“Illegal” is the tale of an undocumented immigrant, Gianna DelRey, in a dystopian near-future America. Gianna and her mother left behind an abusive father and husband for the hope of a new life. However, that new life has been less than what they hoped for. In Gianna’s America the rich live in skyscrapers thousands of feet above ground where they’ve created communities they never have to leave. The poor, however, are forced to live in their shadow on the ground levels – which are rampant with crime and heavily patrolled. All citizens are micro-chipped at birth and every move is tracked by the government. This makes undocumented immigrants immediately identifiable, but also makes their ability to move without being seen a valuable resource.
The series will follow Gianna as one of her rich employers decides to turn her in and she is forced to go on the run. Gianna will be faced with the decision of whether to keep running or to fight back against a system that treats her as less than human.
The goal of the Kickstarter is to raise enough money to fund the first 5-issue volume of the “Illegal” series. The initial goal is $6,000 and the creators have already established a number of advanced stretch goals to enhance the series release and to produce the rest of the planned 15-issue series.
Comic Attack: Illegal seems to deal with heavy story elements like classism and government surveillance. Are we going to get some lighter moments in the story or will there be a pretty dark tone for the series?
Jeremy Whitley: The answer is both, actually. The story is going to be pretty heavy, but at the same time I’m a big believer in character. I think that people find ways to find humor even in the worst of times. The stories that I always find most affecting for the dramas that can make me laugh and the comedies that have emotional punch. Usually I write a lot of the second one but I hope this story will be the first type.
CA: Since Princeless was born out of a desire to share something with your daughter what was the drive behind wanting tell Gianna’s story in Illegal?
JW: My motivation is very similar in a lot of ways. I felt like this was the sort of story that needed to be told and didn’t really exist. It seems to me that when people are telling sci-fi stories in popular culture, usually we come in around the time that the good looking well-to-do twenty something white guy is discovering the hidden face of whatever horrible secrets lie beneath the surface of his society. It seems to me that to get to that point, there’s an awful lot that has to go down first. Because when these sorts of things really start, they start with the outliers – the poor, the undocumented, the minorities – the people who the government tries to convince us brought it on themselves or shouldn’t be there in the first place. It’s when we don’t stand up for those people that the problem starts to present itself to the guy who’s usually the hero of the story.
Illegal follows an undocumented young woman who has been living on the fringe. She’s taken all sorts of punishment and sneaks through the streets of her own city just to get by day to day. All it takes is one abusive employer to set off the powder keg that is her life and everything starts to fall away. Meanwhile, everybody else in the city is living out a normal day.
CA: When you began building the world of Illegal was your main character always a woman of color or did that choice just naturally evolve over time?
JW: Yes. Honestly, I had the character nailed down before I got a lot of the setting straight. I wanted Illegal to be about a survivor. Gianna has never had very much say in her life – from her abusive dad to an abusive government. She has to take precautions every day and go out of her way and deal with abuse just to get through. Gianna has never stood up, which in a lot of stories is meant to be a sign of weakness. But I see strength in it. It’s heroic to survive things when they are at their worst. Putting our own ideals of activism on top of that is disingenuous.
Honestly, I constantly find myself in awe of women of color and some of the things that they are able to weather just to get through a day sometimes. If you ask me, it seems a lot easier to be the white knight who has super strength and decides to defend others than to be the woman who has to make choices about whether to stand up for what’s right in her own treatment because it might compromise her personal safety.
CA: Is there a particular bad guy Gianna will encounter as the story progresses or is she mainly going up against “the system”?
JW: Well issue 1 definitely features a bad guy in her current employer and in a sense in her father. But in a larger way the system is the bad guy. However, the system is a kind of hydra. For every head you cut off two more pop up. There’s no way for her to win against the system, but she may get a chance to win against some of its agents.
CA: What can we expect to see in this first arc of Illegal?
JW: The first arc of Illegal is all about running and fighting and choosing between the two. Gianna has been running her whole life, but finds herself running for her life in a very real way in the first issue. By the end of this arc she will have to make a decision about whether to try and go back to being invisible or whether it’s time for her to do something more.
CA: Why do you think a story like Illegal is important now?
JW: It’s important because, especially in the last few days, it seems like people need a reminder that all people are people. There are heroes out there fighting oppression and it’s so easy for some people to look at those who look a little different from them and blame the victims. With the riots in MO I’ve seen personal friends and family more willing to believe entirely fabricated lies that blame the protesters or the dead boy than to watch actual video of what’s going on. That shit’s disturbing. I thought I was writing a sci-fi story but it seems less like it every day.
Sounds like an intense series and can’t wait to see more of Illegal from Jeremy and Heather!
The Kickstarter will be running until September 7th
The link to the series is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/