Sometimes magic happens when creators invest long-term in their partnership. That’s certainly the case for writer Ram V and Anand RK, who achieved notable success with books like Grafity’s Wall and Blue in Green. Now, the pair are hoping to strike comics gold once more with their latest collabo, Radio Apocalypse.
After a crashing meteor has all but ended the world, we focus in on the little ‘burg of Bakerstown, home of the very last radio station on Mother Earth. The station has been a kind of beacon for folks, including a youngster named Rion, who is “caught in an indiscretion” that will somehow “twine his fate with the radio station.” This book truly is a “mixtape of love and heartbreak and interminable hope,” and a compelling study in the power of music and our endless need for connection even in the worst of times.
Before the book hits shelves tomorrow (November 17) via Vault Comics, we caught up with both creators via email. There, we discussed their creative partnership, how music inspired this book, their interest in the apocalypse, and much, much more.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Radio Apocalypse?
Ram V: Radio Apocalypse is the story of the last functioning radio station on the planet and the lives of the people that revolve around it in the settlement of Bakerstown. It’s a mix-tape for the end of the world, one that reminds us of the need for music, art and hope even at the bleakest of times.
AIPT: This isn’t your first time working together. How is it collaborating this time around, and is that process easier or more rewarding?
Anand RK: This is our third major project together after Grafity’s Wall and Blue in Green and I’d say we’ve found the right rhythm and back and forth required for an effective collaboration. The one big difference between this project and our previous collaborations though is that this was my first ongoing series and I think that has its own set of challenges. Usually when I am working on a long form sequential art project and I have shifted styles like I have in this case, there is a learning curve somewhere close to the 20-page mark where I start to get really comfortable with the medium/technique and that speeds up production as well. This happened with Radio Apocalypse #1 as well but since there are breaks in production issue-wise, the flow is slightly different than a one shot. I am enjoying this format a lot though.
RV: Yeah, Anand and I try something different for each book. Much like a band, I think we like to progress with each album, push the aesthetic and sound a bit more. So, it’s definitely been engaging and intriguing in that regard. But also, these are all collaborators I have worked with before. You tend to develop a language when you do that, and it all gets a lot easier.
AIPT: Building off that last question, you’re also writing about music again after the excellent Blue In Green. What’s the appeal or interest in examining music in comics or combining the two mediums somehow?
RV: I don’t know that I have some untold obscure reason to find appeal with this. I just grew up around music— listening, learning. It’s been an important part of my creative growth. I also think comics and music have a lot of things in common. The collaborative aspect, the narrative rhythm, the structural design of a song versus a page. I think there is a lot of natural commonality that I can see and I love making those connections.
AR: Someone recently called Radio Apocalypse the third part of a loose musical trilogy and I found that funny and kind of cool, too. I don’t think we ever consciously decided to create around music but I like the way these projects have had music as central themes.
Also, all the genres that we have worked with, Desi hip-hop with Grafity’s Wall, jazz with Blue in Green, and rock with Radio Apocalypse are all also extremely visual to an audience. Just the mention of jazz invokes thoughts and memories of clubs and record labels, the culture and fashion around it. The same goes with other genres of music and I think this can be used to push for a fuller experience while reading a book. There is also an undeniable charm and sense of style with everything music related that I just really enjoy.
AIPT: Is this a kind of love letter to radio itself? Were you thinking about the value of curation and what radio really means nowadays in crafting this series?
RV: I’m not as much looking at the curation aspect of it as I am looking at the broadcasting aspect of it. It is a lot like writing fiction. You play a song on the radio /express yourself through writing on a piece of paper. It is intended for no one. It is intended for everyone—anyone who wants to pick up and read/tune in and listen. And yet, even in the darkest of times, both music and fiction allow us to make deeply human connections. Allow Ram V: us to feel hope, joy, sadness – an emotional being existing within a collective. I think there is something magical about that. And I wanted to explore it.
