“Blood in the Game” collects issues 29 through 34 and chronicles the aspirational rise of iconoclast third party candidate Parco Delgado. The powers that be in the DMZ are intent upon holding democratic elections in order to form a provisional government to guide the Isle of Manhattan. Parco speaks out in an effort to reject the status quo and the faux-choice candidates being presented. He embodies the disenfranchised of the DMZ and assumes the role of populist candidate in this historic campaign. “Blood in the Game” is fascinating in the way that early seasons of Aaron Sorkin’s THE WEST WING were, in that they reveal the inner workings of political posturing and the susceptibility of the processes to individual personalities. With Riccardo Burchielli providing art for the entire arc, the story of Matthew Roth is thrust forward in an unexpected direction. “Blood in the Game” is a game-changer for Roth and the political landscape of the DMZ. As the title implies, he moves from being a journalist simply reporting the news to being a political activist creating the news with “The Delgado Nation.” Matty now has a vested interest in the political outcome of the election. Brian Wood ratchets up the tension significantly so that Roth is no longer able to coast as an observer, but has become a direct participant in a very high stakes game.
Brian, did you set out to write a game-changer with this arc? It has that distinct feeling that one era is ending and a new chapter in Matty’s life is beginning.
Not really. I mean, I didn’t think Parco would persist past this storyline until probably issue 2, when it began to occur to me what a fantastic villain he could be, and how Matty could play off him, be corrupted by him. My initial goal was to tell an election story, because what good is a comic about a journalist without an election, right?? At the same time, I had this nagging thing in the back of my head that my editor Will Dennis put in there; about how maybe Matty needs a friend. He knows a lot of people, but it’s rife with tension and suspicion. I wanted to give Matty a real friend, and for a long time that’s what Parco was for him.
How heavily did the occupation of Iraq affect your writing? The language being used in this arc is overt; “surge tactics” and a “provisional government” are all buzzwords we’ve heard on CNN.
I’ve always tried to use those words and phrases, going back all the way to “On The Ground,” which, at the time, was getting some really heavy usage. It just happens that this arc here gave me a lot of opportunities. I am simultaneously attracted and disgusted that phrases that before now would be unknown outside of war rooms are now common household things.
I like to think of him as a more militant Barack Obama, but where did the charming and dangerous Parco Delgado originate from?
I honestly hate whenever anyone sees Parco and mentions Obama (sorry!), because I see the two of them as having almost nothing in common aside from skin color and charm. I guess history is proving me a little bit wrong, since the Obama of 2011 is not the same Obama that existed while I was writing this arc… but if there was a single inspiration for Parco it would he Hugo Chavez, with a dash of Che and a bit of Al Sharpton. I was looking for a populist guy that would inspire fanatical devotion from the downtrodden and dispossessed, but be a part of the system, still be a political figure.
I loved writing the two of them, Matty and Parco, together. It all seemed so obvious to me, that Parco was laying it on thick and Matty was so charmed, so thrilled that a cool dude like Parco was bringing him into the inner circle. Matty’s NEVER been in the inner circle of anything, and now he was. He belonged. He felt appreciated. Felt wanted and needed and part of something big. I felt like the readers could have seen the other shoe drop a thousand miles off. But I didn’t care, it was a blast to write.
The Delgado Nation: is there an actual platform of issues here, or is this just part of Parco’s larger end game?
The platform was super simple: get the marginalized to exercise their power, and affect change from the inside. New York for New Yorkers. Get the troops out. Declare independence. Rebuild, heal. Even now I believe that Parco was genuine in his goals. He didn’t have what it took, and no one was about to make it easy for him.
Why does Matty ultimately throw in with Parco and become politically active? Is it just Parco’s charm or is something deeper driving Matty?
Well, what I said above, but the other aspect to this is Matty is not a journalist. Meaning that, he’s not one by trade or training, and even though he acts like one (sometimes) he is not bound my any code of ethics other than what his gut, or Zee, dictates. So why not get involved, cross that line, toss objectivity out the window? Matty was quickly elevated to a position of power in a political movement that was going to make NYC a new nation on the face of this earth. How could he resist? Matty lacks the tools to resist.
What does the FSA leadership think of Parco Delgado?
Well, we get into that in later arcs, but for the time being the FSA is absent for the most part. We can probably assume they at least enjoy seeing the establishment squirm every time Parco speaks.
We meet Matty’s mom in this arc; what can you tell us about their relationship?
Matty’s relationship with his parents is garbage, but not exploring that better is another of my big regrets. I suppose I didn’t have the space. But if Matty’s dad is, or was at the start, kind of a neo-con jackass, Matty’s mom is the classic example of what some people refer to as a “limousine liberal.” In a very over the top turn, I have her living in FRANCE. I brought her back here specifically to harsh Matty’s boner in regards to the Delgado Nation… just when he feels all cool and like he’s making his own moves, here comes his mother to remind people that his name is actually “Matthew.”
Do you think this arc is written in a more decompressed style than most?
That’s a good question. Not consciously, but I don’t really read my own work after its seen print, so I don’t know.
It felt that way a little bit to me, because not a whole lot actually happens. Sure, there is dramatic tension created, we start waiting for the results of the election, but it’s almost all careful staging, like we’re in the eye of the storm, bracing for the other side of the storm to make landfall.
Yeah, I can see that. It wasn’t conscious, but for me what that arc was really about was Parco + Matty.
You don’t read your own work… because your brain focuses on perceived flaws or missed opportunities, or what? I know that’s a common feeling with a lot of writers, that a work is never really “finished.”
A large part of it is a fear of finding an error, or some particular cringe-worthy writing, or something else that I’ll forever associate with that volume. But another part of it is the never-ending nature of writing comics, where by the time any one issue hits stands my brain is already 3-4 scripts into the future. Looking back is pointless.
Well, that seems like a healthy attitude to have. I once heard this saying “I don’t like writing, I like having written.” Once it’s in the can, it’s in the can!
Your covers to this arc have a very industrial, almost early Socialist propaganda feel to them. Can you discuss some of your inspiration for these covers?
These were my last six covers of the series, in terms of monthlies. I was struggling, creatively, to hit the notes I wanted to, and I was getting more pushback than usual from DC. I think it was time to end it, so I appreciate you mentioning them. That first cover, with the raised fist, and the cover with the map on it are two of my all-time faves. There was no overt direction to them, unlike, say, “The Hidden War,” which had a theme of sorts.
I like the very early the covers because I think they have more of that analog DIY vibe we discussed earlier, but there’s no doubt the “Blood In The Game” covers are VERY iconic. The images stick with you.
I will forever wish I made VOTE PARCO pins.