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Monsters & Mental Illness: Negative Space #1-3

NEGATIVE SPACEReading Negative Space feels deeply weird and deeply familiar all at the same time, in all the right ways.

I was instantly sucked in, right from the first issue. Scary squishy aliens, existential dread, grand conspiracies, and pink tentacle monsters in ugly orange sweaters? I loved it. And I loved how the art was somehow sketchily impressionistic and horrifically detailed at the same time. Owen Gieni’s pretty colors and artful composition are always walking that uncanny line, whether he’s drawing adorably gangly bodies or weird, disgusting gore.

And I loved Guy, the protagonist, right from first sight. Fat, self-depreciating, tender Guy, with his big nose and small, sad eyes. In just the first few pages, Guy is a complete person who it seems like I know intimately: a frustrated writer, disabled, lonely, brave and suicidal and in love with a barista named Woody.

Guy’s name seems to indicate that he’s a stereotypical “everyman” kind of hero–you know, just a “guy.” But Guy isn’t the bland, unremarkable kind of everyman who usually appears in this kind of story. He certainly doesn’t look like everyone else: he’s big, he’s Native, and he’s gay. He’s idiosyncratic, but deeply relatable at the same time. He’s not special in spite of being normal–he’s relatable because he’s so vividly unique.

I also really loved that from the first issue, Guy’s supernatural powers and existential weaknesses are all wrapped up in the same big package. The same capacity for feeling and understanding that make him a writer are inherently linked to his illness, and to his supernatural, maybe-messianic empathy.

Guy’s depression is the catalyst for the entire story. He’s not just sad and desperate before he gets whisked away on a grand adventure. Negative Space is a story about mental illness on a grand, cosmic scale–and it’s not a symbolic story about mental illness, either.

Negative Space #2You know that mad feeling that the entire universe is being engineered just to fuck with you personally? Well, in Guy’s case, it’s actually true. A shadowy organization called the Kindred Corporation is monitoring and manipulating his life, making sure that it sucks as much as humanly (or inhumanly possible), because they’re working in collaboration with the Evorah, an alien race that feeds on negative emotions.

There’s nothing particularly innovative about making illness into monsters. In the wrong hands, fiction that externalizes disability into something that can be fought and destroyed can be deeply unhelpful or even harmful to neurodivergent people.

But it can also be extremely comforting. In a recent episode of This American Life, a guy named Paul Ford describes how he programmed an “Anxiety Bot” to send him nasty emails about himself. This certainly isn’t the kind of thing that’d work for me, but it worked for Ford–by creating an artificial voice that mirrored and replicated his anxiety, he was able to recognize how “stupid” and alien and robotic that voice really was. The terrible thoughts he was having about his life? Those thoughts weren’t really him–they were his anxiety talking.

In my experience, being able to externalize my disability was a crucial step in learning to live with it. That’s not me–that’s the illness trying to get me is something I had to tell myself hourly and then daily and weekly to survive. A lot of people find it very helpful to imagine their illness as something other than or outside of themselves–as alien or “mean” or “stupid” or monstrous or evil, or whatever else works for them.

But, paradoxically, surviving with a mental disability is also about acceptance. I’m more than my illness, but I am also chronically, permanently, inherently ill. I’m disabled. As much as I’m able to convince myself that That’s not me, that alien thing is definitely here to stay.

So, basically, my personal strategy for coping with and recovering from mental illness has been a paradoxical balancing act between externalization and acceptance. It’s confusing and contradictory, but the important thing is that it’s a trick that works (for me, at least). So who cares if it doesn’t make a lick of sense?

In Negative Space #2, Guy sets off on a grand adventure. He teams up with a group of resistance fighters, including Woody and a turncoat alien named Beta, to arm and detonate an “emotion bomb” that might harm Kindred Corp. and the Evorah. Guy also finds out that he’s a powerful empath who could play a crucial role in both the resistance and the Evorah’s global takeover.

But it’s in Negative Space #3 that Guy starts to make his first big stand against humanity’s oppressors. And it’s also in Negative Space #3 that Gieni and writer Ryan K. Lindsay pull off their big emotional and artistic masterstroke.

