Ho ho ho! I recently released a new mini-comic: Skyway Sleepless. It originally appeared in Twin Cities Noir. You can buy it on the Uncivilized Books site… OR if you’ve always wanted a signed copy of Beta Testing The Apocalypse but couldn’t get one, I’m offering them now for a limited time here. All copies will come with a free copy of Skyway Sleepless! Order now!
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I’ll be manning the Uncivilized Books table (table i8) at SPX all weekend! I’ll be there with Kevin Huizenga, Dan Zettwoch, Zak Sally & Peter Wartman. Stop by to say hi!
Meanwhile, look what I got in the mail!
The French version of Beta Testing the Apocalypse is a reality! The book is in stores in France now!
The French book is a bit larger than the Fantagraphics version.
It wouldn’t be French without French flaps! I had to extend the cover drawing by more than 50%! More on that in a future post!
The table of contents.
French title card.
Sample pages in French. Thanks to Dalton Webb for creating a great font from my hand writing!
The French edition has an afterword written by novelist & journalist Christophe Tison. I’ll have a translation of it in a future post.
The back cover! I’ll have copies in both languages at SPX. See you there!
It was my pleasure and an honor to have been interviewed by James Romberger for the Hooded Utilitarian. I already wrote that his work was very important to me in my formative years. Getting the chance to publish his new work and getting to know him has been a blast! Here’s a little excerpt where we splice Jack Kirby with J.G. Ballard:
James: I just read another interview with you that Kent Worcester did, where you cited a specific Jack Kirby image from his 2001 comic, a panel of a man walking up to a building that is just a huge wall of windows—it freaked me out because that is one of my favorites of Kirby’s and it is part of a passage that I had actually thought of mentioning to you! The Earth Jack depicts is so polluted and crowded, a world where pure air can only be breathed out of bottles that one must purchase as we do water, an existence so dehumanized that the protagonist feels he must join the space program, to escape in order to realize any sort of life for himself.
Jack Kirby, from “Norton of New York, 2040 A.D.”, 2001 #5, Marvel Comics, 1977
Your work gives me a similar feeling, as if you are dealing with expressing what it is like to live in a world that has gone beyond the point of no return, but with no escape possible, as if all we can do is construct semblances of sanity for ourselves, that work within the insane structures that we must fit into.
Tom: I love that Kirby image! I believe that was from 2001 #5? I agree with what you’re saying here. One of my favorite J.G. Ballard stories is “Billenium” about an overcrowded world where everyone basically lives on top of everyone else. The protagonists in that story find a hidden room and all that new space is an almost unimaginable luxury. They proceed to share the new space with some friends and family until it fills up and becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the world. We need to find these spaces (whether real or imagined) and inhabit them; to create germs of possible and impossible new worlds… hopefully better ones. There’s a danger in that. Things could get worse… but sometimes not doing anything at all, is worst of all. One thing I hesitate doing in my stories is to destroy the world. If “Billenium” was an Italo Calvino story, that room could be a germ of a new city; an invisible city growing in the midst of the old one… and eventually it would grow to replace it. I think we need a better imagination, one that goes beyond wishing for the apocalypse.
Of course the interview was primarily about Beta Testing the Apocalypse. Here’s a little exchange on the index of the book (yes, I love talking about the index!):
James: I’ve never seen an index that alphabetically listed every sound effect in a comic before. And Ballard’s entry leads to a highway sign in a panel for “Ballard Golf Heaven”, and I liked how the table of contents is figured on a greater timeline, but isn’t much help in locating the stories. Such details play with the new climate in comics where we should try to accommodate future scholarship, by ensuring that page numbers are included, etc.—-you certainly left a lot of room for examining this thing through different “lenses”….we’ve come a long way!
