Spawned from the inquiring mind of Batman writer James Tynion IV, an intriguing new conspiracy theory thriller titled The Department of Truth is coming Sept. 30 courtesy of Image Comics that might forever change the way you view the world — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive preview of the premiere issue to share with comments from its sneaky creative team.
Penned by superstar writer Tynion IV (Batman, Wynd, Something is Killing the Children) in his debut ongoing series for Image, and accompanied by artwork via Martin Simmonds (Dying is Easy), The Department of Truth follows Cole Turner, a man who has studied conspiracy theories all his life.
But he's totally unprepared for what occurs when he discovers that all of them are actually true, from the JFK assassination to flat Earth theory and reptilian shapeshifters. One clandestine governmental organization has been covering them up for generations and now readers will absorb the dark, reality-bending secret behind the truth.
Tynion's journey into this project began with the last election, when he recognized that he was living in a bubble and the world he assumed existed outside his apartment wasn’t necessarily the same world everyone else saw.
"So I started doing a lot of reading about contemporary American history and why are the pieces of the modern world in the places they’re in," he tells SYFY WIRE. "There’s always been these deeply powerful beliefs that are in conflict with each other that play a role through the entirety of American history.
"Beyond that, I’ve always been fascinated with conspiracy theories since the first time I saw JFK and the sort of 1970s political thrillers. Around 2017-18 I started putting these pieces together and I wrote down on a piece of paper… The Department of Truth. Then the ideas started coalescing into the book that’s about to come out. There’s a key element that taps into the JFK assassination and that’s always going to be an important pillar of conspiracies in America. But I wanted to talk about conspiracies people were believing in actively today."
For this first issue, Tynion wanted to use the idea that the Flat Earth movement is growing rapidly.
"They have conventions and there’s even a documentary about it on Netflix," he adds. "It’s fascinating how that plays into the ways people are distrusting science in the modern world. The idea that some abstract “somebody" is lying to you for profit and you can all agree on it. That’s what really drew my attention to this. People want to have answers. They’re bringing in their superstition to create new answers for themselves that they can grasp because they feel more true than complex versions they don’t understand."
One of the core concepts underlying the new book is that the more people believe in something, the more the real world actually reflects it.
"If enough people believe the sky is purple, then the sky would become purple," Tynion explains. "This series is a conspiracy thriller about the organization that makes certain that the truth is protected, and that the right things stay true and the wrong things don’t become true. As our lead Cole Turner enters the story, The Department of Truth has been losing for years and there are more of these conspiracy tipping points changing aspects of reality and they’re pushing back as hard as they can. And there’s a mysterious entity behind the scenes pulling all the strings."
Every issue will focus on a different conspiracy theory and even though it builds on the longer narrative, Tynion wanted comic shops to know each chapter can be a reader’s first issue of The Department of Truth. He admits that can be a feat but he's proud of what they're doing, especially working with Martin Simmonds.
"I’ve always been a sucker for those books that came out in the late ’80s and early ‘90s that utilized a very scratchy, inky style that brought in collage," he notes. "Artists like Bill Sienkiewicz and Dave McKean. I saw a series of pieces Martin did for on Instagram for Inktober, that were drawings of musicians in a style much different than the one he’d been developing. Thankfully he’d always wanted to explore more experimental style. It’s phenomenal to work with a creative partner who’s enjoying pushing himself to the limit."
The scope of this series is huge, and it was that ambition that made Simmonds want to be involved. Someone described the finished art to him as having a found footage look to it, which he finds pretty interesting.
"It was that style that James had in mind, and a style I wanted to push more, so it worked out pretty well," Simmonds tells SYFY WIRE. "It also gave me to chance to go back to using traditional media, and incorporate different approaches such as model making, photography and collage. I’ve found it rewarding to work out analog solutions for what I wanted to achieve, as opposed to relying on digital techniques and effects all the time. There are still digital elements in there, but I’m trying to use it as another artistic tool at my disposal, rather than a complete solution.
"The colors, and a contrasting lack of color, play a big part in the storytelling, and help move the narrative along. So, using brighter colors to create a feeling of greater intensity where needed, or another example would be jumping from a flashback scene with muted colors to a modern day setting with a brighter color palette to create a feeling that there’s been an obvious change in scene and time."
Now behold our exclusive peek at Image's The Department Of Truth #1 in the full gallery below.