December 07, 2016

006: THE ADVENTURES OF ULTRABEAR!!!!

Hullo.

Contents!
Uber!
Aphra!
WicDiv!
Joe Dever, RIP.
I did NOT meet a dragon.
New books that have been read by me with my eyes and mind.
Fiction and Feeling and Fimilar Fings.
Byyyeeeee, etc.

***

Okay, it's a busy week with splendid 100% new things in, so let's introduce the new comic crushes. Let's go with the longest awaited to newest.

Firstly, Uber: Invasion 1 drops.

Uber was the comic series I started writing back in 2008, was finally published in April 2013 with art from Caanan White, and moving onto other artists later. We did five trades (28 regular issues, a special and a Free Comic Book Day book) and then had a little rest. We'd reached an appropriate place to end Volume 1, and re-align. Avatar ran a kickstarter to support the launch of volume 2 – and thank you for everyone who supported – and now we're back.

When William pitched a gap, the main thing appealed was that it allowed me to create a second entrance to the series. The comic is enormously complicated, but the scenario at the start of Volume 2 can be boiled down to a sentence (“America Is Invaded”) which helps. But why would I want a second entrance?

Comic critic FemmesInFridges has been reading Uber Volume 1 this week, and said – I paraphrase – that at the end of the first year the book changes from “mostly working as intended” to “working as intended.” I'd agree with that. Uber was a book whose opening was the second superhero comic I wrote in my life. The structure of the first year was laid then, so even as I actually wrote much of it nearer release, it's still curtailed by that thinking. All which means until the end of the first year, Uber isn't what I wanted it to be.

Generally speaking, people who are into the ideas of Uber are willing to roll with that until then (and as Uber is basically a book unlike any other being published at the moment, it does have a certain grim novelty on its side) but I still always edge my recommendations.

(I think the bits that work hit hard. Issue 5's battle of Paris. Much of the Eastern front with Maria. And issue 11 is on par with issue 11 of WicDiv in terms of audaciousness.)

So the idea of having a starting place for Uber I can recommend without any reservations appealed.

That's Uber: Invasion 1. You can pick it up and dive in. The first issue is dense, but hopefully explains what's interesting about the book. From there, we go straight to issue 2, which I think delineates exactly why Uber is unlike anything else.

Short version: Uber is an alternate history WW2 comic which tries to extrapolates from Nazi Germany inventing superhumans right at the close of the war. It's fundamentally a “What if Nazi Germany invented the bomb first?” story, fired through the genre metaphor. It is a book that's more time in politics, economics and R&D than the traditional genre focuses. It's a book that spends more than a cursory thought dwelling on the people buried in the rubble. It's about victims. It comes directly from the part of me as a child that read Charlie's War in battles, and learned that the only ethical comic about war is a comic that is explicitly anti-war.

It's a book which is primarily about WW2, and the lessons I think we should draw from it, and what we should never forget. Most obviously, it's a book about the horrors of fascism.

When I started writing Uber in 2008, that was coming from a “people are now now treating Nazis like cartoons, which bodes badly for the future, because if we don't remember what the Nazis were and why people supported them, it's more likely they'll be back” place. By now, that's a less hypothetical projection.

Uber is grim as all hell (but, I hope, not gratuitously so). Bar the formalism and the dry nihilism, it's unlike much of what I do. There's not many jokes. This is me screaming.

I can understand right now why you may not want to read a book like this. But if it sounds like something you could bear, I'd urge you to give it a shot. Daniel Gete should be drawing the whole of the second volume, and his approach, inching towards European clear line, keeps an awful, powerful coldness. Best of all, he 100% gets what I'm trying to do with the book, which is a powerful thing. He's half way through the seventh issue at the time of writing, so we're well into this monster.

With Uber I come back to variations of a line I put in the back of the first issue: I hope you find it interesting and compelling. I hope you don't enjoy it.

Anyway. Now for something more cheerful. Frankly, anything is more cheerful.

****

Doctor Aphra 1 is out!

Okay, probably don't have to say as much about this one. Doctor Aphra spins out of Darth Vader, but there's no need to have read any of it to go in. It's basically a clean start, building a whole new set of past adventures on the past.

The first story is built on such a deep cut reference that I suspect no-one, with the possible exception of Morrison vs Moore beat-'em-up critical commentator Phil Sandifer will spot it. Which is fine, as I want people to be paying attention to all the chaos and how beautiful it is.

Kevin Walker is a revelation here. He was born to draw Star Wars action adventure comics. When I got pages back from this issue, I just started opening up and making sure there was space for him to choreograph and explode space. You'll love it.

I'm actually going to be seeing him in less than four as we have a signing at Forbidden Planet at 6pm.

****

The Wicked + the Divine 24 is also out. I actually typoed that as “art.” WicDiv 24 is art. That's self-glorious nonsense, even for me.

The first “normal” issue of Imperial Phase. Though, as always with WicDiv, we're not particularly good at normal. The rest of the preview is here.

If you need more WicDiv talk, I wrote up the writer notes for Issue 23. They're here, 7000 words long and include a lot of transcripts of the interviews between the journalists and the gods, almost all of which you haven't seen. I stress, they're not canon, but I suspect anyone reading the series would like them.

