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Paste Magazine on the "Gleeful Goofiness" of Brian Ralph's Reggie 12

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Reggie 12 by Brian Ralph"
By Hillary Brown
Paste Magazine, Sep 3 2013

"Collecting strips published in several different places, Giant Robot foremost among them, Reggie-12 is both full of terrific jokes and crafted with great care. Both qualities are evident in the book’s construction, which layers a subtle varnish on a pattern of transparent gears for sections of the cover, as well as provides some gorgeously drawn and very funny endpapers.

Reggie-12 derives from Astro Boy among other sources, clear from the character’s exaggerated visual style. Reggie-12 himself, our superhero robot child, is all expressive giant eyes and smiles, topped off with some cute little cat ears. But writer/artist Brian Ralph tempers the cuteness with plenty of antisocial behavior from his characters. Reggie-12 generally behaves himself (petty jealousy, sloth, and commitment to terrible puns aside), but his robot predecessor Donald-14 is as mopey as C-3PO, his inventor is forgetful and sometimes heartless, and their talking cat, Casper, is the Bender of the group, thoroughly committed to self-interest above all else.

The other major comedy device Ralph deploys is a healthy dose of the mundane. When Reggie-12 isn’t fighting giant monsters and saving the world, he’s playing video games, eating pizza, and slobbing around on the couch. A surprising amount of the book takes place on said couch. It’s not a new method, but Ralph captures the everyday swing between perceived drama (Ugh! My email is taking so long to load! Worst ever!) and bored cynicism with relish and amusement.

The action sequences are full of heft and detail. Each corner bears some nice and thoughtful element—surprised citizens peering from the ruins, the contents of a monster’s stomach, an especially jaunty slouch—all rendered in two glorious colors. Reggie-12 is a winning book, full of gleeful goofiness that never quite gets squashed by reality."
 
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Brian Ralph

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Reggie-12




  Lisa Hanawalt and Brian Ralph at Chapel Hill Comics!

Updated August 26, 2013


Lisa Hanawalt and Brian Ralph will be signing at Chapel Hill Comics, Saturday, August 31st! 6pm-9pm, Chapel Hill, NC.




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Brian Ralph
Lisa Hanawalt

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My Dirty Dumb Eyes
Reggie-12




Comic Book Resources on Daybreak: "Completely engrossing"

Updated April 4, 2013


Kelly Thompson
Comic Book Resources, 11 February 2013

Drawn & Quarterly's hardcover edition collecting Brian Ralph's "Daybreak" is gorgeous from a production standpoint, as expected. The content itself manages to be a completely engrossing zombie tale even though it doesn't have the "all-new" spin that these stories often feel like they need.

While "Daybreak" doesn't have a new spin on zombie stories the way stories like "28 Days Later" or "The New Deadwardians" did, what it does have is an exceptional take on the execution of its story. Ralph ignores the fourth wall, treating the reader as a character within his book. His characters speak directly to readers and all the art is drawn to be consistent with the reader's POV.

Ralph doesn't stop there. Not only are readers drawn into the story via their own POV, but the story actually engages the reader as a real character, giving them things to do that have huge ramifications on the story. The idea is bold, and more than a little bit risky, but the risk pays off huge dividends. It's honestly shocking how much more engaged you feel as you read. The fear and anticipation are drastically heightened from the average horror story, thanks to the approach Ralph has taken.

The writing itself is uncomplicated and ranges from deliberately sparse to delightfully chatty. Our main character, a one-armed zombie survivor is excited to have company, and he makes it known as he chatters along. It is legitimately scary to feel your fate tied inexorably to wherever Ralph chooses to go. The art style is simple and effective, both clean and easy to follow, but scratchy and dense enough to feel right for the matter-of-fact darkness of the tale. Ralph makes particularly great use of his lights and darks, occasionally really pushing the limits of black in the panel, and giving his zombies a simple but truly terrifying look. The ending is particularly gruesome and upsetting, given where you are abandoned in the story as a reader, quite literally trapped, alone, and with unfortunate decisions ahead of you.

Surprisingly effective and emotionally engaging, Ralph's "Daybreak" is bold and scary in all the best ways. Though at heart it's a horror story, it's also just about people, and survival, and loneliness, like all the best zombie stories are.
 
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Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  BookOfGeek praises Daybreak

Updated April 3, 2013


"Zombies, Zombies everywhere..."

