Ales Kot writes comics, amongst other things. His first graphic novel, Wild Children with Riley Rossmo, was published by Image Comics last year. He quickly followed this with Change with Morgan Jeske, also at Image. The collected edition was just released by Image last week.
Now he’s writing the superhero series Suicide Squad for DC and his creator owned espionage comic Zero for Image.
Guernica: How, after seeding that initial idea in their minds, did he end up trapping them—if that’s what happened—in the jungle?
Julia Scheeres: Here’s the key thing: Everyone who went to Jonestown thought they could leave at any time if they didn’t like it. But once they arrived, via a two-day river boat trip, Jones confiscated their money and passports. He told them that if they wanted to go back to the United States, they could swim back: he wasn’t paying their airfare. I believe his plan all along was to sequester them in an isolated spot and kill them. Most Peoples Temple members arrived in Jonestown in the summer of 1977, and he introduced the notion of “revolutionary suicide” soon after. They were shocked; they’d immigrated to Jonestown seeking a better life for themselves and their children only to discover their pastor was intent on killing them. One of the most heartbreaking things I discovered in my research was dozens of notes to Jones from residents begging him to let them return to California. One mother said her daughter was having nightmares after listening to debates on the best way to kill the one thousand residents of Jonestown, and that she didn’t know how to convince her daughter that “death was a good thing.” Many offered to send down their paychecks for the rest of their lives if he’d let them go. He couldn’t of course; they would have let the world know that he’d gone completely mad.
I think the folks who joined Jones’s church did so because they truly believed in his stated ideals of racial equality and social justice. That’s why he was able to convince one thousand of them to immigrate to the jungle of Guyana. Although history has stigmatized Jonestown residents as the people who “drank the Kool-aid,” I’d argue that they were noble idealists. Furthermore, they were murdered. They didn’t willingly drink poison—they were forced to do so at gunpoint. They sought the ideal, only to have their leader horribly betray them.
Vice’s Claire Evans just got to check out the largest known collection of OMNI related ephemera in the world and shares some interesting news (emphasis mine, since I almost missed this):
OMNI was bankrolled by a fountain of cash generated by Penthouse. And by bankrolled, I mean bankrolled: the most shocking thing I found in Jeremy’s filing cabinets wasn’t the Penthouse negatives but stacks of magazines annotated with invoices detailing how much each contributor was paid. For the issue dated November 1989, Guccione’s company, General Media Incorporated, spent $16,843.65 on illustrations – solar sails, airbrushed mazes, a silhouette of Neptune pressed up against an inky sky. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that this sum eclipses the entire monthly operating budgets of many modern magazines.
This is because Bob loved art. His mansions in Manhattan and on the Hudson river were both filled with old masters and paintings by the hundreds of artists he tapped to illustrate OMNI and Penthouse. “Design was everything for Bob,” Jane said. No matter if they were selecting pictorials for Penthouse or laying out the sleek, futuristic pages of OMNI, it was the same. “I knew in the end, we would thinking about that vertical, that horizontal, we’d be thinking about that perfect placement, we’d be thinking about design, color, light.” When Guccione’s empire crumbled – General Media went bankrupt in 2003 – his personal assets were liquidated to pay off debts. The Van Goghs, Modiglianis, Picassos, and Renoirs went to the auction house; the rest of the artworks – sexy pictures and science fiction landscapes alike – were scattered to the wind. […]
OMNI is returning with a vengeance. An exhibition of its art is in the works, some of which I saw: original lithographs and paintings from the magazine, artworks that Jeremy et al. have been tracking down at huge cost. The warehouse now stashes 53 surrealistic oils and fantasy landscapes and contains works by Rafal Olbinski, Robert Kittila, Jon Berkey, Tsuneo Sanda, and Bruce Jensen. Coming up: a book of this collected artwork, released by Powerhouse Books; a panel at the Toronto Fan Expo; and eventually booths at conventions around the country.
I bought a stash of OMNI magazines on eBay a couple years ago and it was totally worth it. But you can read scans online for free at Archive.org. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of issues with William Gibson stories and here’s the famous issue seen above, with an H.R. Giger cover and an interview with Future Shock author Alvin Toffler conducted by Guccione, a “Computer Lib” article by Ted “Xanadu” Nelson, John Lily on dolphins, fiction by Greg Bear and more.