****

In the continuing adventures of Stop 2016 Before It Kills Again(copyright the internet), Joe Dever is one of the ones who is only going to really get people in a certain demographic, but is incredibly sad.

Dever is best known for the series of choose your own adventure books, Lone Wolf. Their main attribute was they formed a campaign. There were others than did this, of course, but it was what Lone Wolf leaned into entirely. All the 28 books in the original series could be played in sequence, your progress moved between them all. I didn't read them all – I got as far as the early days of the Grand Masters series, when I was ageing out of game books – but I adored the ones I did, and the Kai are basically neck and neck with the Jedi in my personal childhood mythology. Perhaps even ahead. After all, I've never been a Jedi and I have been a Kai.

Dever's notable for another reason. The Lone Wolf books were the first cultural object I ever reviewed. This is me at... 11, I think.

You may see that even then I was into formalist play and the interaction between image and text, though I was probably should have worried about spoilers more.

RIP Joe Dever.

***

On an RPG note, I found myself trundling along to Dragonmeet in London at the weekend. I've got my head in a RPG space, and wanted to examine some stuff as (er) research. When you're me, basically everything is research. Writing is amazing.

Before meeting friends in the bar, I did the rounds with Designer Friend Minkette. She's currently exploring RPGs for her own reasons – an area of the form which she's never danced with significantly – so we were generally having a nose and giggling like children. We noticed an RPG whose subtitle was THE SCIENCE FICTION ROLE-PLAYING GAME, and went “Wow – that's amazing. I didn't realise no-one had done a sci-fi rpg before now” before basically gasping at every other Sci-fi we crossed paths with and going “Oh shit. There's ANOTHER one. Shall we break it to the original guys? They're going to be so disappointed.” :( :( :(

(I digress. Hello to everyone who recognised me.)

I actually picked up a selection of RPG stuff – a few supplements I don't own for THE ONE RING and (linking to the above story) the starter kit for The LONE WOLF RPG. The former was at least in part due to the sad news of Dever's passing, though the game itself seems a fascinating attempt at an accessible RPG in the spirit of the original games. Even the structure of the box and learning mechanisms are well done.

For the former, I've never played The One Ring. I'm primarily interested in it for my awful Tolkien crush and the fact I'm exactly the right age to find reading RPG sourcebooks relaxing in and of themselves. That said, it's certainly a game on my “things to do in my retirement” list, as that's the amount of time I'd require to do it properly.

(I joke. I fear I'm the sort of writer who never retires. We tap away until we die.)

The large campaign in the One Ring is a clear extrapolation of the Pendragon campaign. In the Arthurian RPG Pendragon, you play from Uthur Pendragon's age, all the way through Arthur's rise and end just after his disappearance off to Avalon. You may note that's too long for any human. It is. You play dynastically, with characters having children, ageing, dying and the next generation taking over. The One Ring does that, but with the era between the end of the Hobbit and the start of the War of the Ring.

I don't have the time for that. I wish I had. The idea of embroidering you and your friends into a tapestry of story is just magical. I had the idea of playing aides of Saruman in the period... as, of course, at the start of the period he's still entirely on the side of the angel. That's a fascinating idea to explore.

(I'm a big enough geek to have worked out when Beorn should be public domain, to see if I can write THE ADVENTURES OF ULTRABEAR!!!! comics at any point in my lifespan.)

Er... I'm Djing next week at One Life Left's christmas party, so probably expect less game geek and more music geek stuff next time, honest.

***

In terms of prose fiction I'm still reading Titus Groan, which is a delight. I also finally started to work my way through my enormous pile of comics, stuff I've grabbed from Thought Bubble, plus assorted PDFs that people have sent me.

To state the obvious, Walta and King's VISION is as good as everyone says. King has obviously had an amazing year, and I can't help but think his use of the nine-panel grid and formalist work is exactly what Moore would have been hoping for post-Watchmen rather than people just making everything violent. He's so good he scares me a little. However, I think we should pay as much attention to Walta - I worked one issue with him in X-men, and immediately fell in love with his work. I suspected many X-men fans would not get (say) his porcelain creepiness of his Magik, but with him, the Uncanny X-men were entirely Uncanny. It was a case that I knew that someone would find a perfect comic for him, and it'd sing. That's VISION. The beautiful-but-not-right rendering marrieds to his precise understanding of 3D space is a joy to see.

In terms of Thought Bubble stuff, much to love, but Paul Savage lobbed me a couple of his books outside the party. I read them, and laughed a bit too much. Example one...

So you can buy them from here. 

I also had a chance to read CURSE WORDS by Soule and Ryan, which is still available to pre-order. Basically “What if Saruman found himself in Enchanted?” and a brilliant black comedy. Speak to your retailer.

Oh – I also got these through the mail.

I'm not joking about being in a RPG place.

****

Katie West, when she's not being WicDIv's editorial assistant, is basically doing everything. Photographer, educator, model, writer, general renaissance woman. This week, she launched a publishing imprint, Fiction and Feeling. Here's the site, announcing her first project.

SPLIT: true stories about the end of marriage and what happens next sounds excellent and if you're interested, there's an open call for submissions.

****

Okay – that's enough. I need to actually do some work before I run off to the signing at Forbidden Planet. See you next time.

Thanks for reading.

Kieron Gillen
London
7.12.2016