BookOfGeek, 29 January 2013

Now I am a huge Zombie fan, I have been for years, Night of the Living to Shaun of to the Walking. I really can’t get enough of them. Today I came across this fantastic little Graphic Novel from Drawn and Quarterly, a superb independent comic publisher.
Written and illustrated by a very talented guy called Brian Ralph, the story starts with an unseen viewer meeting a one armed man in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, soon enough hilarity ensues as is wont to happen during a zombie apocalypse. We rarely see the zombies though, they are periphery to the story, as the true tale is told buy our one armed man and silent unseen observer, about their survival in a world changed beyond recognition. It truly is a beautiful piece of work which I recommend for anyone and everyone, if you have never read a graphic novel before, here is definitely a great place to start.
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Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




Boing Boing praises Daybreak as "realistic and unusual""

Updated February 25, 2013


Daybreak - a zombie graphic novel starring YOU
Mark Frauenfelder at 2:33 pm Sun, Jun 24

Yesterday I reviewed a realistic and unusual novel called Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse. Twenty-four hours later, I figure it's time to review another zombie book. This one is a graphic novel called Daybreak, by Brian Ralph. He's a "professor of sequential art" at the Savannah College of Art and Design, but don't let his academic title scare you off. His 160-page novel is a creepy look at a day in the life of people who are scratching out a miserable existence in the aftermath of a zombapocolypse.
Ralph cleverly presents the story as if you, the reader, are living in this grim, horrid wasteland. Each panel is angled from the perspective of the reader. The characters talk to you. Here's the first page:

Your companion in this story is a young one-armed man who discovers you staring in a field of rubble and takes you under his remaining wing by inviting you into his hideout. He has good intentions, but since this is a zombie novel, things quickly go to hell. And while the threat of zombies is ever-present, the real trouble comes from another source. I won't spoil the story by telling you what happens.

Ralph's fine storytelling is matched by his textured, deceptively cartoony artwork. After reading Daybreak (it's a fast read), I went back and studied the panels so I could soak in the backgrounds and linework. I missed Ralph's earlier work, the award-winning Cave-In, and now I'm looking forward to reading it.
 
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Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  Praise for Brian Ralph's "Daybreak" from Boing Boing

Updated July 25, 2012


Daybreak - a zombie graphic novel starring YOU


By Mark Frauenfelder
Jun 24, 2012

Yesterday I reviewed a realistic and unusual novel called Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse. Twenty-four hours later, I figure it's time to review another zombie book. This one is a graphic novel called Daybreak, by Brian Ralph. He's a "professor of sequential art" at the Savannah College of Art and Design, but don't let his academic title scare you off. His 160-page novel is a creepy look at a day in the life of people who are scratching out a miserable existence in the aftermath of a zombapocolypse.

Ralph cleverly presents the story as if you, the reader, are living in this grim, horrid wasteland. Each panel is angled from the perspective of the reader.
Your companion in this story is a young one-armed man who discovers you staring in a field of rubble and takes you under his remaining wing by inviting you into his hideout. He has good intentions, but since this is a zombie novel, things quickly go to hell. And while the threat of zombies is ever-present, the real trouble comes from another source. I won't spoil the story by telling you what happens.

Ralph's fine storytelling is matched by his textured, deceptively cartoony artwork. After reading Daybreak (it's a fast read), I went back and studied the panels so I could soak in the backgrounds and linework. I missed Ralph's earlier work, the award-winning Cave-In, and now I'm looking forward to reading it.
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

           Featured product

Daybreak




"A voyeur’s journey into zombie Armageddon:" Brian Ralph's "Daybreak"

Updated June 13, 2012


Ralph, Brian. Daybreak. Drawn & Quarterly. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9781770460553. $21.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS

Library Journal
Robert Morast, Fargo, ND

While anything zombie gets attention these days—sometimes more than it deserves—Ralph’s debut stands out from the rest of the undead horde, because it takes an inward and personal approach, like all good indie comics, to the idea of trying to survive in the land of the walking dead. Written and drawn from a first-person perspective, Daybreak pulls us into a world where humans are prey who scavenge for food and hide in makeshift shelters after nightfall. We follow a one-armed man who welcomes us into his home and schools us on his daily survival rituals. Slightly abstract line drawings and beady-eyed people build an aesthetic that’s more art house than artifice. And the content mirrors that vibe with a story line focused on companionship, trust, and introspection rather than guts, blood, and monotone chants of “brains.”
Verdict Ultimately, this book is a voyeur’s journey into zombie Armageddon, where the cruelest trick isn’t what these monsters do to us but how alone they make us feel. For all zombie completists and pulp horror movie fanatics; but the dynamic appeal is really for cultural outliers who prefer the prefix indie in front of their entertainment options.—
 
