Hello out there in blog land! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re interested in Willie Nelson: A Graphic History from NBM. Chances are also good that you’re maybe interested in the people that worked on the project. Well, today… is your lucky day! T.J. Kirsch ( that’s ME ) was recorded having a wonderful conversation about that project for the Vodka O’Clock Podcast this past week. Amber, the host of VOC, went in depth with T.J ( ME ) about his beginnings in comics, in secondary schooling, his experience as a literary agent, his previous book Pride Of The Decent Man ( NBM ), and more!
Click here and crank up your podcast listening device – whatever that may be – and take the journey. You’ll be enlightened, possibly distracted from doing those dishes, or that commute to that grocery store you love so much.
Willie Nelson, now living through a global pandemic at 87 years old, was born in Texas hill country in 1933. No one could’ve predicted the longevity of Willie’s music career, and the fact that he’d still be releasing new music at his advanced age. Yet this month, he released his 70th album, First Rose Of Spring – another collection of recordings produced by Willie’s longtime co-writer/collaborator Buddy Cannon. For someone who was born during the Depression, it’s amazing to think about also living through something as massive as the COVID-19 pandemic. There were many unforeseen cancellations for Willie this year as a result of the year’s events – Farm Aid, Willie’s Fourth Of July Picnic, The Luck, Texas Reunion – that had to ultimately become virtual events. For a humble guitar picker that loves life ‘on the road,’ that can’t be an easy adjustment – to shelter in place, to not interact with fans and audiences one on one – that’s just not as fun. It can’t be an easy adjustment for someone that’s spent three quarters of a century performing for live audiences. Luckily, for Willie, he’s able to continue to make music at home and ride out these uncertain times with his close knit family. We can’t wait to see him – and the family – on the road again.
For more information on the upcoming Willie Nelson: A Graphic History from NBM Comics Biographies, go here.
Abductions, Book 3 of The Silent Invasion is now available through finer book shops (as the saying goes). It can be ordered in print online and is available as a digital download.
To help entice you to make the purchase, we are presenting here Robert J. Sawyer’s introduction to this volume. Sit back and enjoy!
HERE WE GO AGAIN
The French, they have a certain—I don’t know what. But they sure do have a way with words, and, as they say, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Here we are in 2020—remember when that was an eye-test score and not a year?—and the dark paranoia of the 1950s is with us once more. To let Yogi Berra, a famed athlete from that era, continue our French theme, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Larry Hancock, who writes The Silent Invasion, is my accountant—and a damn good one he is, too. Since my principal dealings with the government are on matters of taxation, I like that Larry has a healthy skepticism about what those in Ottawa (for us Canadians) and Washington (I’m a dual citizen—he does my US return, too) are up to.
Larry and Michael Cherkas, the gifted artist who draws The Silent Invasion, were mere young’uns when McCarthyism gripped the United States, but they were university students by the time the edict “follow the money” led to the downfall of Tricky Dick Nixon. And, as they were creating the first floppy-comic versions of what’s become a beloved cult classic, the notion that the US government had faked the moon landing (and then faked it again, and again, and again, and again, and again) was already entrenched in the popular imagination.
Those earlier issues of The Silent Invasion predated the Clinton impeachment, the Iran-Contra scandal, the trumped-up war in Iraq following 9/11, the labeling of truth as “fake news,” the current raging paranoia about deep-state activities, the resurgence of flat-Earthers, and the election of a shifty reality-TV star to the most powerful office in the world. And although this third volume was also begun before all that happened, it reads as though it could have been written today.
What seemed like nostalgia for the hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1930s and 1940s, and a callback to the UFO craze and Red scare of the 1950s, now reads like—well, not newspaper headlines; those are so last millennium. Our intrepid hero, Matt Sinkage, were he still plying his trade today, would doubtless have a YouTube channel with millions of followers. He’d no longer be a voice in the wilderness, his warnings rarely heeded, but rather the center of tweetstorms, and no doubt the subject of online jabs, not from the long-forgotten President Callahan, who, in the Invasion-verse was elected in 1960 despite Sinkage’s attempt to assassinate him, but from President Trump himself.
Matt Sinkage would recognize the parallels between those two commanders-in-chief, though: Callahan was a dupe, a stooge, a puppet of alien forces, and, well, so, it seems, is Donald Trump, in that interchangeable way that aliens and Russians exist in the shadows of our minds. As Matt said of the former president but could have just as easily observed of the latter, “If he gets elected the aliens will control him. They’ll be in charge of the country … and maybe the world.” Where is Senator McCarthy now that we finally actually need him? Instead, we live in a world where nothing, not even impeachment, seems capable of bringing down the monster in our midst.
