Back in August, the ladies here at All Geek to Me had the immense pleasure of attending the 1st Annual Geekie Awards out in Los Angeles. While we were attempting to figure out how to get inside, we made friends with the folks behind us in line. They were Ken Pisani and his wife, and Ken was a fellow nominee. Turns out he’d written COLONUS, one of the graphic novels up for the award for “Best Comic Book/Graphic Novel”. We were friendly, but less than optimistic about his chances (he was up against some pretty serious talent). Turns out, we were idiots. He won, and it’s opened up a grand new chapter for the book.
COLONUS is, right now, a short, 8-page story (plus a 2-page epilogue) about what happens after Earth becomes uninhabitable. It’s not a nice tale of the persistence of the human spirit, either. Rather it’s a bleak but enrapturing look at what we, as humans, will do to survive, to prosper, and to do so by whatever means necessary. And did I mention it’s only 8 pages?
“There’s a lot of separation between the haves and the have nots,” Pisani explained in an interview recently.
That separation goes a lot deeper than just class systems. The two groups are literally separated by space. After we foolishly used up Earth, making it uninhabitable, the wealthy and the privileged have fled to Mars, while the criminals, the derelicts, the scum of the Earth have found their way inward, to Venus. Ironically, Venus is fairing much better than the Red Planet, since it’s denizens have a very different outlook on life and survival. Now, when Mars begins heading the way of the Earth, they are turning their gaze inward.
“The only logical conclusion is that this can only end badly,” jokes Pisani. “This is not a shiny future. This is not Star Trek.”
Certainly not. I told you it was dark, and I didn’t just mean the story. The artwork of COLONUS matches it’s narrative tone. Arturo Lauria has created a future full of hard edges, sharp angles, dark shadows, and hard contrast. It’s strange, because, as Pisani put it during our conversation, “beautiful is the wrong word for Arturo.” But his artwork is beautiful in a way (granted, a dark, terrifying, disgusting sort of way). However you see it, it was enough to win them several Geekie Category Honors, which helped them on their way to the “Best Comic Book/Graphic Novel” award.
“I did not expect to win. I was stunned to win. Absolutely stunned,” he said of his experience at the awards. “I think Kristin did something very special with all of this, and put it under the umbrella of geekiness. It’s a real weird, eclectic bunch of things that do fit under that umbrella somehow. It was just really great to get to be under one roof with everyone, and to be there for Stan Lee is an astonishing thing. He’s the reason I think anybody writes comic books.”
And now he’s going to get the chance to do just that. With a major award under their belts, and several chapters of the story already hashed out and ready to put to paper, Pisani has recently inked a deal with Dark Horse Comics (who actually published a few of the books his beat out). COLONUS will now be serialized, and published in a number of issues of Dark Horse Presents, a monthly anthology from the popular publisher. What started out as a small foray into a brand new medium, has become a chance to tell a dark, large scale, high concept story, to a much larger audience.
“While Colonus is about a war of worlds, it’s told at the macro, intimate level of a family dynasty trying to preserve what they’ve built against perhaps-inevitable change. There’s a blend of grittiness, sometimes complex storytelling, and even black humor that I think suits Dark Horse Comics, and Arturo Lauria’s art has a kind of punk aesthetic that belongs there,” commented Pisani via e-mail after breaking the news. “I think [Publisher] Mike Richardson has great, eclectic taste, and is responsible for some of my favorite books, among them Sin City, Hellboy, The Goon, Umbrella Academy (and an under-appreciated gem, El Zombo Fantasma!). It was blind fanboy fantasizing that Colonus might land in that kind of company, and we feel lucky and grateful. By debuting in their award-winning anthology book, Dark Horse Presents (again–we are in such amazing company!), we can roll out the first story arc slowly, eight pages at a time, that hopefully add up to a satisfying whole. And we’re already thinking about what comes next.”