Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

April 25, 2017

Penultimate Pages!

Yes, this is the second-to-last installment of Book 1 of Spill Zone.

Let us recap:

Addison has found her million-dollar-bounty. Wiley has found the incriminating photos. Lexa has found her voice. And Vespertine? Well, she’s ABOUT to find something—exactly what, you will discover next Wednesday.

Or you can find out next TUESDAY, May 2, if you head out to your local comics shop and buy Spill Zone in its delicious full-color, hardcover glory! (Click here to find an indie bookstore close to you.)

That night I’ll be onstage at Vroman’s Books in Pasadena, CA, in conversation about Spill Zone with the wonderful Tracy Brown, who writes about books and comics for the LA Times. Hope to see some of you Los Angelinos there.

I’ll also be in another fourteen cities in the next three weeks, bringing my own personal shill zone wherever I go! Please come and see me in Menlo Park CA, Bethesda MD, Athens and Buford GA, Dallas TX, Parma OH, St Paul MN, Santa Cruz CA, Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Austin TX, Coral Gables FL, Rhinebeck NY, or New York City. Tour specifics here.

This is also the last week you can pre-order the book, and thus get the special free tattoos. They are really cool.

And finally, let me remind you that the Free Comic Books Day prequel, called Spill Night, will be out on May 6. Wherever fine comic books are sold, and given away on FCBD!

Thanks to all of you who’ve come so far with us.

Hope to see you next week for the last pages of Spill Zone, Book 1.

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April 19, 2017

Two to Go

You read that right, this is the ante-penultimate installment of Spill Zone, book 1. The end is seriously nigh.

With Addison on her way home, we’ve rejoined Jae, the sole survivor of North Korea’s Zone. He’ll have a bigger role in part 2, but I love him here, showing how the Spill’s magic can have effects outside the Zone. Dramatic ones.

Looking at these pages now, I like what happened with the framing of this—how it got kind of meta. Instead of Jae simply levitating on his own, the FBI agents are there to watch him levitate. So the reader isn’t just an observer, but an observer of an observer.

Big narrative reveals get more interesting and more complicated when other characters see them happen. Because you, the reader, have to process two things at once—what you’ve just learned, and that someone in the story has learned it too.

That’s why Shakespeare loved hidden watchers and identities. More drama, more better!

Here in Spill Zone, of course, the presence of the FBI also means that larger forces are coming into focus. Not just the North Koreans, but the US government as well. This might give you an idea of how events might shift and expand as the story continues in book 2.

Here’s the rundown of what’s happening as we get close to the end of book 1:

Spill Zone comes out in hardback on May 2, at comic and online stores everywhere. If you pre-order the book now through this page, you’ll get these awesome temporary tattoos as well:

SZ tattoos

The Free Comic Books Day prequel, called Spill Night, will be out on May 6. It’s filled with s3krits!

I’ll be on tour for Spill Zone in the following cities: Chicago (C2E2), Pasadena and Menlo Park CA, Bethesda MD, Athens and Buford GA, Dallas TX, Parma OH, St Paul MN, Santa Cruz CA, Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Austin TX, Coral Gables FL, Rhinebeck NY, and New York City. Here are the details. (Texas librarians, I’ll be at TLA this weekend!)

See you next Wednesday.


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April 12, 2017

Three to Go


Thus ends our extended second trip to the Zone, which began back on page 142! Alex really nailed the twisted interiors and the Wolf King, and as I’ve said before, Hillary’s Zone colors for this section are amazing. It’s passages like this that make me ecstatic to be working with such great artists.

But most important, Addison has survived and grabbed her million-dollar dust! And she even got a present from the Wolf King. Don’t worry. What exactly that flower means will be evident soon.

It has to be soon, because we only have three more installments before the end of Book 1 of Spill Zone! The last pages will post on May 3, the day after the book is published in glorious hardcover on Tuesday, May 2.

So when will Book 2 happen? The inking is already underway, though the script isn’t completely done yet. (My bad.) We’ll start posting pages in late summer or sooner, ending up around its pub date in May 2018.

NOTE: there will be plenty of new content here in the interim. Hopefully some fan art and variant art, and definitely some more blog posts from me. Anything you guys can do to get more people to the site, now that part one is almost complete, will motivate us to keep the site active and alive.

Share! Comment! Review! Tweet!

All of it helps.

Three more things:

1) The Free Comic Books Day prequel, called Spill Night, will be out on May 6. Like the sign says, it’ll be FREE at fine comics stores everywhere.

2) I’ll be on tour for Spill Zone starting May 2 at the following cities: Chicago (C2E2), Pasadena and Menlo Park CA, Bethesda MD, Athens and Buford GA, Dallas TX, Parma OH, St Paul MN, Santa Cruz CA, Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Austin TX, Coral Gables FL, Rhinebeck NY, and New York City. Here are the details. (Texas librarians, I’ll also be at TLA next weekend!)

3) And finally, if you pre-order the book now by clicking here, you’ll get these awesome temporary tattoos as well:

SZ tattoos

See you next Wednesday.

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April 4, 2017

King Wolf

This new creature that Addison encounters outside the hospital is important to our story, and has a name. But that’s a spoiler, and in the first draft of script it was simply called “the King Wolf Thing.”

Alex and I went back and forth on its exact appearance, because we wanted it to be scary and regal and awesome. Also, it had to be recognizably like the Wolf Thing from Chapter 1, but turned up to eleven.

We started with something like this:

kingwolf 1

Pretty good. But not distinct enough from the original wolf thing. And given that I’d used the word “king,” we thought about adding a crown.

So Alex’s next sketch added colored tentacles and horror breath, with Addison to show the scale.


I love this image—how we have a motorcycle in the shot, and even some grass! It’s great how Alex’s sketches always tell a story, and that all it takes is simple body language and setting.

