Thursday, 24 March 2011


A couple of great reviews, this time from the REVIEW liftout from The Weekend Australian, Australia's national weekend paper, and InDaily, Adelaide's free eNewspaper.

All this has me itching to get started into the sequel Uncle Silas: Earth.
I can't wait to draw me some monsters!!

It's all about comic timing

COMICS aren't just for grown-ups. Though until very recently you wouldn't know it as English-language publishers became perhaps a little too eager to rehabilitate the comic book's long-suffering status as an exclusively juvenile pastime by appealing to a more mature, affluent readership.
In so doing they seemed to lose sight of what more established, cradle-to-grave markets in Europe and Japan have known for decades: young readers are essential for the survival of the medium. Recognising this, in the past few years some publishers began belatedly embracing comic books for all ages, such as Uncle Silas: Genetis, by Adelaide-based David Follett. Originally conceived in 2005 as an Australian newspaper comic strip, Uncle Silas went on to win US publisher Dark Horse's New Recruits program, finally seeing publication late last year.
The long gestation period appears to have paid off in this wry, inventive and assured graphic novel debut that sets the scene for a proposed series of eco-conscious science fiction escapades starring the aptly named Mulch family. When their uncle Silas Mortimer Mulch, a tree-hugging mad scientist with requisite, if well-meaning, delusions of grandeur, goes missing in his mysterious greenhouse turned rainforest, quarrelsome pre-teen siblings Selena and Tommy set out to find him, with help from S.O.F.I.A, Silas's secretive, organic supercomputer.
Clad in modish hi-tech pod suits and armed only with their wits and digital savvy, not to mention high-velocity plant tranquillisers, the bright, feisty Selena and her impetuous, headstrong brother encounter all manner of delights and dangers in their uncle's rapidly evolving bio-tech garden of Eden. From fungi-based networks and holographic databases to killer carp and malicious tree sprites, from sentient weeds to zombie fish, the intrepid duo learns the hard way about self-reliance, teamwork and the inherently symbiotic relationship between humankind and nature . . . while Australia's fate hangs in the balance.
For all its techno trappings and environmental caveats, Uncle Silas: Genetis is an enjoyably old-fashioned adventure romp that nonetheless feels fresh, smart and unpredictable, while retaining a larrikin sensibility that wouldn't be out of place in a Ginger Meggs yarn. Befitting his background in animation, Follett's kinetic cartooning style, spiced with a dash of Japanese anime, lush colouring and confident draughtsmanship, perfectly conveys his action and idea-packed story.
Unfortunately, the blistering pace and continuous flurry of discoveries gives the characters, let alone the readers, little time to reflect on their predicament or the wonders they are witnessing. This is compounded by the episodic, two-tiered newspaper comic strip structure and the book's unsuitably compact size, which constrain the artwork and storytelling, resulting in some clunky exposition and an occasionally jerky narrative. That said, Follett has cunningly put so much into play in this first volume and hinted at even more that I, for one, am keen to find out what happens next. Let's hope exploits of the family Mulch will have more room to manoeuvre in an appropriately expanded format.
Cefn Ridout is a Sydney-based comic-book writer and editor.

COMIC: Uncle Silas: Genetis

By David Follett
Dark Horse Books, $15

BLAP. BLOOP. BAM. This graphic novel, written and illustrated by Adelaide’s David Follett, is a bio-tech action adventure to be experienced.
Dense frames fill the 72 pocket-book pages as niece and nephew Selena and Tommy discover Uncle Silas has gone missing and they are his only hope. Apart from SOFIA, an organic computer, POD suits and a greenhouse which has come aggressively to life (all in the first four pages), these siblings are confronted by cognisant garden fungi seemingly intent on taking over anything and everything in its path.
In this genetics/genesis hybrid, graphics are vibrant. All the characters (the garden as a pulsating setting is so much more) are animated with colour, speech bubbles and sound effects, segueing from frame to frame at a frantic pace. The visual energy is high, with little respite as the search extends further among Silas Mortimer Mulch’s ecological astonishments; some of the new creatures are simply mind-boggling.
As an educational text, Follett is on the right track. Computing terms/jargon is prevalent; from internet to interconnectivity, a broad sweep of ages and experience can be engaged. Mythology, Man v Nature and the influence of technology all combine to build a platform for future episodes with this budding dynamic duo, their dangerously brilliant uncle and his Frankenstein-like creations.
The Adventures of the Wishing Chair meets Little Shop of Horrors. THE END … FOR NOW!