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Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  "Daybreak" offers an emotional take on zombies

Updated June 13, 2012


Daybreak, by Brian Ralph, 160 pages

Missouri Book Challenge

The back of the book calls this "An art-house take on the classic zombie genre," and that's a pretty good description. The reader is basically the main character, because all of the action is seen through the reader's eyes. The reader wakes up to find themselves in the midst of a post-zombie apocalypse, where his only friend is a one-armed man and a persistent dog. It's not fair to compare this to The Walking Dead, with its violence and gore, because this book, in true 'art-house' fashion, is more about the emotions of outrunning zombies, as opposed to the whole flesh-eating and braaaains-mantra. The ending is excellent. I'd recommend for young adults and adults.
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




Brian Ralph's DAYBREAK "one of the quintessential graphic works of the decade": Big Other

Updated February 28, 2012



Daybreak, Brian Ralph (Review)

By Nick Francis Potter
Big Other
Jan. 17, 2012

Republished late last year as a single-volume graphic novel, Daybreak was originally released in three parts between ’06 and ’08, and, in my mind, stands as one of the quintessential graphic (or “comic”) works of the past decade. Brian Ralph, the author and illustrator, is also notable for his graphic novels, Cave-In (1999) and Climbing Out (2002)—both highly recommended—but Daybreak ups the ante. So, having it picked up by Drawn & Quarterly and offered as a single book is an exciting event.

Daybreak is a zombie story.

It feels odd, saying that—like it’s a guilty admission or something. And, with that said, I feel like I need to separate Ralph’s work from the pop culture occult that’s currently thriving: Daybreak is not Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In fact, all things considered, the classic zombie elements of the story (particularly, high violence and gore) are slim. And, like Romero in his zombie-originating Night of the Living Dead, Daybreak never names the shuffling hordes which intermittently stalk through its panels. Ralph seems more interested in a minimalist setup, a survival scenario in which the zombie apocalypse is offered as a brooding backdrop.

What’s so brilliant about Daybreak isn’t that it’s a rare good zombie story (which it is), but that it tells its story through a second-person perspective. While I somehow doubt Ralph is the first person to do this, Daybreak remains the only graphic novel I’ve read in this perspective. Here is an example: [Example image viewable via link to article.]

It’s a POV window in a uniform grid paneling system. We call it first person in video games, but here, with no internal monologue and, as you can see in the panel above, a one-sided dialogue using the “you” pronoun—a move that implicates the reader—I would argue second. Whatever side of the perspective-mincing fence you are on, it’s a unique view with some interesting results.

Here’s another page: [Example image viewable via link to article.]

Ralph’s sense of pacing is perfect and his illustrative style, while simple in design, is extremely expressive and gravelly. Early on in the story, the protagonist, a one-and-one-half-armed man (reduced, assumedly, in a zombie conflict), shoots a flare at an oncoming zombie out of frame, the two panel sequence of aim and shoot (steadiness, then blowback) is just one example of the beautifully rendered, poetically delivered artistry. The uniquely Ralphian art style had me swooning all the way through with his consistent, speck-driven detail.

The one drawback, I suppose, is how quickly it reads. Even as three issues combined, the story can be easily consumed within an hour or so. However, if you are interested in graphic storytelling, there is plenty in Daybreak—particularly visually—to have you coming back for multiple reads. I recently read a short article comparing poetry to comics. The author mentioned a divide between storytellers and formalists, the latter group “often [being] the great innovators and pioneers.” Ralph certainly stands as an innovator—Daybreak is lush with ingenuities—but never at the expense of drawing the reader into the story.
 
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  DAYBREAK transcends "stale zombie tales" on the Snipe

Updated January 12, 2012


October 28, 2011
Ryan Ingram

Daybreak (Drawn & Quarterly) – All the staples of a classic zombie lit are present in Daybreak, but it’s what cartoonist Brian Ralph does on the page that makes this deceptively simple story rise above the mass of stale zombie tales out there, as it creeps right into the dark corners of your brain.

