A.L.Ex Studios is the Los Angeles-based creator of MANIA, a sci-fi/superhero comic book series inspired by the idea that neuroses, seen in a different light, can be a source of power. This first franchise for the studio touches on the issues of augmented reality, mental illness, government authority and societal conditioning.
MANIA is set in the not-too-distant future. A massive earthquake has broken Los Angeles away from the California mainland. The resulting metropolitan island, no longer under government jurisdiction, is owned and run by a private corporation and is renamed New Renard. For the betterment of its insular society, all of its residents are implanted with the augmented reality chip, ARC, which functions to “optimize life” by automating body chemistry in order to relieve stress and promote happiness. Crime is reduced by 90% and the city is viewed as the technological “beacon of advancement,” but how benevolent is Fahrenheit Corporation, the enterprise at the helm of New Renard? ARC’s technology trips a defense mechanism in the bodies of some denizens that converts underlying mental illness into superpowers – a consequence that Farhrenheit Corp did not intend.
Jeremy Lasman, one of the creators, describes MANIA as a clash between technology and psychology that poses the question “what if superpowers arose from mental illness?”
An article posted on Medium by L.N. Conliff, another one of its creators states: “At the forefront of MANIA is the burgeoning discussion around mental health. A.L.Ex Studios chose to make mental health the focal point of the story because of the negativity and stigma surrounding that specific battle…Diverse characters can’t only be headlines. To truly normalize diversity, unique and different characters must make up the entire universe of a comic. Diversity flourishes when it permeates every aspect of the world, not just the central characters. For this reason, MANIA doesn’t simply address one form of diversity, but many at once. The struggles of race, gender, and economics all intersect in the journeys of MANIA’s cast. MANIA is a story where individuality fights against conformity, the diversity of the characters in MANIA is a celebration of that individuality.”
Jeremy credits the A.L.Ex Studios team and their perspective on “mindful entertainment” for making MANIA special. As he states, “we are taking an original psychologically grounded approach to how super powers would manifest. Commenting on a lot of topical themes currently happening in society. It blurs the line between entertainment and art. Mindful Entertainment.” He feels indie studios like A.L.Ex (Art and Learning Expedition) “have more leeway for representing diversity, more so than the bigger name brands,” and he’s hoping A.L.Ex Studios’ involvement in the larger conversation about neurodiversity helps to end the stigma of mental illness by engendering a new zeitgeist: “different is powerful.”
While the first two issues were self-funded, the team behind MANIA is hoping for a last-minute surge to their Kickstarter campaign for Issue 003. Funds will go to print and ship the issue, make more merchandise, pay the artists, and cover some administrative fees.
A.L.Ex Studios is on an epic mission to broaden the diversity conversation, and Oodon wishes them a ton of success! Please check out their Kickstarter campaign and offer your support.