As Guy takes command of his newfound powers, it doesn’t mean shedding his depression, or no longer feeling suicidal, or by suddenly becoming happy. He does it by feeling sad. In one hazy, beautiful, purple-pink splash page, Guy remembers his father; he feels angry and deeply sad, and that’s what fuels his big, badass moment against earth’s alien enemies.

I’ve never really seen anything like this. I’ve lived with mental illness for years (pretty satisfactorily, I might add!) by tricking myself into accepting that awkward paradox between externalization and… well, acceptance. But Negative Space #3 pulls off a weird magic trick: making that paradox seem effortless and honest to me for the first time.

It sounds false and cheesy when you write it out: Guy uses The Power of Feelings to fight his internal (and external) demons. But it sure doesn’t feel false on the page.

Story: Ryan K. Lindsay Art: Owen Gieni
Story: 9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Negative Space #2

Negative Space #2If you’re not going to read this review, go buy the first two issues of Negative Space. They’re both awesome.

Why? Well, for the answer read on!

Negative Space is one of those comics that is pretty simple on the surface of things. Centering around a writer named Guy Harris a man who wants to end his life, but he has a fairly major obstacle in front of him; a case of writer’s block when it comes to penning his suicide note. Looking for inspiration with his suicide note Guy takes a walk and stumbled into a terrifying conspiracy that has been dedicated to harvesting the depression of humanity, led by a corrupt corporation and the beings that feed on our emotions.

There are a lot of things to enjoy about this series; Owen Gieni line work is very detailed without being too distracting to the eye, and the flow to his layouts and the characters within is superb, but it’s his colouring work that really gives Negative Space the visual punch. Capturing an almost dream like quality, the coloured artwork gives an added texture that you can feel, which suits the nature of the story to an absolute T. When you look at Negative Space #2 strictly as a comic book, you’ll find a story that has elements of The Matrix combined with Monsters Inc. wrapped up in some gorgeously coloured art work that, although it may not be to everybody’s taste, couldn’t suit Ryan Lindsey‘s story any better. There is also a darkly funny undertone to this issue which came as a very pleasant surprise, given the premise of a comic about a man who is desperately trying to end his life, but the humour works.

Negative Space, is good.

This is a comic where the sum of its parts have created something that is a much greater whole. The way in which Lyndsey explores the effects emotions can have not only on ourselves, but on the people around us is very interesting to me. The potential of this series to really explore the impact of depression, happiness, and everything in between is vast, and with the stigma that mental health issues tend to have, anything that brings awareness to such an important issue is vital. The crushing depression that Guy is going through in this series, and that so many other people struggle with on a daily basis, is a persistent undertone here; always threatening to overwhelm our hero yet never fully over taking him, at least not yet.

Although there have only been two issues released so far, as a series Negative Space is proving to be a very interesting proposition; when read just as a comic it’s good – it’s really good, but when taken as an exploration of the effects of our emotions and the impact depression can have, it’s something else entirely.

Either way, Negative Space #2 is worth your time. Why aren’t you adding it to your pull list?

Story: Ryan Lindsey Art: Owen Gieni
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Unboxing: Nerd Block’s July Comic Block

In April, Nerd Block​ announced their newest addition to their box offering, Comic Block​! Created specifically for comic fans, the first one featured a t-shirt and numerous exclusive variants.

It’s the third month, and the question is, can it be as good as the first? Well, we’ve got another t-shirt, one exclusive variant, two other comics, and more! So, yeah not too shabby for the price.

Check out everything you get in the second box, and you can sign up now and purchase the next Comic Block.




This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here! We’ve got some links to help you get you through the day and for it to come quicker! Check out some comic book news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The National – Pakistan Man is the latest comic-strip hero to save his country – An interesting read.

GamePolitics – Report: PC version of ‘ Batman: Arkham Knight’ won’t be fixed until September – Well that sucks.

Kotaku – The Big Things That Change When Someone Else Becomes Batman – A fun read.


Around the Tubes Reviews

The Beat – Book of Death #1

Talking Comics – Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1

CBR – Hawkeye #22

Talking Comics – Negative Space #1

Around the Tubes

San Diego Comic-Con’s Preview Night kicks off later today, and I’ll be there. You can check this site for news, or follow us on Twitter for updates from the show, as well as some surprises.