The story unfolds at a six-panel-per-page layout, with the viewpoint coming from an unnamed narrator, trying to survive in a zombie-filled wasteland along with the assorted weirdos he encounters in the apocalypse. The first-person perspective sucks you in, giving it an almost video game-like feel. As you meet other survivors and survey the damage around every corner, things build to a totally unsettling ending.

Ralph’s style is unique for the horror genre, too, sort looking like if James Kolchaka’s playful pen mutated with Anders Nilsen’s ability to create detailed poetry out of horrible destruction.
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




DAYBREAK is "indie zombie goodness" on Forbidden Planet International

Updated January 12, 2012


November 9, 2011
Richard

Brian Ralph’s Daybreak is described on the back cover as “an art-house take on the zombie genre”.
And you can read that in one of two ways….. a subtle, clever reworking of the genre, utilising stereotypical aspects and touchstones that we’ll all be familiar with to create something smaller in scale and more personal. Or you can take the view that it’s a zombie book without much of what makes the whole zombie thing work.
Depends where you sit on the idea of art-house really. Me, I liked it for what it was rather than what it wasn’t. But even although the style and beauty of Ralph’s artwork and story impressed, I was still left with a sense of yeah, but okay, and…?

Waking up in rubble, the first person a survivor sees is a harried, intense, eager to help, one armed man making preparations for nightfall.
If it wasn’t for that beaut of a cover and the blurb on the back, you’d be left guessing exactly what he’s preparing for and what is going on amongst the ruins of a civilisation until the first, fleeting glimpse of spindly arms flailing against a door some 10 pages in….

Everything is viewed through the survivor’s eyes, and yes, you do get the impression of first person shooter here, but don’t get the wrong impression, there’s a lot more here than some daft Doom scenario, or rather a lot less, and it’s the minimalism, the sense of what’s not shown that creates the feeling of tension and creeping paranoia all the way through.
This is a zombie tale through the eyes and actions of a survivor, and for the most part, a shell-shocked observer, never really involved in what’s going on, merely a way for us to see the wreckage of the world about him/her.
Although much to his credit in a book such as this Ralph does preface that zombie attack scene with a beautifully funny moment:

Is that hilarious? The look on his face, straight out to the audience, so wonderfully knowing. Okay, on with the serious zombie stuff….
This being a zombie book, you’re constantly on edge, continually expecting an attack, always trying to peer around the narrow, and paranoia inducing peripheral vision Ralph’s point of view artwork provides. Through these eyes you’ll follow your one-armed protector, through zombies, through the threat of other survivors, until you reach an end, just the two of you, holed up in yet another small room, waiting for the end.

So what you do get here is a mounting sense of dread, of a threat that’s forever coming but never quite materialises. The zombies are never central to the artwork, never directly in our field of view, forever just beyond our experience, and the horror of the world is somethin we build within our own heads. And in the end, with one subtle twist, we see the real human cost of something this horrific, as always through our viewer’s eyes.
Craft Ralph has got in spades, the layouts, he transitions, the way it just flows seamlessly without all that maany words…. that’s magnificent. And the actual art itself is similarly delightful, with a simple line in a fittingly dirty brown that follows a survivor of some apocalypse or other through the course of a couple of days of surviving the zombie threat.
But as interesting, involving and impressively illustrated as Daybreak is, there’s also something akin to a feeling of anti-climax about it. But that’s merely as Ralph questions our expectations of this most cliched of genre pieces, with a story that focuses on the small-scale everyday issue of basic survival, avoiding the obvious big zombie battle and instead ends with a whimper.
Part of me loved it, enjoyed the new twist on the old format, whilst simultaneously wishing there had been something a little meatier to the tale.
 
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  io9 calls DAYBREAK "pretty clutch"

Updated January 12, 2012


Another undead book that was pretty clutch was Drawn & Quarterly's graphic novel compilation of Brian Ralph's Daybreak.


You can read our review of that here.
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




HARK! and DAYBREAK on CBR's Black Friday shopping guide

Updated January 11, 2012


November 25, 2011

Start out with a comic for you or any of your smart, snarky family members with Drawn & Quarterly's collection of "Hark! A Vagrant!" for $19.99. Kate Beaton's hilariously offbeat look at history and popular culture will delight pretty much everyone...except, possibly, people too dumb to get any of the jokes. Do not get this as a present for people who are too dumb to get jokes.