This third volume of The Silent Invasion at last adds in a little Canadian content; after all, its two creators live in Toronto. They insidiously use Canadian spellings (“neighbours” rather than “neighbors”), casually bring Canadian football into a conversation, and seamlessly weave the long forgotten Avro Avrocar flying disc into the plot.
Some grad student will eventually note that the name The Silent Invasion echoes The Quiet Revolution that transformed Quebec in the 1960s. Yes, grad student. What you have in your hands is pure entertainment, to be sure, but also food for thought: there’s enough meat here about how conspiracies, cover-ups, and corruption work to fuel a decent thesis or two.
Of course, the first thing one notices when leafing through these pages is the very distinctive art. There’s always been something eerie about Michael Cherkas’s figures, with their muscular bodies and tiny heads, but today, when we apply force—whether online or off—without much thinking, they seem emblematic of our shoot-first-and-consider- later age.
Meanwhile, Cherkas’s harsh use of black and white, with shades of gray reserved solely for showing shadows, seems the perfect metaphor for our era of polarization. And, really, how apropos of the infiltration of Russia into our daily life is Cherkas’s unique lettering in which a ‘U’ looks like the backward ‘N’ that is the tenth letter of the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet?
So, will this long-delayed third volume of The Silent Invasion be the end of Matt Sinkage? Well, as Phil Housley said in Volume Two, “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.” And as Housley says in this volume, “Once again I was being drawn into fantastic events over which I had no control—that I couldn’t even hope to understand…”
Yes, indeed. Welcome back to the 1950s—and welcome to the 2020s. No matter the decade, you’re in for, as the French would say, un enfer d’un tour—a hell of a ride.
ROBERT J. SAWYER
Mississauga, Ontario, January 2020
Robert J. Sawyer is one of only eight writers ever—and the only Canadian—to win the world’s top three awards for best science-fiction novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. The ABC TV series FlashForward was based on his Aurora Award-winning novel of the same name, and he was one of the scriptwriters for that series. He also wrote the two-part finale for the acclaimed webseries Star Trek Continues. A member of the Order of Canada—the highest honor given by the Canadian government—and one of the initial inductees into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, Rob’s latest novel is The Oppenheimer Alternative.
As Comic Artist Laureate of The Netherlands, one of my “duties” is to hand the prestigious Stripschapprijs, Holland’s one and only comics prize, to the winner. This year, that’s Wasco, a remarkable artist whose work has influenced comics makers worldwide.
Despite the current restrictions, I was able to hand him the statuette that comes with the prize, in an almost empty cinema where Wasco was regaled with messages from his friends – you can watch the proceedings (in Dutch) in this YouTube registration.
I have been working hard behind the scenes, as I often do, to make sure the books I create are of the highest quality in the land. That means plenty of post production, page formatting, art correcting, re-lettering, and general file handling. Very exciting stuff – some might say glamorous even.
Some time last year, when things were very different, I illustrated the cover for Willie Nelson: A Graphic History – you know, the book I haven’t been able to shut up about for the past (at least) two years? The very same book in which I edited, and partly illustrated? Yes, that’s the one. Well, the process for this particular piece was recorded in a digital program called Procreate, on a portable computer called an ‘iPad’ and with a writing instrument called an ‘Apple Pencil.’
As it turns out, you can watch the whole drawing process, in a sped-up timelapse sort of way. Pretty interesting to look back on. This is, of course, just the black and white line art – which was then colored in Photoshop. The typography on the cover was done in Adobe Illustrator. Are you asleep yet? Anyway here’s the link, right below here.
Since he was a child in Hill County, Texas, he has been writing and performing for adoring crowds. Though his mainstream success did not come until later in his life, he has been determined to take his unique sound and voice to the people even before he was a household name. There have been tragedies, missteps, IRS troubles, good times and bad along the way, but Willie continues to shine his positive outlook and project his humble voice out into the world. In this graphic novel biography, all the chapters represent a different era of his life and struggles – each illustrated by a unique indie comics talent.
Michael Cherkas and I are pleased to announce that renowned science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer will be providing an introduction to The Silent invasion Book 3: Abductions which will be released in May 2020.
Robert J. Sawyer is a Hugo, Nebula, Heinlein, and Campbell Memorial Award-winning writer. His work has been seen through his novels such as Hominids, Mindscan , and Quantam Night. His novel FlashForward was adapted into a U.S. television series on ABC. He is also a member of the Order of Canada and one of eight writers (and the only Canadian) in history to win all three of the science fiction field’s top honors for best novel of the year.
