Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

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November 15, 2017

Back in the Big City

I don’t know about you, but everyone on team Spill Zone was pretty excited to see our very own patron of urban exploration and disaster art, Tanea Vandersloot, again. I know it wasn’t the warmest of reunions, but lets be honest, Tanea and Addison probably prefer it that way.

In other news, this installment has a lot more questions than answers. What’s going on with Addison? Is Tanea going to let curiosity get the better of her? And who was that waiting out by the car?

You’ll just have to come back next week to find out.

See you then,

-Team Spill Zone

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image of commenter, Zoe Rose
Zoe Rose
6 days ago

I love the book but i really want to know how and why it happened

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November 8, 2017

The Broken Vow

Welcome back, Spill Zone Fans!

You’ve all been incredibly patient, and we are very excited to be picking up right where we left of as we start the serialization of Spill Zone: The Broken Vow!


Last month we put out the call for Spill Zone fan art as part of our first official Spill Zone Fan Art contest, and now we need your help deciding a winner. Vote below to choose your favorite from the five finalists.

Wolf King by instagram user nonsketch

Flatsville by instagram user book_freakout

Wolf King and Addison by instagram user bunnymaelstrom

Spill Zone main cast by instagram user romanoblue36

90’s toy dance party by instagram user booksonhold

 

 

Cast your vote in the Spill Zone Fan Art Contest

nonsketch – Wolf King
book_freakout – Flatsville
bunnymaelstrom – Wolf King & Addison
booksonhold – 90’s toy dance party
romanoblue36 – Spill Zone main cast

See you next week!

-Team Spill Zone

Comments

image of commenter, Liza Wiemer
Liza Wiemer
2 weeks ago

Great fan art! It was a tough choice to choose just one. Congrats to all.

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October 26, 2017

SPILL NIGHT

You’ve been asking for the chance to read our Free Comic Book Day comic since it was initially announced, and the day is finally here.

I’ve always had a thing for imaginary friends. Whether invisible or in doll form, these childhood familiars occupy the twilight between innocent kid magic and the uncanny, eldritch fears of adults. Hence horror’s fascination with scary dolls, murderous clowns, an the monsters under the bed.

What if your imaginary friend wasn’t simply a doll? What if she came from another  place, somewhere truly alien and sinister? And what if that world was spilling into ours?

Spill Night is a prequel to Spill Zone, and you’re probably still have lots of questions. Like what really happened the night of the spill? And what link does the Spill have to do with Vespertine? This story should give you a few new clues.

Be on the lookout, there’s more coming soon.

Comments

image of commenter, Jeff H
Jeff H
3 weeks ago

Will the prequel comic be available in the next volume? Loved Volume 1. Can't wait for more!

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May 2, 2017

End of Book 1

Yes, this is end.

Of Book 1, anyway! Spill Zone 2 comes out in July 2018. But we’ll be serializing it right here starting in October.

In the meantime, stay tuned to this blog for behind-the-scenes stuff, fan art, and news about the series. Plus, you can buy the hardback at last. It came out yesterday!

I hope you enjoyed the ride. Alex, Hilary, and I have really enjoyed putting this graphic novel out into the world. Much thanks to them, and to the crew at First Second for shepherding Spill Zone into its webcomic and physical forms, and for doing such a brilliant job of editing, designing, and marketing the book.

You can come see me talk about the book in these cities: 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. Details here.

And don’t forget that the Free Comic Books Day prequel, called Spill Night, is out soon—May 6. Wherever fine comic books are sold!

Thanks to all of you who read along with Spill Zone, especially those who commented, retweeted, and otherwise shared the site. It would have been somewhat pointless without you!

Till next Wednesday, when there will be something new here, I promise.

Scott out.