For something COMPLETELY different from the same great art comics publisher, be sure to track down Brian Ralph's stunning zombie epic "Daybreak" for one of the scariest turns on the genre in recent memory. Only $17.56!
 
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Featured artists

Brian Ralph
Kate Beaton

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Daybreak
Hark! A Vagrant




  Brian Ralph picks the DEATH-RAY among top reprints for 2011, on Atomic Books

Updated January 11, 2012


January 9, 2012

This year, we asked a number of our friends who are also cartoonists and comics publishers and editors what their favorite comics of 2011 were. Over the next few weeks, we'll be posting those lists.


Brian Ralph's sharp collection, Daybreak, came out this year from Drawn and Quarterly and changed forever what we expect from zombie comics.

THE DEATH-RAY by Daniel Clowes
This is the least crusty and ancient of the reprints I’ve listed. I’ve read stories about disenfranchised teens finding themselves with superpowers before, but man this is the most depressing, hopeless, and frightening of them all.
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Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Brian Ralph

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The Death-Ray




Brian Ralph and others at Brooklyn Indie Comics Showcase

Updated January 10, 2012


December 6, 2011
Heidi MacDonald

As for comics, the standout was a new issue of Kramers Ergot, the groundbreaking comics anthology last seen in 2008 as a table-sized $150 book. The new edition is more compact but retains much of the creative line up, including Gabrielle Bell, Frank Santoro and editor Sammy Harkham— and many were there to sign.

While tightly curated by the organizers to reflect the art comix side of the business, the show drew a bevy of fans who happily went shopping at just about every table—among them Simpsons creator Matt Groening who was given as many books as he purchased by star struck young cartoonists.

While big statements about where comics are going as an artform will await some digestion of the varied offerings at the show, Brian Ralph, himself a member of the legendary Fort Thunder collective and currently a teacher at SCAD and author of this year’s Daybreak declared it the best comics show he had ever been to. Questioned at a raucous afterparty held in one of the participants loft Ralph observed “Something awesome was at every table.”

Check out the link for a picture of Adrian Tomine and Jillian Tamaki signing at the D&Q table!
 
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Featured artists

Gabrielle Bell
Jillian Tamaki
Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  USA Today loves DAYBREAK

Updated January 9, 2012


October 27, 2011
Whitney Matheson

We're discussing the zombie apocalypse so much these days that I'd like to bring up one recent zombie book I truly love: Brian Ralph's Daybreak (Drawn & Quarterly, $21.95).

I may have mentioned the title a few years ago, back when it was a harder-to-find series of mini-comics. Now, D&Q has issued a fancy hardcover that collects Ralph's entire story of a world overrun by zombies.

Mind you, Daybreak isn't your typical undead tale, and that's what makes it so fantastic. The story pulls the reader into the action by addressing him/her directly. ("You look exhausted," the young, one-armed narrator tells the reader. "Please, get some rest.")

There are no scenes of horrible gore -- the book is illustrated in brown ink -- and yet Daybreak is one of the most unsettling books you'll read this year.

Ralph, who teaches sequential art at the Savannah Collecge of Art and Design, is a talent to watch. To see more of his work and buy original art, head to http://bralph.com.

For a sneak preview of Daybreak, head over to D&Q's website, which has posted six pages. It just might become your annual Halloween read.
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Featured artist

Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




DAYBREAK reviewed by Uptown, "gripping" and "potent"

Updated January 3, 2012


August 12, 2011
Kenton Smith

"Good news. Bad news. There’s a bunch of them out there."

You’d expect such dialogue in a good zombie thriller — or at least one that sticks close to the recurring essence of this particular fictional subgenre. Beginning with director George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), zombie movies have repeatedly featured characters facing down the slobbering undead, often while holed up in some (sometimes temporary) stronghold. If they’re not barricaded, it’s best to keep moving.

That’s also the essential structure of Brian Ralph’s graphic novel Daybreak, which after the Zombie Walk and Halloween still sits in fine bookstores everywhere, ready to provide a reliable fix for insatiable walking dead heads. Tense and downbeat, it delivers everything one could reasonably want from a good zombie thriller, whatever the medium. At the same time, it nicely illustrates the uniqueness of comics as non-moving pictures, plus words.

