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.
Here are upcoming titles, now being solicited in comics stores through Diamond Previews for an June and July 2020 release. The June titles which were previously announced HERE, will be shipping with an adjusted schedule caused by the COVID-19 quarantine.
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 US $24.99; ISBN: 978168112259552499 Pub Date: July 15th, 2020
Niki de Saint Phalle knew art could save the world because art saved her… from madness, from violence. Even from herself. A comics biography of the famous and controversial contemporary pop-style artist.
8×10, 186pp., full color Hardcover , US $29.99, HC ISBN: 978168112158152999
This comics biography of one of the greatest sculptors who ever lived is done with the collaboration of the Rodin Museum and includes a preface by its director.
It views his life through the eyes of the three women who shared his life for good or for bad. One was his lifelong on and off companion, the other two his muses, one of which was Camille Claudel, a well-recognized sculptor herself.
Rodin’s work was revolutionary in conveying exceptional passion, transcending the stone. Here’s how that happened.
7 x 10.25, 112pp. full color HC, US $19.99; ISBN: 978168112241051999
The life of the great French painter, one of the founders of Impressionism, is narrated in lush comic art reminiscent of his style.
From the Salon des Refuses (“Salon of the Rejected”) and many struggling years without recognition, money and yet a family to raise, all the way to great success, critically and financially, Monet pursued insistently one vision: catching the light in painting, refusing to compromise on this ethereal pursuit. It cost him dearly but he was a beacon for his contemporaries.
We discover in this comics biography how he came to this vision as well as his turbulent life pursuing it.
9×12, 112pp., full color hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978168112139052499
A number of weeks ago Larry Hancock and I chatted with by John Swinimer, the host of the True North Country Comics Podcast to promote our appearance at this year’s now cancelled Toronto Comics Arts Festival. We had planned to launch the newly-released Abductions, Book Three of The Silent Invasion series at TCAF 2020.
Tune in and enjoy our conversation with John here.
This time around, here’s a tour of the tiny space where The Silent Invasion is drawn, erased, redrawn, lettered and inked.
And now some photos:
Top row; the approach to the studio: bottom; the ink-stained desk, surrounded by some treasured and well-read favourite comics and other bric-a-brac.
The artist’s materials, including his trusty blue pencils, numbers 4 and 5 Winsor & Newton Series 7 watercolour brushes, and jars of India ink.
The bookshelves beside and behind my drawing table, and three very dusty 1/72-scale plastic airplane models built in the wayback time when I was in high school. The aircraft are a Hawker Tempest (in front), Grumman Bearcat (rear left) and a Grumman Hellcat.
Until next time, watch the skies, and stay safe and healthy.
Here are upcoming titles, now being solicited in comics stores through Diamond Previews for an June 2020 release.
The Louvre Collection: THE RED MOTHER WITH CHILD Created 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 Hardcover, $27.99 US / $36.50 CAN; HC ISBN: 978168112257152799; DIAMOND CODE: APR201948
The Louvre Collection: ROHAN AT THE LOUVRE Created By Hirohiko Araki
After Glacial Period and The Sky Over the Louvre comes another completely original story with stunning art by a leading mangaka, bestselling author of ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.’
Rohan, a young mangaka, meets a beautiful mysterious young woman with a dramatic story. Seeing him draw, she tells him of a cursed 200 year old painting using the blackest ink ever known from a 1000 year old tree the painter had brought down without approval from the Emperor who had him executed for doing so.
The painting meanwhile had been saved from destruction by a curator of the Louvre. Rohan forgets this story as he becomes famous but ten years later, visiting Paris, he takes the occasion to try and locate the painting. Little does he know how violently powerful the curse of it is until he has the museum unearth it from deep within its archival bowels 7 ¼” x 10 3/8” , 128pp. Full color Hardcover, US $19.99; HC ISBN: 978156163615051999; DIAMOND CODE: APR201950
The Louvre Collection: GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE By Jiro Taniguchi
Acclaimed manga artist Jiro Taniguchi provides the latest entry in the Louvre collection of graphic novels.
After a group trip to Europe, a Japanese artist stops in Paris alone, intent on visiting the museums of the capital. But, bedridden in his hotel room with fever, he faces the absolute solitude of one suffering in a foreign land, deprived of any immediate or familiar recourse.
When the fever breaks somewhat, he sets out on his visit and promptly gets lost in the crowded halls of the Louvre. Very soon, he discovers many unsuspected facets to this world in a museum in a journey oscillating between feverish hallucination and reality, actually able to speak with famous painters from various periods of history, led to crossroads between human and personal history by… the Guardians of the Louvre. 8 ” x 11”, 136 pp. Full-color hardcover, $24.99 USHC ISBN: 97816811203485249952499; DIAMOND CODE: APR201949