The digital version of Vortex, produced by Alternative Comics, is now available for Kindle and comiXology. It’s $4.99.
October 18th, 2016
September 28th, 2016
Vortex should be available at your local comic shops today!
If you can’t find Vortex at your shop you can ask them to order it for you.
September 22nd, 2016
Turns out I was wrong in my previous posts – Vortex isn’t arriving in comic shops on October 26th, it’ll arrive much sooner, next Wednesday, September 28th!
Vortex spread 23.
If you want to check out a preview of Vortex, I’ve been posting the two-page spreads on the Comics Workbook Tumblr:
- Click here to read from the beginning if you’re on a desktop.
- Click here to read it from newest to oldest if you’re on a mobile device (the reverse chronological order link doesn’t work on mobile devices).
Here’s a few more spreads:
Vortex spread 12.
Vortex spread 14.
Vortex spread 21.
Vortex spread 25.
Vortex spread 30.
Vortex spread 35.
September 7th, 2016
Poster by Kelsey Wroten.
I’ll have Vortex, Future Shock Zero, Ink Brick #4, RhiZome #3, Digestate, and these risograph Vortex posters:
Posters printed by local shop Oddities Prints.
This’ll be my first time tabling in Kansas City and my only time tabling in 2016!
August 31st, 2016
This Friday 9/2 is the final order cutoff to get Vortex from your local comic book stop on its release date of
August 23rd, 2016
I’m very excited to tell y’all that Vortex is on Page 269 of Previews, the Diamond comics catalogue! It’ll be on shelves in fine comic book stores across the US on
October 26th September 28th.
If you’d like a copy, ask your local comic book store to order it for you before September 2nd.
Order code AUG161125.
You may have noticed that these two pages are the Alternative Comics section of Previews. After Virginia Paine decided to close Sparkplug Books, Marc Arsenault of Alternative Comics inherited most of Sparkplug’s backstock. I’m grateful to Virginia for taking a chance on Vortex and all the work she did to get the Kickstarter funded and the book printed and distributed. Running a publisher as a third job is hard work and I’m glad that she’s going to be able to focus on her own awesome comics, like The WHYs, an epic webcomic about queer superpowered teens.
The reviewer Rob Clough of High-Low said goodbye to Sparkplug in a review round-up that includes Vortex.
June 1st, 2016
At its best, SF grapples with big ideas such as humanity’s place in the cosmos and our role as reshapers of landscapes, ecosystems, the climate, and potentially other worlds. As our culture changes, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves also changes. I’m a cartoonist, an artist and a storyteller. I have to believe that our stories matter and can shape how we behave–otherwise what’s the point in creating them? They’re mirrors we hold up to ourselves. Or perhaps a scrying glass, trying to catch a glimpse of our possibilities.
Panels from Captain Marvel #30, written and pencilled by Jim Starlin, inked by Al Milgrom, and lettered by Tom Orzechowski.
Click through for an essay discussing This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein, Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth by Curt Stager, Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon, Fury by Henry Kuttner, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, and more.
May 24th, 2016
When I first heard that Ari Folman had directed an IRL/animation hybrid adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s The Futurological Congress that replaces the main role of satirical space explorer Ijon Tichy with the actor Robin Wright and cuts the title to The Congress, I was skeptical but intrigued.
Cover by Stanislaw Fernandes.
The Futurological Congress is one of my favorite books. It’s Lem out-PKDing Philip K Dick at waking-up-from-a-nightmare-into-another-nightmare psychedelic mind-fucks. Tichy attends the Futurological Congress, which is attacked by terrorists armed with weaponized hallucinogens. Trapped in a trip from which doctors can’t sober him up, they cryogenically freeze Tichy until medical science can find a cure. He wakes up in a future where pharmacologicals are aerosolized and distributed to every citizen to satisfy their every desire. Then it gets weird. What could this plot have to do with the failing acting career of fictionalized Robin Wright?
Film still from The Congress.
The movie seems to struggle with reconciling these two threads at well. The animation-less beginning, when Robin Wright is struggling with whether she should let Miramount Studios scan her body so they can use a digital version of her in movies, drags a little. But then we jump forward 20 years to contract renegotiations at the Futurist Congress (an understandable truncation of Lem’s conference title–this would be a better title for the film), which is being held in the animated zone of Abrahama City, and the movies goes all in with zany animation and high SF ideas.
Film still from The Congress.
The writer and director Ari Folman tacks on a story about love and family but otherwise, after Robin Wright attends the Futurist Congress, the plot is surprisingly faithful to Lem’s book, somehow managing to be even more bleak than the very dark and existentially scary book (I’d say more but I don’t want to spoil the finale of either the book or the film, which you should experience for yourself). I really loved the animation and all the sly references to pop culture in the characters and background. The Isreali-based animation studio, Bridgit Folman Films Gang, did a beautiful job. One thing I found interesting in comparing the real-life and cartoon versions of Robin Wright in the same movie is how the exaggerated eyes of cartoon characters work. If they had drawn Wright with eyes in the same proportion as the rest of her, she wouldn’t look as lively. People focus on each other’s eyes so much that it makes sense to enlarge them in a drawing.