As the story opens, we’re plunged headlong into a still-recent zombie apocalypse, wherein the food in the backs of abandoned trucks hasn’t yet spoiled. Ralph’s gimmick is, the tale unfolds from the POV of the reader — who’s literally placed in the thick of the action. "This way," says the book’s never-named young hero, as we descend to his rude underground shelter.

From there, we’re almost literally dragged along as our primary companion scavenges for food and repels attacks, not only from the undead — to whom he’s already lost one limb — but equally dangerous fellow survivors. The overriding theme of Romero’s Dead series was the propensity of the living to eat each other, and the same cynical assessment of human nature is dramatized here.

Punctuating the tense action are several nice, macabre details, like a head found in a bed, a machete embedded in it. Or another body, its head seemingly crushed by a cabinet, which twitches — revealing it to be a still-active brain-muncher. Such moments also reflect the book’s dark streak of humour.

One of Ralph’s most striking choices is to visualize the zombies almost entirely in shadows and flashes; one taut moment features a mad dash through a zombie-inhabited room, in which not a single ghoul is shown. Reducing the beasties to an ever-present spectre of doom effectively heightens the suspense.

Yet one of the most nightmarish bits involves the reader’s own sprint through a forest of zombies. As in the most vivid of nightmares, the terror feels immediate and visceral — yet nonetheless still-vague and detached.

It’s the best utilization Ralph makes of his unique POV device, which similarly evokes dreaming in another memorable moment, concerning the fate of a fellow human survivor. One of comics’ unique strengths is the ability to emphasize isolated moments in time, and the abrupt juxtaposition of two key panels shows what impact is possible precisely by not displaying real time action.

The cartoonish nature of Ralph’s art also serves as counterpoint to the action’s grisly reality, even though it blunts the edge only so far. Daybreak remains a potent graphic novel treatment of reliably gripping material.
Daybreak
By Brian Ralph
(Drawn and Quarterly)
 
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Brian Ralph

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Daybreak




  Graphic Novel Reporter calls PAYING FOR IT "bracingly honest", DAYBREAK "disarming and memorable"

Updated January 3, 2012


Peter Gutiérrez

Paying for It
by Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly

Bracingly honest, this is page-turning graphic nonfiction at its finest. Quite simply, a new landmark in the genre.

Daybreak
by Brian Ralph
(Drawn & Quarterly)

Think the zombie craze has run its course? Think again: This collection of funny yet chilling second-person tales (the reader is a character) revives the dead–and our dread—in ways that are never less than disarming and memorable.
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Brian Ralph

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Paying For It
Daybreak




D&Q, BIG QUESTIONS, HARK!, DAYBREAK, praised by Montreal Gazette for 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 29, 2011
Ian McGillis

Graphic literature went from strength to strength in 2011, edging ever closer to the day when it will be spoken of as literature, period. Any form that can embrace subjects and styles ranging from academic studies to visual novels to social history to uproarious parody has a vitality that speaks for itself, and the books below represent the state of the art. The preponderance of titles from Drawn & Quarterly, it should be emphasized, is not hometown boosterism; the Montreal publisher is a world leader in the field, and this year might have been its best.

Big Questions, by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly, 658 pages, $44.95) is a haunting and beautifully designed metaphysical fable set in a blasted (possibly post-nuclear) landscape, starring a flock of philosophically inclined birds who mistake an unexploded bomb for an egg. Nilsen’s uncluttered visual style, relaxed pacing and terse dialogue creates its own dreamtime logic; he gives himself nearly 700 pages to let the narrative unfold, but still leaves readers to figure out the ultimate meaning for themselves. There’s laughter in the face of the void here, but as the title hints, there are also hard questions with no easy answers. Collectors and/or those with some extra money to spend can go for the limited-edition signed and numbered hardcover, a thing of beauty at a mere $69.95.

Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly, 160 pages, $19.95), collects the work of the Nova Scotian artist who in the past few years has built up a sizable following with her webcomic of the same name. Beaton turns the traditional three-panel strip form on its head with her parodic takes on Canadian and world history, literary classics and contemporary cultural foibles. With her squiggly line-drawing style and bursts of anarchic humour, she can remind you of the class wisecracker, but what gives the best of her parodies real heft is that they come from a place of affection. Her compact demolition of Wuthering Heights works on at least three levels: it’s gut-clenchingly funny, it takes a sacred cow down a peg or two, and it makes you want to read the original again. Teachers, take note: Kate Beaton could be your perfect aid.

