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  • 1 year later...

Usually, these things are pretty heavy-handed and preachy, and this one looks no different, but im curious about the Libertarians, so i'll prolly check it out.




by Daniel Robert Epstein


To the artist’s own admission, The Probability Broach is full color graphic novel that is also thinly veiled propaganda for Libertarian ideals. Whether it’s viewed as a good comic book story is for the public to decide. But one has to respect the artist, Scott Bieser, for putting his views right out there in the world.


Too often when people reveal themselves they are often asked or sometimes even forced to put themselves back where no one can see them. For years comic book writers like JM DeMatteis and Jim Starlin have been accused of foisting their views on unsuspecting comic book fans in stories that subtly promoted a certain belief, but Bieser isn’t doing that. Instead, his philosophies and feelings in the adaptation of science fiction author L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach reveals themselves on every page.


Newsarama: What’s happening today?


Scott Bieser: I’m just transitioning from one project to the next. I’m promoting The Probability Broach and I just finished the script for a shorter book. An obscure one that a fellow commissioned me to do on the life and thoughts of a 19th century French economist named Frédéric Bastiat.


NRAMA: You’re definitely not taking the low road in your work. So, for people who don’t know it, what’s The Probability Broach about?


page 51SB: Just to give a bit of history about the book, first - the story was written in the late ‘70s and at the time it was set in 1987. So imagine a 1987 in which all the trends from the ‘70s had persisted. Back then we had decreasing amounts of energy available, increasing amounts of government control of the economy so basically Reagan never happened. What you have is a world in which the energy shortage was so severe that most civilians ride bicycles and only important government personages and other VIPs ride cars. The pollution situation had not improved because the economy is going into the toilet so we have this dystopian future where the story begins. We have this homicide detective named Edward William Bear who everyone calls Win. He’s investigating the murder of a physicist at a university that’s about 65 miles north of Denver. As soon as he starts the investigation he starts getting pressure to drop the case. He’s about to do just that when his boss gets murdered and several attempts are made on his life. He smells a rat and decides to continue the case. He winds up in the physicist’s laboratory where the bad guys follow him and there’s a big shootout. Some of the equipment gets turned on and he winds up getting blown through a gateway between universes.


He wakes up in this beautiful park and he can’t figure out where he is. He thinks he’s been blown into the future. Soon he figures out that he’s in an alternate universe so he finds his doppelganger. He then that there is a conspiracy from his universe of government agents and a dissident faction in the other universe to try to take control and end freedom to bring about a new authoritarian government. So the story is Win battling the other faction known as Hamiltonians.


NRAMA: How did you come to adapt the book come about?


SB: Originally the book was written because the author, L. Neil Smith, broke his foot so he was laid up for several weeks with nothing to do but write. Now he’s written over 20 novels. I had heard of him in science fiction circles many years ago but I had never picked up anything he had written until 1997. I found The Probability Broach and fell in love with the story. Via the internet I got acquainted with the author and found that we had a lot in common. A mutual friend, who unfortunately died recently named Kerry Pearson, was better known on the internet as Lux Lucre, suggested that in order to expand the audience for Neil’s work I should do a graphic novel based on it.


page 79Neil then rewrote his book into a script. He has had some comic experience because he wrote a couple of stories for Marvel Comics in their anthology called Open Space. So Neil sent me a script then I edited it for space and for a better visual flow. It took me about 18 months to draw the book and get it published.


NRAMA: So you put it out through your company?


SB: You can call it self publishing but it’s basically my brother’s company. My brother was a computer guy who had a small ISP in Austin Texas. He managed to sell it before the dot com collapse and I persuaded him to invest some of it in a publishing company called Bighead Press so he could publish this and keep me fed and sheltered. I had been working in the computer game industry through most of the ‘90s for Interplay Productions until I was laid off in 2000 and it took me another six months to find a job.


At that point I looked at that industry and decided to return to my first love, comic books. I had done some work in comics in the ‘80s on a part time freelance basis and enjoyed it even though it didn’t pay much. I started looking for comic work and did some book illustrations. Then I did A Drug War Carol with Susan Wells and then, The Probability Broach.


NRAMA: Do you not handle the business side of it?


page 98SB: Oh yes I do. I wish I had someone else to do it because it’s not my forte. My brother and I work it out together even though he’s in Texas and I’m in California. It often works out better to ship the books from his place though I interface with the printers. Now that we are in the distribution/marketing phase we are both going at it as much as we can with the time constraints. He has another business and I’m home schooling two sons. It gets a little hectic but it’s very rewarding.


NRAMA: Was it more expensive doing the book in full color?


SB: It sure was. Neil really insisted it would be in color so we tried to take advantage of it. In the beginning of the book, in Win’s universe, all the tones are kind of faded and sepia shaded then when we get into the other universe everything is bright with full Technicolor. It’s sort of an homage to The Wizard of Oz.


NRAMA: What do you draw with?


SB: I run a completely paperless art studio. I do all my drawing on Wacom Tablet using Photoshop and I use Illustrator for all the text and sound effects stuff.


NRAMA: Was A Drug War Carol done that way as well?


SB: Yes it was.


NRAMA: How was switching from drawing by hand to computers?


page 106SB: I did the switch when I left comics in the 80’s. Back then I was drawing with a pencil and inking with a brush. Then in the computer games business all we had to draw with was a mouse. It was like drawing with a brick and eventually we transitioned over to graphics tablets. I learned to use the stylus doing graphics for games and when I went back into comics I just stayed with that. The hardest part is that when you are drawing using a pen or pencil you see the image forming underneath the tip but when you are drawing with a stylus, it's occurring somewhere else and it takes a while to adjust. It’s not easy for people to do right off the bat.


NRAMA: How is The Probability Broach selling?


SB: I wish I could say it’s going like gangbusters but that wouldn’t be true. It’s doing fairly well through Amazon.com and there is a local bookstore in Riverside California called Renaissance Books which I’ve sold several dozen copies through. Like most small independent press our marketing is not what we’d like it to be. We’re looking for a book trade distributor to get us into places like Barnes and Noble.


NRAMA: Obviously The Probability Broach is a book that wears its politics on its sleeve, but surprisingly enough I read that you left the Libertarian party.


SB: I like to think that I’m too Libertarian for the Libertarian party. Ever since it was formed back in the 1970’s there has been a contingent in the movement that has said that electoral politics is a bad idea. Some of them thought it was a bad idea for practical reasons such as there never being enough of us to make a dent. All it would do is just show people how weak we are. There are others who raise certain moral concerns about the morality of trying to oppose its own will on other people.


My position is sort of a combination of things. I ran as a candidate for election three times, once as a city council candidate in Austin, another as a state legislative candidate in Texas and in 1992 I ran for state assembly in California. None of it seemed to do any good so you have to sit back and think that if none of it works you have to change your tactics. So I’m changing doing that and I think the movement should shift into trying to get our viewpoint out as far and as broadly as possible. I also have observed that cultural and political values don’t get transferred through electoral campaigns. All those do is mobilize people that already think the same way you do.


page 182The way people form their political opinions is through the stories that they read when they are children then adults. I think the movie Bambi has done more for the environmental movement than probably any other single project because it gave people the idea of nature as something beautiful and grand with humans as being evil intruders who wreck everything. If you look at a lot of the rhetoric from the environmentalist movement you see that value being repeated and propagated so libertarianism needs a Bambi.


NRAMA: The Probability Broach would have a tough time being the Bambi though…the message isn’t very…subtle.


SB: No it’s not and there are different schools of thought on that. I think subtlety is useful and has its place but I think being in your face also has its place and you need both. Neil is someone who is very good at in your face work. He basically lays out what freedom is and what a free society ought to look like. He is unique in that most libertarians who write about the future tend to write dystopias and how horrible things are going to get. Maybe the more positive ones have the heroes escaping and going off and forging their own future somewhere. The Probability Broach was the first book that showed what an ideal libertarian society might look like. Not necessarily what it has to look like but one direction it might go. People complain about preaching to the choir but it’s necessary because it keeps the choir singing.


The Probability Broach serves two purposes. First it’s a good way to introduce people, who might be open to the idea, to libertarianism. It’s also a good reinforcement and energizing tool for libertarians who understand the basic ideas but have gotten a little tired of having to go against the flow so often. Personally it helps inspire me to keep going.


NRAMA: What do you think of the people that would attack the book for being propaganda?


SB: It is propaganda and what’s wrong with that? Nearly every book that’s worth reading has a point of view or has a theme it’s trying to represent. Some books are very subtle about it, others are very sneaky and some books are very honest about it like The Probability Broach. I don’t think it needs to be defended except that we defend the ideas that the book represents.


NRAMA: Are you interested in doing mainstream books again?


SB: Sure, I’d love to. I haven’t read superhero comics for a long time but if a good writer or editor approached me about an interesting project I’d love to take a crack at it. What really interests me more is expanding the comics medium beyond the superhero ghetto it’s been in all this time. I’m quoted somewhere as having praised Fantagraphics for dragging comics kicking and screaming out of the superhero binge and there are other good companies out there like Top Shelf. I like NBM even if they don’t like me very much. I sent them a proposal for doing The Probability Broach and they sent something back saying they didn’t like the art. It was from [NBM publisher] Terry [Nantier] himself so at least if I get dissed I get dissed by the best.


NRAMA: What made you join the Libertarian Party in the first place?


SB: I was 18 years old and I picked up a book that was a collection of essays by Ayn Rand. The book fascinated me with its brazenness which was exciting. I love her other books but I didn’t really accept all of her philosophy though I liked a lot of the ideas. Especially the ideas of individualism and how each one of us should be free to run our own lives. Then a year after I discovered Rand’s work I discovered the Libertarian Party which was essentially promoting the same basic ideas even though Rand didn’t want anything to do with the party because they didn’t agree with her a 100 percent. I like the idea that a market economy really offers most people the best opportunity to fulfill their own destiny.


The Probability Broach is 192 pages and retails for $19.95


Check out the official site for The Probability Broach









wow, ok that one wasnt trying to hide propoganda very hard.

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