Radio On is an independent, music-themed comic strip anthology of short stories. I contributed a story to #1, which came out last year.
Excitingly, #2 is out now, with 6 exclusive stories and a wraparound cover.
My own contribution this time round is ‘Professor Valdemar’s Final Experiment’, a darkly comic tale that wonders what our souls might sound like if they could be turned into music…
Here’s a sneak preview:
Both issue are available to buy here, for a mere pittance, but I also have 3 copies to give away absolutely free. To get hold of one, all you have to do is answer the following questions:
The main character in my story takes his name from another character in a short story by a famous gothic writer. Which writer is it, and what is the story in question?
To answer, find me on Facebook (search Sam Zuppardi Illustrator) and send me a message detailing your answer, along with your postal address. (UK entries only, I’m afraid). The first 3 correct responses will all receive a copy of #2.
Good luck, and happy listening!
Regular readers of this blog may remember my trip to the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, and the doll room there. This week’s picture comes from a photo I took there and recently rediscovered. Rapunzel has appeared on this blog before, in a different guise, and I’m always intrigued by the infinite different ways there are of interpreting the same character. I liked these dolls especially for the parallel drawn between Rapunzel and the old witch through the composition – like they were different sides of the same coin. The version of the story I remember from childhood didn’t do this, so this link suggested all kinds of interesting new depths and dynamics to the tale. I also really liked the delicate hands on the dolls, and Rapunzel’s hair – wound round and round her head in tight braids.
‘Radio On’ is a comic anthology of short tales on a musical theme. I’ve drawn a rather dark and sinister tale – ‘My Great Uncle’s Piano’ – for it. You can see the second page below. Click on the image to order a copy of the first issue, which is launching on Kickstarter throughout this month…
I also drew the wicked witch from balletLORENT’s Rapunzel production. She was another mesmerising figure – floating around on roller skates with some really creepy reptilian pets…
Not long ago I saw balletLORENT’s dance production of Rapunzel, written by Carol Ann Duffy, at the Northern Stage in Newcastle. It borrowed from ballet to create something powerful and primal – not so much a story as a series of intense moods, articulated through the movement on stage and the beat of the music. I was particularly taken with their interpretation of Rapunzel herself. Doing away with the familiar, traditional image of long, braided princess-blond hair, their Rapunzel was altogether a more wild, unkempt and feral a creature – as I suppose you might expect of a girl locked up in a tower for years on end. It was refreshing to see the subversion of a classic interpretation that worked to serve the story, rather than just being a case of style over substance. This vision of Rapunzel added something new and unexpected to an old story. I went home inspired and drew a picture.
This is a picture from ‘The Cabbage-Patch Mother,’ another story in the collection ‘There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill her Neighbour’s Baby’ by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. The sentence conjured up the image so vividly I had to get it down on paper. Because the tales are translated from the Russian I made the matchbox Russian too.
‘The girl’s mother took out a matchbox she kept in her breast pocket, and out of this matchbox she took half of a hollowed bean, and in that cradle, wiping the sleep from her eyes with her tiny little fists, sat a tiny little girl.’
On a whim I picked up a collection of Russian short stories called ‘There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby’ by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya not long ago and was pleasantly and unexpectedly catapulted into a strange and macabre world. One of the nicest things about reading is stumbling on a new writer or a new story that opens new worlds to you – worlds that are at once unfamiliar and yet seem to give voice to things you always felt existed in the background. The stories in this collection are bizarre and surreal, vividly, horrifically nightmarish and dreamlike in equal measure. Gritty realism collides with a gnarly magic and the vague echoes of established fairy tale tropes are given a startling and twisted new slant. It was one of the few times in recent books where I felt on genuinely new terrain – a feeling that was well served by the short story format where the twists and turns within each tale were mirrored by the sudden changes from story to story and there was no time to settle into any kind of complacency over what was to happen next. Post-apocalyptic stories of survival mixed with ghost stories and Gothic parables and featured a host of characters from monks, circus freaks and magical babies to mysterious strangers, stoic mothers and evil wizards. If you like your fairy tales pitch black, creepily unsettling and deeply affecting you could do a lot worse than seek these out.
Below is a picture I did from the story ‘Hygiene,’ one of the stand-out tales of the collection.
“One time the doorbell rang at the apartment of the R. family, and the little girl ran to answer it. A young man stood before her. In the hallway light he appeared to be ill, with extremely delicate, pink, shiny skin. He said he’d come to warn the family of an immediate danger: there was an epidemic in the town, an illness that killed in three days… The girl’s grandparents listened to the man, as did her father and the girl herself. Her mother was in the bath.
‘I survived the disease,’ the young man said simply, and removed his hat to reveal a bald scalp covered with the thinnest layer of pink skin, like the foam atop boiling milk. ‘I survived,’ he went on, ‘and because if this I’m now immune. I’m going door to door to deliver bread and other supplies to people who need them.Do you need anything?'”
This was another scene from Carson McCullers’ book ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter‘ that really stood out. It’s one of those tragic moments when idle childish games suddenly lead to serious, grown-up consequences, and everything changes forever.
‘Bubber had put his slingshot in his pocket and now he played with the rifle. Spareribs was ten years old and his father had died the month before and this had been his father’s gun. All the smaller kids loved to handle that rifle. Every few minutes Bubber would haul the gun up to his shoulder. He took aim and made a low pow sound.
‘Don’t monkey with the trigger,’ said Spareribs, ‘I got the gun loaded.’ …
‘Lookit,’ said Bubber suddenly. ‘Here comes Baby again. She sure is pretty in the pink costume.’
Baby walked towards them slowly. She had been given a prize box of popcorn candy and was reaching in the box for the prize. She walked in that same prissy, dainty way. You could tell that she knew that they were all looking at her.
‘Please Baby, -‘ Bubber said when she started to pass them. ‘Lemme see your little pink pocket-book and touch your pink costume.’
Baby started humming a song to herself and did not listen. She passed by without letting Bubber play with her. She only ducked her head and grinned at him a little.
Bubber still had the big rifle up to his shoulder. He made a loud pow sound and pretended like he had a shot… He was too quick for Mick to stop him. She had just seen his hand on the trigger when there was the terrible ping of the gun.’
I read ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers not long ago. It’s a book of one vivid scene after another, with so many well-drawn characters and so many moments that stick in the mind. Many of them seemed to demand an attempt at illustration. Here’s a scene from early on that I particularly liked.
‘They came to the big, new house that was being built. The ladder was still propped against the edge of the roof, and she screwed up nerve and began to climb… Five minutes later Mick stood up and held herself very straight. She spread out her arms like wings. This was the place where everybody wanted to stand. The very top. But not many kids could do it. Most of them were scared, for if you lost grip and rolled off the edge it would kill you. All around were the roofs of other houses and the green tops of trees. On the other side of town were the church steeples and the smoke-stacks from the mills. The sky was bright blue and hot as fire. The sun made everything on the ground either dizzy white or black.
She wanted to sing. All the songs she knew pushed up towards her throat, but there was no sound. One big boy who had got to the highest part of the roof last week let out a yell and then started hollering out a speech he had learned at High School – ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your ears!’ There was something about getting to the very top that gave you a wild feeling and made you want to yell or sing or raise up your arms and fly.’
I watched ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ the other day. It seemed to really nail the way children’s minds work and the way they interpret things according to a very distinctive kind of logic. And they were so cute! I did a little picture of the three children.