I’m not, generally speaking, a huge fan of the graphic novel. Being more verbal than visual by nature, I prefer to imagine my characters, but I can’t deny the draw for children – especially those who are emergent readers. Anything that gets kids making the link between story and books has got to be good, and David Follett’s Uncle Silas: Genetis is about as fun, lighthearted, and sumptuously illustrated as it gets.
Selena and Tommy are siblings who are close to their slightly loopy scientist uncle Silas Mortimer Mulch. When they respond to his call to come and see a surprise, they are greeted by his organic computer Sofia, who tells them that their uncle is in danger and that they must save him. As they get be-suited and sucked into the greenhouse, they find a welter of self-propagating plants and other fascinating life forms that raise a number of scientific questions about how we define life, how we determine individuality, and what humanity's relationship is with the natural world. The kids also find new strength within themselves as they grow into the challenge (in more ways than one) and save both their uncle and the computer.
There’s a definite Avatar feeling to the greenhouse, as the suits that Selena and Tommy wear protect and support them, while connecting with Sofia. In order to find out critical information about the environment they find themselves in, the siblings have to go to the fungi for a reading of to find out more about the greenhouse and their uncle. Silas's work involves splicing DNA with electrometers and nanotechnology in order to speed up the growth factors of his plants, but there's plenty in there that he doesn't understand. From a Science Fiction perspective, Follett has quite a few threads running through this about humanities relationship with the environment and Uncle Silas himself is an interesting and evocative character that hints at more than is revealed in this book. Where will it end up? What will happen to the greenhouse? What about Sofia? (the whole notion of an ‘organic’ computer is intruiging). Obviously there will have to be a sequel.
Uncle Silas: Genetis moves very quickly through the story – perhaps a little too quickly, though children won’t mind the pace, and is illustrated throughout with fantastic, vivid colours, dramatic images, and powerful, superhero styled characterisation. I particularly like the cute little ‘green man’ styled son – there are definitely some philosophical questions that he raises, and I’ll be waiting anxiously for the sequel to find out what happens with him, and whether the paternal instinct can override the natural sense of difference/separateness between man and plant. Young children will read it quickly, taking it at face value and enjoying the suspense, the adventure, and the gorgeous illustrations. Older children and adults may well ponder the questions it raises.
4.0 out of 5 starsThe Deep Green Unknown, November 29, 2010
By AndreiB -In a global comic market where the old hands and industry watchmen plead for creators to make something fresh and engaging to all ages (*especially children*), it's a great experience to walk down to a comic store and pick up the first volume of a new series that's got so much to offer.
Our adventure begins as two quarreling siblings, Selena and Tommy, visit their mad old uncle Silas's house to see what he's been up to in his greenhouse full of plant experiments. When they arrive, they discover he has gone missing in his vastly overgrown greenhouse, and it's up to them to rescue him. They get geared up in some wonderfully chunky Megaman-esque hard suits, complete with radars, pod-shooting plant-tranquilisers and head into the overgrown forest to find out what's happened.
This new series by South Australian author and artist David Follett has been widely described as a title for kids, but that's selling it short. Without giving too many spoilers away, Tommy and Selena find the forest of Silas's greenhouse is a lot more complex than just being a place full of giant flytraps and mischevious sprites. Follett begins to introduce a meta narrative very early into the series with Tommy and Selena learning that they're "a part of the forest" and all elements of life are, in some way or another, connected. Follett's creative reworking of the forest internet system is a great way to get tech-savvy kids to think in original ways about the linking of all ecosystems. The best part is he manages to insert this message without diluting the fun of two kids having an action-adventure in a fantastically illustrated forest.
And my god, it is well illustrated. The colouring is amazingly lush and detailed - far *too* detailed for this print size. If Dark Horse do another print in a A4 gloss paperback, I'd recommend this even more, because the level of detail in the panels is incredible. To give you an idea, the opener stretches one panel for two full pages without any issues whatsoever, but when we reach this panel in the story it's about 4cm by 5cm. Crazy!
It's hard to pick faults, but if there is one, it is the pacing. Being an action adventure with a lot of discoveries along the way, Selena and Tommy are not given the chance to stop and take a breath. There's no 'cooldown' panels - as soon as the kids are in the greenhouse it's full steam ahead. Hopefully the second volume gives the kids a chance to slow down and learn more about their newly found links to the deep green unknown.
A great little review in Adelaide's Sunday Mail newspaper (21-11-10) by Vicki Edwards:
Four years in the making, this visually delicious graphic novel is a sci-fi action adventure set in Adelaide. But don't expect to recognise familiar landmarks. Local author and artist Follett has chosen to base his story in a greenhouse. When scientific genius Uncle Silas disappears in it, his niece and nephew are summoned by his organic computer to find him. Highly imaginative, it's a great read and the detailed illustrations grab your attention. It's ideal for reluctant readers as it's not too text heavy.
I was interviewed a little while back on The Comic Spot radio show on Melbourne's 3CR community radio station, a fortnightly chat show every Thursday as part of the DIY Arts show, hosted by John Retallick, Bernard Caleo and Jo Waite. A quick chat about the origins of Uncle Silas and how it came to be, after an interesting interview with Judy Horacek. I unfortunately neglected to mention Dark Horse's New Recruits Program that the book was entered into, but you can always read more about that on this blog. Thanks, John, Bernard and Jo for the chance to chat! I had great fun! The above link is on the 3CR site for a limited time, then it'll be archived on thecomicspot podcasts on iTunes.