The theme of the undead in literature goes back at least as far as Lazarus, but there’s no denying we’re now living through a period of uncommon obsession with all things zombie. Daybreak, by Brian Ralph (Drawn & Quarterly, 160 pages, $21.95) slots right into the zeitgeist with its tale of a teenage boy fending for himself in a post-apocalyptic world, his biggest nemesis being the zombies who come out after dark. For a roughly analogous visual and thematic reference point, think Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz fame, but Ralph has a storytelling style all his own.

 
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Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Brian Ralph
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Big Questions (paperback)
Daybreak
Hark! A Vagrant




  BIG QUESTIONS, DAYBREAK, OPTIC NERVE #12 highlighted in AV Club's Best Comics of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 29, 2011
Noel Murray

Top Five Collected Graphic Novels

2. Anders Nilsen, Big Questions (D&Q)
In serialized form, Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions was a curious little artifact, featuring page after page of similar-looking birds philosophizing about survival, in between sequences of a grumpy downed pilot and a half-naked, mentally handicapped man wandering through the same sparse landscape. Big Questions reads much differently in book form, where the extended stretches of repetitive, dialogue-light panels feel more deliberate than indulgent. The pleasure Nilsen takes in pure scene-setting is infectious, as he clusters his little animals in and around clearly defined spaces in various configurations. These birds have their own little society, and they are filled with wonder and terror by what they confront as they go about trying to fulfill their purpose. Sometimes they find donut crumbs scattered on the ground, and life is good. Sometimes they find pieces of other birds, blown to smithereens by something beyond avian comprehension.

3. Brian Ralph, Daybreak (D&Q)
Although Daybreak is set in yet another world ravaged by a zombie plague, Brian Ralph takes a slightly different approach to the “ragtag band of humans united against the inevitable” genre, by telling the story strictly from a first-person perspective. The reader is put behind the eyes of one survivor, encountering other survivors in a ravaged wasteland, and not always alert to the mortal dangers lurking just outside the panels. While Daybreak doesn’t do anything that George Romero and countless others haven’t already done satisfactorily, Ralph’s first-person approach is brilliantly cruel, locking us into the point-of-view of someone who says nothing and thinks nothing. We’re left to play judge along with the main character, determining the lines between helpful and unhelpful, hero and villain, living and… something else.

Top Three New Issues

3. Adrian Tomine, Optic Nerve #12 (D&Q)
Adrian Tomine is one of the medium’s masters of the short form, and the new Optic Nerve contains one for the canon in “Amber Sweet,” a beautifully brittle story about a young woman who discovers that she resembles a famous porn star. The other pieces in the book—a funny autobiographical two-pager about the creation of this issue, and a strange, semi-experimental piece called “A Brief History Of The Art Form Known As ‘Hortisculpture,’” about a gardener who thinks of himself as an artist—also explore the line between craft and art, and the difference between a whim and a waste. (Tomine also receives extra credit this year for widely releasing his previously limited-edition Scenes From An Impending Marriage, an amusing and true document of wedding-planning.)


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Brian Ralph

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Optic Nerve #12




Buyzombie raves about Brian Ralph's spectacular art in DAYBREAK

Updated September 8, 2011


Daybreak Gives Us An Amazing (Looking) New Zombie Comic

While a lot of novels and ideas try to claim an original take on the zombie outbreak not many are actually able to pull it off. Let’s face it almost every idea has been partially done somehow. That hasn’t stopped Brian Ralph from giving it a try and from what I can see, even if it doesn’t turn out original, it will be spectacular!

- Stuart Conover
 
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  Brian Ralph's DAYBREAK is an "impressive creative feat" according to Shelfari

Updated September 8, 2011


It's official: the zombie plague has spread into literary comics. This season, publishers Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics offer two different takes on the end of the world, both of which succeed in pushing the boundaries of horror comics while remaining true to the genre's strengths.

- Alex Carr
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Brian Ralph

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io9 says Brian Ralph's DAYBREAK is a "rock-solid read"

Updated September 8, 2011


The comic Daybreak is a field trip through the zombie apocalypse

The comic Daybreak is a field trip through the zombie apocalypseBrian Ralph's graphic novel Daybreak takes a phenomenological approach to survivalist horror. Like the participant in a pick-a-path novel, the reader is abruptly plopped down in the middle of a garbage-strewn hellhole.

