. So is Parco, but the worst Parco did in terms of his relationship with Matty was to enable him, to encourage him, typically in a “bro” sort of way. Matty’s responsible. When the series ended, I got a lot of pushback from readers who were sort of appalled at what I did to Matty, at how he ended up. That he would be considered guilty. Maybe the expectation that because he’s the “hero” of the book he somehow would prevail? He’s a murderer! He trafficked a nuclear weapon! He’s guiltier than a lot of the villains in the DMZ.
In issue 64, Matty learns that Wilson is dead. We go on to learn about the UN Ambassador that Trustwell assassinated, there are mentions of PFC Stevens, and DJ Random Fire has apparently gone on to a successful career overseas. It has the definite feel that you’re tying up little loose ends. How did that feel to begin closing up shop?
I felt relieved. In so many ways I like to talk about, but in this case it was a relief to actually be pulling it off, to be snapping the puzzle pieces down and realizing it’s all starting to look like a complete picture. This was my first time writing a big story like this.
There’s a pretty intense scene where the US kills the FSA Commander right after he gives up Parco. It seems like this pushed Matty over the edge to release (or threaten the release of) the info he had on Indian Point. Is that accurate or do you think he would have released it anyway just out of spite?
He never would have, I don’t think. He knows the value of it (Parco’s life) and also the potential to prolong the war. It’s an interesting choice he makes (with Zee’s encouragement): cover up the truth, but hasten the end of the war. And, to a degree, take the blame.
In issue 65, there’s a military tribunal for Parco. Is he just assuming that he’s going to die? That this tribunal is just a formality, so he might as well be blunt and tell the truth?
The tribunal was valid, but in the scene after, and the one after that, we see Matty cut a deal with the President to spare Parco’s life in exchange for the proof of the truth about the nuke. Parco gets exiled instead. I remember my editor being surprised at that, assuming that Parco would die. I couldn’t kill everyone! Haha!
It seems like Matty threads a very tiny needle. The US gets what it wants by taking the FSA Commander and Parco Delgado off the board, and Matty has used the info he has about US culpability in the nuke detonation to keep Parco alive. His ownership of that small piece of truth actually saved a life. He did some good for once, which might be all Zee ever wanted from him, not to get anyone else killed, to protect people, or protect the city. Is this the beginning of his road to partial redemption, or at least squaring up to become a man?
It’s all of that. It’s a very “grown up” decision for him to have made, in the sense that it’s rational and not based on emotion or revenge. In effect, he takes care of everyone – everyone gets something they want – except for him. There’s no direct benefit to him, and he knows it and makes the deals anyway. He does this partly out of guilt and partly out of maturity.
It is all very fine, and subtle in some ways, and requires looking back at the body of the crimes Matty’s committed, and a lot of readers missed it entirely. One thing that really bothered me was this sense among some readers that all this was rushed and half-assed and made up on the spot, when it was a process that began at the end of the “M.I.A.” arc.
Instead of “Every Day is 9/11,” we seem to reach an emotional turning point and get the more positive “We Love NYC” in background graffiti. Is this another thing that Riccardo just did of his own volition or was it scripted?
It’s all Riccardo!
How did you approach what is really the last substantial Zee story, “Citizen Zee,” in issue 66? Where did you want to leave her, or what did you want to say about her?
I wanted to do one last Zee issue, a third one since I like groupings of three. Riccardo wanted to draw a Zee issue, and I saw an opportunity to give some first-person context to a lot of the decisions she made in the recent past. It’s also her final issue, in the same way that Wilson got his, and Decade Later got his, and so on. We still see her in the final volume, but her story basically ends here.
It nicely recaps her existence in the DMZ, highlighting her caring for Matty despite some of his actions. It seems like you consciously went into this knowing Zee really is the city itself, she takes care of her residents, warts and all, but because she’s this living embodiment she can never really leave.
Not to get ahead of us, but in #71 she leaves the courtroom, and she is gone, vanished into the city. I like to imagine her literally disembodied and absorbed, as silly as that is. Metaphorically, let’s say.