Local turntablist Sara Simms and her sister, Melle Oh, have created a graphic novel that reanimates Toronto DJs and musicians as superheroes and villains in a (maybe) not-so-distant future.
With all this talk about the impending doom coming to us Dec. 21, it’s only too fitting that one of the last things you’ll ever learn about is a new graphic novel that’s set in a post-apocalyptic Toronto—with a refreshing take on our city’s music scene. Local DJ/producer Sara Simms and her sister, writer Melle Oh, are the duo behind The Future Prophecy, a comic book for the digital end-of-ages that was pretty much written to a beat. The idea is full of twists, right from its bizarrely perfect niche premise: Simms has recast local musicians, many of whom are friends, as superheroes and villains in an epic tale about restoring musical faith and fandom in a world where “bad vibrations” reign supreme.
“This is King Selah broadcasting straight from Toronto, a city that was lost in the aftermath of the great war,” begins a mood-setting intro track posted on Soundcloud to accompany issue one, “Arcanum.” “We are the chosen few that have survived to overcome Babylon with the positive vibrations of our sound.” (This sensory combo of music and storytelling almost reminds me of listening to my old Teddy Ruxpin, but with far more discerning taste in mature themes.) The synopsis goes something like this: a big corporation, Bogtown Records, has taken over the city of Toronto by using negative sound waves to torture citizens and turn them into an army of mutant militants so that Bogtown can achieve world domination. It’s now up to a fragmented underground—still producing great music, always and forever—to rise up and reclaim the airwaves.
After two years as a passion project in development, Simms and her sis meticulously conceived every inch and facet of Prophecy, from its unique costumes to video elements to the soundtrack. “I came back from a tour in Berlin, and I was really inspired to start a new project and I wanted to do something new that combined together music, art, and my love of futuristic music technology,” explains Simms during a creator meet-and-greet last Friday night at Silver Snail Comics on Yonge Street, north of Dundas. “We wanted to do something that involved a lot of the artists that we had met in Toronto, so [the characters are a reflection of our music scene].” After illustrator Arthur Dela Cruz joined the team, with hauntingly delicate and shadowy strokes, the novel came to life.
All of the characters, then, are based on local musicians and DJs with origin stories woven through present-day Toronto, rooted equally in reality and fantasy. In the series, King Selah, for example, portrays a rasta radio announcer dubbed as “the last reggae warrior.” His character biography reads: “King Selah is a Jamaican singer who courageously fights for freedom in difficult times … Before the Great War, his band House of David Gang was Canada’s largest touring reggae act, and he hosted a popular roots reggae radio show.” His weapon? A magical rope. (In Toronto circa now, King Selah does actually sing lead with House of David Gang.)
Simms hooks me, as a non-devotee of the graphic arts, with the origin story of her own character in Prophecy: “At the beginning, she’s actually lost. She’s hiding out. I had this lover who was a musical revolutionary. He was the one leading the people, all the musicians, against Bogtown. But he dies in a plane crash. A mysterious death.” Broken-hearted, she moves her music studio into the sewers. Simms might just unify the artists and, well, save the 416. The story grips me as both soap-operatic and poetic.
The project is pretty much a complete Marvel-to-movie-worthy compendium of story and visuals—it’s what you’d call committing to the role. Simms had rallied her troops, in full costume, to play a three-hour set at Silver Snail and sign copies of the novel while a group of regulars traded cards (or whatever that’s called) in the back. The same thing happened a few weeks ago, at the Mod Club, for The Future Prophecy‘s official launch (which I missed). Some seven acts performed that night, including Melleefresh (often credited with unleashing Deadmau5 to the world) portraying her Dextra Delano character, a “dubstep diva” evil-genius working for Bogtown. Simms, in character, wears a long-jewelled white cape with blinging shoulder pads to match. It’s all white, and looks like a future hero with retro tinges, almost like a cross between Sailor Moon and Emma Frost/The White Queen. Melle Oh also serves as creative director, helping design the costumes with Toronto-based clothing line Hypercube Apparel.
Simms, a resident at Proof, the Vodka Bar at the Intercontinental in Yorkville (with stints at the Comfort Zone and This Is London behind her), is a Toronto native; she’s a product of our epic, mythic rave scene. This project only makes too much sense. The Future Prophecy reads like a natural expression for a generation that helped shaped a visual expression of music that went far beyond the beats themselves, manifesting itself in everything from lighting to fashion. “We wanted to do something innovative, something new, and different,” says Simms. “It’s actually a concept album that we’ll start releasing next year.”
Going forward, Simms and co. hope to release one single with every new instalment of the comic-book series. “It’s going to be composed by the story’s character and it’s going to communicate the theme of the issue.” As for her hopes for prospective fans: “I think all sorts of music fans will be interested in this. All the artists in the project represent a different style of music. No matter if you’re an electro fan or a hip-hop fan or a rock fan, you’re going to find someone you like and you’re going to hear the music coming out next year that you’re going to like. We’re making something for the people.”
Long live Toronto. The story is just beginning.
The Future Prophecy: Vol. 1 Arcanum is available for free online. Find out where to buy a physical copy here.