Today marks the launch of Spill Zone, a graphic novel from Uglies creator Scott Westerfeld (previously) and Alex Puvilland: the tale of a brave photographer who ventures into strange, uncanny lands created by a mysterious catastrophe, and returns with images of those worlds that she sells to keep her scarred little sister whole.
The comic is being syndicated online in six-page installments (25 pages went up today!), and will be collected between covers in a Firstsecond book next May. I just pre-ordered my copy, based on those 25 pages.
In 2004, a Ukrainian photojournalist named Elena Filatova (aka KiddofSpeed) blogged an account of her illicit motorcycle journeys though the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the area blighted by history’s worst nuclear accident. Her photos and writing were elegiac and apocalyptic, evoking the otherworldliness of the forsaken city of Pripyat. But once the posts went viral, certain discrepancies were noted, and Filatova admitted that her accounts were “more poetry than reality.”
In short, she might have taken a tour bus. You see, it’s pretty easy to get into the Exclusion Zone these days.
But the poetic version stuck with me—a woman on a motorcycle, a camera, an empty and dangerous world.
I’ve always been a sucker for tales about exploring broken, abandoned terrain. As a kid I was an “urban explorer,” thought we didn’t have that term back then. I spelunked the buildings at my upstate New York college, and I’ve explored abandoned sites in and around NYC since. There’s nothing quite like the silent loneliness of a place that has been abandoned, restricted, and left to ruin. In these spaces, the usual rules don’t apply. It feels as if the laws of physics don’t either.
So what if they really were a slice of another world?
That’s what Spill Zone is about. The ways that disasters, canny or uncanny, change the spaces that they take place in. And the ways that we survivors become explorers of those ruined spaces, picking them apart with memories, stories, and art.
My heroine, Addison Merritt, isn’t just taking strange photographs. She’s rebuilding after the fall.
Working with me to make the world inside the Spill Zone alien and unsettling are artist Alex Puvilland (Templar, Prince of Persia) and colorist Hilary Sycamore (Battling Boy, The Shade). They’ve created a world that’s both alien and beautiful, and characters and settings that look like they belong in the hardscrabble upstate Zone towns that some downstaters still call “Tawana Brawley country.”
Spill Zone [Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland]
The Spill Zone [Pre-order/Firstsecond]