When one thinks of superheroes, one generally thinks of super strength, super speed or super mind controlling powers that are out of the ordinary for the average person. But Gerry Kissell is changing the way we think of superheroes with the launch of his graphic novel, Vindicated Inc.
The comic features a Delta Forces operator named John Russell who loses both of his legs below the knees in an ambush. Fitted with prosthetic legs, Russell excels with using his new limbs and anticipates returning to his unit, but is red flagged for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Facing medical discharge, Russell dons his combat armor and ballistic mask and takes his frustration out on the seedy underworld of the city.
“I have a tremendous love for wounded vets. I am so inspired by them and in awe of them,” Kissell, the artist and creator of Vindicated Inc. told O&P Business News. “When I saw that modern prosthetics were good enough that soldiers who lost limbs in combat were able to return to their units, it just left me amazed.”
While driving to drop off the rent, Kissell had an idea for a comic strip, inspired by the humor he has seen with disabled veterans. As he continued to ponder the idea, the image of John Russell materialized.
“Suddenly this guy appeared in my head, a soldier who was angry and frustrated and wanted to release some of the anger, but because he is a decent man, he chooses criminals,” Kissell said.
By the time he returned to his apartment he had the entire story of Vindicated in his head, with inspiration derived from the world in which disabled veterans live. Kissell’s closest friend, Ernesto Haibi, a combat veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an IED went off next to his Stryker, exacerbating his PTSD, has been a major inspiration to the story and helped him develop the first script of Vindicated Inc. along with army veteran Robert McCall.
“A lot of the problems Vindicated suffers from in the book came from my experiences with Ernie,” Kissell said. “We decided early on that PTSD needs to play a major part of this because not enough people know what it is or understand it.”
Future of Vindicated Inc.
From its inception, Kissell knew Vindicated Inc. was meant for something more than just a comic.
“Right from the beginning, I saw Vindicated Inc. as a film,” he said. “I have worked on films and been a filmmaker, and I had planned initially to do it as a live action web series that would go along with the comics. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it as a series or a film.”
He finally made the decision to pursue a film after meeting Kurt Yaeger, who is known for his role on the television show Sons of Anarchy, with the idea that Yaeger would play John Russell.
“Kurt responded to what I wanted to do with the character and the story. He got what I was doing and he felt the same way,” Kissell said. “Once I talked to Kurt, I knew I wanted to go for a film, with our eyes also on an ongoing series. We have 4 years of plots already worked out. The Vindicated universe gets bigger and bigger with each story as you learn there are government people working from the shadows, trying to pull Vindicated’s strings.”
Along with Yaeger, bestselling novelist and songwriter Shane Moore joined the team as the writer of the graphic novel. A decorated retired police detective with PTSD, Moore was brought on the project after Kissell read his end-of-days, rapture-based thriller, The Apocalypse of Enoch, and discovered his realistic writing style fit perfectly into what he wanted for Vindicated Inc.
“The story is not just one of action, but one of revelation. We will show the foggy veil of PTSD through the eyes of the character that lives it,” Moore said. “I want to send the message that a disabled person/veteran is only as disabled as they want to be. They can find “vindication” if they work for it.” — by Casey Murphy
Disclosure: Kissell is the creator of Vindicated Inc. Moore is the writer for Vindicated Inc.