Around the Tubes

Sktchd – How to Win Fans and Influence Readers: A Guide for Comic Creators on Social Media – Neat!

ICv2 – ‘LEGO Movie’ Helmers to Direct ‘Han Solo’ ‘Star Wars’ Spin-Off – Cool.

Kotaku – You Should Take A Closer Look At Arkham Knight‘s Billboards – This is pretty cool.

The Daily Reveille – Hill Memorial Library to feature comic collection – If you’re in the area, check it out!

CBLDF – VICTORY in CA: Crafton Hills College Will Not Require Disclaimer on Graphic Novel Course – Mazel Tov!


Around the Tubes Reviews

CBR – Archie #1

Nothing But Comics – Negative Space #1

The Beat – Negative Space #1

Talking Comics – Secret Wars #4

We Talk About Negative Space with Ryan K. Lindsay

neg001Although relatively new to the medium of comics, Ryan K. Lindsay has already made his mark with writing credits in series such as Oxymoron, Ghost Town and Headspace.  He joined us to talk about his new series called Negative Space which features a writer living in a future that has gone a little wrong.
Graphic Policy:  Getting writer’s block when trying to write a suicide note is one of the most inventive ideas that I have heard in a while.  Where did the idea come from?
Ryan K. Lindsay:  Everyone loves the high concept pitch and I’m just really glad it didn’t stem from a real life incident.
In reality, it was just this moment that flashed to me, no context, no real information, just this tragic gag. But I couldn’t let it go so I started peeling back the layers of it, why was he suicidal? How was he going to push through this? Whenever I break story I always just fill a page asking myself questions, y’know? Why does this matter? Who would benefit most from this? And while doing that, the larger story revealed itself and I fell in love with it.
GP:  One of the concepts which drives this story is that writers are thrown a bit to the whims of others, with an organization that modifies the experiences of writers so that they might write specific material.  Although this is futuristic, is it a reflection of anything in our own modern society?
RKL:  To me, the closest draw for this is social media. The way it affects us, the way it draws us in, the addictive nature of it. There’s something evil about the way we pour ourselves into the world and I know sometimes I look at Facebook or twitter and I just have nothing to say on that day. I’m tired, or I should be writing something else, or I’m just empty. And whenever that happens, I feel weird because I’m a writer, I should always have words, so that feeling is frustrating and weird and ultimately so very goddamn stupid. But our feelings are what they are and it isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about the severity of those feelings.
GP:  You are a writer writing about a a writer.  What do you have to do to make sure that the story doesn’t therefore become too meta- and aware of itself?
RKL:  Thankfully, the lead character is nothing like me. He’s depressed, and suicidal, and yet also strongly heroic. I’m none of those things. So I wasn’t writing myself into the tale. But I’m certain I’m no doubt funnelling some demons into Guy. All writers do that and I can only hope it’s subtle. I don’t usually dig overtly meta stuff, it’s too easy to be cutesy, or lazy, and I can only hope we are neither in this book.
neg002GP:  The monster which is seen on the cover and later in the book is Lovecraftian in design, which makes for a strange mix of influences from different genres.  Do you think that futuristic books use too much inspiration from science-fiction and not enough from other sources?
RKL:  I think flicks like LOOPER and books like SAGA show us that anything can be done however the hell we like in science fiction. It’s kind of why I love writing sci fi, you can make your own rules. So long as they hold internal logic, and you don’t then break them, it’s all good. In our book here we have Guy living a very simple and modernly mundane lifestyle. Then we have Kindred which is all blues, and video screens, and they feel decades apart. For me, we have that disparity in modern culture right now. I facetime my family when I’m out of town, whereas a mate of mine only got a cell phone in the past year, and it’s one of those dirty burners you expect to see snapped in half and tossed in the gutter after one illicit phone call.
We see police in almost sci fi looking riot gear facing up to down trodden protesters who have clearly had enough. I’m sharing documents with my class via Google Drive [accessible from their laptops, portable devices, and even from home] whereas I started my teaching career flashing transparencies via an overhead projector. Technology especially, but also aesthetics change constantly, and it’s rarely rolled out in a uniform and equitable manner.
Whenever I start building the world of a story with an artist [and especially when it’s someone of Owen Gieni’s calibre] I try to nail down the tone. How can Kindred really feel so ubiquitously and omnipresently oppressive, and how can Guy embody depression. When it came to designing the Evorah, they are primal creatures from the deep so we wanted to reflect that abyss of feeling in them, and Owen nailed it.
GP:  Although the characters live in a high-tech world, Guy uses a pen and paper to do his writing, which is a bit of an anachronism even in our own world.  Do you think that technology aids creativity or hinders it?
RKL:  I love technology. I wrote a script once on my phone while walking my neighbourhood streets from midnight to 4am each night because it was the only way to get my baby daughter to stay asleep. I’ll often have a side project script I keep on my iPad so I can tinker with it wherever/whenever I can or want. But I also know I need paper to truly break a story. I need to get a pencil, get messy, scribble stuff out. I find I can’t break story as effectively on technology. Those apps with the sticky notes for building idea webs or something, pfft, man, those are for the birds. I need a big whiteboard, or sheets of paper laid out. I need physical scope.
neg003In the end, your creative process will be your own. I teach kids that all the time, find what works and then do what works. I think the internet is our greatest ally, while also being our biggest tumour. I think typing up our scripts and dropboxing them is a godsend, but the ability to type a tweet and hit send before thinking about it will be our downfall. I think technology, like anything, needs to be used in moderation and always with considered thought.
GP:  What do you do to counter your own writer’s block?
RKL:  Do something else. And it sounds obvious but I know I but heads with that blinking cursor from time to time and I forget my own advice but then I finally yield and go read a comic, or watch a TV show, and as soon as I try to get comfortable, something clicks in my head, and I’m back at the desk. I also find those writer cliches of showers and running and mowing the lawn really work. There’s brain science behind it.
I also found whenever one of my kids would wake, y’see I write in the office from 8pm – 1am most nights, and if a kid wakes I’m on duty. So I hate it when I hear them, because it’s dragging me away from my precious words but then I always find while settling them, I get an idea for the next scene, or dialogue starts clicking, and I just concentrate on remembering it all and dragging it back to the page and then I’m happy I got the break from the desk.
GP:  Can you give us a bit of an idea where the series is heading?
RKL:  Down, man, ha, all the way. Issue #2 gives us more scope and detail from that splash reveal at the end of #1. It pushes Guy into this new weird truth he’s found. #3 tests his resolve, and #4 bring sit all home in dark dark ways. I like writing endings to my stories and everything builds to this very last page. It all matters.

