The Shepherd: Apokatastasis Andrea Lorenzo Molinari and his son, Roberto Xavier, are co-creators and writers of 'The Shepherd: Apokatastasis'. Andrea is a professor, specializing in ancient Christian literature and history (1st through 5th centuries). He is particularly interested in ancient apocalypses, otherworldly journeys (celestial or infernal), as well as other supernatural topics such as demonology and angel lore. He is also the author of four other books, among them an illustrated novel, 'Climbing the Dragon’s Ladder: The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas'. Roberto, on the other hand, is an English major in his junior year at the University of South Florida, Tampa.

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1) What are your own origins, Andrea, and how come you teamed-up with your son Roberto in creating your comic book, ‘The Shepherd?   ANDREA: I grew up the son of an Italian immigrant in a working class family in Flint, Michigan, the home of General Motors. My childhood was deeply marked by the decline of the auto industry in the late 1970s and early 80s, plus the subsequent impact it had on the city and the people. In Flint, the entire economy, everything was plugged into the automobile factories. When GM decided to move its factories to various developing countries, it impacted my home town profoundly -- and not for the better. Unemployment, periods of layoffs, whole families uprooted and forced to leave their lives behind, foreclosure and abandoned properties, these things characterized my experiences growing up, some impacting my family directly, others impacting my friends.

In the midst of all this, reading was always a welcome escape. Comics were a big part of that, especially when I was younger. I can remember a group of my little friends huddling together on the school bus or in the cafeteria at school, passing around dog-eared and worn copies of Spider-man, Batman, Justice League of America, Iron Man, Daredevil, etc. Most of the time, we were reading out of sequence. We usually didn’t get to read an entire story arc. Maybe we would begin a story or read the last issue of a three-part arc. It didn’t matter. We loved the characters, the adventure… the escape.

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis
As I got older, I began to look at other, more complicated literature. I think that it was because of this rather chaotic aspect of my youth that I looked to religion as a potential source of stability, of philosophical answers. In high school I took a world religion course and loved it. I was especially enamored with the opportunity to read selections from the sacred texts of these religions. I went on to study theology, particular the Christian Scriptures and early Christian literature in the university, achieving a Ph.D. in 1996. However, I was never really intrigued by doctrine. Rather, I was always in it for the stories. I found myself drawn to apocalypses, especially the other worldly journeys through heaven and hell, the legends of the apostles, and so many other texts that related myth, parable and story. I was particularly interested in the ways that these Christian writings related or didn’t relate to the larger Greco-Roman culture.

Instability and anxiety. Family in difficult times. The role of stories about God, faith, and eternity in all of this. These themes appear in The Shepherd: Apokatastasis. Obviously, my “origins” are deeply tied to the story. However, the story is even more intimate than one might guess.

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis began as a nightmare. Seriously. The story is directly based on a horrible dream I once had. It was a dream about my family, about losing my son to a drug overdose, the terrible aftermath… and me losing it. In my dream, I couldn’t face what happened to my son. I gradually lost my mind. I was obsessed with the idea that he was lost, that he hadn’t made it to the other side. I decided to take my own life and go after him.

Yeah. It’s kinda dark like that.

When the dream ended, I woke up in a cold sweat, my heart beating out of my chest. I lay there, trying to catch my breath, waiting for memory of the dream to go away. It didn’t. In the morning, I was still shaken.

The Shepherd: ApokatastasisI told my wife and she was understandably horrified.

Later, I recited the whole experience to my son Roberto, who had been the focal point of my dream. Unlike his mother, he thought it was cool. Then Roberto began to pester me about writing this story. Relentlessly. So I wrote it out, mostly to get him off my back. When the story was written I thought it was over. However, Roberto was certain that the book had to be a graphic novel.

2) In your own words how would you describe this story?   ROBERTO: In a larger sense, The Shepherd is an adventure through the afterlife and an exploration of the kinds of problems that the dead might still have. The first story arc, “Apokatastasis”, just focuses on the events surrounding Miller’s death and his entrance into the world of the dead.

For all intents and purpose this first arc is an origins story for the characters. It sets the table for the adventures yet to come.

3) What song would you each say best represents this comic and why?   ANDREA: This is actually a REALLY easy question. As we were working on The Shepherd, just for fun, Roberto and I started looking for “sound track music” for the book. We collected twelve songs and assigned them to key scenes in the story. Of these, the one I would choose as the title song would be “Far from Home” by Five Finger Death Punch from their War is the Answer album.

I feel that the lyrics resonate with the story. The author of the song expresses a sense of disconnect between himself and heaven, as if heaven didn’t want him and was actively trying to “break me down”. In addition, the idea that the author is wandering in the midst of a “carnival of souls” and he cannot “find my way home” has particular importance for our main character, Lawrence Miller.

ROBERTO: “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas seems strangely appropriate. The 70s rock sound might not really fit to the theme of The Shepherd, but the lyrics and spirit of the song certainly correlate well enough.

4) If you could each choose a celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   ROBERTO: If we ever got an endorsement from Mike Mignola, I’d be ecstatic, simply because he is my favorite writer.

ANDREA: Clearly, Roberto and I are taking this question in two different ways. I’m thinking in terms of who I would want to portray the main character in a movie.

If I were to cast the character Lawrence, who becomes The Shepherd, I would select Christian Bale. Lawrence is deep, thoughtful, and in many ways, driven by his emotions and I feel that Bale could capture his intensity of feeling. 

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis
5) What’s it like working with your father on this project, Roberto?   ROBERTO: It’s been a lot of fun. Since starting this project most of our interactions have revolved around The Shepherd. A lot of our conversations are focused around what we’re doing right now or planning for the future. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is our talks brainstorming about the third story arc. In a much more mechanical sense there’s been a tremendous amount of learning for both of us on how to write properly for the format, seeing as we both originally wrote prose.

6) Same question to you too, Andrea, but son instead?   ANDREA: Roberto and I have always had a deep connection. When he was born, the nurse handed him to me and not his mother. He grabbed my finger with his little hand and held on tightly for the first twenty-five minutes. This absolutely blew me away. I had a great deal of trouble connecting with the pregnancy, mostly because I doubted my ability to be a good father. In those first few minutes together, I cried and told him that I didn’t want him to feel that I didn’t want him. It had always been me, not him. I swore to him that I would be there for him. It was like he transferred something to me that day.

I have always loved writing. I wrote my first book in sixth grade, a Bible commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Romans no less. I wrote my first novel (unpublished) at eighteen. Love of literature and writing have always been a part of me. To be able to share this with my son, well, what could be better?

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis
7) If ‘The Shepherd’ had a motto, what would it be?   “There is nothing lost that will not be found.”

This quote is from the last page of the story arc, and expresses a profound hope that, no matter the darkness of the path, we will all be found in the end. This reflects the subtitle of the book, apokatastasis, which is the idea that all will eventually be restored in God. We explain this concept in a concluding essay in the book.

And on that holy note, I'd like to thank both Andrea and Roberto for telling us about their great comic, The Shepherd: Apokatastasis, before directing you towards their facebook page and official Caliber Comics website. And while you're at it, don't forget to pick yourself up a copy at Amazon.

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