Graffiti Wars – When Art Saved the World

Science Fiction/Fantasy Graphic Novel Trilogy
by Mark Lewis Wagner

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Mark Lewis Wagner’s debut graphic novel, “Graffiti Wars” is a shamanic journey of initiation through an artist’s creative imagination. Gorgeously illustrated, the science fiction/fantasy book includes rough sketches, drawings, paintings, digital art, and a Spotify playlist.

PITCH: Two Oakland graffiti artists, aided by a loyal dog, a Vietnam Vet, a majestic whale, ghosts of the past, and an Alien Universe, journey through time and madness trying to save the world from the mythic God of War who has been enslaved by men, power, and money.


Birde, a mysterious graffiti artist, travels through time where she is relentlessly pursued and hunted by a mythical Beast tethered to the God of War as she becomes a problem to War’s death grip on the planet. Our co-protagonist, Hiro, a young tugboat pilot and fellow graffiti artist working the bustling Port of Oakland, is drawn into Birde’s orbit and forced backwards in time, landing in an insane asylum where his art keeps him from going crazy. 

Hiro has two new realities: A psychiatric ward in a hospital in the past, and an imaginary vast tidal wasteland filled with ghosts and the remains from War. Birde needs Hiro’s artistic talent to create something unknown that will unlock a portal to an Alien Universe in desperate need of human artistic expression. This exciting journey is entwined with other characters: Bernie, a fellow traveler and techie, half-lost from his Vietnam War experiences; the loyal dog Karma; Garuda, a flying humpback whale and co-tugboat pilot; ghosts; and the mythic Spirit of the Earth, itself. 

Everything conspires to aid our co-protagonists in their quest to liberate the shackled muse of War from the clutches of the global military-industrial complex. War is first seen as an obese addicted artist slumped over a drawing table working for nations, corporations, and religions. In the climax, War manifests as a hideous God. He engages the Earth in combat, shapeshifts into a woman, and is transformed by the Earth’s compassion. The Alien Universe arrives on the scene using their technology to turn off the human side of War. They hire human artists to go off-world to create, and help the planet to experience a renaissance of life and healing. Hiro and Birde together have completed their quest and fall in love.


Sixteen years in the making. This is the first book of a trilogy. What a journey this has been. I’ve raised kids, got divorced, continued to be a college art teacher, moved for half the year to rural Northern New Mexico, and have been blessed with two amazing dogs. Zander started the journey with me; he was Mr. Z in the story. Then the beautiful Karma came into my life and sadly disappeared one day on my land, and I never saw her again. She now lives eternally in this story.

The next two books won’t take nearly as long. The first of anything is a big learning curve. I have learned so much about storytelling, words and images, sticking with something and not giving up, working when I didn’t know what I was doing, graffiti, drawing, and learning InDesign. There are almost 12,000 images in my Graffiti Wars computer folder.


Ending Statement:

Graffiti Wars: When Art Saved the World

I grew up playing Army. My first awareness of War was on TV when helicopters were being shot down in the Vietnam. My first piece of Art about War was in art school in the early 80’s. Many years later I lived on an island off the coast of Oakland where there was a decommissioned Naval Airbase which I explored thoroughly with a dog, camera, and small kids. While listening to music I would often have downloads of images and story slices.

The first photos for this project began in 2007 when I snuck onto a shipyard and saw tugboats on dry dock, their propellors so large they looked like spaceships. Out on the Base I explored an abandoned military hospital and was blown away by the graffiti inside: totally blown away!

I’d never seen such sophisticated, complex, and brilliant artwork. It felt otherworldly, like a portal into the Imagination & the Great Mystery. I discovered several other large warehouses that were filled with the most amazing graffiti I’d ever seen. If I were rich I would have turned them into museums. Instead they are now Target parking lots.

I have used several of these graffiti pieces from photographs I took as inspiration in this book. I do not know the creators and hope to meet you someday so I can respectfully acknowledge you and your breathtaking artwork.

The earliest evidence of War was 14,000 years ago in Sudan. Over a 3.5 billion people have died from War throughout history. Last year alone, the world spent over two trillion dollars on War. More than half the $ coming from the USA. This business plan needs to change, so we’ll change it here – one story at a time! Stories are Power. The imagination is real.

War is a big topic. It deserves to be looked at more closely. It’s complicated, horribly painful, unconscious, religious, wrong, and expensive. It’s also noble, sophisticated, intelligent, and necessary at times.

War is archetypal. The root of the word War is “confusion.” There are many mythological Gods of War, which means it’s part of us. It’s in us. We are all at War with something, inside and out. It’s human nature.

We need to “IMAGINE WAR DIFFERENTLY” for it to ever truly transform and evolve, says James Hillman, the renowned psychologist who wrote in  “The Terrible Love of War.” Ed Tick’s “War and the Soul” is also good medicine. There is so much here in this book to ponder: mental illness, psychiatric hospitals, combat vets, PTSD, the industrial military complex, corporations, mythology, being an artist, time, love, ghosts, and the Alien Universes, of course.

The first moment when we realize that the Beast is a mythological creature the book does what it sets out to do: it Mythologizes War. It helps War move back into the realms of the imagination where it can live gloriously (video games and football are excellent examples) and greatly decreases the destruction of the Earth and everything that lives upon it, including future generations, all of nature, the living Earth itself.

BOOK ONE sets up the scene, characters, and ends with a great question. We learn that tugs and whales fly.

BOOK TWO has Hiro lost in his imagination while Birde tries to find him after she accidentally becomes a Time Traveler like Bernie. Birde needs to find another artist who will help create something the “Other Worlds” need to arrive. The Alien advanced technology will simply put War out of business. War does not want this to happen and will do whatever it takes to make it not. A submarine temple, prayer wheels, ghosts, a bone graveyard are pieces of the puzzle.

BOOK THREE finds Hiro going mad. With Bernie’s help, Birde finally locates Hiro, and War goes berserk with the entire planet at risk of total destruction. There’s a big plot twist at the end before the Other Worlds show up. Well, you’ll have to read the story.

There are so many people to thank: you know who you are. For years you’ve listened to me tell a crazy tale and show you strange artwork. I couldn’t have done it without you and the Creative Spirit. And two amazing animal people ~ Mr. Z & Karmalita.

~Mark Lewis Wagner


ON SALE: AMAZON (Print & Ebook)