Before The Silent Invasion

Long before The Silent Invasion ever saw the light of day, I had worked with John Ellis Sech on a short-lived feature called Dick Mallet. The series was a pastiche of the the hard-boiled private detective genre. Dick Mallet’s superpower was that he didn’t carry a gun. The strips appeared in the Canadian Comics Annual and the Canadian Children’s Annual. Then Larry Hancock wrote a couple of Dick Mallet stories that appeared as back-ups in Cerebus.

Here’s a page from Dick Mallet’s very first appearance in the Canadian Comics Annual:

Dick Mallet_01_small

Then a full-colour adventure from the Canadian Children’s Annual:

Dick Mallet_02_small

Dick Mallet was one of our initial proposals to Renegade Press. Even though the Dick Mallet proposal was rejected, we included Mallet as a minor character in the very first issue of The Silent Invasion.

Here’s a layout sketch…

Dick_Mallet_disappears_small

And the first three pages of The Silent Invasion… 

Sil_Invasion_page1

Sil_Invasion_page2

Sil_Invasion_page3

Poor Dick Mallet. The lesson is: Be careful when you watch the skies!!!

Follow us on Facebook.

Advertisements

Behind the scenes with The Silent Invasion

Larry and I are long-time collaborators on The Silent Invasion and other comic book work. We work the “Marvel method.” That is we discuss the story and roughly formulate the plot over a pizza or burger. I make a few rough sketches, then go away and do tighter layouts and send them to Larry. He scripts the story. I take the script and pretend to make it work. We make additional edits over much gnashing of teeth, fist fights, Sugar ‘n’ Spike inspired tantrums and other childish behaviour. I pencil it using non-repro blue pencils; letter; and ink the page.

I’m pretty methodical about it the process once I start pencilling. I begin with page one at each stage and work from the top left-hand panel on the first page to the bottom right-hand panel on the last page. A creature of habit, I guess.

Here’s a sample page ( a page from chapter 4 of “Abductions”) from the first rough sketch to final product:

The initial sketch done at the pizza meeting:

Sketch_01

Larry’s script with my scribbles:

Script_01

The page layout:

layout_01.jpg

The pencilled page:

pencils_01

A test ink sketch that I usually do while I’m finessing the point on my brush:

ink sketch

And the final page:

final_art_01

Next time: more on the CFL in The Silent Invasion!

Remember to watch the skies, because they are watching you!

And follow us on Facebook.

The Terror of the 1950s

The Roots of the Silent Invasion

Congress

The Silent Invasion first appeared back in the age of dinosaurs, 1986, to be precise. It was released by Renegade Press, a line of indie comics published by Deni Loubert. We had contributed a couple of back-up stories to Cerebus; when she left Aardvark-Vanaheim to start Renegade, Deni asked us to develop a series for the new line. I (we) jumped at the opportunity. I knew I had no chance at working in mainstream comics (couldn’t draw then, still can’t today). So I quit my day job as a graphic designer and art director and committed myself to the project for the next few years. 

Sil_Invasion_Renegade_cover01_small

And that’s when we looked to the skies for inspiration. 

During the 1950s — and well into the 1960s when I was growing up — there were numerous UFO sightings across North America. UFO researchers called them “UFO flaps.” Even my older brother claimed to have seen a flying saucer.

I was fascinated by these UFO sightings. I grew up in Oshawa, a city located on the north shore of Lake Ontario about 30 miles east of Toronto. It’s claim to fame is the junior hockey team, the Oshawa Generals, and the GM plant. Oshawa is not not the entertainment capital of the world, so in looking for diversions and excitement, I would — with a couple of pals — spend long evenings staring into the night skies hoping to see one of these mysterious discs visiting us wretched earthlings from the deep reaches of outer space. 

But, alas, we had no such luck. 

Fate_Adamski

My imagination was fuelled by “bad” sci-fi movies; Fate Magazine; the charlatan, George Adamski, who claimed to have been taken on tours of the solar system by friendly aliens; and the story of Barney and Betty Hill, the New Hampshire couple famously “abducted” by aliens back in 1961.

Betty and Barney Hill

Larry and I decided to build the series around these UFO sightings and abductions; and the communist witch hunts of the 1950s that were orchestrated by Joseph McCarthy and his crowd of hooligans.

mccarthy-1

Our main character — the diligent, idealistic reporter Matt Sinkage — gets caught up in this mess. whose grip on reality might be described as tenuous. Sinkage is sure there is a deep state of corrupt capitalists, politicians and scientists who are manipulating events to the benefit of the chosen few. He just needs to convince the public through the efforts of his investigative reporting. Of course no one believes him. He’s accused of being paranoid and worse. He is our classic “Dickian” (as in Philip K. Dick) anti-hero.

