AM Artists Talking to Artists: Mikael and Rumi Hara on Immigration in Comics (Saturday, June 18th 11 AM – Panel – LC2) Uprooting your life and migrating from one place to another isn’t easy whether it’s in the past, present, or future. Mikael (Bootblack) and Rumi Hara (Peanutbutter Sisters) discuss their different conceptions of immigrant stories and how New York City pervades the psyche of the immigration story whether in fantasy or reality. Come and find out how comics tell and shape stories about migration, its opportunities, and struggles.
Architecture in Comics (A French Language Workshop with Translation) (Sunday, June 19th 12 PM – Workshop Space) Mikael presents his way of drawing New York City to make it a living character in his stories and talks about his way of integrating architecture into his storytelling. This workshop will be presented as a French language workshop with English translation.
Saturday, June 18th at NBM Booth (#134, 135)
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Mikael (after his panel)
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Mikael
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
Sunday, June 19th at NBM Booth (#134, 135)
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Mikael (after his workshop)
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
Often when it I’m in the middle of a story, and I’m getting low on paper, and I don’t want to venture out into the “wiggly-world”, I’ll grab a page of unfinished art that I have lying around and use the other side.
Here’s an example. This is page 120 from Dark Matter, before the final lettering was in place.
And on the other side of the above artwork is an unused page of art from the first chapter. These blue pencils are an earlier version of page 20.
And here’s the final version of page 20:
Next time more lost art retrieved from the jaws of those feisty grey aliens!
Walter Sinkage’s quiet suburban life is shattered when he witnesses several UFOs flash past in the sky. His search for the truth about the UFOS and the suspicious disappearance of his brother Matt, leads him to an alien abduction support group and confrontation with the Church of Cosmic Enlightenment.
When Walter also vanishes, police detective Eddy Dime finds himself stymied while trying to uncover the truth behind what happened to the two brothers and other victims of what he believes may be an alien conspiracy that reaches into the highest and murkiest echelons of government power.
7×10, 144pp., Black & White trade paperback., $16.99/ $22.50 CAN PB ISBN: 978168112283051699 ; DIAMOND CODE: AUG211898
Set against the background of a nightmarish 1950s crawling with communist spies, corrupt FBI agents, McCarthyites, Stalinists, cold warriors, flying saucers, mysterious government organizations, The Silent Invasion weaves a byzantine tale of mystery and deceit as a bewildered investigative reporter Matt Sinkage pursues the truth behind an apparent alien invasion of earth that points to involvement at the highest levels of American government officials.
7×10, 160pp., Black & White trade paperback., $16.99/ $22.50 CAN PB ISBN: 978168112174151699 ; DIAMOND CODE: AUG211899
The paranoia and conspiracy theories continue! Beleaguered reporter Matt Sinkage’s quest to discover the truth behind an apparent, government-backed alien invasion of earth leads him to investigate a quasi-religious UFO cult based in an idyllic small American community.
Then the sudden death of a prominent politician paves the way for Senator Harrison Callahan to seek the Presidency of the United States. But Sinkage, believing that Callahan is an alien pawn, is determined to stop him at all costs.
7×10, 160pp., Black & White trade paperback, US $16.99 / $22.50 CAN PB ISBN: 978168112206951699 ; DIAMOND CODE: AUG211900
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.
7×10, 160pp., Black & White trade paperback US $16.99/ $22.50 CAN Paperback ISBN:978168112255751699; DIAMOND CODE: AUG211901
NBM will be releasing Book 4 of our Silent Invasion series in October. This is the first brand new material that we have produced in the series since we did the Abductions story in 2002 (which NBM released as Book 3 last year)
Above you will see a synopsis from the back cover of the book.
Over on his portion of the Blog, Michael has been posting some artwork from the book. Check that out.
Some of you reading this may not be familiar with The Silent Invasion. So for a bit of background information here is the text that we wrote as an Afterward for a french language edition of Book 1 which was published in mid 2020.
The Silent Invasion; Aliens Ate Our Brains
The Silent Invasion was first published by Renegade Press in comic book form in 1986. This volume contains the first six issues and, in the beginning, that was all that there was supposed to be.
We had contributed a couple of back-up Dick Mallet stories to Dave Sim’s Cerebus, published by Aardvark-Vanaheim. When Deni Loubert left Aardvark-Vanaheim to start Renegade Press she asked us if we wanted to develop a series for the new line. We jumped at the opportunity. Michael knew that at that time he had no chance at working in mainstream comics.
