Warren Ellis/D'Israeli comic about augmented reality with secret UV backstory

Warren Ellis, Matt "D'Israeli" Brooker and the London design firm BERG have all teamed up to release a marvellous and scary comic called SVK. SVK is an exploration of some of the terrifying possibilities of ubiquitous augmented reality in comic form, the story of a disgraced spy who is tasked with recovering a top-secret package lost by a military contractor. Throughout the comic, a second story is revealed in ultraviolet light, visible with the accompanying skinny, wallet-sized UV flashlight (it also works on the joke ads and the real ones). Interspersed with learned essays on comics as an art form (William Gibson), augmented reality (Jamais Cascio) and the history of novelty comics (Paul Gravett), SVK is more than a story, more than a design provocation and more than a warning about the unchecked future of technology in the hands of the military-industrial complex.

BERG have published the comic themselves, and are selling it in a sweet package with the required UV torch for £10, plus £3 shipping (UK -- £8 elsewhere).

Comics break the rules of storytelling, invent new ones, and break them again - more often than almost any other medium. This graphic novella is about looking - an investigation into perception, storytelling and optical experimentation that inherits some of the curiosities behind the previous work of BERG.

Litho printed on 115gsm silk paper in tones of black and blue, SVK uses a third ink invisible without the SVK object. The object is a UV light source which unlocks hidden layers woven throughout the comic book. Reading SVK becomes a unique and strange experience as you see the story unfold through the eyes of Thomas Woodwind.

First and foremost SVK is a modern detective story, one that Ellis describes as "Franz Kafka's Bourne Identity".

It's a story about cities, technology and surveillance, mixed with human themes of the power, corruption and lies that lurk in the data-smog of our near-future.


SVK photos and scans


  1. Horrified hipsters will shove the UV light in a drawer and never use it again after reading the comic in bed and trying out the UV light in that environment.

  2. Sweet, I love Warren Ellis, I’ll have to ask my local comic retailer to get this in for me.

  3. @Zergonapal, it’s only available direct from Berg themselves, not through comics books. ANd it’s a limited run.

    If the UK twitter trends are anything to go by I’d get over there and order one now! (in fact I already have)

  4. This looks pretty cool and engaging.

    Anyway…funny how the mind works. Thinking about this graphic novel invariably led my imagination to remember this little gem:

    Ralphie: Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!

  5. Ordered! It looks fascinating. I’m only just starting to read comics – this looks like a great doorway into the genre.

  6. I love the idea of UV augmented reality comic…

    …but if this is the execution, it looks like yet another disappointment for me from graphic novel land. The UV on this page is being entirely used to add predictable “thoughts” to characters. It’s like a recaptioning contest. If this is the extent to which the hidden ink reaches, that’s just sad. Hopefully they also used the technique for hiding:

    More things I can’t think of

    Please tell me this was just a bad example page…

    1. I agree with your comment. If it is just background thoughts and don’t really make another true story, then it won’t be worth the $$ to ship it to the US.

  7. I’m guessing that the example are chosen for their non-spoiler nature.

    Knowing Ellis and from what’s been written about this I’m expecting the UV thread to do something quite interesting with the visible story.

  8. Just a warning, postage to the US is £9.95, so you’re looking at almost £20 total, or $32 and change as of the time of my PayPal transaction.

  9. Interesting. SVK is one letter away from “svik”, the Norwegian word for betrayal.

  10. I bought two; it came to US$52.

    I’m donating the second copy to an as-yet-to-be-chosen charity auction.

    So, if anyone misses out, you’ll eventually have a chance to pay extra to support a good cause!

  11. It’s no secret that comic books – like movies, TV shows, and video games – are being widely pirated (or freed, depending on your stance). This strikes me as the comic book equivalent of the decoder ring. I wonder how long we have until badmouthing a comic book artist on a forum causes your collection to become illegible.

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