In troubling times, some people find comfort in religion. But sometimes, it can cause people to turn on it entirely – and Sean Michael Wilson examines just such a case in Breaking The Ten. When David loses his wife and child in a tragic car accident he decides, in anger at the cruelty of the event, to turn against God. He sets out to systematically break each of the Ten Commandments in order to both spite God – and to get his attention!
But will he go all the way, and break the commandment “Thou Shalt not Kill”? Two mysterious figures, Mr. White and Mr. Black, try to win David over to their side: the religious or the humanistic.
“In case anyone thinks I got the ‘Breaking’ bit from the TV series Breaking Bad, the book is from an original idea of mine that I had before that TV series came out,” says Sean. “This story mixes tragedy and comedy, very moving scenes with very silly ones, has a lot of energetic connection between the three main characters… and a certain divinity may or may not make an appearance at some time!”
“As it goes,” he recently told the web site Playback, “I wrote the basic idea out in a notebook from about 2007, and had it in the back of my mind for years while I was doing other books. It started to become a bit of a worrying idea as I was thinking ‘I know what I want to do on this story, but I am not sure about how.’
“Most of the time, I’m confident about the books I write, I don’t worry much,” he continues. “But this Breaking the 10 story became something that I kept putting off as I didn’t have a clear idea of how to do it. But then I wrote the whole on hundred pages out in a blaze of inspiration last summer.
“I’m presently writing Volume Two this summer and that is also going very well. As they say, it’s almost writing itself (although I notice that if I don’t move my fingers around the keyboard the story does not write itself!).”
The classic argument of how can an all-loving God allow suffering and evil in the world has been explored in several mediums from different perspectives. Wilson manages to bring quite a fresh take to this debate in the story as his main character – a devout Christian – rather than simply losing his faith after the suffering that he has had to endure, completely lashes out at God and decides to break every rule that Christianity has laid in place in an attempt to draw God’s attention.
“It makes for an interesting story as the scenario presented would lead you to guess that David would just lose his faith,” say a spokesperson for Turnaround, the book’s UK distributors. “Instead of dissecting his Christian beliefs, he decides to flagrantly go against every one of them, which will lead to some great story opportunities if his first rebellious acts against the Ten Commandments are anything to go by. (A personal favourite being when he struggles to think of a way to go against ‘Remember the Sabbath Day’ when the majority of the world including the most religious of people have moved on from holy days of obligation).
The Presence of Mr. White and Mr. Black also bring a lot to the story with their arguments over David being particularly entertaining – David has no interest in their advice and isn’t buying at all that they are messengers from a higher power. Whilst convention would suggest that they would be representations of good and evil, Wilson keeps their motives vague as Mr. White appears to be an agent of God and Mr. Black seems to be coming from a more Humanist perspective, which again is quite a refreshing take.
Wilson reunites with frequent collaborator Michiru Morikawa who provides some great illustration for this volume. She is particularly good at moving between intense and subdued scenes without it coming off as jarring and has a great grasp of character expression, with David in particular showing off a lot of depth through facials alone in just a few pages. Her designs for Mr. White and Mr. Black are also great – while they’re deliberately low key, you can easily tell they are more important than they appear on first impression.
Breaking The Ten is a great examination of a topic not often looked at in comics and even manages to find a fresh perspective on a long standing debate. This is well worth a look if you’re searching for something a little different and, as noted above, a second volume is in the works – which is a good job, because Volume One ends on quite a cliffhanger.
“I planned it to be a two-volume series,” says Sean. “The ending of Volume One is very desperate and sad, despite the bits of humour as they go along. I deliberately left that vague at the end, with David saying ‘God help me’.
“Is he saying this with his heart? Repenting? Or is it just a saying, a phrase without deeper meaning? Or something else?”
Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated Scottish comics writer Sean Michael Wilson currently lives in Japan, writing books for big Japanese publisher Kodansha, currently the only British writer to do so. In fact, he is the only pro manga writer from Britain who lives in Japan, but his main influences remain British and American creators – such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Eddie Campbell and Harvey Pekar.
Sean has had more than a dozen books published with a variety of US, UK and Japanese publishers, including: a comic book version of A Christmas Carol (voted “Best of 2008”, by The Sunday Times); the Harvey Award-nominated AX:alternative manga (“Best ten books of 2010”, Publishers Weekly), which he also edits; Parecomic (with an introduction by Noam Chomsky, his first contribution to a book in graphic form), Fight the Power! A Visual History of Protest Amongst the English Speaking Peoples (introduced by Tariq Ali).
Working with another US publisher, Shambhala Publications , he has written a unique line of Japanese history/martial arts/Samurai books, including The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, The 47 Ronin, and a biography of Musashi, with more on the way. He often gives lectures and talks about comics in schools and colleges.
Michiru Morikawa is a Japanese illustrator and manga artist who’s won the prestigious International Manga and Anime Award in Britain, and received a prize for Best New Manga Artist from Kodansha.
As a graphic artist, she’s illustrated concert and theatre posters in Japan and public service posters in Birmingham. With Sean Michael Wilson, she’s created several graphic novels so far – Yakuza Moon (for Kodansha), Demon’s Sermon, Musashi and The Faceless Ghost (for Shambhala Publications).
• Sean Michael Wilson’s Official Site: http://seanmichaelwilson.weebly.com
• Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanMichaelWord
• Breaking The Ten is is available now from all good book and comic shops