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Off-Grid is everywhere
Graphic artist Plaid Klaus launched the Off Grid comic book series in April 2013. The illustrator and writer is focusing on life after a societal collapse and the resulting civil unrest in his new series.

Released by Mind Comics, an indie comic book publisher, Off Grid is the tale of a band of “Resistance” fighters, strategically trying to survive on the outskirts of society.

When all electricity failed and the country went “dark,” the frightened citizens of the United States latched onto rumors of nuclear war and attacks from outside forces. It wasn’t until the government was able to turn the grid back on that they released information to their citizens regarding the true cause of the blackout: domestic terrorism. Citizens were then forced to live in the major cities of the country and anyone who left the confines of the guarded living zones would be considered terrorists. A small group of people who refer to themselves as “The Resistance” live off the grid, avoiding the government’s militaristic rule.

When two “hippies” stroll through their territory in Wenatchee Forest, Oregon 100 miles off grid, the group is forced to take them in. Along with the discovery that the newcomers’ cell phones are being tracked, the group has no choice but to make a hasty move. To make matters more complicated, half of the group is hesitant to leave without controversial member Khaled, as he is out hunting for food. Some of the Resistance believes Khaled to be their only hope of survival and the other faction believes him to be too dangerous to keep around. Before the issue’s end, a verbal quarrel ensues and secrets are revealed about Khaled that leave the group with even more questions.

here is a recent interview with creator Klaus:

Q: How did you get the idea for the Off Grid comic book series?

Klaus: My goal was simply to tap into the zeitgeist and manifest a science fictional scenario in which these fears were explored fictitiously in attempts to prevent our society from traveling too far down this road. Technology has exponentially advanced in the past 20 years. Many of the advancements come out of U.S. military-sponsored programs, specifically this really strange department known as DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In fact, the groundwork for the Internet was developed by DARPA, along with many wireless communications and advanced machine technology – Terminator-looking stuff. I’ve started to become aware of the groundwork for some very disturbing military advancements.

Much like the invention of the atomic bomb, there are certain military measures we should be preventing the use of in the 21st century. DARPA is developing self-balancing machines—both the quadruped “Big Dog” and the Bipedal “Petman.” They’ve also recently funded a $2 billion project to create human thinking machines. On top of that, the NSA is building the world’s largest spy center in Utah to monitor and store all communications. Added to that are the unmanned aerial drones that can view the movement of people in a 5-mile radius.

Q: Do the target audience for the Off Grid comic book solely adults, or will it appeal to teenagers as well?

Klaus: I definitely see it as something teenagers would enjoy reading, although there is some choice language. Considering a lot of the characters are ex-military, I didn’t want to use the words “darn” and “shoot,” it just didn’t seem realistic. I’m not looking to “sex up” or make the comic overly violent, so if a teen’s parents are ok with a few curse words, the comic is perfectly suited for teens as well as adults.

Q: Who are the main characters in the new comic book series?

Klaus: The reader is introduced to the story through two young hippies, Kai and Starchild, who are venturing illegally into the off-grid areas. They are stopped by Jeep, a young ex-marine who has taken it upon himself to lead this small sect of the Resistance, whose goal is to destroy the mainframe of the machine force. They’re protected by secret black ops machine-human hybrid, Khaled, whom the group has captured from DARPA and reprogramed to defend the group. Mac is the hacker who controls Khaled and there are two other members of the group whom I don’t want to reveal too much about this early on.

The first major character arch involves Khaled, the human/machine hybrid, discovering what he is and having to decide whether he empathizes with humans or machines. For him, it’s a struggle for self-identity and trying to understand his creator, does he have a soul, that sort of thing. The important challenge for the group is to attempt to hack into the hive mind and tear it apart from the inside.

Q: Will the Off Grid comic book characters delve deeply into what it is like to live off the grid while they struggle to stay alive outside of the “protected zone” during the coming editions?

Klaus: Humans have found themselves at the top of the food chain. We no longer really have to worry about predators in a most of modern civilization, so the robots become like a new form of predator. I want a large underlying aspect of the comic to be about survival. Essentially, the artificial intelligence has evolutionary advantages that make it a threat to our species. On top of attempting to survive being hunted down by robots, the characters still need to find food and shelter to survive. I want the group in the story to develop into a tribe surviving on the land.

Q: Will current news headlines related to the possibility for civil unrest, economic collapse, the failure of the power grid, and similar political happenings be reflected in the Off Grid comic book series?

Klaus: I’m definitely going to tip my hat to events as they happen. Current evolving events are the basis for the novel. Simply watching the developing tech world and the growing military nation state has led me to write Off Grid. For instance, in Utah, the NSA is building the largest spy center ever constructed. It’s a 1.5 MILLION square foot “spy center” built for the US intelligence community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation. I’m getting really tired of this loss of privacy in the name of protection. It’s like the old, Alan Moore quote, “Who watches the watchers?” Ultimately, my goal is to rub people’s faces in this rapid race to a global military police state in the name of security that’s getting really far reaching.

Klaus has created quite an entertaining comic in Off Grid. It incorporates just the right amount of humor in addition to suspense The realism of the situation mingles with fast paced action and the dialogue and narration blend together brilliantly. Each individual character is illustrated as a perfect fit, having almost a Venture Brothers style. The distinct character representations all look and act differently, making each character’s particular role in the Resistance believable. Sure, there are a couple of spelling errors, but given that Mind Comics is a small publishing company and that issue number one as a whole was a great read, I can easily forgive this minor detail.

In light of such terrible events as the bombing in Boston at the Boston Marathon, I have to admit that I had a hard time reading Off Grid #1 without thinking about the current crises hitting our nation. Putting those thoughts and anxieties aside, I read through the issue a second time in order to view the story as just that: a story—and I’m glad I did. It was a fun read, with equally exciting illustrations and I look forward to seeing what direction Klaus takes in Off Grid #2.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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