Tom: Ha! Well, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do with comics. Indices, notes, and glossaries are some of my favorite things in books and I didn’t want my book to be left out! This all comes out of lots of conversations I’ve had with cartoonists and writers over the last few years. In the end I wanted the index to be another story in the book. One that comments and explicates the other stories. Some entries are in there for fun. Like the sound effects, or cars. Others alert the reader to concepts or phrases that have been quoted, mutated or just plain stolen. One thing that is often left out of comics criticism are the images. They are often examined in terms of plot or composition, but rarely do writers get into the complex visual references that often show up in comics. One of my favorites pieces of writing on comics is a Ken Parille piece on Clowes’ David Boring that excavated the connections to Hitchcock’sVertigo among many other things. I hope in some future edition, the book can be published with an index. Other cartoonists have played with this kind of material. Kevin Huizenga comes to mind with fake indices & glossaries. In fact I was just working with Kevin (& Dan Zettwoch) on the index to their next book, Amazing Facts & Beyond. It’s amazing and goes way beyond my index! In fact they called it the beyondex! Maybe we can start a trend! Index wars!
A new interview, this time with the Bill Baker at Morton Report. We get into one of my favorite topics: architecture. Here’s a taste:
What prompted your decision to become a creator of comics, a builder of stories, if you will, rather than a creator of buildings?
I think there are a lot of similarities. As I mentioned, the part of architecture that really spoke to me was “paper architecture.” People like Lebbeus Woods, Le Corbusier, and Étienne-Louis Boullée used drawings to create buildings based on specific ideas. Some are real proposals, some are real but probably unbuildable, and some are completely impossible… they all work as concrete representations of ideas about humans, the world and the cosmos.
Chris Ware, among others, has proposed that comics are a way of thinking. He is also one of the few cartoonists that has taken that idea to its limits. That is analogous to architecture, I think. I also find it interesting that Chris Ware is very interested in architecture.
What do you get from creating comics, generally, and what did you get from creating Beta Testing the Apocalypse?
This is very difficult to answer. This is my medium and much of my creative output is bound up with it. At some point in your life, you grow into the medium that works the way you think. I think comics are that for me. But it works both ways, the more comics you make the more you think in those terms…
Read the rest here.
But what else are these bewildered men and women supposed to do but struggle to find appropriate metaphors? If Beta Testing is an instruction manual, it’s not one they can read. Those with jobs don’t know what those jobs entail. Those with apartments notice too late everything’s made of papier-mâché. The book quotes Freud’s axiom that anatomy is destiny — but DNA is untrustworthy, too. Subjectivities shift. Cities and their inhabitants collapse into one, if you’re lucky, or overwrite your existence altogether if not. Ballard wrote that the triple pillars of science fiction are time, space, and identity. Here it’s impossible to tell where one ends and another begins.
Is this the future? Does it have to be? The curse of the man in Kaczynski’s “10000 Years” is to dream he is a Martian. “I don’t have the right constitution for this world,” he thinks. “I’m on the wrong planet.” But for us, reading his story, his curse is a useful genetic mutation. Science fiction is notoriously unreliable when it comes to predicting Saturn dreams, laser beams, and 21st century sex machines. It’s fantastic, however, at taking our present reality and making it strange again. Beta Testing The Apocalypse makes us Martians to better let us see what’s happening all around us.
Read it and witness the disquieting Gernsback of Now.
The whole review can be found here.
Another item I missed posting. Looks like Trans Siberia (or Trans Sibérie in French) was featured on French radio!? Here’s a link to the podcast:
I wish I knew what they are saying. My French speaking sister informed me that a long excerpt is read from the book… which sounds amazing!
BETA TESTING CIVILIZATION
ZAK SALLY . VINCENT STALL . DAN WIEKEN . DEREK VAN GIESON . PETER WARTMAN
You’re invited to celebrate, with cartoonist / publisher Tom Kaczynski, the release of his book Beta Testing the Apocalypse (Fantagraphics) and the unveiling of the Uncivilized Books’ Five Year Plan. He also invited the entire Twin Cities Uncivilized Books artist roster. We know you won’t mind. Many copies of Beta Testing The Apocalypse have been specially released from the bunker and a commemorative red ink will be used in authorizing your copies. After the event, there will be mandatory fun at the Downtown Grumpy’s.
THURSDAY JANUARY, 24. 2013
5 TO 7 PM
BIG BRAIN COMICS
1027 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415 (612) 338-4390
I’m excited to finally be able to say that Beta Testing the Apocalypse is now available in stores! Check it out at your favorite comics or book store.