But we kept pushing it. I wanted there to be the sense of the King Wolf’s body being made from several wolves joined together.

So we got an extra pair of legs:


I said, “Great, but more!” and Alex went to pages without any more input from me. The red bulging eye and white skin were his ideas. The end result in the pages above is terrific/horrific.

This process is one of my favorite parts of doing a graphic novel—helping to design something that fits the story, the page layout, and a desire to make the reader say, “Holy moly.”

And to create something that the world has never seen before.

Okay, the book comes out May 2, and we are deep into pre-order mania here. If you order now by clicking here, you’ll get these amazing temporary tattoos as well.

tattoo pic 2

But act fast, supplies are limited. And don’t forget the Free Comic Book Day issue following on May 6.

See you next Wednesday!

SZ tattoos


image of commenter, Algesiras
2 weeks ago

Amazing. I'm hhoked and the pages are spectacular. This comic keeps getting better and better.

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March 28, 2017

The Goiânia Accident

This part of Spill Zone, in which Addison steals a radioactive component from an x-ray machine, is actually based a real-life event. It’s called the Goiânia Accident, and it took place in Brazil in 1987.

Our story begins when a private radiotherapy institute moves to a new building, leaving behind a teletherapy unit—a device for zapping tumors in cancer patients. The old premises was left to fall apart and, two years later, a pair thieves snuck into the institute and removed the machine, thinking it had some scrap value.

As they disassembled it, the thieves began to show symptoms of radiation poisoning—vomiting, dizziness. But they figured it was just the flu. They kept going and sold the unit to a scrapyard.

There, a strange glowing substance was discovered within the device. This brought great wonder, and friends and family of the scrapyard owner came to gaze upon the dust. People rubbed it on their skin. Kids played with it.

This story does not end well.

In the end four people died—the six-year-old daughter, the wife, and two employees of the scrapyard owner died. The thieves both had parts of an arm amputated. A total of 249 people were found to have been contaminated, some as tangential to the events as fellow travelers on the busses the victims took to the hospital and the doctors who treated them there. Contamination was also found on three buses, forty-two houses, fourteen cars, and five pigs.

This story of abandoned high technology cutting a swath through a community is a grim, secret inspiration for Spill Zone. Once you read about it, you won’t forget it, like a scientific Curse of the Mummy, a reminder that foraging among the ruins can unearth nightmares.

And maybe a reminder not to play with old x-ray machines and medical waste in general.

On a somewhat less grim topic, if you still want to put weird things on your skin after that story, you should pre-order Spill Zone now! Anyone doing so before May 1 will also receive a free set of Spill Zone tattoos! These tattoos are totally safe and will not result in amputations! While supplies last. (Supplies of tattoos, not amputations.)

SZ tattoos

In equally non-grim news, another book of mine came out yesterday. It’s called Horizon, and you can read about it here. (It’s kind of like Hatchet, but geekier. And like Lord of the Flies, but less depressing. And a bit like Lost, but the characters are lost instead of the writers.)

See you next Wednesday!

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March 22, 2017

Spill Zone Tour

Only four pages today, alas. But we’re closing in on the end of Book 1, and we want have the last pages appear the day Spill Zone drops in stores. Which is:

Tuesday, May 2. Pre-order here.

Now that publication day is getting close, the events for my launch tour are all scheduled. You can either use this map, zooming in to find dates and locations at a city near you. Or you can click here for the same info in reliable text form.

So what do all those different logos mean? It’s kind of complicated.

Just before Spill Zone comes out, I’m touring for another book, called Horizon. It’s a middle-grade adventure novel, starring a Brooklyn robotics team using their engineering smarts to survive in an alien jungle after a plane crash. It’s Lost meets Hatchet meets Lord of the Flies meets Little Brother, kind of.

The stops marked with an H are for Horizon. Which means that my Holmdel NJ, Canton CT, Collegeville PA, Raleigh NC, and St. Louis MO events are all BEFORE Spill Zone comes out. Still, please come, say hi, and check out my other work!

The stops marked with either a nuclear cooling tower or the Fierce Reads logo are for Spill Zone: Chicago IL, Pasadena CA, Menlo Park CA, Washington DC, Athens GA, Buford GA, Dallas TX, Cleveland OH, St Paul MN, Santa Cruz CA, Toronto CA, Austin TX, Coral Gables FL, New York NY, and Rhinebeck NY. So at these stops you can buy SZ and have me sign it!

Note the stops with a Fierce Reads logo are part of a group tour with three other authors, Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Kiss), Taran Matharu (The Battlemage), and Kristen Orlando (You Don’t Know My Name). But I’ll be talking Spill Zone none the less!


Again, for all the details in text, click here.

I hope to see you on the road, or at least next Wednesday for more pages!


image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
1 month ago

OK, this is the creepiest installment yet. And if the dead (?) people are puppets, who's talking to her?

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March 14, 2017

Snow Day!

There’s too much blizzard in NYC for me to blog this week.

I mean, look at this:


But hey, the details for my Spill Zone and other tours have been posted! More on that next week, or click here now to see if I’m coming to a bookstore or library near you.

See you next Wednesday for Addison’s escape from the hospital!
(Or will she?)


image of commenter, Sylvain Abélard
Sylvain Abélard
1 month ago

This is awesome, please keep up with the great work! I'd love an RSS feed too. I can help set this up. Cheers <3

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March 8, 2017


Addison is very close to the radiology department, and her reward of a million bucks. But can we talk for a minute about Hilary Sycamore’s amazing colors?

In my original script for Spill Zone, only the Zone was ever shown in color. The “real world” was black and white. Sort of like The Wizard of Oz or The Secret Garden (1949), but with motorcycles and Wolf-Things.

