Numbers Not News Are The Blindside Of Banking

 

by Vince Brusio

What is fake news? What is a stock market rally? What is the sum total of a bank’s liquid assets? All questions which can be answered. All answers which can be questioned. Who do you trust to give you the right answer? In Blackbox Comics’ latest offering I.T.: The Secret World of Banking #1 (JAN171391), Evan Adonis is the go-to guy that will show you the detour to consider when you jump down any financial rabbit hole. His is a path that seeks the truth, despite the headlines you’ll hear on any network news station. In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, I.T. creator Dimitri and writer Scott McDaniel explain the farce behind fortified forces of financing.

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Vince Brusio: Your book is to show the internal bleeding within modern banking. The corruption. The bribery. The underbelly of the beast. Why? What makes you want to open this closet full of skeletons? Do you have first-hand knowledge of what goes on in these financial fun houses?

Scott McDaniel:The power of finance is arguably the most powerful force in human society.  Directed for good, it creates the conditions under which culture, industry, technology and education flourish, and where men walk on the moon. When it escapes control and markets crumble and fall, it shakes the very foundation of every civilization on the planet, where men are terrorized and some even die.

Every one of us comes into contact with this incredible power through our bank.  To be sure, the front office with the tellers and safety deposit boxes looks perfectly calm and orderly.  However, it's in the back office where this dark underbelly begins to be exposed.

It's in the back office where the money flows like a torrential current, and where profits are made or lost.  The stakes are enormous, as are the pressures to succeed, and it matters little who gets trampled in the never-ending pursuit of profit.

My eyes were opened through some of the experiences of the title's creator, who has worked in financial institutions big and small, enduring this corrupt corporate culture for almost a decade.  The effect on him was traumatic, emotionally and physically, and his pain grew into a passion to tell others what is really going on.  He has witnessed the corporate/political corruption that has become a survival skill in this highly regulated industry.  He has seen good people abused and manipulated because they have nowhere to turn for rescue, as regulations go unenforced and where whistle-blowers get eliminated.  The resulting environment isn't much different than in the Wild West where the town becomes a law unto themselves, and as people continue to push against the loose boundaries in order to get away with as much as they can.

Dimitri: With all that has happened in the economy over the last decade, now seems like the perfect time to give the public a feel for what happens behind the façade of the brick and mortar building that we all frequent. Since most people’s experiences dealing with banks are a result of a short visit to simply deposit their paychecks or withdraw money, I don’t think they ever stop to think what goes on behind that front barrier. While delivering a powerful message, the character relationships as well as the office politics are sure to tantalize any palate. We have yet to see any T.V. series or movies really touch on the banking office backdrop.

Vince Brusio: Did previous press surrounding Edward Snowden and Julian Assange or any other current event concerning our nation’s intelligence have any bearing on your storyline?

Scott McDaniel:Not at all.  The stunning reality is that the cracks in the financial system aren't inscrutable and only exposed by an anonymous leak of the collective power of intelligence agencies. These cracks are systemic, and they are enormous, and they are essentially hidden in plain sight.

These financial crises are triggered when the underlying corrupt scheme collapses under its own weight.  Whether due to a Ponzi scheme, accounting trickery, overly risky investments, or overly complex financial products, the crisis itself isn't triggered merely by a whistle-blower or leaked memo but rather by enormous financial power breaking free of its artificial constraints.

Bottom line for me - banking isn't a safe, neutral, background activity that every now and then goes sideways, but rather banking is the most powerful tool ever wielded by man. Like a gun, it can be fired for good (right self-defense) or it can be fired for evil (cold-blooded murder).

Dimitri: If there is any comparison at all, it’s that whistleblowers are usually not protected when rules are purposely being broken, even out in the open.

Vince Brusio: Evan Adonis. Your main character in I.T. - the Secret World of Modern Banking. What’s in his wheelhouse, Scott? What makes him tick? What sets him off? What is it about him others should fear?

Scott McDaniel:Evan Adonis is a true hero.  He strives to love his family well, excel in his work, and be loyal to his friends and colleagues even at his own expense.  He was raised in a home that valued love, truth, honor, respect and charity.  The secret world of modern banking, with its hatred, lies, deceit, revenge, selfish schemes, etc., is a direct affront and challenge to everything he was taught and that he believes.

Socially, Evan grew up poor and in a very rough neighborhood.  He knows how to defend himself.  And he isn't afraid to fight.

Professionally, Evan works for People's Trust Bank of New York in the position "I.T. & Operations." He is exceptionally skilled at his work. But Evan is disgusted by the total lack of accountability for bad actions, and by the total lack of willingness of management and authorities to even acknowledge they occur. Legislation abounds, but enforcement is never present. He is disgusted at how many good people are manipulated and abused simply because they are too weak or too afraid to fight back.

Evan is not afraid.  He will fight back.