I was interviewed over at The Comics Journal. We talked a lot about a variety of topics: Beta Testing the Apocalypse, Trans Terra, what’s new at Uncivilized Books, Marxism, crime fiction, the art of indexing and more! Here’s a taste:
Now, your upcoming Trans Terrabook is basically a collection of the four minicomics?
It’s the four original Trans mini-comics, plus a bunch of new material that wraps up that whole train of thought… or train wreck of thought or something. [Laughter.]
Those books seem to be part of a tradition in comics you don’t see that often any more—the kind of free-flowing rant or essay comics with the cartoonist walking around and acting as the narrator, like Clowes used to do, and Crumb and Peter Bagge. Were you consciously engaging with that tradition?
All those guys are big influences on me. I wasn’t consciously trying to do that, but when I’m looking back, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, well, duh, they were doing similar things.”[Hodler laughs.] I maybe get a little bit more overtly intellectual on mine —where I quote actual books and people — whereas they were a little bit more casual with their pontificating or whatever. [Laughter.] What I was doing originally with the Trans books… basically the first book was a kind of panicked, “I need to do something for the first MoCCA festival!” And I just kind of regurgitated all this stuff I was thinking about at that time very quickly. I got a pretty good response to it, and I was like, “Well, I might as well follow up, ‘cause I didn’t really finish my train of thought on the first one,” and I just kept going with that. Each book is more and more carefully thought out. I’ve been searching very slowly… hopefully when this book is out, I will have found something resembling a coherent thesis. [Laughter.]
The first three you did pretty close together?
Yeah, the first three were pretty close. I think they all came out within a year, year and a half. In the middle of that I got the opportunity to contribute to Mome, so that derailed the production on the Transbooks for a long time. I always thought of these Trans books as a little bit more casual, little bit more off-the-cuff, but the more I got into it, the more fascinated I got with using comics to explicate ideas. The more Mome stuff I was doing, the more I wanted to go back to the Trans comics and do more of that kind of work.
Did you ever consider doing that kind of thing for Mome?
I didn’t think it would fit. I thought about it, but I got in this very specific groove for Mome, that was a little bit Ballardian, a little bit science-fiction, and I just wanted to keep that going. If Mome had continued past issue 22, I may have done more of that kind of work in the future, but yeah, in Mome I wanted to keep a certain… a different level of work… a different kind of me. [Laughs.]
A Polish author you briefly mention in one of the minis, Witold Gombrowicz, wrote a novel—which I haven’t read—called Trans-Atlantyk, and I was wondering: Does that have anything to do with the titles of those minis?
No and yes. [Laughter.] I had read pretty much everything that Gombrowicz had written way before I didTrans Alaska. I read Trans-Atlantyk but it’s something that I had forgotten, and it wasn’t a conscious influence at first. When I did the Trans Alaska book, the title actually came last. I didn’t know what it was gonna be, so I was like “part of it is set in Alaska, so I’m just gonna call it Trans Alaska.” I decided to keep the “Trans” for the other books. I was writing about Atlantis in the third book, and I remembered that Gombrowicz did Trans-Atlantyk. I ended up calling the third book Trans-Atlantis. It wasn’t a specific reference, but more of a happy coincidence. But Gombrowicz definitely influenced me quite a bit, he’s one of my favorite authors. Just in terms of how he writes and more importantly his diaries. He was an émigré author, he left Poland at the beginning of World War II, and ended up living in Argentina for many years. If you read his diaries, it’s all about being a Polish person in the New World and his struggles with that. That was really important for me when I was younger. I identified with that kind of struggle.
I’ve meant to read him for a long time.
Ferdydurke, his first novel, is amazing I think.
Check out the rest here.
The story “Cozy Apocalypse,” which gives Kaczynski’s terrific anthology Beta Testing The Apocalypse (Fantagraphics) its name, is a case in point: In it, a married couple buys a house in the suburbs just before a natural disaster and a financial collapse hit back-to-back, and the pair snuggles up in their dream home, awaiting the end of the world that never comes. The piece is clearly commenting on the anxieties of today—global warming, economic strife, a generalized sense of disconnection from what’s reallyhappening—but none of it is literal, any more than the epic traffic jam that ends Kaczynski’s “100,000 Miles,” or the complex of grain silos that safeguards a global conspiracy in “Phase Transition.”
Read the rest here.