But as I discussed earlier, more of the story than expected wound up being set in the real world. And nobody on our team wanted to do a mostly black-and-white graphic novel. So to make the Zone a very different place, we decided that the colors there would be turned up to eleven.

As you can see from these pages, Hilary was the right woman for the job. She makes the Zone as fluorescent as a Peter Max poster from the 1970s, without ever becoming comical or “groovy.” The Zone’s colors always feel serious, even dangerous, despite being eye-rattlingly lurid.

We just got the finished books in, and Hilary’s work looks just as amazing on paper. When you casually flip through the pages, the Zone sections reach out and arrest your eyes.

There’s also a thing that Hilary and Alex do with the color registration, like reality is coloring outside the lines a little. Or maybe either the printing process—or your brain—is melting down. The whole thing is way better than my original idea of making the real world monochrome.

It pays to work with talent.

Okay, thanks to everyone at Emerald City Comic Con for coming out to see me last weekend! If our paths didn’t cross there, I’ll be touring in April and May, for both Spill Zone and my middle grade novel, Horizon. Watch this space or my blog for details.

See you next Wednesday!


image of commenter, Algesiras
2 months ago

Hilary Sycamore isn't featured on the author's page. Why?

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March 1, 2017

Event update!

Hello Spill Zone fans!

What did you think of this week’s installment? Scott meant it a few weeks ago when he said that things were only going to keep getting crazier.

Addison is going some pretty dark places these days, but meanwhile (outside of The Zone) Scott has his own adventures taking place. Of course, when I say adventures, what I mean is lots of events! Last week you heard about Scott’s participation in the Spring 2017 Fierce Reads Tour (if you want to hear his take on it jump back one chapter) but he’s also going to be in Seattle this weekend for Emerald City Comic Con.

So if you’re planning on going to ECCC, you should definitely stop by booth 1602 and say hi. Not only will there be plenty of opportunities to meet Scott, but we’ll also be giving away finished copies of Spill Zone and some awesome Spill Zone swag!

Click here to get all of the details on Scott and Spill Zone at ECCC and here to find out where you can see Scott later this spring on the Fierce Reads tour.

Come back next Wednesday for new pages and Scott’s triumphant return to the blog!


image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
2 months ago

Oh, why isn't Vespertine there. She could handle this, I just know she could. :(

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February 22, 2017

Going off Script

When Alex makes changes to my script for Spill Zone, it’s usually to add pages. Sometimes he feels my pacing is too fast. Sometimes there’s something he wants to explore in greater visual detail. Usually these extended explorations take place in the Zone.

This week’s pages, with Addison venturing into the hospital where her parents worked—her first trip inside a building in the Zone—is where Alex has added the most to the script. I can’t remember exactly, but this version is at least six pages longer, taking him a whole extra week to bring it to life. But he found labyrinthine corridors and twisted logic of the hospital too much fun to limit himself to what I’d written.

In the end, we didn’t stick to the script at all. The process got freeform, with him drawing first and me writing after, both of us pushing panels and images around the way the Zone does walls and corridors and rooms.

I love how these pages feel less controlled than the rest of the book, and how it’s a bit fuzzy how much time is passing. The reader becomes like Addison, wandering the halls uncertain and confused. A little nervous too.

Because bad things are coming. Addison’s parents are in here somewhere . . .

But wait, there’s news! I’ll be joining the Fierce Reads Tour, which takes place from May 9-16, with four other YA authors. You can find the details by clicking here.

I’ll also be doing some solo touring soon, but those appearances aren’t scheduled yet. Check my next post here or my personal blog for news.

Hope to see you on the road!

And see you right here next Wednesday.

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February 14, 2017

Someone Else’s Story

Whenever things get too exciting in the Zone, we cut away to Corporal Wiley!

Wiley is the most organic character in Spill Zone, in that he emerged from the story itself. At first he was just a random guy in charge of a checkpoint, a local National Guardsmen. But he kept popping up in various scenes, demonstrating Addison’s connections to the community.

And now in this week’s pages, he shows up at Addison’s house of his own volition, with his own agenda.

My favorite characters are the ones who get invented on the fly and wind up sticking around. Zane, from my Uglies series, was promoted from wisecracking gang leader to romantic interest over the course of a few dozen pages. (That’s right, Zane-lovers, he wasn’t in the outline!) Just like in real life, certain people come along at the right moment, and get dragged into someone else’s story.

Though really, I wrote this scene just to see Wiley and Vespertine together.

Theirs is a love made in heaven.

Sorry there’s only four pages this week. Rest assured, we’ll be back with a full six pages next Wednesday, and back in the Zone with Addison.

A warning: the end is moderately nigh. We only have eleven more installments before Book 1 is done. And just so you know, the print edition comes out the day before the last pages drop—May 2, 2017. (AKA the Tuesday before Free Comic Books Day.)

You can pre-order it now. Electronic editions also arrive May 2, but you can’t pre-order them, because . . . technology.

See you next Wednesday.

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February 8, 2017

Never, Ever Go Inside

I spent four years in Poughkeepsie, the town at the center of the Zone, and Vassar College, my alma mater, makes an appearance in this week’s pages.

Before illustrating this book, Alex took a research visit to Poughkeepsie. His depiction of Vassar is wonderfully accurate, as are all of his images of that town. Mind you, we didn’t play Zombies Versus Humans when I was there—zombies weren’t quite such a cultural force back then. We played Assassin with waterguns, and we liked it, dammit.

But when I got the sketches, I did realize something uncanny—page 141 is the exact view from the exit I always took out of my old dorm, which is where I was imagining this scene happening.

But I didn’t tell Alex where to take his reference photos, it just worked out that way. Spooky, huh?

In fact, I might have known that meat puppet in panel 3.

