"The Dissident"'s new prequel imagines events that unfolded before Hans Nobel's flight from New York to Amsterdam.

"The Dissident"'s new prequel imagines events that unfolded before Hans Nobel's flight from New York to Amsterdam.

Courtesy of Jacob and Arnold Pander.

Jacob and Arnold Pander's kinetic comic books pack in the drama. Their panels are full of exciting contrasts, with doses of film noir and pop art sensibility. While comics put them on the map, they've also worked extensively in commercial art, film and video.

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Last year they launched a Kickstarter project to revive one of their most famous comics titles. It's a tech thriller about an American journalist, on the lam in a visually-rich, futuristic version of Amsterdam, after civil society in the U.S. goes into free fall. The story was published by Dark Horse Comics as "XXX." The Pander Brothers are re-releasing it online as "The Dissident" (with an extended prequel) posted a-page-a-day at their website.

The story began after the Panders’ splashy entrée onto the national scene with their late '80s artwork on Matt Wagner’s “Grendel.”

“We were drawing our first national comic book,” Jacob Pander said, “which afforded us the chance to go back to Amsterdam, where we were born, for the first time as young adults.”

The brothers are part of a highly creative family, including their dad, artist Henk Pander. Between taking in the sights and hanging around with their uncle, a former artist for World War II-era resistance newspapers, the Panders spent time in any number of Dutch bars, hatching an idea for their project.

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“This idea of a contemporary kind of Tin-Tin comic book — an international adventure, but bringing in contemporary politics,” Jacob says.

A panel from "The Dissident - Opt Out"

A panel from "The Dissident - Opt Out"

Courtesy of Jacob and Arnold Pander.

The story chronicles Hans Nobel, an American journalist who gets caught up in a political power struggle involving abuse of personal data, ultimately leading to the declaration of martial law in New York City. Nobel, on the run in the Panders’ loving rendition of Amsterdam, finds himself making a moral choice about how he will go to affect change.

The backdrop for the story is a world in which mandatory social media data walls broadcast information about every American’s exact location and activities to the government. When the Pander Brothers conceived the story in the pre-Google, pre-Snowdon era, it was strictly science fiction. Twenty years later, they found it all too plausible.

“A lot of times, writing this stuff,” Jacob said, “you’re writing something, and then you walk out the door and there it is. I was just listening to a report not long ago about the coup attempt in Turkey and how [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan was against social media until he realized how it could be used to track down protestors. And they were doing random stops, asking people to open their cellphones. If they had live-tweeted anti-government imagery, they were arrested right there.”

Jacob and Arnold Pander's revival of "XXX" envisions a prequel, colors the entire original black-and-white series, and restores the title they originally envisioned: "The Dissident".

Jacob and Arnold Pander's revival of "XXX" envisions a prequel, colors the entire original black-and-white series, and restores the title they originally envisioned: "The Dissident".

Courtesy of Jacob and Arnold Pander.

“Privacy is suddenly not really an issue," Arnold Pander added. "I was in a conversation at a party and this woman asked me, ‘Is privacy really important?’ The question just floored me. I was not even sure how to answer it.”

The Panders talked to us about how their visual style has evolved since the story was first published. Take a listen, and go check it out. The drops for “The Dissident - Opt Out” began Dec. 31, so if you go see it now, you can get a sense of how the story is picking up.

The Panders are hoping to publish the comic in print this year, adding full color to what was originally a black-and-white series.

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