At the 2017 Toronto ComiCon I had a chance to chat with Keith Grachow about his current Kickstarter project, Polybius Dreams. Shaping up to be a great book and I am hopping onboard to support the project myself. Below you will find the press release information on the project. I hope to review the book once all is done and shipped.
The arcade was supposed to be safe.
At school, they were bullied, but when the bell rang, Patrick, Michael, and Paul could always count on blowing off some steam playing video games and pinball. In the small town of Autumn Hill, there wasn’t much else to do.
But then the whole town seemed to go crazy, and it was right after the new game with the weird name showed up. Suddenly the arcade wasn’t as much fun anymore. The kids became sinister and violent. Some of their classmates went missing from school or got in trouble with the law.
And the bully that wouldn’t leave them alone… why did he commit suicide?
Now the parents are organizing, looking for something to blame for the danger their children are in. Can a video game really cause this much damage?
A coming of age, psychological horror tragedy set in 1986, POLYBIUS DREAMS is a loose retelling of the popular internet urban legend about the killer video game. The main focus of the comic is not the conspiracy surrounding the game, but rather the fragmentation our protagonists experience when adolescent deaths lead to social unrest in their community. In POLYBIUS DREAMS, three high school freshmen find their world upended when the arrival of a mysterious new video game causes a sudden outbreak of violent and suicidal acts among the youth of a small town. Their world begins to unravel just as they are dealing with their recent transition to high school. Outbreaks of violence occur among people exposed to the game, and as the main characters try and make sense of the situation, they start having menacing nightmares that seem to be leading them down a very dark path. Our goal with POLYBIUS DREAMS is to create a suspenseful story with rich characters and emotional impact, but also with a fair amount of social critique, and nostalgia for arcade culture.
The Polybius urban legend has been through many permutations, and like any good urban legends or conspiracy theories, changes as it is retold. The basic version is this: sometime in the early 80s a mysterious video game appears in the Pacific Northwest. It was unusually popular, and like many new games, buggy. People were lining up to play it, but sometimes it would shut down in the middle of game. This sometimes led to fights among the people waiting to play it. In fact, the people playing seemed to becoming more aggressive as a whole. Some people who played it reported headaches, other allegedly had seizures. Others still reported insomnia or night terrors. All the while, “men in black” were observed servicing the game and extracting unknown data from it. Supposedly one of the players committed suicide, and another went on to become an anti gaming crusader.
The story of Polybius is arguably the first creepy pasta. It proliferated along just as the commercial internet did in the 1990s, but is based out of stories that predate that. It has the quality of cryptid, only instead of an allusive mythical beast, it’s an arcade cabinet that many are unsure ever existed. There’s likely some truth to the legend, but to me the story of Polybius exemplifies a much greater debate about how mistrusting we as a society can be about new technology, and the real or perceived threat that it has. There’s also a parallel between this story and the moral outrage of the “satanic panic” of the 1980s and early 1990s. It’s a unique cultural touchstone connecting fear of media to gaming culture and conspiracy theories.
In adapting the urban legend, I knew that it wouldn’t be appropriate to just retell it. I needed a unique spin on the tale with compelling characters in order for it to be effective. It was also never my intention to demystify the tale or over-explain the game it self. A big part of the fun is the mystery of it, and I’m working to preserve that. So POLYBIUS DREAMS focus on the lives of the characters that the game effects. I think people with identify with the three kids at the center of the story and the arcade owners. There’s only a hint as to why the game is there or what it’s there to accomplish, but I’m leaving that mostly up to reader.
We also have a professional art team for this book. In Keith, I found an artist that would be able to pull emotional nuance out of the characters, but also be able to implement the symbolism and subtle suggestions of my script. When we added Ester to the team, the project really took off. When I found her work, I knew I had somebody that could further convey emotional nuance and mood through lighting techniques. It was also a goal to light and color Polybius Dreams in a way that would increase dramatic tension, and Ester does that incredibly well.
Please check us out online at www.polybiusdreams.com and drop us a line if you have any questions or feedback!
The Kickstarter has 50 days to go and is well over half funded. Perks include physical copies, T-Shirts, variant covers, art and some cool items such as lessons, lettering services, etc. Definitely do yourself a favour and check out the Kickstarter linked below.
Title: Polybius Dreams | Publisher: Hypnotic Dog Comics
Writer: Ben Grisanti | Artists: Keith Grachow & Ester Salguero