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Warren Ellis Releases "SVK", Gives New Way To Read Comics

The English king of commentary has come out with a new project: one that's more than meets the eye.

While Warren Ellis is famous for his sci-fi works, like Transmetropolitan and Doktor Sleepless, he's traditionally kept the science inside the pages of the book. However, with his new one-shot comic called SVK, he's looking to introduce a new method of reading comics that's going to both get us thinking in a new direction and give us a great look inside the mind of its hero, Thomas Woodwind.

You see, Woodwind is part of a detective story that's printed on a page with three colours: black, blue and a special UV ink. The text printed in the UV ink will be invisible to the reader unless it is viewed with a special "SVK object," which is really a small UV LED light. From the examples we've seen, the reader can actually read the thoughts of characters in the book by shining the light on their thought bubbles.

While this might seem like a gimmick, think about this for a second: since we have control over when we see the characters' thoughts, won't it change the way we perceive them? I mean, a kindly old man on the subway could be thinking of some.... not-so-savoury things, but we'd never know it unless we shined the light and saw for ourselves.

== TEASER ==

This mirrors our own real-life ability to not see into people's heads, and allows us to be put into Woodwind's shoes. We have an abnormal amount of power as the reader: it's like we have telepathy, even in a figurative sense.

The issue is drawn by 2000AD artist Matt "D'Israeli" Booker and is printed by a London-based design studio called BERG; at press time, all of the issues in SVK's first run have been sold out for the price of ten GBP, but a second run is planned.

The SVK team is handling all aspects of the publication, from printing to assembly to delivery, making this both an experiment in comics, and publishing: who knows? If SVK is a success, we could be witnessing a renaissance in both creator-owned projects and the relationship they have with their publishers.

I, for one, am watching with interest.

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27 Comments
Posted by thechessclub

Um...yeah. I'll pass. But he's thinking and I like that=P

Posted by Black_Lantern_Bison22

That is fascinating. I really dig what he's doing. It's making the reader less of an omnipotent third party and more like a regular person with amazing powers. Imagine using this to write a POV X-men book from Jean Grey's perspective. You could give the reader the ability to read peoples thoughts and stuff without cluttering the page with all the bubbles, and choosing whether or not you should could change what you know about the problem-at-hand. The possibilities are endless...

Posted by Decept-O

Very interesting to say the least. Not trying to be negative by any means but being realistic here; if it means a higher price, I have a hard time thinking most people would buy it.

Posted by zombietag

eh could be kinda cool. its neat to see people trying to go outside of the box.

Posted by ruckus24

It's a gimmick, to be sure... but you have to admit it's a great one. BERG is a neat company, and if you check out their web site they have all kinds of clever apps and whatnot. The UV ink would be a neat idea for a mystery or a detective comic with the big reveal written in the invisible ink at the end. I'd like to see this process combined with 3D in some way.

Posted by Chris2KLee

I'll always give something a try if it has Warren Ellis behind it.

Posted by pikahyper
@Decept-O said:

Very interesting to say the least. Not trying to be negative by any means but being realistic here; if it means a higher price, I have a hard time thinking most people would buy it.

It will probably be like video games that require extra peripherals like Rock Band or Guitar Hero where you can buy the comic bundled with the SVK object or without it, wouldn't make sense to have to buy the object over again since you only need one, the comic would probably still be a little expensive by itself though since this is almost a Print on Demand type distribution.
Moderator
Posted by difficlus
@Chris2KLee said:

I'll always give something a try if it has Warren Ellis behind it.

Posted by BKole

I am waiting for my copy of this to turn up. As a massive fan of Ellis, I couldn't wait to not only see his latest comic with D'Israeli but to also read what he is calling one of the hardest things he's ever written. In my eyes, making comics a little different and giving people something different even for a little bit more monies, means that it will at least lengthen the life span of comics as a medium. I'm a bit sick of reading Superman smack Brainiac in the face for the twenty eighth time.

Posted by Silkcuts

If this project fails with it being a Warren Ellis project then the medium really doesn't carry the support it should to evolve and push the medium anymore.  Ellis' cult is huge, I for one would most definitely trade off reading most of DC's planed 52 if it means reading this.  The one book may be expensive, but it is definitely something different then the way the Superhero books recycle ideas. I do have to give Warren Ellis credit that he pushes the medium the way he does.  While Moore and Morrison are more into " magick", Ellis has always been about technology.  He is a celebrated vertigo alumni and Vertigo was once called "The House that Alan built".  When guys like Ellis make something with their whole heart, then it in my opinion is better then the superhero stuff they do half-hearted to just make money.  It would be obvious speculations I would be pro for this book and I hope it succeeds.
 
@Black_Lantern_Bison22 said:

That is fascinating. I really dig what he's doing. It's making the reader less of an omnipotent third party and more like a regular person with amazing powers. Imagine using this to write a POV X-men book from Jean Grey's perspective. You could give the reader the ability to read peoples thoughts and stuff without cluttering the page with all the bubbles, and choosing whether or not you should could change what you know about the problem-at-hand. The possibilities are endless...