Comments

image of commenter, princesswillow
princesswillow
3 months ago

love this book even read it to my mom and she loved it to

image of commenter, Birn
Birn
3 months ago

Can't wait for the second book!!

image of commenter, Dragonnerd
Dragonnerd
4 months ago

I'm so excited for the next book I've already put the release month in my calendar so I know :))) I really loved the first one and I'm definitely gonna read it a couple more hundred times ;)

image of commenter, Foxes Beyond
Foxes Beyond
5 months ago

I am so sad I have to wait a whole YEAR for the next book... :( BBBUUUUTTTT.... the first book is awsome! I keep reading it repeadedly! keep up the good work!

image of commenter, TheIceGuardian
TheIceGuardian
6 months ago

I loved the first book. I really liked the cliff hanger ending aswell. But please try and make the second book faster, I don't want to losee interest before the second one comes out.

image of commenter, Rose Embolism
Rose Embolism
6 months ago

I just want to say that I've been completely enthralled by your comic- the combination of the artwork, characterization and plotting, plus the incredibly bizarre setting, puts it in my top 10 for webcomics. I have to note that the completion of this story arc will put this comic in contention for the 2018 Hugo Awards. I'm going to start promoting it as a worthy contender.

image of commenter, Amy
Amy
6 months ago

Hi! How can't I get a copy of Spill Night?

image of commenter, Gary Worley
Gary Worley
7 months ago

Got into SZ via FCBD and well impressed! The story length makes a detailed story more novel than comic, Roadside Picnic/Stalker comes to mind. The spill simply does not care about us. Is book 2 going to take us hard sci fi, fantasy or something else more character driven, can't wait! All the little touches as well, the Banksy-esqe anonymous art sales, the realistic dirt biking sneaking past the checkpoint and back matter beneath each page, excellent!

image of commenter, Jayle Enn
Jayle Enn
7 months ago

Waited most of an hour for my favourite local shop to open, but happily snagged a copy of Spill Night!

image of commenter, Bree
Bree
7 months ago

*Stomps on purple thing* "Oh, sorry - was that your betrothed?"

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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.

Comments

image of commenter, Mike Z
Mike Z
7 months ago

Look at her eye color! She has touched the fire.

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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.

TWO INSTALLMENTS TO GO.

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April 12, 2017

Three to Go

Whew.

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.

Comments

image of commenter, Collette
Collette
7 months ago

Thanks for the outstanding advice, it really is useful.

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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.

kingwolf3

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:

kingwolf2

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

Comments

image of commenter, Algesiras
Algesiras
7 months 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!

IT THAT ALL CLEAR?

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!

Comments

image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
8 months 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:

IMG_5865

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?)

Comments

image of commenter, Sylvain Abélard
Sylvain Abélard
8 months 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

Colors

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!

Comments

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lords mobile hack ios
7 months ago

Pretty! This was a really excellent post. Thank you for your supplied advice

image of commenter, Algesiras
Algesiras
9 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!

Comments

image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
9 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.

Comments

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ww autos usados
3 months ago

Thriller Shopper: Volkswagen Automotriz Lomas Verdes.

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kepago
5 months ago

Hi there, after reading this awesome piece of writing i am also glad to share my experience here with friends.

image of commenter, Foxes Beyond
Foxes Beyond
5 months ago

this one IS AWESOME!!!

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Foxes Beyond
5 months ago

yea it's really hard to find good graphic novels these days.

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muffa
5 months ago

Great blog you've got here.. It's difficult to find excellent writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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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!)

Comments

image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
10 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.

SPOILER ALERT
READ THE NEW PAGES BEFORE THIS POST
SERIOUSLY

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!

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image of commenter, kyle puttkammer
kyle puttkammer
10 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!

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image of commenter, Scott Westerfeld
Scott Westerfeld
10 months ago

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

image of commenter, Ed Sherman
Ed Sherman
10 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

Deadlines

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.

fcbd2017-spillzone-frontcover

 

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.

cover-final

 

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!

Comments

image of commenter, Ty Baillie
Ty Baillie
7 months ago

Any chance at all of another shot at getting a physical copy of Spill Night, I'm willing to pay? If any of my stores had copies, they were either gone or the shops closed by the time I could manage to get there.

image of commenter, Iain cahoon
Iain cahoon
7 months ago

it would be be amazing if you released spill night on your website an Saturday (the same day its free) i wanna see why vespertine is so creepy!!!

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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.

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Eli
12 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.

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image of commenter, Owen
Owen
12 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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