“After the Gold Rush” – that is the name of the latest comic book by independent comic book creator Miles Greb. In fact, it is his first comic book ever – his dream come true!

“It was actually my grandma who inadvertently got me into comic books. I started out with Marvel books”, said Mr Greb. He started out when he was a kid, reading about the Fantastic4 and, of course, every boy’s favourite super-hero – Spider-Man. “Spider-Man is one of my favourites because he’s really relatable – he’s like a nerdy guy, tries really hard to invent stuff, who didn’t have a lot of friends, but still did a lot of good to the world because of the power that was past upon him.” And how could a young boy not fall in love with such an idealistic, and at the same time, simplistic superhero? But that’s not where Mr Greb’s interests ended – as he grew a bit older, he also got into stuff like Tolkien, Frank Herbert, C.S. Lewis – all classics, which further developed his imagination, and would eventually lead him to becoming a comic book creator himself.

Miles went to study Journalism in college, in the US, but quit, because he figured he won’t be able to make a career out of it, and he was also unhappy with the prices that US colleges charge. He then went to work for the IT sector. However, Journalism school is not where he first began writing. ‘I would write short stories for myself as a kid – I would write about Spider Man and Fantastic 4 – I would do like fanfiction, but I would never really share it with anybody.” It was apparent to me that the young man was a bit shy when sharing this with me, but I bet that lots of people were nerds in their teens, and can relate to him. “I was always a storyteller, and this is pretty nerdy, but I used to play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, so I would write stories for the [board] game, and that’s kinda like where I got started, and people really seemed to like the stories that I told [in Dungeons and Dragons]’, said Mr Greb.

The idea for his comic book’s storyline came almost by accident – he was very impressed with all the indie (independent) comics that were presented at the annual ‘Comic Con’ in 2014, because of the diversity, and the different topics that their stories covered, but he noticed that not a single title focused on scepticism and atheism. ‘I was really impressed with the diversification going on in indie comic books, there’s lots of more books for different cultures and styles, but I didn’t see anything for sceptics or atheists, so that’s kind of what inspired me to start ‘After the Gold Rush’, said Miles. And it wasn’t long after he had the initial idea in his mind that he started working on the comic book project – alone. Writing the initial story was the first step of the long and tiring process. A good friend of his, who ended up becoming the editor, looked at it, and gave him a couple of suggestions. “But then I had to find artists, because I can’t draw well at all” – Mr Greb explained – “I could only explain what I wanted the art to be like.” Almost by coincidence, Miles Greb found an artist, by the name of Isac, on a popular website for aspiring, independent and (in most cases) amateur artists. “Isac, who I found on DeviantArt, was able to capture Scout [the protagonist] the best, and I’m really glad I found him, because the book looks the way I want it to look, and I don’t think it would’ve without his help”.

So what’s ‘After the Gold Rush’ about? ‘We have a world that has given up, it has traded science, it has traded the method of technology that we have learned, for this love of narrative, for this return of this mythological, ‘magical’ worldview’, said Mr Greb. He is giving a unique, and quite interesting reality/possibility, where the world is led into a dystopia, conjured by religion – not any religion in particular, but simply the concept of a religious worldview, a religious approach to life, or as he refers to it – magical thinking – which, in a nutshell, is the attribution of causal or synchronistic relationships between actions and events which seemingly cannot be justified by reason and observation. Science vs. Religion in a dystopian world – sounds like a cool narrative. ‘Religion is important in the story, but the religion that our antagonists will have in the plot isn’t necessarily the same as the way theologists manifest in our current societies’, said Mr Greb, ‘So, it’s not like they are a bunch of Christians necessarily, it’s more complex than that, but I don’t wanna give any spoilers away’.

When I asked Mr Greb what his main source of inspiration is, his reply surprised me a little bit, because most people usually go with deeply inspirational replies, or tell me about some sort of life event that changed their entire lives; but the young man simply said: ‘It’s the story. The more I keep writing – the more I want to.’ Be that as it may, Mr Greb’s motivation doesn’t end with writing, it goes deeper – he feels bad that modern science fiction movies portray science and technology as something bad, as something that’s going to have horrible consequences for humanity. ‘‘If someone makes artificial intelligence – that artificial intelligence betrays them.’’, exclaimed Greb, ‘‘And that’s not how it is – when we have built things, they have helped us. I mean, when we created the atom bomb, that wasn’t something that helped us. But science is the thing that is allowing me and you to speak right now’’, he further explains, referring to the fact that I live in the UK, and he lives in America, and yet we were communicating via Skype, for free, all thanks to modern technology. Mr Greb told me that when he was a kid, science fiction was always portrayed as something good, as something that was going to take us further; it was always portrayed in a positive way, and that’s what he misses, or as he calls it – ‘‘the concept of futurism”.

Mr Greb is unsure of his future, but he shared with me that one of his dreams would be to work on the Doom franchise – either writing the story for a Doom movie, or a novel. In fact, he describes this not simply something that he has in mind, but as one of his “life goals”. “One of my life’s goals has always been Doom – Doom is one of my favourite stories, and I kinda feel like it’s been watered down, and NOT what it once was.” Interestingly, he shared with me that he has an idea for another project that he wants to get into, once he’s done with “After the Gold Rush”, but he’s not going to start a fund for it yet, and he refused to give me any details about his future project.

“Are comic books for children?’’, was my next question, and even though I was already aware of his answer, Mr Greb did more than just say “Yes”, or “No” – he explained to me why comic books are not only for children, and how now there’s even titles being created for mature audiences only, because of the violent, and often, nasty content. “I think that the pop-culture is very deluded, and I think that it all began with the Batman TV show in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, where it was kind of funny and it was mostly targeted at kids”, said Mr Greb, “but that’s not what modern comic books are about, especially stuff like Fantastic 4 or the Silver Surfer”. Another popular myth is that Disney were the ones who created the cliché that comic books and animation are only and entirely for children, but the young comic book creator debunked this myth for me as well, explaining why it was, in fact, Disney themselves who pioneered the idea that animation (later the same point applying for comic books as well) was for not just for children. “On that point – that misconception predates Disney”, said Mr Greb. “When Walt [Disney] wanted to make Snow White, the idea was ‘well, I’ll never make money, because of all of these kids’, but the reception of Snow White, I think it was 1934, was so positive because of how beautiful the film was”, he continues, “that actually changed the perception, now being that animation is MORE than just for children.”

After a 45-minute interview, I decided to finish by asking Mr Greb if he would give a word of advice, something encouraging, for young people and students who might have very bold ideas, but are too afraid to chase them. He explained that one of the first things that you have to look at, if you’re serious about beginning with your project, whatever it may be, you have to consider the logistics. “There are lots of logistics, you need to make sure if there are a lot of other ideas similar to yours, your art style, the direction you scribe it has to be unique”, explained Mr Greb. He said that originality is the way to go forward – “Don’t just go out and be like: ‘Ooh, my idea is a combination of the Walking Dead and Star Wars’ – that’s not gonna intrigue anybody, no one’s gonna care.”