AIPT: What kind of songs or artists helped shape and the look and the tone of the story?
RV: The songs here are largely my answer to the question, “what songs would I take with me on a mix-tape to the end of the world?” Part of the joy of this comic is that you’re supposed to find songs within the story – references, textual or in the art. And you’re supposed to play those songs as you read the comic.
So I’ll refrain from giving away artists and songs here. But largely this comic is for those brave enough to endure my taste in music!
AK: We always knew that we wanted this faux-retro feeling to this project so I looked at a ton of fashion, graphic design and product design from the 80s and 90s. Especially Milton Glaser and Dieter Rams. I knew I was going to be drawing tons of vinyl players, speakers and radio sets so Rams was a huge inspiration. I referred to a few artists while I was first drawing it in 2015-2016 but by the time I started again in 21 my drawing style had been informed by my own projects so far. In many ways aesthetically, Radio Apocalypse is somewhere in the middle of a very line heavy Grafity’s Wall and very tonal Blue in Green.
AIPT: What is it about the apocalypse that is so compelling to write about? And what’s it mean to examine that through the lens of rock music specifically?
And, a follow-up of sorts:
I love the kind of near-ish-future vibe and look of the book. How much does how the world actually ended matter in this series, and why is world-building so vital?
RV: I’m answering #6 and #7 together here.
It is not that world building is any more or less vital than it always is. Any story, the setting, the place it takes places in, is vital and it needs to be built to whatever extent the story demands. The place- its apocalyptic nature does something specific here. In that it examines the power of music and its ability to drive human connection and hope set against a bleak background, where the knowledge that we are at the end is all pervading. So, the setting really does act as a canvas here upon which we paint a story with music.
There is a difference when you’re listening to “Easy Like Sunday Morning” in a bar with friends v/s when you’re listening to it sat on the roof of what used to be a radio station, looking out over the last remnants of humanity still clinging to existence. Context is everything.
AR: I love it too. When I think of the world of this book I think of a world that has been destroyed, social and financial power structures broken down and slowly with time they’ve managed to build back up to varying degrees as you’d expect realistically after any major calamity. The ’80-’90s aesthetic too is kind of a caricature in that the fashion, product design all feel like whoever built these structures back up remembers those times from magazines or books or old photographs.
AIPT: There seems to be a great balance between big, sweeping storylines here and lots of connections and nuance between individual characters. How do you balance those, and does it speak to anything specifically about the book or its larger mission?
RV: It always all about the characters. The larger storylines and ideas are bigger swathes — they are easy to do. Because that kind of big picture idea is easy to signal with known tropes. Apocalypse, alien creatures, struggling humanity. All of these things conjure up familiar ideas. The real story is always in the characters, in the nuances, the little details of what choices they’re willing to make. Of what they’re willing to give up and what they’ll desperately hold on to.
Much like music. The big genres all have their signatures. Rock, jazz, blues — the true joy and brilliance of a song is all in its nuance. In the very specific emotions it evokes.
AIPT: There’s a variant cover referencing the wonderful Phonogram. Did that series have an influence at all on this series?
RV: Not outside of the fact that it too is a comic about music. Radio Apocalypse was one of the first things I spoke to Kieron [Gillen] about. Because I had absolutely loved what he and Jamie did with Phonogram. I remember the conversation was at our very first meeting at a local pub, in 2015. It just tickled me to no end when Vault suggested a variant cover homage. I ran the idea by Kieron and he checked in with Jamie [McKelvie]. Everyone was on board and we had a cool variant!
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1?
AK: Many firsts with this project. RA was actually Ram and my first collaborative project in 2015/2016. We made the pitch and then went and made two books before getting back to it. It’s Anisha’s first coloring gig in comics and our first time working together as a team hopefully of many. I return to line art with this one. Also, lookout for some cool creature design in #1.
The following pages are courtesy of Vault Comics.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!