But my hands-down favorite illustration this week is the splash page of the Hospital, in all its twister-full-of-straight-jackets glory. In the physical version of Spill Zone, this image will be one of those two-page spreads that you have to turn sideways to see. Alas, that trick doesn’t work with most desktop computers, so we shrunk it down to one page. Our apologies.

If you want to see it in it’s full form, you’ll have to, you know, buy the actual book.

See you next Wednesday. It only gets weirder from here on in.

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January 31, 2017

Portal Fantasies

At last, Addison is headed back into the Zone—this time without Vespertine to protect her. A million dollars is at stake, along with her life!

But here’s an odd thing I just realized:

Spill Zone is a portal fantasy. There’s boring normal life on this side of the fence, and a strange and exciting world on the other. And when I first conceived of SZ, I assumed it would be like most portal fantasies—the majority of the action would take place in that mysterious other world, not our own.

After all, the Narnia books are mostly set in Narnia, not England. We don’t spend too much time in Milo’s bedroom before going through the Phantom Tollbooth. Nor do we want Claire in the Outlander books hanging out in modern day when she could be shagging her 18th-century Scotsman! That’s how these things work. We prefer Alice on the other side of the looking glass.

But of Spill Zone’s 139 pages so far, only 33 have taken place in the Zone. That wasn’t what I had intended at all.

So what happened?

After Addison’s first trip through the fence, I found myself wanting to get to know her sister, her art dealer, her patron, and her pal in the National Guard. Then a North Korean kid from a different Zone caught my authorial eye, as did the FBI agents following him.

Turns out, I was more interested in how the Zone was viewed from the outside, and how it had changed the world around it, than in what was going on inside.

So maybe SZ wasn’t so much inspired by other portal fantasies as by all the comics I’ve loved whose storytelling was . . . discursive. Like Naomi Urasawa’s Monster, in which random side characters sometimes get a whole volume to themselves. Or Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Bitch Planet, with a narrative that sprawls across a huge cast of characters.

There’s something wonderful about not knowing who the camera will follow next. What if this minor sidekick is really the hero?

But rest assured, Addison is the hero of this tale. And once she gets back to the Zone, she’s going to be in there for a while, kicking ass and stealing dust.

In fact, she’ll be back on the scary side of the fence next Wednesday. See you then.

(Also, if you have a comics store, you only have till this Monday, Feb 6, to order the Spill Night Free Comic Book for FCBD!)


image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
3 months ago

Nooo! She needs Vespertine with her! Especially this time! Oh, I hope Lexa sneaked her into the backpack or something :-(

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January 25, 2017

More Is Better

A few years ago, I wrote a pep talk for National Novel Writing Month, giving young writers some advice on how to keep going when their novels run out of steam. The basic message was, Your World Needs to Be More Complex. (Read it here.)

By complex, I meant full of differences and diversity. Tangled with detail and specificities.

One example I gave: If your story is about earth being invaded by aliens, don’t just show me the bad invader aliens. Let’s see some aliens who feel bad for us and are trying to help. And maybe other aliens who eat the bad aliens, and use humans for bait. And maybe even some aliens who don’t care about humans at all, and are just here to study zebus.

In other words, never have just one kind of anything.

As I point out in the essay, the history of humans learning stuff is that everything usually turns out more complicated than we thought it was. From atoms being sub-divisible to there being 3000 kinds of pears, nothing is ever as simple as our first assumptions. Books that don’t match that ever-expanding complexity tend to fall flat.

Following my own advice, I’ve made sure that in the world of Spill Zone, there was more than one spill. Not three thousand, quite, but at least two of them. And the other one took place in a very different country, North Korea, which means that it’s a very different spill. The contrasts in how that other spill affects the landscape and people around it—the politics of that other Zone, in effect—gives me another set of angles to address my themes of loss and otherworldy weirdness and art.

It also gave me an interesting character in Jae, who we meet this week for the first time. Like Addison, he’s the only survivor of his town, but he’s very unlike her for reasons of background and circumstance. And now that I’ve got him in New York, you can be sure he’ll be bringing his alien perspective to bear on everyone we’ve already met and everything we’ve already seen.

Indeed, having another version of Addison in the story changes the way we see Addison herself.

Please join us next Wednesday, and every Wednesday, as the world of Spill Zone grows more varied, various, and diverse.

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January 18, 2017

Thoughts to Speech

This is end of chapter two. Only one more chapter remains in book one of Spill Zone!

And yes, our story ends as it began—with Addison heading into the Zone, this time for the big money.

One. Million. Dollars.


My favorite bit in this passage is when Lexa speaks aloud for the first time. One cool thing about keeping a character silent for 119 pages: when you do let them talk, you get an easy “whoa” out of it.

But I will admit one thing. As I saw Alex sketching out this scene, I was thinking, “Damn. This is one of those tricks that probably would’ve worked better on a TV show. Like, with actual sound is coming out of the speakers!”

And that’s partly true. Here in a comic, Lexa’s first utterance is rendered with the subtle difference between a thought bubble and a speech bubble. It would’ve been way more mind-blowing to hear the actor’s voice for the first time. Especially after, say, ten episodes of her being silent.

In fact, I was a little worried that some readers might miss that she was talking aloud at all. That’s why I had Addison do a double-take—to make sure everyone got it. (Of course, after all those years of talking to herself, Addie really would do a double take.)

But looking back on it now, I like this version better than the one in my imaginary TV show. Being in a comic allowed me to really set up this moment, thanks to all those thoughts passing between Lexa and Vespertine. With all that previous dialog, Lexa’s words come out of a context, rather than just popping out of nowhere.

I mean, characters thinking aloud to each other in film and TV is pretty dorky.

The weird and various affordances of speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and narration boxes are one of the things I love about comics. That’s why Spill Zone has so much interplay among them designed into it, right from the start.

Moments like this are just the payoff.

See you next Wednesday (and every Wednesday between now and May 2) for chapter three!


image of commenter, kyle puttkammer
kyle puttkammer
3 months ago

Hooked me right away! I LOVE this concept. Great art for the characters too. Can't wait to share this series with friends.

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January 11, 2017

Background Events

As promised, Corporal Wiley has returned!

Spill Zone is my first original graphic novel. As I’ve said in previous posts, part of the fun of writing it has been exploring the commonalities and differences between comics and prose. My favorite moments are when I can pretend to direct a film, while at the same time keeping the affordances of a novel in hand.

For example, take the first two pages of this passage. Corporal Wiley and his National Guard pals are hanging out at the diner, talking shit, and the “camera” holds the exact same shot for four panels. But, way off in the background, there’s a little drama playing out in miniature—Marty waiting by his truck for Addison, who arrives in art collector Tan’ea Vandersloot’s limo.

This deep background is hard to see, and maybe goes noticed until it explodes into the foreground (in the last panel of that second page, p111). A reversal in focus like this would be weird in a prose novel. Text has trouble asserting things like, “There’s this event happening in the background, but you don’t really see it yet.”

Film also has a problem with this sort of trick, because there’s a risk of the action going completely unnoticed. You can’t rewind a film the way you can a book to go back and see what you missed. (At least, not without completely disrupting the narrative.)

But comics can do both. We can show something in the deep background, with the certainty that a reader who’s missed it can scan the page again, rewinding time at their pleasure.

As a boring-old-prose-novels writer, I use Spill Zone as an opportunity to deploy these tricks whenever possible. It’s like I’m a skier who’s borrowed a friend’s snowboard, so I want to spend all my time in the half pipe. I can slalom anytime.

Also, those cupcakes look yummy.

See you Wednesday for the next installment!


image of commenter, Scott Westerfeld
Scott Westerfeld
3 months ago

You are too kind, Ed. I'm really looking forward to FCBD!

image of commenter, Ed Sherman
Ed Sherman
4 months ago

This comic is awesome! I can't wait to offer it for sale in my graphic novel store. I am going to order many extra copies of the FCBD issue to give out to customers all through the year. There is no doubt in my mind that this will equate to many sales of this fine book.

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January 4, 2017


Welcome back from the holidays. We have another six pages for you!

There was a slight pagination problem in the last two entries, with two pages winding up in the wrong week. So if you’ve been reading along, check back to make sure you’ve seen everything.

I don’t have anything wise to write this week. I was sick from the day before Xmas till the day after New Year’s Eve, so my holidays were un-salubrious. I also had a huge deadline for my Zeroes books, which I write with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. But book three is finished at last!

The Zeroes trilogy is about six teens in California with “social superpowers.” In other words, their powers only work in and through crowds. Alone, they ain’t jack, but in a multitude, they’re awesome. (Find out more here.) But most important to me, the trilogy is DONE AT LAST.

Next week, I shall return, fully recovered from deadlines and illness and with deeper, better thoughts about Spill Zone.

Join me then . . . for the return of Corporal Wiley!

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December 21, 2016

Free Comic Book Day!

Free Comic Book Day!

Big news this week: Free Comic Book Day will include a prequel to Spill Zone called . . . Spill Night!

Created by the usual SZ team—me, Alex Puvilland, and Hilary Swift—Spill Night takes us back to the origin of the Spill. Yes, the very night that it all went down in Po’town. Which means that it follows not Addison (who was out of town, you may recall) but her little sister Lexa and a certain doll whose name started with V.



Perhaps some of you are asking, “What’s Free Comic Book Day?” Well, you can click here to find out, or just head to your local comic shop the first Saturday in May to get free stuff. (That’s May 6, 2017, aka four days after Spill Zone comes out in print. Good timing, eh?)

Here’s a full list of the comics coming out that day.

If you’re excited about Spill Night and want to make sure you get a copy, go mention it to your local shop. They’ll be putting in their orders soon. (Comics store owners: you have till Monday, Feb 6 to order!)

In other news, you may have noticed that Spill Zone has a new and slightly different cover. (Check out this page to see it.) We have returned the lurid green and blue for more of a watermelon color. The jacket will be printed on delicious foil, and we found that the green plus shiny was too much. But it’s pretty great now, I think.



The only other piece of news is that we’ll be taking off next week for the holidays. So see you in two weeks, also known as Jan 4, 2017.

See you next year!

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December 14, 2016

Dolls Are Scary

I think we can all admit that dolls are scary.

Too-realistic dolls fall into the “uncanny valley,” creeping us out by being too close to actual people. But even rag dolls like Vespertine can be uncanny, because us human beings are social creatures. Our brains are always searching for faces, whether in spilled coffee, castles, or kayaks. And when one of those faces turns out to be a couple of buttons and a squiggle of yarn, it’s weird.

This is perhaps why fear of dolls is one of the most common phobias, called pediophobia. (Just so you know, fear of children is pedophobia and fear of feet is podophobia. When phobia doctors talk about all three at once it’s probably hilarious.) My wife, in fact, suffers from a pretty severe case. Like, she can’t sleep in a doll-infested guest room without throwing a blanket over the uncanny objects. But the purpose of Vespertine in Spill Zone is not to terrorize her. It was to allow Lexa to be silent to the world, but not silent to the reader.

That’s one of my favorite affordances of comics—that we get to read thoughts without hokey voiceovers or clumsy italics. We can be in Addison’s point of view, narration-wise, while still “hearing” Lexa’s and Vespertine’s conversations. Lexa simply thinking to herself would be boring, but an imaginary friend turns those thoughts into a dialog.

Of course, it’s possible that Vespertine isn’t just an imaginary friend. She seems to have her own distinct personality. After all, perhaps the weirdest thing about dolls is that kids seem to like them, while we adults have generally decided that they’re scary.

What do the kids know that we’ve forgotten?

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December 7, 2016

Outsider Art

Addison is an outsider artist. Entirely self-trained, she found her subject by surviving a disaster, not through teachers, theories, or predecessors. Indeed, her kind of art has no school to learn from, because the Spill Zone is its own world—and its own harsh teacher as well.

There’s something romantic about artists producing outside the influences of theories and fashions. A sense that somehow their art is purer, more original, less tainted by the world of commerce. More innocent.

But there’s one big downside to innocence: you’re more likely to be exploited. Addison realizes this in Tan’ea Vandersloot’s fancy limo, drinking champagne, on her way to New York City—the world capital of art. Her dealer has been ripping her off, giving her a third of what he owes her. On top of which, Marty has failed at his one real job: keeping her safe from the rest of the world.

Innocence never lasts.


image of commenter, Eli
5 months ago

I love it. The description oh my. ???????????? awe I love you Scott. I also love broadcasting live to other strangers. That reminds me of Extras:) I'm so extra lol

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November 30, 2016

The Devil in the Details

“They wanted Lexa, like they wanted everyone who escaped that night. For testing.
“Especially the little kids who got out on the school bus.
“You probably heard about them.”

With this bit of backstory, I wanted to make Lexa’s escape part of the larger mythology of the Spill. Whenever tragic events happen, there are always details that stick in our minds—the dog that warned its owners of the earthquake, the passenger who missed the flight that crashed. Any details that don’t quite add up, of course, are the stickiest. Incomplete information turns into mysteries, which lead to conspiracy theories, fake news, and urban legends.

Like Nine-eleven truthers in our reality, Addison’s world is full of people who see the Spill as a coverup rather than an enigma. Who pick apart every particular of the story, glomming onto inconsistencies and perplexities. Who try to expose the devil in the details, because they assume that’s where the truth must lie.

Addison herself is a more practical sort, focused on the day-to-day business of making ends meet. She wants to be left alone to do her art, but her little sister is one of those mysteries within a mystery: the kids on the driverless school bus. That puts Addison’s desire for privacy at odds with the rest of the world’s hunger for information, secrets, even misinformation. Of course, her art has the same inherent contradiction—it pushes her out into the public, when secrecy is essential to her process.

In a way, Addison’s art is just another layer of commerce that surrounds the Spill. Alex has elegantly backgrounded others in this scene: Nano Burgers, the lurid Spill Zone Cafe, geiger counters for sale. And there’s that other, more tragic layer, the ever-present pictures of missing persons taped to store windows. Reminders that the Zone is full of not just unknowns, but unfinished business, uncompleted lives.

With a gentle shove from a well meaning patron, Addison might find these perplexities and oppositions starting to collapse.

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November 23, 2016

Sense of Place

Hi, I am Alex Puvilland, the artist who illustrated Spill Zone. I will post on the blog from time to time to talk about the book from the point of view of the illustrator.

In early December 2014, I went on a field trip to Poughkeepsie and New Paltz in upstate New York to research locations for Spill Zone.

In this day and age, anyone anywhere can go onto Google Earth and explore almost every place in the United States; you don’t have to go any further than your computer to find great photos of whatever reference you need. But if you work on a story taking place in a real city, nothing beats actually being there in person.

Walking around the streets exposes you to new possibilities. You notice what’s characteristic or different about your surroundings. You hunt for that little special detail that will evoke everything. You breathe in the mood of the place. You’re suddenly in the steps of your character as he or she will evolve in that same setting. When it will be time for you to draw out the scene, you will remember if it was cold, windy, if the street was narrow, steep, if the place was dark, bright, gloomy, happy, etc. . .

I think having very specific surroundings to a story gives so much to the narrative and the characters. Without relying on dialogue, it gives you another way to show who these people are and describe what their life is like. I love it when a movie, book or comic gives the time and space to immerse yourself in a tangible specific reality.

Comics are a great medium for doing just that. You can include a lot of information in a single panel without encumbering the plot. You can suggest so much with so little if you do it right.

One of the absolute masters of evocation, in my opinion, is Jacques Tardi, a famous French comic book artist who always brings an almost documentary approach to the stories he tells.

Check out the generic sounding title ‘The Bloody Streets of Paris‘ , one of my favorite books of his, which is a crime story set against the backdrop of German occupation of France in the 40s.

Poughkeepsie and its vicinity showed itself to the perfect setting for Spill Zone. Wandering its streets in 2014, I had no problems picturing Addie being chased by weird creatures downtown, or riding her motorcycle forlornly through the woods nearby.  I’m hoping I was able to portray faithfully in Spill Zone the Poughkeepsie I saw then.

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November 16, 2016

Russell’s Bottom

As a kid, I often visited my cousins in Texas. They lived in a small town called Salado, which didn’t have a lot for teenagers to do. But it did have Russell’s Bottom, a low-lying scrubland with dirt roads and poisonous snakes.

In Salado back then, every urban legend—Hook Man, The Devil in the Dance Hall, The Dead Boyfriend—took place around Russell’s Bottom. The Bottom had a “goat man” who could run as fast as cars, which I later found out was actually a Maryland legend. The Bottom also supposedly had its own panther, which had escaped from a traveling circus in the 1920s. (Whether this was a breeding population of panthers or one ancient creature, I was never quite sure.)

In other words, Russell’s Bottom was a gravity sink of fear, a way of drawing all the far-flung terrors of the world into the local and immediate space. The Bottom was a geographical “friend of a friend” that made scary stories personal.

It was also a great way for my older cousins to scare me.

In Addison’s reality, the Spill Zone serves that same function, especially in Po’Town. For all its real horrors, the Zone is also full of legends and rumors. The nearby forests are home to strange creatures, even when they aren’t. Like Salado, my Po’town even has its own reputed panther.