Film still from The Congress.
Overall I found The Congress to be a fascinating movie. I’m glad Drafthouse Films picked it up for North American distribution. You should give it a watch (but as always the book is better).
May 17th, 2016
Doris Piserchia is an interesting and unfortunately mostly forgotten SF writer. She had 13 books published in the decade from 1973 to 1983, mostly by DAW, two under the pseudonym Curt Selby. Then she quit writing and her books fell out of print.
Wayne Barlowe’s cover painting for Earth in Twilight.
I encountered her work browsing the eye-catching yellow spines of DAW paperbacks at a great used book store here in Kansas City called Prospero’s. The book, Earth in Twilight, had a fantastic monster painting by Wayne Barlowe on the cover. I chose other books that trip but I noted Piserchia’s name for future research. Reviews online and a comparison to Philip K Dick piqued my interest. Then I saw a hardcover of her book Spaceling at a used book store in Lawrence and couldn’t resist the garish Richard Corben cover (Corben is a fantastic cartoonist and fellow Missourian, I get his comics, especially his collaborations with Mignola, regularly).
Cover art by Richard Corben.
Spaceling is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. It’s the first-person POV of a teenage girl named Daryl who lives in a post-Peak-Oil, energy-starved Earth where some people can travel to different dimensions via floating rings. These people are called muters because when they travel to another dimension, their body and any items they bring morphs to accommodate their new environment. It’s never quite clear whether these dimensions are other planets in the universe or different universes entirely but it doesn’t really matter. The first two dimensions we encounter are a labyrinthine lava world of vicious monsters called goths, which I found amusing, and a world of endless water and floating mountains. As Piserchia develops the central mystery of her plot, she also ratchets up the psychedelic dimensions by taking us to worlds even further removed from our reality.
Daryl is in many ways a standard SF protagonist, an orphaned amnesiac who gets caught up in events of great import, but the charm of the book is in her meandering, stream-of-conscious narration. It took me a while to get into Piserchia’s prose style, where events are described in a haphazard, piecemeal fashion – some facts are clear at the beginning of a scene but other important details are not mentioned until paragraphs later – but as I relaxed into the story and the setting, I experienced it as a dream, not worrying too much about the underlying logic but just enjoying the journey, and I was happy to discover that the plot resolves satisfactorily.
Cover art by George Barr.
After reading Spaceling, I got Doomtime. It sounded the most interesting to me from reading reviews. Fortunately I didn’t have to hunt it down because Gateway has republished all of her work digitally (and Piserchia is still alive so I feel like my purchase supports her writing).
Doomtime manages to be even stranger (and better) than Spaceling.
What sets Doomtime apart is the flora and fauna of its setting, which may be an Earth of the far future but could also be another planet entirely. By escaping the somewhat-realistic setting of Spaceling, Piserchia really lets her imagination run wild. Somehow it’s easier for me to suspend any disbelief when the world is totally invented. There are two enormous trees possibly many miles in diameter (the geography of the trees gets difficult to comprehend in the final chapters), a bright green tree named Tendron and a deep vermillion tree named Krake. These trees are sentient, want to conquer the world through their expanding root network, and can communicate with their cloned offspring. People discover they can “dip” in these trees, merging flesh and consciousnesses to experience an addictive bliss. Besides these antagonists, there are the charming Dementia, an enormous land-octopus that stands on three powerful legs and loves destruction; the spiky fungus Morchella, who needs a person to dip so she can communicate between her two brains; and the little six-legged flying twirlies that spin into deadly Looney-Tunes-Tasmanian-Devil-style tornadoes.
Doomtime’s protagonist is a red-haired man named Creed. He travels back and forth across the planet, discovers new societies, and battles the trees. His actions and motivations don’t always make sense but he takes us on a fascinating psychedelic experience.
Cover art by H. R. VanDongen.
Color features prominently in Piserchia’s prose. There is the contrast between the green and red of the two warring trees in Doomtime. Daryl’s ability to precisely recall colors in Spaceling is an essential skill in navigating the inter-dimensionsal rings, where a slight difference of hue means a different destination. This focus really appeals to my visual imagination.
Piserchia conjures innovative, otherworldly creatures and environments. She lacks some of the polish of contemporary SF but she also doesn’t follow the same formulas for exposition and plot. I intend to explore her other works and I recommend that you do the same.
April 26th, 2016
All of Skew Part 3 is now up on Study Group. Here are four of my favorite pages:
I’m working on Part 4. I’m about 30 pages in. Here’s a potential cover: