Mark V: The Opera - The Sample
(Over $1500 raised towards $3500 goal by Halloween!)
We are so pleased to have this to share! It's just a real satisfactory summary of the themes and setting and characters.
But we do take a hard turn in the plot right after this intro, and The Men (John and Brandon) are really about up to page 23, which is all of the Demoniac's 1st century back-story. (I mean, was he always crazy?)
Even more about Mark V: The Opera
A new graphic novel project by Derek Lamson
The Gadarene Demoniac, Autobiography, and Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood
Today in Eugene, Oregon, my old hometown, people’s sense of community has been severely stressed by homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health disabilities, sometimes afflicting ourselves and sometimes our family or neighbors, and all around us. While many of us are employed and do have places to call home, many of us also have very thin margins of financial safety; many are only one or two paychecks away from financial trouble; our credit is expensive and maxed out; and we’re fearful of medical expenses, car trouble, rent hikes, and getting old. We pass the homeless army begging on our sidewalks, so much worse off than we are, and whether we volunteer or not, help or ignore, give or don’t give, many of us see clearly how little real space there is between “us” and “them”.
And this was all 'normal' before the pandemic, the depression, the marches for justice, the fires, the election (the insurrection).
None of this escapes us, none of this is getting fixed anytime soon. And these too are the gnawing anxieties of the main character in my story, a reasonably normal middle-aged man, a school teacher, and currently unemployed.
He’s a substitute teacher, really, and newly moved back to his old home town of Eugene after decades away. In my story, he escapes from his own jobless anxieties into grand daydreams of producing a grand opera from the New Testament story of the Gadarene demoniac, that classic drama of schizophrenia, homelessness, and redemption. While he has a great imagination, he also knows he has no such operatic capability. Still, he can’t get it out of his head: it seems sometimes he can almost see the lights and hear the music.
As he bikes around Eugene, (visiting his old working-class / hipster Whiteaker neighborhood, checking in with family, registering with the unemployment office), and as his story develops, we begin to see other converging factors in his life contributing to his operatic daydreams: including his fragile recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse; and how for him, Eugene’s current homeless problem evokes his own vivid memories of being poor in Eugene during the Great Recession of 1980, and even selling his own blood plasma then. When a meeting with his sister downtown is utterly disrupted by a brutal encounter with a frenzied and naked schizophrenic, he finds himself escaping off alone to Eugene’s Pioneer Cemetery at midnight, to ask the advice of the ghosts of his ancestors: when hard times came, how did they deal with the poor? How should he?
In his fantasies he compensates for his jobless anxiety by imagining himself as famous (and rich): the author/librettist of a successful grand opera about the Gadarene demoniac, envisioned by him as a national hit show, and a current touring production at Eugene’s Performing Arts Center; an opera about a desperate schizophrenic outcast, healed and redeemed into health and sanity. Someone a little like him.
Does his opera ever get produced? Does he get a job? Does he stay sober? What happens in the Pioneer Cemetery at midnight? Do we really have free tickets to Eugene’s very own proletarian, and fun, Roving Park Players?
It is fictionalized autobiography, and it's biographic fiction, built on elements of my own life, including the very rough summer of 1981 in Eugene’s working class, hipster, poor Whiteaker neighborhood.
Producing this tale as a graphic novel is not a job for a one man band, and I'm excited at the team that's come together to help this all happen: artist John Williams, letterer and digital editor Brandon Buerkle, IT/web support Sarah Katreen Hoggatt, and whole-hearted encouragement from Eric Muhr, for Barclay Press. Our best news is that we've finally got the artist, (thank you John), and we can continue with the work.