As we searched for a topic, our minds turned to our childhood fantasies and fears for inspiration.
During the 1950s, and well into the 1960s when we were growing up, there were numerous UFO sightings across North America. UFO researchers called them “UFO flaps.” Michael in particular was fascinated by these UFO sightings. He grew up in Oshawa, a city located on the north shore of Lake Ontario about 50 kilometres east of Toronto. In looking for diversions and excitement he would, with a couple of friends, spend long evenings staring into the night skies hoping to see one of those mysterious discs visiting us wretched earthlings from the deep reaches of outer space.
Our 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 in 1961.
We thought we could have some fun by creating a series that would follow the adventures of a delusional reporter (Matt Sinkage) as he tries to link the UFO sightings and “alien abductions” of the 1950s and 1960s to the Cold War and the communist witch hunts that were orchestrated by Joseph McCarthy and his crowd of right wing hooligans. And this link would be a deep-state (in the days before we knew what the deep state was) conspiracy run by a shadowy government organization.
The series was always meant to be a light-hearted and somewhat satirical pastiche of 1950s film noir thrillers and science fiction movies.
Visually, Michael looked to the European cartoonists for inspiration. He was first introduced to European cartoonists around 1970-71 through the fanzines Graphic Story World and Graphic Story Magazine. Additionally, he found that he could buy Pilote and Tintin at a smoke shop/pool hall/magazine stand in “culturally-deprived” Oshawa. It was then that he discovered Jean Girard, Hergé, Hugo Pratt; and then later Yves Chaland, Serge Clerc, Jacques Tardi and others. His eyes were truly opened as to what was possible in comics.
The premise of The Silent Invasion is that there is something terribly rotten in the American government. This book and the second volume are set in the 1950s during the time of the communist witch-hunts. But Matt Sinkage, our main character, thinks he is on to something when he believes 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. And as with any good conspiracy theory, the conspiracy can never be resolved. It can only get more complex.
And now, in 2020, the world has caught up with The Silent Invasion. As we type these words, the Pentagon has just released videos of “unidentified aerial phenomena” – videos which it admits are real, but unexplainable. A President has been elected about whom conspiracy theories abound – was he fairly elected or was there manipulation by foreign or, dare we speculate, alien powers? And we are all locked indoors, fearing the worst from Covid-19!
In the months before the release of the original comic book series, our promotional campaign used headlines such as… “What kind of alien is your neighbor? What kind are you?” and “We are under surveillance! Who do you trust?” and “There are 187 aliens in Congress! Who did you vote for?” These phrases speak to the atmosphere of the 2020s just as much as they did to the 1950s.
Today The Silent Invasion resonates even more: the current president is no stranger to creating, and sustaining, conspiracy theories. It is unlikely that he’s ever seen a conspiracy theory he didn’t like. Is he under the influence of aliens? If so, are they terrestrial or extra-terrestrial?
As we mentioned, The Silent Invasion began as a six issue series in 1986, and that is what you presently hold in your hands. This was a staggeringly innovative year for comic books. Amazing Heroes magazine chose The Silent Invasion as one of the ten best comics of 1986, a list which was topped by Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight and also included Watchmen, Love and Rockets and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. We were also nominated for a 1987 Kirby Award for best black-and-white comic of the year (losing to Cerebus by fellow Canadian Dave Sim)
Before we completed those issues we realized we wanted to continue the story, and wrote and drew a further six issues. Several years later, aliens possessed us and forced us to tell yet another tale. And we are currently are working on a brand new story to be published soon.
Hopefully you will enjoy this book enough that Delcourt brings you the next perplexing adventure of Matt Sinkage!
Meanwhile… Watch the skies!
THEY….. are… out… there!!
Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
For more information on The Silent Invasion click 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.
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.
Way back in the distant past (remember those days?), we created this 7-page tale telling the story of Dick Mallet’s last case. If you recall, it was Dick Mallet’s mysterious disappearance at the beginning The Great Fear that was the catalyst to get this wild goose chase going. Presented here for the first time in many years, is the story that explains how poor old Dick Mallet ended up on a lonely road somewhere in America back in the halcyon days of 1952.
Abductions, Book Three of The Silent Invasion is coming in May! For those who don’t know, Abductions is a fun-filled paranoia-fuelled escapist romp through a warped 1960s America, a small antidote for these anxiety-inducing times.
Look up! Look out! and Watch the skies while you stay at home!