THE HOLY NUMBERS – Tommie Kelly interviewed by Gar Shanley.

If you know of ICN dictator Tommie Kelly’s comic strip work then chances are you’re most familiar with his online creations Road Crew and Something Wonderful. I thought that stuff was grand but for me Tommie’s real talent as a comics storyteller is found in From Rags to Rockstars – the less frivolous further adventures of Road Crew’s central character Jim Soundman. From Rags to Rockstars is fifty plus pages of thoughtful narrative with properly developed characters and clear and lovely to behold sequential storytelling. I remember being impressed when I bought it. I was curious to see what would come next. Well nothing did for a while but now comes The Holy Numbers.

The Holy Numbers is the tale of a new-age cult founded by an enigmatic and seemingly deceased individual called Ravensadale. The members of the cult continue to spread the word after Ravensdale’s death and the movement grows to become Ireland’s leading religion. This ambitious tale houses many of Tommie’s preoccupations. Getting to know Tommie, I realise he’s the type of guy who contemplates such matters as the infinite nature of the Universe and the purpose and possibilities of existence (and not in a “I am like sew tewtelly stewned” way). This thinking lark has led Tommie into fortean and New Thought territory and it is this territory that has informed The Holy Numbers. Combine these elements with political machinations and an unfolding mystery and you have a very original comic strip concoction.

As if that wasn’t enough, Tommie has also come up with a very novel way to present the story online. The site the comic appears on is presented as if it is the website of the Holy Numbers cult. There are sections containing blog posts by the characters as well as meditation mp3s and video pieces concerning astronomy. As Tommie says himself: “One of the ideas I have is to make the blog section of the comic part of the story, in the same way that the text pieces at the end of each issue of Watchmen worked. I also have the characters set up as users so that they can answer comments and do there own blogs posts or whatever.”

I asked Tommie a few questions. Our chat went something like this…

If I was a clever man and had a target audience than
 it would be you or me or those who love comics but
couldn’t give two shites about X-men Vs Avengers.

Gar: Doing tie-in blogposts for the characters might help you better develop and understand the characters but do you worry you might tire yourself out or give yourself overkill with the project?

Tommie: John Robbins pointed out that this might be an easy way to be quite lazy with the storytelling in the comic too, which is also a valid point but my idea is not just to do pieces about the characters or talking about them. There will be that, but I am also talking about doing posts about unexplained stuff like the black eyed kids, indigo children, ghosts, along with stuff on Zen, New Age thought, etc. The idea is that The Holy Numbers are real and this is their blog. What would they be blogging about? So stuff about Rupert Sheldrake, Graham Hancock or Lynne McTaggart’s work would fit in nicely. Its a huge area of interest for me and allows me to blog about these things while keeping somewhat of a distance.

Rupert Sheldrake talks about a morphic field that we are all connected to. He has done experiments in telepathy and got some great results. His big one was “Dogs who know when their owners are coming home” and “The sense of being Stared at” Good stuff. Graham Hancock, is like Robert Buoval and close to the ancient aliens camp but has some decent ideas about a realistic timeline for earth’s evolution. Again he is a bit out there, though not quite David Icke. Lynne McTaggart wrote a book called The Field, which is a quite common sense approach to what quantum physics actually says about spirituality. A very Interesting read. Even Arthur C. Clarke liked it.

The idea is that The Holy Numbers
are real and this is their blog.

I also want to do this because comic images alone never register with google. Having articles related to the comic with genuine content would get picked up.

Gar: When I saw the previews, I was a bit worried this Ravensdale thing was going to be an occult detective or something familiar but that’s not the case at all.

Tommie: Well it kind of was originally but, like you, I sort of felt..meh. I knew there was something better at the back of my skull trying to get out so I just kept going with it and it developed. It also massively helped that CHEW is the comic I was trying to do originally, unknown to myself, and when I realised that I knew I had to step up my game.

Gar: The fact that this interests me means you might actually be in trouble. My taste isn’t exactly mainstream.

Tommie: No it’s a hell of a good sign. I have precious little interest in American comics these days except for Chew and Powers and that’s mostly because of the art (although if the story was shitty I don’t think I’d be reading them). If I was a clever man and had a target audience than it would be you or me or those who love comics but couldn’t give two shites about X-men Vs Avengers.

Gar: So, where does the story go from here? Do you have it all mapped out or are you letting the story lead you and tell itself? Or is your route ahead somewhere between these two approaches?

Tommie: I knew going into this what the beginning, the middle and the last scene were. Having said that I have absolutely no qualms about things changing if the characters decide that they have to do something else. With any of my comics I always have an overall idea of what is going to happen but keep it loose enough so that I can still be surprised and the story can tell itself as it wants to. Without giving anything away, one character in particular has already changed his life path a bit and I am excited about what he/she/it is going to do and how everyone else will react.

I think the readers will be quite surprised by what I have in store for them. Everything is very far from what it seems.

…and that was where our chat concluded. I’m curious to see where all this goes in the capable hands of comic strip storyteller Tommie Kelly.

Read The Holy Numbers here:

Or download a PDF