EKIDNAS is the SA Children's Book Authors and Illustrators group and they're having a Reading afternoon at Dymocks Adelaide in the Rundle Mall store on Sunday 21st November from 2-5pm. I'll be there as will Greg Holfeld and 19 other authors and illustrators, talking about their books, the process, and doing some readings and signing books. For those that missed the book launch come on along! Kids, bring your parents!
Here's a promo article in the October 2010 issue of the local monthly community magazine Adelaide Matters (Thanks, Catherine!!) That's me on the right, in case you were wondering. I blame my tired, sickly look on actually being tired and sick, but I wasn't going to tell the photographer that.
Here's the full page promo that appeared in Adelaide's Sunday Mail newspaper's CHILL comic section. Ironic that a page finally gets printed in the very medium the strip was created for! It came up a treat. Big Thanks to Lynn for running the article.
I had an article in the local newspaper recently. Great publicity! Thanks to the Advertiser for that one. It's short and sweet, I would have loved more gritty info about the story, the whole process and the medium, but hey, they at least mention the book launch. Yes, there was an accompanying photo, but considering it's the absolute cliché of me wearing 'something cartoony' for the benefit of the editor (ie: a superman t-shirt) holding a pencil to an already printed poster sitting in foliage, I thought better of posting that up as well. At least the photo wasn't me at my drawing desk.
CARTOONIST COLOURS THE STATE GREEN
LOCAL artist David Follett is shattering misconceptions about our state with a KAPOW! The former newspaper cartoonist is to release a graphic novel, Uncle Silas: Genetis through international publisher Dark Horse Comics. While his work is going global, Mr Follett is committed to visually representing his hometown, via ecological supergenius Uncle Silas. SA, the driest state in the driest nation, was the setting for the tale, but, in his pictorial irony, Mr Follett created the backdrop of a rainforest. ‘‘The story is based in Adelaide, mainly because I grew up here and I know this place so well and can reference so much in future books,’’ Mr Follett said. ‘‘But also because I liked how I could write against the misconceptions (that the rest of Australia has) that nothing interesting ever happens here. ‘‘The five sequels I have planned will be set in and around SA, leading to hopefully a massive earth-shattering climax.’’ Mr Follett scored the Dark Horse opportunity when the publisher ran a global New Recruits program in 2005 to find an up-and-coming talent. ‘‘It wasn’t until over a year later they told me I’d won and offered me the contract,’’ he said. Mr Follett launches Uncle Silas: Genetis at Pulp Fiction Comics on the evening of October 19.
Greg Holfeld (PANIC PRODUCTIONS) is a busy, talented man. Not only does he do a page a week for his supercool IN FOR THE KRILL comic book penguin-noir, he's also working solid on his 3rd CAPTAIN CONGO adventure. I've had the distinct pleasure of seeing his pencils for CC book 3 and it looks fantastic! This man can draw adventure--WITH GORILLAS!! Check out his websites and thank me later.
Now things are starting to get interesting.... I won't be posting any of the animation tests--I'll upload the finished animation only once it's ready for public consumption! Quiz time: just how much of this shot isn't recycled from a previous one?
Paul Stamets on TED.com gives a great talk on mushrooms and how he believes they can save the world in 6 ways. Sounds far fetched, but he makes a pretty strong case! I found this video after the bulk of Genetis was written and pencilled but his arguments for the nature of fungi definitely ring true with how I present them in my book. TED.com is worth searching for more inspiring and truly interesting talks.
Saturday May 1st is Free Comic Book Day, and Pulp Fiction Comics in Adelaide have a bunch of my Uncle Silas promo comics to hand out, so make sure you get in quick and ask for one if you don't already have it!
After several uninspiring sketches where the action was too far away to be of any good, I finally came to the idea of having one of the kids stepping forward toward the viewer- better connection with the reader, and we get to see some sweat beads! Also uses the trick of placing us firmly in the forest growth as well- you can almost feel the leaves and plants brushing against you, the soft earth beneath your feet, smell the dank wood and foliage and feel the humidity... (well, hopefully!)
The title design is being taken care of by Dark Horse, and they're going by my idea here, which was modeled after their initial concept (bit of to-ing and fro-ing of ideas is always good). Hopefully they make my scribble look better than what you see here!
Now, THIS image would make a great postcard and poster....
It's official, I've finally finished all 126 pages of Uncle Silas: Genetis.
I sent all the primed and prepped artwork to Dark Horse last night/early this morning so it's all in their hands now.
Hopefully I didn't make any serious stuff ups!!
I did a vague tally and it's taken me well over 1000 hours of my life to do it. Possibly into the 1200s if you think about the early incarnations and scribbley ideas and notes and character sketches etc... maybe more, I don't know. This has been brewing since 2002 after all.
Can't wait to see the finished product!! I'll see if I can post the cover artwork up here or not...
What now? Well, I'll be enjoying my weekends again, that's for sure!! No longer will I be slaving and toiling away while others cavort and play in the sun. I'll be catching up on sleep, that's a certainty.
....though maybe I should start plotting out book 2... the first one does end on a cliff hanger after all....