NEW YORK – Award-winning writer/director and active philanthropist Chris Jaymes has three decades in the entertainment industry, as an actor, director, and writer, and member of the Capitol Records recording artist band, Bootstraps. His latest project, Sons of Chaos is an impressive graphic novel inspired by the Greek War of Independence. Jaymes spoke with The National Herald about the book, a dynamic retelling of the history which was introduced to him by a friend.
It should be noted that the book contains many violent scenes and is not intended for young children nor as a history of the Greek Revolution. As Jaymes notes on the Sons of Chaos website, he is not a historian and the book is not a textbook, so there is some artistic license taken. The result is a dramatic and powerful epic which will hopefully extend into a series.
TNH: When did you first learn about the Greek War of Independence?
Chris Jaymes: It was introduced to me about 10 years ago by a good friend who was obsessed with the subject matter and had been wanting to turn it into a movie for years. He knew that I was a writer and had directed some movies and was relentlessly pounding me with information. Inevitably, at the cost of my mental instability, he succeeded, and I became obsessed with stories. There weren’t many resources in English, and each one had a bias based on who did the writing, similar to most historical re-tellings. So for a couple of years I was breaking down books and timelines, trying to decipher the events, much like investigative reporting. Spent a couple months driving from one side of Greece to another, climbing mountains to get a sense of Odysseus’s cave… from Hydra to Monemvasia, then in the same day back up to Gravia and Ioannina, just to understand the visual terrain where various battles took place. Now, I have a better overall sense of Greece than my actual home.
TNH: How long did the process take from idea to published book?
CJ: From the time we started talking about the project until now, has been just about 10 years. First year was mostly talking and getting a general sense of the Revolution, which led to nearly two years of intensive research. There are too many stories to tell, so choosing a starting point and a story to focus on took longer than the actual writing. But once we locked in on and certain elements surrounding Souli and Markos Botsaris and Ali Pasha, it started taking shape. The artwork alone took nearly four years, but that’s our fault, if we wouldn’t have chosen to create a double-sized panoramic 200 page book, it would’ve gone much faster, but I’m happy we didn’t. The smaller version didn’t serve the epic scope of the story.
TNH: How did the decisions come about to tell the story in graphic novel form as opposed to other mediums?
CJ: After about a year of writing hundreds of pages of outlines and ideas, I initially wrote a screenplay that would’ve translated to a five or six hour movie, and at the time the television platform was just beginning to make larger scale shows, but it wasn’t as common. Game of Thrones was just gaining momentum at the time. And the screenplay was getting a good enough response to justify moving it forward. So, instead of spending years trying to fund a movie, or sell a TV show, we chose to develop it into a book and give it a better life. A book that is well executed can far outlive a film or television show. It’s a medium that doesn’t outdate itself, as opposed to the majority of movies and shows.
TNH: What was the most challenging aspect of creating the book?
CJ: The hardest part, honestly, was keeping it short. There were so many interesting events for so many years, leading up to the Revolution, and the decades following it, which made it challenging to introduce the subject to an audience that may know very little to nothing about it. The discipline of having to cut and edit and compress the story so it could fit into a book was my biggest challenge by far. The good news is there are numerous stories that I’ve built that are ready to tell, assuming we continue growing it into a series.
TNH: What was the most rewarding?
CJ: Watching the pages coming together, and the story coming to life was surreal after years of work. And now that it actually exists, seeing the enthusiasm from Greek Americans when they see the book is the best reward I could ask for. Being able to shed light on such a pivotal event that has been overlooked by most mainstream media, and yet, defined the world we live in feels pretty wonderful. I’m happy the book exists.
TNH: What was it like working with artist Ale Aragon?
CJ: Ale is a gift. It’s very rare to find an artist of his stature that can spend multiple years working on a single project. His diligence and the intensity of the work for such a long period is something not many humans are capable of, and what he delivered exceeded all expectations. It’s brutal and vicious, but yet tender and vulnerable. The story is layered and his work captured the nuances of the layered psychology of the characters. We faced challenges as my first language is English and his is Spanish, and we were working from different continents, and never spent a single day together while deciphering the moments of story, and somehow it worked.
TNH: Is this book the start of a series?
CJ: The intention is there, it just depends what kind of traction the book gets. We have the content and if the audience shows up we will deliver.
TNH: What are you working on next?
CJ: Throughout my life, I’ve bounced around from directing movies and TV shows, writing, and playing music. At the moment, I’m developing a cultural documentary series, sort of a NatGeo for humans. It’s a combination of an Anthony Bourdain type of show, and the reverse version of Vice, focusing on humanizing one another, as opposed to presenting conflict and polarization. In the interim, I’ve started developing another book based on a story I wrote about a boy who was born with a heart anomaly and wasn’t supposed to survive. He actually did survive and it was stimulated by his relationship with a dolphin. It’s a true story and that stimulated the creation of a non-profit called Island Dolphin Care that I’ve been working with for quite awhile. But dealing with Sons of Chaos will go on for awhile. There are events for the rest of the year and we will actually be presenting the book in Greece in November at AthensCon.
Sons of Chaos by Chris Jaymes, illustrated by Ale Aragon, is available online. More information about Sons of Chaos is also available online: sonsofchaos.com.