I wanted the Zone’s former residents, like Addison, to own those legends. To use them to scare outsiders the way my older cousins did me. It’s a kind of power, living close to something uncanny and dreadful. Addison is an artist, after all, and art is all about the power of story to bend reality around itself, even when that reality is already bent.

See you next Wednesday for more pages.

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November 9, 2016

End of Part 1

This is the end of Part 1 of Spill Zone. But that doesn’t mean we’re pausing!

We’ll have the first pages of Part 2 next Wednesday, and six more new pages every Wednesday between now and May 2, 2017. (Except maybe around the holidays. It’s possible we got the math wrong, and will double up or skip a week. Counting is hard, okay?)

Thanks for all your eyeballs and engagement. About seven thousand of you have read Spill Zone so far. I’d like to give special thanks to those of you who’ve shared it on social media, forwarded it to your friends, and generally spread the word. If you’re enjoying the story, please take a moment to tell others about it. These days, broadcasting what you love is one of the best ways to support artists and help more cool stuff get made.

Also, don’t forget the comments section! Theories? Conjectures? Doll phobias? Tell us how you feel.

See you next Wednesday, when Part 2 of Spill Zone begins.


image of commenter, Owen
5 months ago

So Addie knows that Lexa's doll is named Vespertine. Which means either the doll was named that before the spill when Lexa could still talk or that Lexa wrote it down for Addie at sometime since then. If it means the former, that makes me wonder if Vespertine has been able to communicate with Lexa since before the spill and that's how Lexa came up with the name. This is a generalization, of course, but 'Vespertine' doesn't seem like the most common doll name and that doll is (or looks like) a Raggedy Ann doll. So why would Lexa have named her Vespertine instead of Anne or Annie or something similar unless Vespertine told Lexa her name. Which makes me think that Vespertine is a separate entity entirely that is either associated with whatever caused the Spill or in direct opposition to it and is now working with Lexa to fix things (the "Friend of a Friend" comment lends to this idea). Clearly a lot of overthinking here on my part, but also clearly a lot more going on with Vespertine than meets than eye. Fascinating story so far! Can't wait to find out what happens.

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November 2, 2016

The Hospital

The area of my fictional Zone is based mostly on the small city of Poughkeepsie, NY, about two hours upstate from New York City. I went to college there, and it’s where I developed my love of exploring abandoned and ruined places.

The city has been around since the 1600s, and has had a lot of economic ups and downs. It’s been an ice town, a whale rendering town, and the headquarters of IBM. Needless to say, none of these industries is currently flourishing, and as a result Po’town has its fair share of crumbling edifices.

The most amazing ruin in the place is the Hudson State River Hospital. It was founded in 1871—as the Hudson River Hospital for the Insane. Large hospitals for the mentally ill are a thing of the past, of course, and HSRH was in decline for a long time before it closed in 2003. As a bonus, it was struck by lightning in 2007.

Its main building, however, remains a crumbling jewel of High Victorian Gothic architecture. And it’s now-decrepit grounds were designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Olmsted, creators of NYC’s Central Park. It was gorgeous in life and remains so in ruination. It’s also as creepy in real life as anything in the Zone, so I’ve used it as an important setting for Addison’s adventures.

If you want to see inside the ruined hospital, lots of urban spelunkers have posted images. But be warned, they will give you nightmares.

See you next Wednesday.


image of commenter, Bieeanda
6 months ago

Oh, man. Those photos remind me of watching Session Nine. That is... not a film I like to be reminded of. :)

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October 26, 2016


Spill Zone has lots of horror, adventure, and chase scenes, but it’s also about being an artist.

Addison is a photographer, and she supports herself and her little sister with pictures taken in the Zone. Given that her art is illegal to make, she’s the ultimate outlaw artist.

Even outlaw artists, of course, have collectors, and they matter. The history of art is full of patrons who changed the arcs of individual careers, of artistic movements, even of art history itself. So this story wouldn’t be complete without getting to know Addison’s best customer, Tan’ea Vandersloot. It was great for me to see Alex draw a giant room full of Addison’s work, a gallery more carefully framed, mounted, and curated than Addie probably would manage herself.

To go a little further into Tan’ea’s head, we even made a website for Vandersloot Gallery. It’s kind of fanciful, given the Tan’ea couldn’t really put Addison’s work online. But check it out. It shows how even something as mysterious and sublime as the Spill Zone can be coopted and commercialized by the language of art criticism.

Of course, the more important work of this scene is to introduce a new collector, a man clearly wants more than just photographs of the Zone. But that’s a mystery for later in the story.


image of commenter, Bieeanda
6 months ago

Unfamiliar threats from within and without. This doesn't bode well for Addison's relationship with the Zone, no matter how well she knows it. And... Jesus. With the comic for context, there is something really chilling about those photos on the Vandersloot gallery site.

image of commenter, ellana
6 months ago

To* My phone is French ans loves correcting my English Holy **** x)

image of commenter, ellana
6 months ago

Mysterious but promising! I am a french reader who really loved All you books so no doubt this one will be as amazing ! Thanks for the pleasure tout access it :)

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October 19, 2016

Almost Wordless

Today is a bonus posting: thirteen pages of Spill Zone! We decided that cutting this chase scene in half would just be annoying. Besides, there aren’t many words in this passage, and it felt odd to give you six pages of pictures.

Or maybe that’s just me being a prose novelist. In my usual work, I never get to write a scene with no words. Sure, I’ve written passages where the characters communicate silently, but all those meaningful glances still have to be described. My quiet scenes usually wind up wordier than those with dialog.

The bottom line is, in my prose novels words are all I have.

