Don’t let the beaches and bikinis fool you. Brazil is a bloody land full of ghosts. There is an indigenous South American legend that tells of two majestic birds. The condor, bird of intuition, spirit and nature; and the eagle, bird of science, technology and progress. According to the myth, the eagle has flown high and the condor low over the past 500 years. It has been a period of conflict and bloodshed, marked by the discovery and conquest of the New World. A new cycle of 500 years is prophesied, during which the condor will rise again to fly together with the eagle in harmony. Some believe we have just entered this new era, an age of peace.

It is no coincidence that this comic book was made in Sao Paulo, though it was born many years earlier in Los Angeles, another sprawling city of the New World. In 2006, late one night by Venice Beach, Amit wrote the poem that begins, “What if in one thousand eyes looking down at me from the darkness, is not one heart of light?” I remember the day I read it I felt it was an astonishing poem. I had just visited the rooftop where Jim Morrison slept and wrote poetry in the 1960s, and I made a subliminal connection between the two. It was a naked, surreal and haunted poem. I had to wait over 6 years and travel all the way down to Brazil to find the opportunity to publish it.

I first met Claudio Ellovitch at his comic book store in downtown Sao Paulo. We talked about ayahuasca and dreams. Almost immediately, intuitively, I knew we would work on something creative together. It was through Claudio that I met so many amazing underground Brazilian artists with a taste for horror and psychedelia. Equally important for me was the location of his store. To get there I would take the train to Se station, exit at the cathedral and walk through the seedy underbelly of Sao Paulo. The historic city center was full of lunatics, whores, junkies and transvestites living in and around the beautiful abandoned buildings. It was on my walks to Claudio’s store that I began to picture a home for Amit’s words. Not too different, in fact, from the boardwalk at Venice beach where they were born. It wasn’t long before I asked Claudio to help me work on the comic book that you now hold in your hands.

Rodolfo Zalla was my first and only choice for artist. The godfather of horror comics in Brazil and a close friend of Claudio’s, we visited him in his apartment and asked him if he would be interested in pushing the boundaries of an art form he had long since mastered. At the age of 81, without hesitation, he said yes. The rest is history. The marriage of Rodolfo’s drawings and Amit’s words far exceeded my imagination of what it could be. I have never seen a comic book like this one before. Maybe if, in some alternate reality, William Blake teamed up with Hanna-Barbera, this is the comic book they would make together. In this reality, it took the hands of two great artists and the help of my friend Claudio to make THTRU.

It was a truly profound experience to bring this project to light. I swear there is a portal that exists between North and South America connecting the New World in mysterious ways. Some kind of wormhole or funhouse mirror lying across the equator. Or maybe it is a spell that hangs over the two continents and joins them. I felt it many times during this project, like a haunting. In fact, I feel its presence strongly in this comic book. Amit’s words have an inexplicable echo to them and Rodolfo’s drawings give me the strangest sensation of time travel. Sometimes I imagine I am reading these pages off the wall of a cave by the flickering light of a fire; prehistoric man’s nightmare vision of the New World. One thing is for sure, this is not your typical comic book story.

I remember we were once at New England Comics in Cambridge together and Amit asked the shopkeeper if he could recommend a “metaphysical comic book” to him. He showed us a few titles but none of them really hit home. Either image and word connected too directly or too abstractly, without alchemy. The word metaphysical literally means “beyond the physical.” I have always taken it to mean beyond the body, beyond story and beyond what can be seen. In other words, in the realm of the spirit. By that definition, I believe this is a metaphysical comic book, and I highly recommend it to you.

Stephen Cheng