Interview with creator and publisher Carl Parker
By: Sheena C. Howard, 10-26-2020
1. You have had your hands in a lot of creative projects over the years. Can you tell us a bit about yourself as well as your latest comic book series?
Like a lot of young people, I originally spent my early years following the trends and expectations of normal society. Went to university near Washington D.C and bounced around half a dozen programs from computer science to psychology and ended up as a philosophy major with a minor in linguistics.
Not a whole lot of employment potential directly related to those fields, so mostly made a living in IT, working for a range of large and small companies. From fixing printers and laptops to installing networks, the world was wide open if you had some skills in electronic communications.
That said, it wasn’t very fulfilling and after 9/11 life in the US changed a little. I think we all changed a little.
While working with friends and family wasn’t all that bad, there had to be more to life. In a fit of personal exploration, my mixed Asian-American background led me to Western China for five years, where I explored some of the world’s highest mountains and lowest deserts. It was like travelling back 600 years in human history…living with nomads and experiencing cultures dating back thousands of years. Some villages had never met a foreigner before, or even seen a map.
ADVMoto Magazine and Far-Rider Comics became a medium for me to share some fundamental lessons about self-empowerment and humanity. First and foremost, the number one obstacle which keeps us from being happy is ourselves. Becoming who you want to be, experiencing what you want to experience, is largely a decision you make. It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be. The struggles, tragedies and triumphs are where we both refine and define ourselves as individuals.
Second, humanity is good. Between mainstream and social media, we are metaphorically drowning in fundamentally overblown bad news about our neighbors. To say humanity is without ugliness is naive, but we ultimately wouldn’t be here today unless it was by-in-large good…filled with love for family, friends and even strangers.
These are the core messages of Far-Rider, which follows the story of Scott, a young man in his 20’s who’s life goes sideways and tries to find direction and meaning in the world around him.
2. Why a motorcycle adventure story? Is this story personal for you?
Adventure opened up to me through motorcycles and travel. Motorcycles are an amazing way to explore the world both near and far. Not only are they incredibly economical, the immersion you feel when riding does not happen when driving a car. If it’s cold, you’re cold. If it’s wet, you’re wet, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay — it’s a way of feeling alive. Riding a motorcycle is also more like a combination of dancing and flying, which is hard to explain, but anyone who rides knows what I’m talking about.
The willingness to endure some discomfort for the amazingly visceral experience of riding creates a bond between riders that I haven’t seen in any other industry, hobby or sport. I once spoke with a combat veteran about riding and he brought up an interesting point. He said if he had to choose a group of people to get into a firefight, they would be riders. I asked him why. He paused for a second and noted, “I think it’s because riders don’t have the same fear of death as other people…and that makes a difference.”
Second, people all around the planet are more receptive to you on a motorcycle. This is especially true in economically disadvantaged parts of the world. The time I spent riding in the Himlayan mountains was on small 150cc motorcycles which could only travel about 20mph over passes at 15,000+ feet. Locals knew you experienced many of the same hardships and tended to treat you like family. They want to make you comfortable and give you a special experience, even at their own cost.
Many adventure riders try to repay this generosity and hospitality in money, but are surprised when hosts simply won’t accept it. This creates perhaps the biggest paradox of overland travel: Why do people who have the least, give the most?
People who don’t have a lot of money or education aren’t “poor” in the human sense. In many ways it’s quite the opposite. They derive happiness from aspects of life that don’t center on bigger TV’s or faster cars. Their happiness comes from each other, and the most important thing you can be in this world is a good person.
Far-Rider is a deeply personal story on many levels — not only because of lessons learned, but because I want people to be happy and realize it doesn’t come without some difficulty and loss. Foregoing familiarity and placing yourself in totally new situations with uncertain outcomes isn’t only for riding motorcycles to new places. Anyone who has a family, starts a business or faces down an illness or disability are all adventurers to me…brothers and sisters of self-overcoming.
3. What do you think makes this story different from other comic book story ideas?
A couple of differences come to mind. First is the topic. I’ve never heard of, or can find, a comic story which is both motorcycle adventure based and not fantasy, action or science fiction. I call it a “non-fiction, fiction.”
Having published ADVMoto Magazine for 10 years now, it’s clear a lot of adventure content is non-fiction, but the depths of adventure experiences are perfect for a fictional story.
