Cyberpunk is here to stay. It began as a genre largely defined by William Gibson but has largely come true. We’re living in a world where many of the tropes have become part of everyday life. Class and economic divide, a world united by the internet, rampant corporate power, an apocalyptic sense of dystopia as our cities look like Blade Runner. Gibson has two sayings that define Cyberpunk: “The street finds its own uses for things,” and “the future’s already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.”
Zach Mortensen’s cult indie comic series The Gatecrashers: A Night of Gatecrashing is a prime example of Cyberpunk. It’s punk, political, uncompromising and atmospheric.
Palomar City is a future urban sprawl of haves and have-nots, divided by gates into zones seething with class tension. The only people who can freely travel between the gates are freelance ambulance drivers, nicknamed “gatecrashers”. It’s a thankless job, and gatecrasher Hex Spenser often ends up caught between criminals, politicians, moguls. She just wants is to do her job, pay her rent and not get killed. And that’s on a good day. There aren’t many good days.
A huge, sprawling cast of characters from up and down the social hierarchy of Palomar City populate the series. They have their plans, agendas, schemes that threaten the city and Hex keeps running afoul of them.
Putting the “Punk” Back Into Cyberpunk
Maybe it’s because I know Zach Mortensen a bit, but The Gatecrashers has a strong punkish New York City vibe. Zach is a filmmaker who lives in the Lower East Side and Gatecrashers: A Night of Gatecrashing has the DIY vibe of the Downtown New York art and literature scene. The series doesn’t indulge in power fantasies. Nobody is a conquering hero who saves the day. Hex Spenser barely knows or cares about the conspiracies, crimes and schemes that threaten the city. Sometimes she has to do something not so legal to get through the day, but that’s the price for survival. Everyone in Palomar City has to do what they gotta do.
The different artists, Sutu, James Cordatto, bring a rough, underground ‘zine feel to the series that gives it a charm slicker art would dull. When I visited Zach’s table at New York Comic Con, I saw hardcore fans show up to buy the latest graphic novel collections. This series is like that cool cult series that you didn’t know about but should.