Tom Morello’s Comic Book Roots

Tom Morello at the Dark Horse
booth at NY Comic Con 2011.
(Photo ©2011 by Bryan Reesman.)

Grammy Award-winning guitarist/songwriter Tom Morello has used music as his political weapon of choice over the years, but now he is crossing over into comics with the new Dark Horse series Orchid, which he wrote and Scott Hepburn illustrated. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the rich still rule over the other 99% and flooding and fear of giant monsters keep people in check. The title character is a streetwise prostitute who finds herself about to be swept up in a major social revolution.

I recently chatted with Morello for New York magazine online about Orchid at NY Comic Con 2011, and our comic book specific banter landed on A.D.D. What is interesting about Morello’s comic book connection is that he stopped reading them as a teen, focusing on music and politics, but when he returned to them recently, he realized that the medium had expanded in ways that allowed for him to express his ideas freely. That’s something that’s always nice to hear.

Which comics did you collect growing up?
On the DC side I was a big fan of Weird War Tales and Kamandi, and on the Marvel side was all the big fantasy; Avengers, X-Men and Iron Man. As a kid I was more of a DC guy, and as a teen I was more of a Marvel guy.

What would you say are the three most influential comic book writers in your life?
Whoever wrote Weird War Tales — I think  it was a number of different writers — that one really got in my brain as a kid. It was different than any other comic. I was a big fan of World War II dramas, but then to take that and Civil War dramas into ghost stories really wormed its way into my psyche in a way that stuck with me into my forties, and I try to bring some of that into Orchid.

The first page of Orchid #1.
(Art courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.)

The guy who wrote V For Vendetta, Alan Moore. I read that when I was rediscovering comic books, and I thought that they had grown up. There’s nothing you can’t write about, there’s nothing you can’t aspire to in the world of comics.

Lastly I would have to say the whole original team of Marvel people that made comics a world that I wanted to enter to begin with, like the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby team from the beginning. Those are the people I counted on. There were no comic shops where I lived. My poor mom had to drive me to 15 different drugstores around the northern Illinois suburbs to try to find the latest issue of Black Panther.

So what is coming up for you musically?
Each issue of Orchid has a free song with it. The first issue is different from two through 12. The first song is from the new Nightwatchman record called “It Begins Tonight”. All of the other ones are instrumental score. There’ll be a code in each issue, and you can go to the website and get it for free. That’s the next project I’m working on when I go home.

Would you like to see Orchid turned into a film?
It’s not a priority. The story was meant to be written as a graphic novel.

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