Your right the possibilities are endless.  This is why the medium is so special to me.  As great as Superhero books are, most of the time they lack in how to push the actual way to tell the story.  It is kind of why the indie comic movement is considered the literary movement in comics, since there is that separation on what some people "will get" and some that "won't get".  Grant Morrison's work half the time is hit or miss with lots of people because they just don't get it.  Nothing wrong with not getting it, but that is where the breakdown in communication of paper differ.  
 
The point you bring up of choosing whether or not to know thoughts is a great point.  Sometimes its best not to know.  Bubbles at most times clutter the art and I am really surprised this concept never came earlier by the big two. 
 
@pikahyper said:
@Decept-O said:

Very interesting to say the least. Not trying to be negative by any means but being realistic here; if it means a higher price, I have a hard time thinking most people would buy it.

It will probably be like video games that require extra peripherals like Rock Band or Guitar Hero where you can buy the comic bundled with the SVK object or without it, wouldn't make sense to have to buy the object over again since you only need one, the comic would probably still be a little expensive by itself though since this is almost a Print on Demand type distribution.
The SVK is experimental and if Ellis will push for it then his fans on his blog will provide feedback accordingly.  This is why I have faith that it could work if backed by Ellis.  His core fans are tech savvy like he is.  Most of the cost of the comic right now I am sure is to cover the cost of the SVK.  It wouldn't surprise me if the team is making little to no money on it, since this is a concept that needs to be explored.
Posted by pikahyper
@Silkcuts: well they did already sell out of the first run so his fans have spoken, anything he touches does better, there was a big increase of new suicidegirls.com members when he started writing articles there and hanging out in the groups and his support of Coilhouse really helped it out. I hope he does another novel soon, Crooked Little Vein was too good to not keep at it.
Moderator
Posted by BKole

@Silkcuts: I will disagree with you in one tiny area - His fans are not all techno savvy. I'm a big fan of his and I am a techno retard.

Posted by cbishop

Interesting idea, but Warren Ellis is a perpetually gutter-minded individual, IMO.  I have no desire to need a special light for my comic, just to see that one guy is thinking, "Boobs boobs boobs..."  In the hands of a better writer, this would be a cool gimmick (and yes, it is a gimmick).  It could actually make it like reading two different stories - the first read-through with just dialogue, and the second with the light revealing their thoughts... thoughts pertinent to the story.  Overall, I think it's a waste of time.

Posted by dirtmound
@cbishop said:

Interesting idea, but Warren Ellis is a perpetually gutter-minded individual, IMO.  I have no desire to need a special light for my comic, just to see that one guy is thinking, "Boobs boobs boobs..."  In the hands of a better writer, this would be a cool gimmick (and yes, it is a gimmick).  It could actually make it like reading two different stories - the first read-through with just dialogue, and the second with the light revealing their thoughts... thoughts pertinent to the story.  Overall, I think it's a waste of time.

Posted by B'Town

First off, COOL! I'm an Ellis fan, leave it to him to be involved with this. I'm in.

Posted by aztek_the_lost

I love the idea, I always feel like people can see my thoughts floating around my head in real life, it'd be cool to see what everyone else is thinking

Moderator
Posted by Silkcuts
@pikahyper: Ellis is a great writer and he deserves his fans.  So maybe he can start a new movement, true comic literacy I believe is the lowest it has ever been, since Pre-Alan Moore.
 
@BKole said:

@Silkcuts: I will disagree with you in one tiny area - His fans are not all techno savvy. I'm a big fan of his and I am a techno retard.


Okay.... slight miss calculation.  But he is one of the more celebrated "Cyber" writers.
 
@cbishop said:

Interesting idea, but Warren Ellis is a perpetually gutter-minded individual, IMO.  I have no desire to need a special light for my comic, just to see that one guy is thinking, "Boobs boobs boobs..."  In the hands of a better writer, this would be a cool gimmick (and yes, it is a gimmick).  It could actually make it like reading two different stories - the first read-through with just dialogue, and the second with the light revealing their thoughts... thoughts pertinent to the story.  Overall, I think it's a waste of time.


WOW... harsh.  You think Ellis is only about sex?
I do admit that Morrison would make something totally insane and yet mind blowing with this concept.
Just imagine the Invisibles part 2?
Posted by turoksonofstone

Really Really Really Cool. Nice to see boundaries pushed in a creative way for once.

Posted by iLLituracy

This is a cool idea. Much like 3D comics were...but different, because 3D is played out and no one wants to wear dumb glasses.

Posted by charlespdk

This is as cool as Clear Pepsi!

Posted by BKole

@cbishop: Warren Ellis is known for this sort of humour, and lets be honest, its not entirely unrealistic. Men think of things like this, especially when things like this are not commonly available. He is gutter minded but that doesn't make it less realistic. I think you're over simplifying the rest of the dialogue and everything else - Inner thoughts are 100% honest, especially the Subconscious ones. You don't so much think that as have them,

@iLLituracy: Plus 3D only works well if you have decent colour vision, which I do not possess.