Around the Tubes

It was new comic book day yesterday. What’d everyone get?

Around the Tubes

CBDLF – Connecticut Middle Schooler Investigated by State Police for “Death Note” List – Calls for a ban in 3…2…1…

Kotaku – Batman’s Big Collector’s Edition Cancelled At Last Minute – Well that sucks.

The Full Bleed – What Movie Producers Can Teach You About Selling Comics – An intriguing read.

Newsarama – Fantastic Four Hits Denny’s … No, Seriously – Interesting.


Around the Tubes Reviews

CBR – Black Canary #1

Comic Vine – Black Canary #1

Flickering Myths – Burning Fields #5

Comic Vine – Deadpool’s Secret Wars #2

The Outhousers – The Fiction #1

CBR – Ghostbusters: Get Real #1

Comic Vine – Ghostbusters: Get Real #1

Talking Comics – Gotham Academy #7

Comic Vine – Ms. Marvel #17

The Outhousers – Negative Space #1

Comic Vine – Old Man Logan #2

Comics Alliance – Prez #1

Comic Vine – Runaways #1

The Outhousers – The Strain: The Night Eternal #10

Comic Vine – X-O Manowar #37

Dark Horse Delivers Ten New Series This Summer

At Emerald City Comicon, Dark Horse Comics announced ten new comic series that’ll debut this summer.

