148: the Escape of the Prisoner

Hullo.

Since I last wrote I have learned how to make similes in Italian, so can now can be pretentious in two languages.

Pre-Abstractly
Abstractly
Links
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Okay. Let’s try and do the basics as well as we can, before we deal with the fact that there’s nothing but Elephants in this room.

Once & Future first collection is abstractly out today in comic shops. The trade follows into the book trade next week. The second arc of Once & Future also starts with issue 7, and abstractly should be in shops now. You can see a preview here.

It’s a book about a retired monster-hunter grandmother who drags her entirely confused grandson into the family business, all against a horror Arthurian background and none-too-subtle of screaming about Brexit. In terms of my current books, Once & Future is my big-thrill book. If you wanted to file it next to another of my earlier books, you’d be looking at Doctor Aphra – both are attempts to rethink the classic Indiana Jones Adventure story for the 21st century.  Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain are simply destroying the page with their art. It’s just a masterclass in pop comics from the pair of them. It’s also reviewed phenomenally well.

It’s a lot of fun, and god knows we all need fun now.

Also, I’m told the DIE T-shirts abstractly have made their way to shops now.

So that’s happening. Abstractly.

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Let’s go into the aforementioned abstractly.

I’m going to write about how the last two weeks have impacted comics here, and move onto the personal and human stuff later. I’d like to keep it tight.

All forms of retail, in many territories operating under at the least social distancing and increasingly likely (and 100% definitely in the UK) to be closed for anything other than mail order. If I wrote this a day or two ago, I’d have likely have shown a link to Skottie Young’s excellent comic describing how to start a pull box and talked about various publisher’s initiatives to try and support shops.

However, on Tuesday Diamond revealed they would no longer be distributing comics in the direct market. This weeks’ comics are the last ones they’ll be distributing in the US, and they’re not doing that in the UK. As such, even though mail order may be working in your shop, they won’t be receiving new stock, as there will be no new weekly comics for the foreseeable future.

It’s unsure what this means going forward. Everyone is – I tell my collaborators that basically it’s a case of sitting and waiting to see what shakes down in the next week.

I would like to be able to beat an optimistic drum and say comics will survive, but comics aren’t what I’m worried about. Comics are an artform, and artforms will survive. Artforms are ideas, and ideas, as a comic once noted, are indestructible.

My worry is on a much more human, material level – as in, all the comic shops who the weekly turnover of books is absolutely what keeps the lights on. That is a huge number of workers whose livelihood is threatened, and if those businesses are lost, speaks to what the market looks like when we come out the other side of this.

As such, if you are mail ordering anything in comics, do check if your local shop is doing mail order. If they’re not, there’s plenty that are. This is true for any local shop, but with the specific situation of comics, doubly worth it. I’m not saying go out and spend, because everyone is in a tight situation finically, but if you are looking to buy, I’d urge you to buy from the places which need it. They will appreciate it.

To state the obvious, all my forthcoming signings are cancelled for now and I’m not sure what will be happening with any of my books’ releases. As soon as I know, I’ll let you know.

So that’s the abstractly, so let’s play out this bit with the relevant Frank Black track.

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A bumper set of links, I think.

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In short: oof.

I haven’t written to you for two weeks, and it’s a chasm. A recap doesn’t necessarily help, especially as it’s a situation which is likely similar to yours. The last of these started with the I’m-a-writer-I’ve-been-isolating-all-my-life joke, and the joke was new, rather than the song on the radio that’s so overplayed it makes people punch their fingers through their keyboards.

We are all tense, and you can see it creeping out into the conversation. That’s one of the quietly worse things about a situation like this – that almost everyone is in a variation of a bad place means that everyone is tetchy and sitting in the same room. When everyone is physically isolated, there’s an obvious irony.

It says a lot about me as a human that I wrote a worry first. That’s not the whole story. Simultaneously, there’s so many people coming together, trying to support one another. You see it on the macro level. You see it on the micro level. My friendship groups have so supportive it’s important. The virtual pub we ran on Friday was a roaring success, or at least that’s what my Hangover suggests.

But still – I’m aware this is two weeks in and this goes on until it doesn’t. None of us have gone though anything like this.

At the moment I am trying to follow a social media version of the Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm. Prior to this, for various reasons, I barely used social media for anything other than plugging, retweets and deeply terrible jokes. I’ll add trying to do more communal stuff too. While I applaud folks releasing art for people’s entertainment, I’m thinking I should save releasing stuff for week eight or whatever, just to spread it out a bit.

(That said, if you haven’t, the DIE RPG is out there and 100,000 words of stuff. Playing RPGs online is also very of the moment – I link to Allie’s thread here, with some notes of my own.)

Work wise, it’s basically “we continue.” Jeff is working. Stephanie is working. Dan is working. BRIGHTER SHADE OF BLUE artist is working. Whenever the books can come out, they will. Obviously this is most sharp for Ludocrats, which was meant to be out next week, and as of writing, I’m unsure whether it’ll be delayed, or just out on digital or what. I would presume delayed, but (as said in the notes-on-abstract above) I just don’t know. The first reviews are in, and are delighted. I hope it’ll delight folks whenever it emerges, resplendent and sticky.

Have I been working much?

More than you’d think. The week before last was a wash, but last week I was worryingly productive. A hard deadline with Dan needing a script tends to do that. It’s moved into this week, and I suspect I’m going to write to the end of issue 12 of Once & Future, before moving onto other projects. I even started a hefty new thing for the DIE backmatter of the next arc. In many ways the work is an anchor. I am sure that is not a purely good thing.

As I’ve said to anyone who’s asked, C and I are playing lockdown on easy mode. Our work already was from home. We don’t have an immediate financial pressure. We have no dependents. We like each other. But the wider worry about families and the world and everything is obviously a huge, Lovecraftian monster looming over our heads.

I have also been painting a lot of Warhammer ghosts. Running out of Milk is one worry, but running out of Black Templar is another. Not least because I keep on spilling it.

The active use of fantasy is on my mind, of how we’re consuming it, and how its sustaining us, and I’d be surprised if these weeks won’t impact any DIE sequel down the line. I found myself thinking of Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories, which I read when researching DIE. It’s one that’ll likely find its way onto the back of an issue, if I can find a way to cut it for space. It’s him talking around those who roll their eyes at escapism.

“Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.”

Escapism is never more crucial than when you literally can’t escape.

Find it where you can, cherish it and wash your fucking hands.

Kieron Gillen
London
25.3.2020