I had “discovered” Dick in the mid-1970s (long after everyone else had). I’d been aware of him since I started reading science fiction as a young lad but didn’t read any of his books until I was at art college Then I read Time Out of Joint and I was hooked. 

Time Out of Joint

Into that bubbling stew of UFOs, “commonists,” and the shifting realities of Matt Sinkage, we added aspects of film noir, the wacky 1950s, bad sci-fi movies and good European comics. The Silent Invasion was born. 

After the first 12 issues of The Silent Invasion were completed we didn’t abandon comics all together. We collaborated with John van Bruggen on a 4-issue mini-series called Suburban Nightmares. Then, with John Sabljic, I worked on The New Frontier (not to be confused with DC’s The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke). The New Frontier was an alternate world political satire that in retrospect seems somewhat prescient as it resembles Trump’s America.

Sub_Night_New_Frontier

In 2001, we returned to The Silent Invasion with a sequel set in the 1960s. NBM serialized the 5-part story, titled “Abductions” as a floppy comic and next year they will publish it for the first time in a more widely available collected edition. For those completists out there, I will be redrawing three pages for the new collection.

Sil_Invasion_NBM_Abductions01_smallest

Now, over to you Larry…

For more information on The Silent Invasion click here.

You can follow us on Facebook as well.

The Return of The Silent Invasion

The Silent Invasion is back after a hiatus of almost 20 years. NBM will be releasing four volumes; the original series as two books, the never before collected story “Abductions,” and then a brand new volume with the working title “Dark Matter.” And after that, who knows?

Silent_Invasion_RedShadows_Cover_small

Stefan Blitz of NBM recently asked us a few questions to set the scene of our return to graphic novels…

So where have you guys been for the last two-decades? Hiding somewhere up in the frozen wilds of Canada?

Michael Cherkas: I’ve spent the last 30 years working as a graphic designer, art director and sometime illustrator and cartoonist. Most of the work I’ve done would fall under the category of editorial design; magazines, corporate publications, annual reports, etc. Let’s just say I’ve created a lot of landfill over the past 20 years. And after staring at type on a computer screen for 10 hours or more a day, my eyes were pretty tired, so I had no desire to sit at a drawing board for another four or five hours.

Having said that we did continue to dabble in comics though our output was minimal. We wrote and drew “Abductions,” which NBM published as a 5-issue floppy-comic mini-series way back in 2001…

Sil_Invasion_NBM_Abductions01_smallest

Then we self-published one issue of The Purple Ray…

The Purple Ray_One_cover_small.jpg

I wasn’t happy with the art in that; I am in the process of re-drawing the entire first issue. There was also a three-pager I did for a small-press anthology. Larry actually was a character in the story. Stay tuned and you might see that 3-pager right here.

I’ve also been working on a graphic novel about the Ukrainian terror famine of 1932-33 known as the Holodomor…

RedHarvest_Ch1_P12_small

This is also a good time for me to get more involved in comics again as I’m now the “president and chief bottle washer” of a one-person world-wide design empire which gives me more opportunity to work on comics or graphic novels.

Larry Hancock: In my daytime secret identity, I am a professional accountant. Back in 1998 I became self-employed and have been extremely busy. Because of my affinity with the arts I have a lot of clients who are authors, artists, animators, singers, film people, etc.

Michael and I get together quite often to talk story ideas, but we have not been highly motivated to work on comics. Back in the nineties, the comic book world was concentrating very much on violent superheroes and gimmicky covers. But these days there is so much variety available that it is time to dip our toes in the ink again.

Why The Silent Invasion again? Does it have something to do with the strange political culture America is living through?

MC: The premise of The Silent Invasion is that there is something terribly rotten in the American government. Books 1 and 2 are set in the 1950s during the time of the communist witch-hunts. But Matt Sinkage, our main character, believes he’s on to something when he thinks he discovers evidence that a recent rash of UFO sightings is somehow connected to the so-called communist infiltration of government departments and agencies. What’s never clear is whether the “communists in government” is a cover story to detract from the “alien invasion of earth” or the other way around.

I ain't no commie.jpg

So yes, the story should resonate today since the current president is no stranger to creating and sustaining conspiracy theories. I don’t think he’s ever seen a conspiracy theory he didn’t like unless it has something to do with Russian influence on his election.

LH: As Michael mentioned we self-published one issue of our Purple Ray comic book. On the back we put a fake ad for the next Silent Invasion book, saying that it was coming soon, but not too soon. We weren’t really serious at that time. Yes we had, over the previous several years, been talking about the plot for a next book, if we ever did one, but we had no plans as to when to actually following through.

Silent_Invasion_fake ad_01

Then, when we met Terry Nantier in Toronto at TCAF in 2017, he looked at that fake ad, raised a quizzical eyebrow, and suggested the time is ripe to re-introduce The Silent Invasion to the wider world. I looked at Michael and said, “Let’s do it!”

MC: And I, grumpily, agreed.