Barb Wire #1

Chris Warner (W)
Patrick Olliffe (A)
On Sale in July

Nail-hard tough and drop-dead gorgeous, Barb Wire is the baddest bounty hunter on the mean streets of Steel Harbor, where gangsters can lift bulldozers and leap rusting factories in a single bound. The hunting is stupid good and the bounties are hella big—if Barb lives long enough to collect!


King Tiger #1

Randy Stradley (W)
Doug Wheatley (A)
On Sale in August

Blood, death, and fire—the darkest kind of magic. A monstrous secret from King Tiger’s past has found the mystic warrior, but can Tiger’s skills and sorcery triumph against an unthinkable supernatural obscenity linked to his own destiny? If the Tiger falls, the Dragon will rise!


Negative Space #1

Ryan K Lindsay (W)
Owen Gieni (A)
On Sale in July

When one man’s writer’s block gets in the way of his suicide note, he goes for a walk to clear his head and soon uncovers a century-old conspiracy dedicated to creating and mining the worst lows of human desperation. A corporation has manipulated his life purely so they can farm his suicide note as a sadness artifact that will be packed and shipped to ancient underwater creatures who feed off our strongest and most base emotions. Our hero partners with a cult intent on exposing the corporation, and only a suicide mission can solve the whole mess.


The Tomorrows #1

Curt Pires (W)
Jason Copland (A)
On Sale in July

A bold new speculative-fiction comic from the mind of writer Curt Pires, each issue illustrated by a different brilliant artist!

The future: art is illegal. Everything everyone ever posted online has been weaponized against them. The reign of the Corporation is quickly becoming as absolute as it is brutal—unless the Tomorrows can stop it.

They told you the counterculture was dead. They were wrong. Welcome to the new reality.


Death Head #1

Zack Keller, Nick Keller (W)
Joanna Estep (A)
On Sale in July

When Niles and Justine Burton go camping to get a break from their stressful lives, they expect to find peace . . . not an abandoned village hiding an ancient evil. In a turn of events ripped straight from a horror movie, a brutal killer wearing a plague doctor’s mask begins hunting Niles, Justine, and their two kids. Who is the Plague Doctor? What does he want? And how will the family survive?


Zodiac Starforce #1

Kevin Panetta (W)
Paulina Ganucheau (A)
On Sale in August

They’re an elite group of teenage girls with magical powers who have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class! Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters—not your typical afterschool activity! But when an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, she must work with her team of magically powered friends to save herself—and the world—from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions!

From Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), this super-fun and heartfelt story of growing up and friendship—with plenty of magical-girl fighting action—delivers the most exciting new ensemble cast in comics!


Adam.3 #1

Scott Kolins (W/A)
On Sale in August

Award-winning writer and artist Scott Kolins (Past Aways, The Flash, The Avengers, Solomon Grundy) premieres Adam.3.

On a futuristic island paradise populated by talking animals and monitored by orbiting control satellites, the peaceful lives of Adam and his wife Skye are troubled by growing tension between Adam and his previous son, Beo. The situation goes from bad to worse when an alien invader infects the animals—turning them into aliens themselves. When Beo is captured, Adam must battle his transformed animal friends to save his son—and their island home!


Power Cubed #1

Aaron Lopresti (W/A)
On Sale in September

On his eighteenth birthday, Kenny’s inventor father gives him a phenomenal piece of matter-reinterpreting technology, attracting the attention of a bumbling Nazi scientist and an elite government agent. Aaron Lopresti delivers a comical coming-of-age tale in a fantastic sci-fi universe!


The Steam Man #1

Mark Miller (W)
Joe R. Lansdale (W)
Piotr Kowalski (A)
On Sale in October

The Old West (but not as we know it): Giant robots that run on steam power are created to take down invading Martians and armies of killer albino apes in an all-out brawl. The Steam Man, a giant metal man operated by a team of monster hunters, seems to have the town protected and the West under control, until a crazed and powerful vampire comes to town to bring forth the apocalypse.


Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1

Eric Powell (W)
Stephanie Buscema (A)
On Sale in late 2015

Wrinkle’s Traveling Circus’s most adorable bearded girl and her savory-named beast are back, and there is a new act in store! Come one, come all to the Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face! But beware: those who look behind the curtain are in for an awful treat, and it’s not just his face we’re talkin’ about!


Almost American