His latest novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative will be released June 2, 2020.
Hello readers! It’s been quite a while. I’ve been behind the scenes quite a bit working on my next project…and here it is!
In September 2020, NBM Graphic Novels will release an extensive comic biography of country music icon Willie Nelson, written by Yours Truly! It will cover his entire life and career, beginning in Hill County, Texas in 1933. We’ll see all the ups and downs of his long career, family and activism up until the current day.
I’ll also be working on some of the art, along with an amazing group of talented cartoonists, including;
Adam Walmsley Jeremy Massie Jason Pittman Håvard S. Johansen J.T. Yost Coşkun Kuzgun Jesse Lonergan
Stay tuned right here for more info – coming very soon!
NBM Graphic Novels is proud to announce the release schedule beginning in March 2020, including brand new biographies of Phoolan Devi and Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as new volumes of The Silent Invasion and The Louvre Collection.
In addition, we’re releasing the historical fiction book, Giant, set in New York in the early 1930s, which follows a steelworker harboring a terrible secret.
Also being reissued as a bundle is The Rock & Roll Set which includes our Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Marley biographies.
PHOOLAN DEVI, REBEL QUEEN By Claire Fauvel
She rebelled against the ancient tribal rules of India, her country, resulting in her becoming a Robin Hood type bandit. Essentially sold at the age of 11 to become a wife for a much older man, she ran away when he raped her.
From that point on, there were few choices for her but to join a roaming gang of bandits, her ambition leading her to become their rebel chief. Ultimately, society caught up with her and she even became a strong voice for change as a representative in the nascent Indian parliament.
A story of courage and unbending determination in front of centuries of established inequities in the classic Indian caste system.
8½, 11, 224pp., full color HC, $29.99, $19.99 ebooks (9781681122526). ISBN 9781681122519
New York, early 1930s. We find Giant, a mysterious Irish colossus who, with his fellow immigrants, sweats blood to build the skyscrapers of Rockefeller Center. For a while, he has not received a reply to the typewritten letters he continues to send, as well as money, to the other side of the ocean, to Mary Ann, the wife of one of his colleagues who died accidentally. Giant, who seems to be afraid of nothing, still has not found the courage to reveal to the young woman that she is a widow … What does her silence mean? … What would happen if she had left for the New World to join her husband?
An entrancing everyday working class tale with a majestic background.
9×12, 120pp., full color HC, $24.99, ISBN 9781681122533, e: 9781681122540, $16.99
SILENT INVASION, VOL.3: ABDUCTIONS By Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
Several years after his fateful final encounter with would-be presidential assassin Matt Sinkage, private detective Phil Housley finds himself reluctantly protecting a paranoid lawyer from alien abductions, sinister government agents and mad scientists. At the same time Housley is battling demons from his past that threaten to unravel his own fragile sanity.
Collected here for the first time, “Abductions” continues the Silent Invasion saga of a deeply paranoid and fearful America.
The Louvre Collection: THE RED MOTHER WITH CHILD By Christian Lax
In Mali in Africa, a red Mother with Child, a 14th century African sculpture, is saved from the destructive madness of Islamists by Alou, a young honey hunter. In the company of other migrants, sisters and brothers of misfortune, Alou goes all out to reach Europe. His goal and his obsession: entrust the precious statuette to the Louvre Museum!
An epic adventure, touching upon the burning worldwide issue of refugees and immigration, in the ever-expanding Louvre collection commissioning graphic novels from leading world artists to spin tales around the famous museum.
9×12, 144pp, full color HC, $27.99, ebook 19.99 (9781681122588); ISBN 9781681122571
LEONARDO DA VINCI & THE RENAISSANCE OF THE WORLD By Marwan Kahil and Ariel Vittori
One of the greatest artists of all time, as well as a genius inventor, Da Vinci was arrestingly tall and handsome. This comics bio shows the process of his work and his inventions, his persecution as a gay man and how the changing politics of his country and ebbs and flows of those in power affected him and his career.
A turbulent story on an exceptional man. Complemented with back matter on his chronology, list of his oeuvres, etc…
6 ½ x9, 144pp., full color HC, $24.99, ebooks $16.99 (9781681122601). ISBN 9781681122595
Here is a set of 3 tomes on great rock and roll bands! The bestselling comics bios of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Marley are collected into one attractively priced banded set. Normally separately $85, $74.99 as a set.