If you’re just joining us, check out parts 1, 2, 3.
It took me a while to work up the nerve to ink this thing. Normally I would’ve inked most of the building with rules & rapidographs. But I decided against it… Since everything was so rigidly planned out, I wanted to have a more organic line in the finishing process. Click on the image to super-size.
If you’re just joining us, check out parts 1, 2, 3.
After the cover concept was approved it was time to pencil… this was the most complicated drawing I’ve done in a long time… maybe since architecture school? Click on the image for full-sized glory.
I’ll be at CAKE in Chicago this weekend. I’ll be there running the Uncivilized Books table and signing Beta Testing the Apocalypse at the Fantagraphics table. Uncivilized Books is debuting four (4) (!!) books at the show:
- Incidents in the Night by David B.
- Amazing Facts and Beyond by Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch (both will be in attendance)
- Sammy the Mouse Book 2 by Zak Sally (who will also be there!)
- and Over the Wall by Peter Wartman (he will be there too!)
I will also be showing previews of my upcoming Trans Terra and… Twin Cities Noir where I have an all new 10 page comic (more on that later). It’s going to be an intense weekend! See you all there!
Over the next few posts, I’m going to show some process imagery of the Beta Testing the Apocalypse cover. Here are the original two ideas for the cover… idea 2 won the day in the end.
Found this while doing some cleaning. A trial comic done with different tools to see how well it’ll shrink. I think it’s from around the time I made Trans Atlantis.
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!
Kaczynski tops himself with “Million Year Boom”, about a brand expert who winds up working for a bizarre “green” company, trying to come up with a corporate logo as it prepares to go public. This is, an insane stew of paranoia, devolution, corporate messiahs, and global capitalism fused with a tribal, scatological mindset. The final panel, where the protagonist’s blood spewing across a door gives him the inspiration for the logo, is a stunning moment.
Kaczynski really has his finger on the collective neuroses of the new millennium. A recurring theme in this book is how Kaczynski taps into how various of our senses have been warped through modern living. In “Noise: A History”, Kaczynski boils down the history of the world in terms of random events and how many decibels they measured out to, from the big bang to the falling of rustling leaves. He links past to present through the use of that measure of sound, providing an interesting shorthand for understanding the world in its greatest, worst and most indifferent moments.
Read the whole review here.
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.