To be clear, there’s plenty of motorcycles in comics and animation but mostly used as exciting or iconic means of transportation for the characters. Akira, Batman, Ghost Rider all have really cool bikes, but they come across more as action accessories. RideBack is one of my favorites (and I really want one) but still more in the sci-fi realm..
When you’re travelling the world by motorcycle, the bike becomes a friend and companion…kind of like a horse. It develops a personality, has unexpected problems and becomes an integral part of the adventure. When it’s broken, you’re broken and when it’s humming along you’re humming along.
I love fantasy and science fiction, but don’t believe you need aliens, superpowers or planet eating robots to tell a good story. The most important parts of any story are when we as viewers/readers can say “Hey, that’s me!” The story needs to take us there, make us ponder the situation and want to know the outcome.
Second is the social dilemma. Youth get a bad wrap these days. They get called lazy, unmotivated, directionless and naive. While sometimes this may be true, it also feels unfair and exaggerated. I’ve heard mainstream news say millennials “don’t love freedom anymore” and are “killing” one indsutry or another. Actually most of the time it’s the industry’s failure to evolve their product or service to a changing market. Who’s the customer here?
Modern times with COVID, the economy and climate are having a very real psychosocial impact on today’s youth. Regardless of what you think about these topics politically, if you’re young and looking at this messed up landscape you’ve got to be wondering, “Where will I end up in all this and what choices do I have?”
Far-Rider points at this and wants people to ask “Where do I want to go? Who do I want to become?” Truthfully, these are valid questions at any stage of life, but I think being young gives us the flexibility to take more chances and be more irrational about it.
4. Why did you choose the medium of comics to tell this story?
I’ve always loved visual arts, storytelling and graphic design. Aside from several years of photo and cover art for ADVMoto Magazine, in 2007 I released the film The Return: Riding Western China which was the second ever solo ridden and produced film about adventure motorcycle travel. To fill in moments not captured on tape, I used illustrations done both by myself and a good friend in China. Samurai Jack, by Genndy Tartakovsky has been a visual inspiration since seeing the series. His rich colors, eclectic sense of musical scoring and truly cinematic approach to storytelling are all very appealing to me creatively and reflected in The Return…albeit in a rather amateur way.
Comics seemed a natural, although previously unexplored, medium for me amidst the regular web and print publishing duties of ADVMoto. It’s a new personal adventure laid against the backdrop of many challenges. Keeping print relevant in the tsunami of digital media is a constant battle, but one worth fighting. Far-Rider No.1 will be in print and we hope to continue that.
Moreover, creative people also need to try different types of artistic expression from time to time. I won’t lie, writing Far-Rider was very difficult at the beginning, and it still is. Some inspiration comes from personal experience, and some comes from the recent passing of my father. Thanks to the creative help of artist Deniz Gulmez, I’ve become so immersed in the story that writing can be emotionally taxing at moments. Deniz is a true artist and adds subtle dimensions to the storytelling I don’t include in the script.
Anyway you slice it, comics strike an amazing balance between visual and textual storytelling. Wrapping all of this in a family friendly, adventure burrito has sent me to the moon!
5. What is your ultimate goal for Far-Rider Moto Adventures?
Practically speaking we want to do at least three books for the Far-Rider series based on Scott. I’d like to do another series based on the life of Lily, the central strong female character in the story as a spin-off but want to find a female writer for that. We also want to take the story to Comic Con in the US and share it with everyone!
Ultimately I want Far-Rider to be about hope, determination, overcoming and growth. And this is not just for people who want to ride motorcycles — but for everyone. The situations may be different, but the lessons are the same. You have “superpowers” but not the laser beam, levitating, flying around the planet type. If you work hard to be a good mother, to me, you’re Wonder Woman.
But that’s the love of comics right? Identifying with characters who have the powers, superhuman or not, to do the things we wish we could do. Stop evil, save the galaxy, slay psionic monsters with magical swords, explore the universe….whatever you want. That’s the beauty of comics…endless inspiration brought to you in tiny frames.
Most importantly, I want people to consider the idea of adventure and the role it can play in everyday experiences for the sake of personal happiness. Adventure is confusion and clarity. Depth and heights. Pain and pleasure. Joy and sorrow.
Adventure is life. Adventure is you.
6. Where can people find this series?
A PDF of the Far-rider comic book story, background and its creators is here.
You can find us on Instagram here.
The Far-Rider Trailer can be found here.
The ADV Moto digital magazine page is here.