Dimitri: Evan is a tribute to every person who has been harassed, retaliated against, been pushed aside, overlooked, abused or just taken for granted in the work place. In a way, The Secret World of Modern Banking runs two simultaneous story lines. In the forefront are the financial schemes, while in the background employees are left to fight amongst themselves for survival. Personally, the office politics and various forms of abuse are what resonates the most to me.  Although Evan is the quintessential good guy, his job entails walking a difficult line. He is intelligent, compassionate, caring, as well as very strong-willed. At the end of the day, he just wants to follow the rules and do what is right. I think our readers will be surprised how difficult a road that is to navigate.

Vince Brusio: Who are the supporting characters in the story? Let’s put them in the police line-up, and give ‘em the third degree. Can you tell us what gave you inspiration for these personalities? Are they more help or hindrance to Evan’s pursuits?

Scott McDaniel: This cast of I.T. is awesome — here, the inmates are truly running the asylum that is the People's Trust Bank of New York!  I'll share just a few of them with you.

Mike Hurt is Evan Adonis' direct boss. Mike is an arrogant, conceited, near-incompetent, backstabbing slob. Somehow he's landed the position of "Operations & I.T. Manager," and he rules his domain with an iron fist so no one catches on to his remarkable shortcomings.  Evan Adonis is Mike Hurt's whiz kid, ace-in-the-hole genius who he tries to keep in check with a firm boot across the throat.

Bank President Ted Glauer is an anti-social, bitter, greedy and ambitious man. Not happy with his executive salary and bonuses, he schemes to further enrich himself off the books. He watches everything and everyone, and he thinks he can keep his actions buried deep in shadows. Evan Adonis quickly becomes a thorn in his side, and that is an irritant Glauer will not tolerate.

Human Resources Manager Leanne Bradley is large and in charge.  Her position puts her in constant contact with the bank staff. And that suits her just fine, as her m.o. is quite simple — she enjoys being mean and nasty. She's an equal-opportunity hater, but she quickly develops a special brand of hatred for Evan.

And there are plenty more lunatics to meet in the book!  But Evan does have friends here, decent people who just want to pursue a career and live in peace.

Johnny Anderson, Network Administrator, is a young hire under Evan in the I.T. Department.  Young, eager, naïve and inexperienced, Johnny is a lamb unaware of the feral lions prowling on all sides.

Tellers Jessica Martinez and Monika Jones both make Evan feel like he's in high school again, albeit in dramatically different ways.  Jessica makes Evan feel like he's the captain of the football team.  Monika makes him feel like he just got run over by the popular girl.

And there are more characters that are friendly to Evan that you will meet in the book.

And here is one of the book's great battle lines: when the bad actors run over his friends, what will Evan do?

Dimitri: Not unlike a typical office, I.T. has some very colorful characters, as Scott has pointed out. A good amount of thought went into each and every character from physical appearance to quirks and insecurities. Lastly, what office wouldn’t be complete without enticing water cooler talk, filled with rumors, gossip and drama?  Our readers will have to stick around to see the development of the characters, arc after arc.

Vince Brusio: If you wanted to draw attention to the consequences that go hand-in-hand with this book’s plotline, what would it be? And how do you weave that message into this mini-series? Is it subtle, or in-your-face?

Scott McDaniel: The consequences are two-fold.  First, banking is a far more aggressive industry than most people ever imagine. Second, when you find yourself working in a toxic and corrupt corporate culture, do you have to go along to get along, or can you survive by standing for what is right, honest and good?

Before working on I.T., I imagined bankers basically as bean counters, people whose only passion was to be absolutely sure that the sum of column A matched the sum of column B.  I imagined them as people who by their compulsive nature had everything under strict control in their personal lives, and who conducted their professional bean-counting activities in an equally strict manner, without flair or drama or conflict or error, and who were honest and true through and through.

The reality is that banking is far more dynamic than it appears at first glance. Banking is all about risk-management. Banks make the bulk of their profits by making loans, and making loans is inherently risky business. It's all about maximizing the positive power of profit and minimizing the destructive power of risk. Because of fractional reserve banking, those potential rewards and risks get greatly magnified. And the reality is that risky business attracts risk-seeking people, people who are excited when confronted with potentially dangerous activity. So the reality is that banking is an industry that is thoroughly churning with energy.

And then we add to all this risk-taking activity the most volatile passion of the human heart: the love of money. The love of money is the root of all evil. Like gasoline on a fire, this love of money can ignite passions that set the entire thing aflame.

Ultimately, I.T. is about surviving a corrupt corporate culture without it corrupting your own morals and behavior. Is that possible? Or, in the end, does a bushel of mostly rotten apples eventually spoil them all?

Dimitri: I.T. is largely based on co-worker relationships, something the majority of people can relate to. Why some people get as far as they do, how that happens, and how the consequences of their actions will affect the next guy. What makes I.T. different is that it comes from the perspective of a guy who sees everything. I think that the consequences are evident in each and every issue, just as they are in real life. Every day we are living the consequence of the actions of those around us. As far as the financial crisis goes, we have already seen numerous consequences of that.

 

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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