In comics, of course, extended scenes with little or no text are common. I’ve seen everything from a ten-page fight scene to a twenty-page kiss. (Spoiler: that last one was in a manga.) And films are often best when they eschew words. One of my favorite cinematic stretches is in Jules Dassin’s Rififi, a 27-minute bank heist with no dialog at all. (Seriously, go watch it now.)

So when I started exploring this new medium, one of my goals was to write occasional stretches of wordlessness. This chase scene was the obvious place to start. Alex’s “Wolf Thing”—as our script calls it—really needs no verbiage to make it horrifying. And people don’t tend to talk much while being pursued by a mutant creature.

Mind you, the thirteen pages we’ve posted today aren’t entirely text-free. But I did manage to use only ninety-six words in forty-six panels. For a guy who usually takes 85,000 words to tell a story, that’s positively taciturn. And I think it’s about the right amount for this scene.

The weirdest part of writing these pages was the sense that I wasn’t really writing. That I was cheating, somehow, just telling someone else what to do. And once I saw Alex’s beautiful work on these pages, my own lack of visible input was jarring. Baked into most novelists’ brains is a how-many-words-did-you-write-today calculator, which lets us know if we had a bad or good day. After twenty or so novels, that’s a hard metric to ignore.

So for those of you counting, the section of my script that described this passage is exactly 1138 words. They’re in there somewhere. You just can’t see them.

But we hope to see you next Wednesday.

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October 12, 2016

Text and Image

Spill Zone is my first graphic novel. Usually I write books for teenagers, and one of the coolest parts of writing SZ has been exploring the differences between the comics and prose. This stretch of pages nicely demonstrates of one of comics’ particular strengths—combining the techniques of the novel with those of film.

In this passage, my fantastic artist Alex Puvilland goes fully cinematic. Magnificent vistas of the Zone share the page with close-ups of meat puppets, possessed rats, and the Zone’s weird “standing waves.” And all of it glows with Hilary Sycamore’s rich, surrealist colors. On the visual level, it’s very much a movie.

But at the same time, the narration remains inside Addison’s head. She addresses the reader in that intimate way that novels do so well, but that films only manage with clunky voice-overs.

I’m saying something pretty obvious, of course—that the combination of text and pictures is what makes comics awesome. How they can coexist as a one-two punch, reinforcing each other, or in counterpoint, with the narration undercutting the images. With this section of Spill Zone, I wanted to do both. The words and art are synched up, describing the same things, but Addison’s list of rules is almost casual compared to the nightmarish imagery. She’s either habituated to the phantasmagoric sights of the Zone, or she’s putting up a darn good front. This singular ability, to contrast objective reality with subjective narration, is comics’ superpower.

Of course, images and text can handle more than just objective and subjective. They can juxtapose past and present, fantasy and reality, grimdark and flippant, the cosmic and the minute—pretty much anything the creators want to play with! For a prose novelist like me, it’s like gaining a second channel into the reader’s brain.

Anyway, thanks for coming back for part two. Almost two hundred pages of Spill Zone remain. See you next Wednesday!


image of commenter, Sam P.
Sam P.
6 months ago

Hooked so far! Will definitely be purchasing a copy for my library when it comes out!

image of commenter, Anonymous
7 months ago

This is fantastic. Any chance you could add an RSS feed? Thanks!

image of commenter, Alanna R.
Alanna R.
7 months ago

I feel like this would be so cool as a story-based video game, sort of along the lines of Life is Strange. Not usually a fan of comics or graphic novels, but this one has me interested!

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October 4, 2016

The Beginning

Since this is the first installment, let me tell you a little about how Spill Zone came to be.

In 2004, a Ukrainian photojournalist named Elena Filatova (aka KiddofSpeed) blogged an account of her illicit motorcycle journeys through 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,” though 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.”

They’ve captured the feeling I first got from a line in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S1E12), when Buffy sees a room of people killed by vampires: “When I walked in there, it . . . it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun.”

We’ll be updating every Wednesday with six or so pages, and the finished book will be for sale in May 2017. I hope you come back for the rest.


image of commenter, Ian M
Ian M
1 month ago

If you are wondering "is Spill Zone worth reading?". The answer is YES!

image of commenter, Ioana
5 months ago

Roadside picnic was on my mind too, and the movie The Stalker that Tarkovski made using that short story. Good job ????????????

image of commenter, Forest Rhodes
Forest Rhodes
6 months ago

Is this comic influenced by the short story Roadside Picnic? It was written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in 1971.

image of commenter, Poe Ducker
Poe Ducker
6 months ago

Back in the 50s, there was the Kyshtym disaster in which tons of radioactive waste in a storage tank exploded & contaminated the Eastern Urals in Russia. The USSR hushed up the accident & evacuated the area contaminated by radiation. The disaster gave rise to the Soviet SF movie STALKER

image of commenter, Steffen
7 months ago

It was great reading about KiddofSpeed's exploits back in the day. Your story reminds me about the decline of Detroit.

image of commenter, John Gillespie
John Gillespie
7 months ago

Found this on Boing Boing and really enjoyed the first install! Terrific!

image of commenter, daveSMASH
7 months ago

Heard about this from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. Can't believe I missed it's announcement. Between the concept itself and that feeling Willow had in that episode of Buffy, I'm very excited.

image of commenter, Ruth Blailock
Ruth Blailock
7 months ago!!!

image of commenter, Charles Potomac
Charles Potomac
7 months ago

Look forward to the next update! Pre-orering the book on Amazon, Great work. Really enjoyed what I read!

image of commenter, Larry MacDougall
Larry MacDougall
7 months ago

Only 6 pages in but it looks great so far. Will come back later for a proper read. Thanks !

image of commenter, Greg
7 months ago

Wow! What a great start to the story! Found this on Boing Boing, looking forward to the next installment.

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