NOTE: I’ve had a few requests for a general summary of the world in which The Outbreak (and specifically “Monster at the Institute”) takes place. Hopefully, all this comes through clearly in the comic, but if you want a little more information or to read ahead, this is what you’re looking for!
While still recovering from the trauma of World War II, England endures an outbreak of ravenous, wolf-like carnivores called lupanoids. The beasts take over the countryside, dramatically altering the landscape and culture. No one seems to understand where they came from or why. All that is known for sure is that the lupanoids aren’t wolves and aren’t humans, and they appear to never have been either. Popular opinion is divided on whether they should (or can) be exterminated or whether humankind should learn to live alongside the lupanoids.
Two main groups make up either side of this debate. The Institute for Co-Existence, which is just a refurbished version of the war-time Institute for Peace, is a government-funded research institute that employs chemists, biologists, mathematicians, sociologists, and other scientists all working toward a common goal: to establish a new normal society in which humans and the lupanoids co-exist without fear. On the other hand, The Confrontation is a military-style group that eliminates lupanoids wherever the soliders find them. The Confrontation is careful, though, to tranquilize the beasts before burning them at a cremation facility offsite, since the fresh blood of a slain lupanoid would just attract more.
Although they seem to be at odds, the Institute and Confrontation work together frequently. The Confrontation regularly provides a small number of live lupanoids to the Institute for testing, and the Institute developed and supplies the tranquilizer used by the Confrontation. In addition, the Confrontation runs the transports that are required to get around, which are Army jeeps enhanced to protect against lupanoid attacks.
After surviving the Blitz and other stresses of the war, many English citizens found the lupanoid Outbreak too much to bear. Many have left the country, fleeing to America and other countries where they believe they’ll be free of the lupanoid threat. Those who remain live mostly barricaded in rooms with bricked-over windows, dependent on The Confrontation for transportation, and with little opportunity to venture outside without fear of attack.
But they make do, those who remain in England. Because that’s their duty to their country and families: to make do.
Beginning tomorrow, you can read excerpts from the journal of Dr. Patrick Sullivan, a chemist at the Institute for Co-Existence, in “Monster at the Institute.” Patrick flew in the Royal Air Force during the war, but now lives on the outskirts of London with his wife Susan and their young son, Marcus. Patrick is convinced that he can help find a way to control the Outbreak and to live in peace with the lupanoids, the way humans co-exist with other animals, but neither he nor his fellow scientists have come up with any solutions yet.
Learn more tomorrow…
Today’s the day, everyone! OK, it probably means more to me than to you. I mean, it’s not like this comic is going anywhere, for a while at least. It will be here for you to check back in on or for other people to discover later.
But for me this is the successful climax of over a year of work. These stories that make up The Outbreak, including the story in “Monster at the Institute,” began as short stories that I wrote to take a break from my novel. I thought there was a slim chance I’d ever get “Monster” and the other stories in a literary journal (which does take some of the pressure off, allowing me to write a little more freely than I might otherwise). But then my husband mentioned that they might make good comics…
And so, through a connection to the Naked Wordshop, I joined Sunday Comix and floated down into the rabbit hole that is the Columbus comics community. And lord, did I have a lot to learn! Just a few examples:
Although “Monster at the Institute” wasn’t intended to be the first-launched story for The Outbreak, I was lucky enough to convince Michael Neno to draw it for me, and you guys are seriously going to love the results. Michael has a great throw-back style, reminiscent of the best 1950s comic art, which fits this story so beautifully. (In fact, if you’re really interested in that other comic knowledge I’ve gained, check out his digital book Creating Old School Comics: the Tips, Tools and Tricks You Need for Pre-Digital Cartooning for only $5!) I think Michael probably worked on this story once a day for more than a year straight, and the artwork reflects that attention to detail and hard work.
Once Michael delivered the completed artwork, I realized how drastically I’d underestimated the work that still needed to be done to get my website and the actual digital comic built! I worked crazy super hard on it for… I don’t even know how long. It felt like another year, but it was probably three weeks or something. Then I sent it out to my super-special “soft open” guinea pigs to click around and let me know what didn’t work. Then I incorporated all THEIR comments, and here we are. Finally. On launch day. Whew!!
The guinea pigs to whom I owe heaps of gratitude are: Valerie Acton, Matt Betts, Viven Barlow, Travis Horseman, Canada Keck, Kathy Matthews, William Minozzi (my husband), and Glenn Shaheen. They all offered advice on navigation, caught typos, helped with rewrites, and gave me technical feedback. Thank you all so much!
“Monster at the Institute” is six issues long, and I’ll post one a week over the next six weeks on Thursdays. To get reminders and other news about The Outbreak, subscribe to this blog (the button’s up top, but if you use Chrome, you have to do it however you usually subscribe to blogs)! Michael Neno and I are already working on the next story, but you’ll only get updates by checking here.
And now, without further ado, please enjoy the debut issue of The Outbreak, “Monster at the Institute.”
Just a reminder that I, along with a couple other writers, will be reading tomorrow (Thursday) at the Urban Arts Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. I’ll be reading from my in-progress novel, which you can learn more about here.
Here’s a little promo that Hannah Stephenson recently sent out with some more info and nice links.
Of Large Marge, Casper, and Beetlejuice. Of stomping grounds and returned-to places. Of poltergeists and amusement park haunted houses and the haunted house that the mind can become….
I can’t wait for Thursday’s Paging Columbus: Haunts! Our expert team of ghostbusters/spirit guides (David Winter, J. L. Smither, and Rachel Lee) will be sharing poems and prose. Also, for the first time, Paging Columbus will begin with a (brief but haunting) performance by artist David Knox.
Our event will run from 6-8 PM on Thursday, March 6 (at OSU Urban Arts Space), but we’ll get started with the performance/readings at 6:30. Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya.
Little ghosts and unexpected specters
I’d love to see your friendly faces there!
It’s now official!
I hope you can join me on Thursday, March 6, for a reading at the Urban Arts Space in downtown Columbus, Ohio. I’ll be reading selections from my in-progress novel.
This reading is put on by Paging Columbus, organized by energetic Hannah Stephenson. Along with me, you’ll get to hear readings by Rachel Lee and David Winter and a performance by David Knox.
The event starts at 6pm for socializing, with the readings beginning at 6:30. I hope to see many friendly faces!
UPDATE: The theme for the evening is “haunts.” You can find more information on the Facebook event page.
There was a time when I spent hours of my day copy editing for my “day job.” I love copy editing–I love the focus it takes, the problem-solving aspects, the working knowledge of styles and rule books, and how much I get to learn about diverse topics. But lately, I haven’t had much copy editing work to do. So I’ve redirected all that detail-oriented energy over to my calendar page. Wow, look how much stuff is going on! I’ll make a bespoke cocktail for the first person who finds the event that mentions ninjas…
But there are a lot more updates to make! I’m going to continue to scour the Interwebs for book- and writing-related events throughout the country and will add them as I find them. But if you notice an omission, please let me know! There’s a form right on the calendar page to make it really easy.
Michael Neno is continuing to work hard on the art for the our comic series, The Outbreak. The first series, “Monster at the Institute,” which is 5 issues long, should go live in March on this page. Keep checking in with us so you don’t miss it’s release!
Finally, watch this space for an upcoming reading announcement! It’s not quite all official yet, but I hope to be participating in a reading in Columbus in early March. Yes, I’m already nervous.
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