Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Supervillains with Subtext

by Will Wlizlo

Tags: comics, augmented reality, invisible ink, Warren Ellis, BERG, Co. Design, arts and culture, Will Wlizlo,

svk-leadDuring the final showdown, the arch nemesis usually makes some kind of grandiloquent speech to the hero. This is how comic books and superhero movies work. The villain taunts the do-gooder, narrates his twisted personal history, or brashly reveals details of his master plan.* So many words are spilled, but the inner meditations of both hero and crook remain unknown, except for a few expository thought bubbles. But that’s about to change; the thought bubble just got a radical makeover.

SVK, an experimental one-shot comic written by Warren Ellis (of Transmetropolitan notoriety) and Matt Brooker, has an extra layer of subtext hidden among its pages. Illuminating the comic’s pages with ultraviolet light reveals additional dialogue that belies characters’ most secret thoughts. (Comparison below.) SVK is a cyberpunky crime story “about cities, technology and surveillance, mixed with human themes of the power, corruption and lies that lurk in the data-smog of our near-future.” The comic comes with a small UV-emitting reader, so you don’t need to bring the comic to a rave to read the invisible ink.



“Comics break the rules of storytelling, invent new ones, and break them again—more often than almost any other medium,” explains SVK’s design company BERG. “This graphic novella is about looking—an investigation into perception, storytelling and optical experimentation.”

Co. Design is excited for what the comic says about the increasingly hard-to-pinpoint border between the digital world and the physical one: “Given Ellis’s proclivity for dystopian futurism and BERG’s penchant for weird techno-wizardry, we’re betting the story involves some interesting variations on themes of augmented reality.” A commenter on BERG’s blog has an exciting idea about where the future of comics might lead: “I’ve been wondering myself if there was a way to animate comics by using a Smartphone as a viewer. You could embed tracer objects with the comic frames and the phone would track movement, perhaps even play sound effects and dictate the dialogue.”

*Supervillains can, of course, be women, too. 

Source: BERG, Co. Design 

Images courtesy of BERG.