Having received my copy in the post this morning, I can say it was an interesting read, but nothing revelatory. It didn't recreate comics as a medium, it was just a typical Ellis affair dealing with Security and all the themes from the intelligence community he likes to play with. This isn't a comic that's going to re-write the game book or the form, but it is quite enjoyable and the gimmick is a bit...I don't know if anyone else struggled to use theirs? It's a bit flickery and off and on and not terribly well fabricated. I have to say, I am a fan of the type of character Ellis creates and Tom Woodwind is a lot more "normal" for an Ellis character. No chain smoking, chain swearing anger towards humanity. This guy is a much softer and nice protagonist which is really what draws me in as a reader - this is what I've not seen from Ellis before - Someone who is actually nice.

Anyway, that's my mini review done.

Posted by J1ml33

It`s always nice to see something new and a little different from the mystery meat that is superheroes and other wonderful things we have all grown accustomed to from the past couple of years . and Warren Ellis is taking a few risk with his creator-owned project . sure some of you here do not see anything special in it at all , sure  the price is a bit steep and a little off putting , but at least it`s something a fresh and a little bit of a change of pace . besides I feel that mainstream comics should (if they could ) take a few unconventional risk with what they have , yes digital comics right now seems to be the best thing since peanut butter and jelly  , and yes we have every-other superhero known to man right now (with a really big list of exceptions ) you know , the market is being overstimulated right now with either more ( other priceless gimmicks such as the annual death of a main character , or the entire unasked for re-boot /re-vamp of an entire long running series of titles + a few new ones that were barely a year old ) magic number being 52 but who`s counting at this point eh . 
 
but all I am trying to say is lets just let this play out and wish the man well , besides at least between him and kirkman , Erik Larsen , Grant Morrison and yes Mark Millar to some existent is trying either something new or just out right taking risk and just doing their  own thing without worrying about what critics or people who dont get it behind them.  I mean if the economic climate was Healthy and well supported for everyone to just fly by the seat of their pants for aspiring creators (writers /artist ) do just do what ever . well at-least his web comic the freak angels is an enjoyable read  (it`s that little appraiser I look at in-between various trades I would buy from time to time ) and other web comics out right now  like American Barbarian , I already mentioned freakangels , zombiecity , PvP and too many others to count right now . but the truth is things are not doing so well but I hope that one of these days our economy with pull itself out the mud that is the national debt . so everyone do what you want  but if I was anyone who was at least a little bit patient I would wait for the price to come down and buy it to give it the good ol collage try . it looks fun and interesting enough to warrant a first , second maybe even a third read . But the question we all should ask ourselves this if you was creating something like this (or better ) and it was far removed from what`s already out on the stands and shops right now how much are you willing to invest into it and how much would you be willing to charge for such an unique experience (in the form of comic books folks ) all in all I really enjoyed this article a lot and this from what you layed eyes upon was my two cents ( ^_^) and now I return you to your regular programing .

Posted by JayUK
@cbishop said:

It could actually make it like reading two different stories - the first read-through with just dialogue, and the second with the light revealing their thoughts... thoughts pertinent to the story.

Thats the first thing that popped into my head when I read the article. Doesn't have to be thought bubbles of course. It could be something paranormal where only the main character can see the spirits and everyone else thinks he/she is crazy.
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Interesting, but gimmick for sure...and something like that will by definition have a substantial price tag attached to it.  Nice idea but...yeah, a gimmick, and an expensive one at that.

Posted by cbishop
@Silkcuts said: WOW... harsh.  You think Ellis is only about sex? I do admit that Morrison would make something totally insane and yet mind blowing with this concept. Just imagine the Invisibles part 2?

I think he's gutter-minded - not just about sex.  Most of what I have read from him has been foul language for its own sake, blood and gore because he can, and yes, sex - most of it the kind you don't really want to be witness to.  I'm not opposed to any of those things, but the way Ellis does it sickens me.  His book Crooked Little Vein put me over the top with Ellis - I could never read anything by him again and be fine with it.  I gave Black Summer a chance as well, and thought it petered out by the end.  His writing just doesn't impress me.
Posted by cbishop

@BKole said:

@cbishop: Warren Ellis is known for this sort of humour, and lets be honest, its not entirely unrealistic. Men think of things like this, especially when things like this are not commonly available. He is gutter minded but that doesn't make it less realistic. I think you're over simplifying the rest of the dialogue and everything else - Inner thoughts are 100% honest, especially the Subconscious ones. You don't so much think that as have them,

 

Never disputed the realism of it - I just don't think it's necessary.  Woody Allen does the same thing in his movies - all the characters talk at the same time in some scenes, because that's what happens in real life.  That's true, but it's unnecessary for a story, and distracting in a way that takes you out of the story.  Some have called it "genius," but I call it "bad writing."  I understand completely that not everyone will agree with me on that, but it's my two cents, nonetheless.  You're not wrong at all though, about true inner dialogue.