Article by Steve Sunu
This week, Radical Publishing releases the final chapter in Rick Remender’s newest creator-owned crime epic, “The Last Days of American Crime.” Centering around career criminal Graham Bricke, “Last Days” takes place in an America poised to eliminate crime by broadcasting a signal that makes it impossible for Americans to do anything illegal. At the same time, the government intends to issue plastic charge cards that replace paper currency. Unfortunately for the government, the news of the signal leaked, and all unsavory Americans are getting their dream crimes done with a full week to go before the broadcast. Now Graham, along with his two-man crew of weapons expert Kevin and computer hacker Shelby, must pull off the final great heist in the history of American crime: steal a station that charges the new currency cards and hack it to get unlimited funds in this brave new world of no crime. The final issue contains the crux of the heist, taking place the day before the broadcast goes live.
Remender’s “Last Days” may be wrapping this week, but it’s been a long time coming. According to the creator, the initial ideas for the series began about eight years ago. “It actually came to me around 2002,” the writer told CBR News. “It was a little bit after 9/11 and everyone was still in a state of shock. There were a number of things that were alarming to me in regards to how much personal liberties we were willing to give up for the artificial sense of security that came with the government having a tighter hold on you, tapping your phone calls, all of these things that felt like Big Brother was no longer just an imaginary construct, but in fact was going to be a real world problem in America.
“I was sitting around one afternoon thinking about this stuff, I was watching a Fleischer Superman cartoon and some mad doctor had a mind control ray and I got to thinking, what if mind control was actually something the government had devised? What if they had figured out broadcasts that could neurally inhibit people from doing things? That’s pretty interesting because then the government could take that next logical step in controlling us for our own good, which is to make it impossible for us to do anything illegal.”
As the writer continued his process, the seeds of “Last Days” began to take shape, both in terms of the world and the story. “I started writing down notes about this, just as an idea for something I was developing later on because I liked the idea of a government implementing a mind control device that was the natural next step of the Big Brother 1984 line of thought,” he said. “I came up with a world where after 9/11, the attacks didn’t stop, but there were a number of successful dirty bomb attacks. It was a world a hair away from our own where all these things we were afraid would happen actually did happen and the government devised this mind control ray that they were going to implement and stop everybody from being able to do anything illegal.
“From there, I was initially going to write a story about a militia team that were going to go out and try to blow up some towers and it just didn’t really excite me,” Remender continued. “I felt like I had a really high concept, a really great world stage and there were some things I wanted to say in that world, but that’s when the heist idea fell together. If this thing was announced, if the story broke and people discovered they had only a few more weeks to commit any crime, that’s a pretty interesting situation for a safecracker, for someone who’s there to get a score.
“The idea came to me in another line of thought where I had read some articles about how the governments would like to naturally transfer funds to electronic funds, so we all just have plastic cards that we use. Every transaction is trackable and every dollar can be taxed and everything is legitimate and above board. I came up with this idea where the government at the same time, the next logical step was to no longer honor paper currency, but to make this transition where everyone gets their own fiduciary debit card and all the money they make goes onto that card so that we no longer deal in paper money. That also opened up a pretty fun concept in that what these guys would actually be out to steal would be one of the machines that actually charges the cards. Basically, you have a box that could charge unlimited amounts of currency. It was basically not only do you have a two week window and the country’s going crazy the week of the crime, but if you succeed, you’ll have unlimited money for life.”
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