you can now get Sick

Thanks for your patience; Sick (the book) is finally done*:

Sick - Cover

It’s available to retail outlets for preorder from Consortium here — please let your local bookstore know if you’d like to read it.

I haven’t seen a copy IRL myself yet, but i have seen a grainy phone picture that… pretty much proves it exists?

I’m sure you will soon agree that this is not an easy book to sell — ostensibly (& please don’t tell the press otherwise) it’s a comic about the failings of American healthcare; in reality it’s a rambling jeremiad against the white race and western civilization as a whole. I am convinced it will be universally ignored/reviled/clearance-binned, for the simple reason that it doesn’t end on a high note, which breaks the basic rule of all narrative (and capital). So, apologies in advance for that! But still, i hope you’ll sift through the embittered logical cul-de-sacs and belabored watercoloring to find a shred of connection with what i’m trying to say about life. If not, i can only pray that my fellow citizens of empire will not indict or subtweet too harshly.

Some backstory: Sick began in 2011 as chunks of impromptu comic posts on this very website, when i started chronicling a mystery illness** i’d just suffered while living in Flatbush. I didn’t have a plan or an endpoint for the comic; like most things i draw, it was just compulsive depiction of a painful experience that left me a bit shaken and questioning a few of my life’s fundamental assumptions. Since i usually don’t have anyone to talk to about this and can’t afford therapy, things like Monsters and Sick happen, almost as a byproduct of me just trying to make sense of life.

But a few people let me know they really liked the Sick webcomic — enough people to almost shut down my website with bandwidth overload (Laughing Squid actually had to change their TOS because of it). Seeing that the story might, despite all expectations, have an audience, Secret Acres asked me to make a book out of it. And i thought, Well, that sounds easy enough; it was already mostly drawn. I just needed to tack on an ending… and make a couple adjustments to fit into its new paper format… and uh, maybe completely re-draw it… and watercolor it throughout…

After a couple years down this slippery slope, i not only developed a chronic, crippling shoulder injury, but also a suspicion that Sick was too self-indulgent and pessimistic to exist. Isn’t the world filled with people who have more to complain about than me? Given the privilege of a book deal, shouldn’t i be drawing something uplifting, consoling, blatantly escapist? Why pour another spoonful of tears onto the landfill of hopeless despair and pain that is modern life?

Unfortunately, by this time i’d already spent the book advance on rent. So, with a prolonged & extreme effort, millions of milligrams of ibuprofen, and the inhuman patience of Secret Acres, i finally managed to stitch a Book together out of the mess of Sick that had been festering in my lap for four years.

It’s immensely satisfying to be done with the book and have something to show for how i’d spent these last few difficult years of my life; but to be honest a large part of me wishes i’d just quietly burned the pages in an alley and paid the advance back. No amount of pats on the head from passion-project comics blogs or condescending nods from left-press listicles will counteract the damage this book is about to inflict on my personal brand. It is going to do to my social life what Monsters did to my sex life. Sick is just unremittingly bitter, brutally antisocial, and, worst of all, refuses to even give you the common courtesy of a happy ending. It’s polemic against existence, for fuck’s sake.

But what can i say now? I drew it, Secret Acres paid a sweatshop in Asia to print it, a frieghtliner burned hundreds of gallons of fossil fuels to move it to a storage locker in Brooklyn. The trees have been killed, the press has been alerted and the die is cast. I suppose i’m prepared to live with the consequences; i can accept that this is proof i’m a sad, damaged, irrelevant old man with few real talents, doomed to draw humiliating little cartoons about himself for as long as his failing body allows, at the expense of his own happiness and the world’s admiration; the facts show that whatever benefit i derive from this masochism must be more fulfilling than the wealth, health, love, respect, or good credit rating i would get from not drawing, and doing something useful with my life instead.

I guess i’ve always assumed it was important for an artist to reveal as much as possible about themselves in their art. I’ve stuck to that code to an almost pathological degree with Sick, mostly out of spite for the Western world’s rampant wall-to-wall hypocrisy & complacence, which has been a constant source of horror for me as a participant — and, i suspect, others, although most people are smart enough to keep such agonies to themselves, at a place and time in history where it’s career suicide for any sane person to speak their mind.

And i know my tactic of self-dissection-as-social-critique may be flawed. It has not won me much friends or fame so far. Now that enforced optimism is law, and google-stalking is standard practice among prospective employers and landlords, i suspect i’m really fucking myself over bigtime publishing comics this dark and antagonistic. There must be some small backlash growing to our present rah-team, third-metric, adult-coloring-book climate of cultural infantilization; still, Sick will be a real test of whether my vicious little navel-gazings are good for anything more than public humiliation, social exile, chronic pain, major depression and a $1k book advance every 5-10 years. But why complain? Most people get much less.

Anyway, i’ll leave you to be the judge of all this if/when you read the book. It’s supposed to “debut” either at this year’s MoCCA event in New York, or at the Toronto Comics & Arts Festival (TCAF). UPDATE: it is definitely debuting at TCAF, May 14th & 15th! (Which means i probably won’t be at MoCCA in person; Secret Acres will still have the books at their table though.)

“Debut” lends this mess a sorely needed dash of glamour, but in reality it just means i’ll be standing next to the physical books for the first time in public — an easy target, stomach in knots, straining to live down the intense shame of revealing to you this grating depiction of my interior.

*In the fine tradition of Chris Gaines, Bruno Radolini, Sascha Fierce, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and dozens of other artists going against every grain of common sense in regards to profit, Sick‘s author credit is Gabby Schulz (me) — not Ken Dahl (also me), as with Monsters. Confusing? Yes! Annoying? Yes! Unnecessary? Yes! I just got tired of using my silly pen name from when i drew political cartoons in the mid-’90s in Honolulu. People grow. People change. People become irrelevant, and inconsistent, and too self-referential. People overthink their personal brand. People fuck up their Art Career and get a minimum-wage retail job just to survive.

**Not having health insurance, i’ve never even been sure what the book’s eponymous illness was caused by. My health has been steadily and generally deteriorating for years, physically and mentally; doctors and the internet have supplied few answers. At this point i’m ready to chalk it up to generalized EWS (End-of-the-World Syndrome, a collection of extreme mental stresses and potent environmental toxins that heavily erode the health of the most privileged citizens of the “developed” nations).