Publisher Black Mask is no stranger to provocative topics, from teen gun violence to police-sanctioned anti-black racism, but cofounder Matteo Pizzolo, artist Amancay Nahuelpan and colorist Tyler Boss may have hit peak firebrand status with Calexit, their take on Californian secession following the election of a recognizably caustic, bigoted president. While the series was in the works before November, Pizzolo, Nahuelpan and Boss have leaned into the real-world parallels of their sci-fi-influenced speculative fiction, even managing to hit Brietbart’s ever-outraged front page.
With one issue on shelves, Paste has an exclusive look at the “faction-specific” variant covers—available only on tour within the geographic zones designated in the book—and commentary about designer Robert Anthony Jr.’s flag concepts and Calexit’s factional divisions from Anthony Jr. and Pizzolo.
Symbolism and iconography are critical to any political movement, government or military force, and so we set out to design emblems and flags for each faction in Calexit.
The flags were designed principally for story purposes, but we’re also creating a set of limited edition #1 covers featuring them. Each cover will only be available in shops where that faction is geographically located, so only shops within Mulholland Resistance territory will have the MR cover, while shops in Sovereign Citizens territory will have the SCC cover, etc.
Mulholland Resistance is an insurgent group fighting back against the occupying forces of U.S. Homeland Security. MR originally formed in the Mulholland hills north of Hollywood, where caverns were expanded by the U.S. military following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. MR has retained its locally inspired name even as its movement spreads throughout the occupied zones of California.
In terms of the designing, obviously you’ve got the bear from the Bear Flag Revolt right here, but fiercer than the bear we’ve come to know from the popular California Republic flag. That flag is from a time when California seceded from Mexico, so the bear harkens back to California’s revolutionary spirit from a time before it was even a part of the U.S.A. We felt the ferocious bear is intrinsic to the DNA of California’s rebel spirit, and so an extremist rebel group like the Mulholland Resistance would take a great deal of inspiration from it.
The inclusion of assault rifles represents their willingness to engage in armed struggle, inspired by the flags of groups like FARC and Red Army Faction; the red star was also inspired by RAF and the black background represents the group’s black bloc/antifa beginnings.
Sovereign Citizens Coalition is one of the first factions to break off in the history behind Calexit. The initial sequence of events is that the U.S. President passes an executive order to deport all immigrants, the California government in Sacramento refuses to enforce the law and declares California a sanctuary state and then a set of suburban, rural and exurb regions rebel against Sacramento, declaring themselves the Sovereign Citizens Coalition and cut off water and agriculture from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Contrasting the ferocity of the Mulholland Resistance, SCC’s emblem is colder and more intimidating. They don’t need to engage in armed struggle, they control their own resource-rich land and they can exert their will on others simply by standing firm.
The design of the SCC emblem is inspired by various nativist groups, who tend to use stark graphic lines that signify strength and conviction. The S is formed by the two C’s, which conveys that each citizen’s sovereignty is derived by the force of their own wills and dedication to the coalition.
When the SCC forms and cuts off resources to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Sister Cities Alliance forms. Initially running from Chula Vista to Seattle, the PSCSA runs supply lines into Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as an underground railroad to sneak immigrants out. When Vancouver and, most crucially, Tijuana, join the PCSCA, the president feels he can no longer tolerate what is becoming an international conflict and decides he must invade California.
The emblem itself repurposes the Crescent and Star into an S. The Crescent and Star are often considered an Islamic symbol, although it goes back to antiquity. In this case we utilized it to represent the Moslem immigrants who are among the first to be targeted under the president’s executive order on immigration, and also as a nod to The Battle of Algiers which was very influential on Calexit.
The Bunkerville Militia is an armed resistance group formed in solidarity with the SCC in direct opposition to the Mulholland Resistance. While the Federal Government’s Homeland Security forces are focused on holding the cities, executing counter-insurgency operations and coercing local authorities to implement immigration law, TBM engages in aggressive armed strikes on Mulholland Resistance and PCSCA positions.
The TBM design merges traditional American patriotism with the trappings of fascism, with the assault rifle demonstrating TBM’s fearlessness in using deadly means to achieve their ends. The violent image wrapped in olive branches denotes TBM’s mantra of peace through militancy.
The Homeland Occupation flag is used by Homeland Security in rebel cities the U.S. government is holding with an occupying force. The single star held in place by red stripes indicates the federal government’s assertion that California remains a state under its control.