If you prefer you can download the pdf here.
My unending gratitude to Matt and John Yuan (deputy publishers of 1First Comics) who volunteered way back on issue 1 to proofread (off the back of a plaintive twitter plea) and ending up both being great proofreaders and even better editors - constantly encouraging and giving little notes that never alter the fabric of the story but always help.
Stories this issue:
Notifications, Memories of War, Cold Caller, The Civil War, The Monster, Sign Unseen, Ghosts.
A4 Issue Four Notes!
Gah, two stories with War in the title. So annoying. Hadn't spotted it until now, but there it is. It will be my eternal shame.
There were two things drilled in to me from English lessons in secondary school (which I did rather enjoy, I loved writing, and was told to apply for O-Levels early, so I did, and then I didn't do any work because I was fundamentally lazy - so failed it) anyway, the two things: never use the word got/gotten (I think this was my teachers personal bugbear, with teenagers writing "I got given a book then got a clip round the there and got out of there, before he got me" even I'm uncomfortable seeing the word "got" in anything I write) and never repeat a word if you can help it (obvious "I", "and" and so on are all fine). So two wars. Not good. Am annoyed. (Should point out, this is entirely a quirk of my own making!)
From hereon in there will likely be spoilers!
I had planned on a halloween all horror special - or at least as best as I'm able, but of course, I couldn't quite come up with every single story as a horror, so let's start with the least horror like story:
I suppose this and Ghosts share a very common through line, rejection and knowing the person who rejected you never even thinks of you. For a full exploration of this idea, watch the amazing "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".
Memories of War
There's a lot going on in the world, and much of it can be traced back so far that you'll never find the beginning point (hello from Northern Ireland!) - and the question is, if everyone lost their memories would those wars still continue. (this story optimistically says we'd all stop, I have a horrible feeling we wouldn't)
Phew! Lighter fair! Actually there's a different story that uses the same sort of idea (the no-hawkers caveat that many people have at their door) I've been sitting noodling as a short comic for a few years (how many? oh man, it's embarrassing to tell - but let's say I first thought of it pre-pandemic) it would be far too long to do as one of these stories, so this slightly different version of it popped in to my head.
I am pretty proud of that title though, it came late - after I'd written a bunch of the stories and I was thinking "gah, now i need a title" and ping! there it was!
I did want to do stuff that was just a smidge lighter than last issue, because I've been told some of this stuff is DARK. I think of it all in the abstract, words on paper rather than real monsters. But we're haunted by the real and the imaginary, I suppose.
The Civil War
I saw a writer (a good writer; it'll be a good book) talking their new Zombie book and it got me thinking, that zombie stories tend to be the ultimate "yeah of course I was the assehole prepping for the end of the world, and look, I WAS RIGHT" and I thought "what if instead of it being zombies, it's that everyone was just really really nice to each other ... oh... those asseholes wouldn't change..."
I'll be honest, andI bet readers can tell, I shoehorned frankenstien in too this (because I wanted monsters, dammit)
Here's my orginal story idea from the apple notes app:
He had fragmented himself, Pumping his entire written and audio corpus through AI Large Language Models, and created an army of bots, one for each of the balkanised social media platforms. And he was finally free. Free to get on with work.
Is it better? it might be.
This could be policitical satire, I suppose. In the hands of a better writer. Instead it's simply a piece of fiction.
Gotta be honest, I just loved the shape and sound of the story. I love that it works on a couple of levels. It pretty much came out fully formed, and so short. Honestly this is the joy of these shorts, there's not an ounce of fat on the idea, there's no point trying to extend it, and there's a sort of poetic quality to it. Anyway, might be one of my favs.
Hope you enjoy it, I would love to know what you think - you can fire me off an email to pjholden at gmail dot com if you like!