You have no idea why the world is a wreck, but fortunately there's a nameless one-armed man who's your tour guide through the ruin. And don't let the cartoon characters throw you off — Daybreak delivers potent end-time chills.

- Cyriaque Lamar, io9
 
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  CBR interviews BRIAN RALPH about DAYBREAK at SDCC

Updated August 1, 2011


For the last few years, when not busy with his day job teaching sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Brian Ralph has been busy working on his latest graphic novel, Daybreak. The book is a slight departure of sorts for Ralph - best known for his early work as part of the highly influential Fort Thunder collective and for books like Cave-In - in that it delves into the horror genre. Yes, it's another zombie book, but it's a zombie book with a unique twist, with everything viewed from the perspective of an unnamed survivor (i.e. the reader), as he explores a foreboding landscape and finds a potential friend amidst all the devastation.

Daybreak makes it debut at Comic-Con this year, and Ralph will be on a panel at 5 p.m. (Pacific time) 14today with Anders Nilsen and Jeff Smith on the subject of "Epic Literary Adventures" (in Room 9).
I talked with Ralph over email about the panel, the new book, and the adventures of teaching comics to college students.

Daybreak is a horror story told from a unique, first-person perspective. Which came first for you, the desire to do a horror tale or the unique way of telling it?

I don't play video games, but I felt there was something exciting about how a person could be immersed in the world of a video game. With comics the reader isn't an active participant in the storytelling. I wanted to make a comic that, in it's own way, achieve some feeling of participation and immersion. I was looking for interactivity of some kind.
I had not seen a "first-person shooter" style of comic before. It turned out to be very exciting approach to storytelling. I was constantly trying to figure out new ways for the reader to feel like they were interacting with the characters and become characters in the story as well. I made some decisions along the way; to never show the reader's "character" such as in a mirror. I didn't want the reader to talk with a word balloon. I felt those things would break the illusion. It was tricky to work with those constraints, but such a fun challenge.
The horror direction just happened naturally at the same time to be honest. I love zombie apocalypse movies and books. But it's not the gore or the violence or even the zombies that I'm attracted to. It's the landscape, and the constant need to explore and move around the landscape that I found the most compelling to depict in this comic.
During the process of making Daybreak over these years I've had people roll their eyes, "oh the zombie apocolypse thing is so played out" or whatever. But I would hate for my book to be thrown into that pile, because I feel that if you give it a chance you'll see that it's unique. But also, a part of the challenge was in fact to work within a genre where I had seen it all. It's exciting to try to bring something different to the genre.

You originally serialized Daybreak with Bodega but opted to go with D&Q for the final collected version. Why? Are you still a fan of serialization? Did serializing Daybreak give you any benefits or feedback that you wouldn't have gotten if you had just released it as one book?

I was drawing two pages at a time and putting them on the Bodega blog once a week. That kept me on a schedule, I knew that there might be people expecting to see the work every Monday. It also kept the pacing pretty snappy, it was like every two pages was a cliff-hanger or an exciting page turn. I got really used to that rhythm. It kept the story moving at a brisk pace.
In terms of serializing the work with Randy at Bodega, it seemed like an interesting way to present it. I'm used to the artist sequestering themselves away for years and then emerging with this massive tome. But in this case, we presented it online and then did a yearly serialized book at SPX. It was exciting. It really got me talking to the readers more at conventions. They would tell me things they wanted to see. They were curious about how it would end. People were very open to discussing their ideas. With other books, the work is done - there's no discussion. I was always interested to hear people's opinions and theories about what I was trying to accomplish. "It's going to turn out to all be a dream" was something I heard a lot. One reader sent me an email pointing out panels where I had made errors. Especially where I had reversed the missing right arm to the left.
My understanding was that Randy wanted to take a break from publishing, and so he and Tom at D+Q discussed the idea of D+Q doing the collection. Tom and I are close friends from the Highwater days, so it seemed like a natural progression. Randy was involved with the whole process of collecting the books so it was great that he stayed involved.

You talk about exploring the landscape, which is a trait that's shared with your other book, Cave-In. And the Fort Thunder group, of which you were a part, were all very much interested in using comics to explore a space or landscape. Why is this? Where does that interest come from?

I've heard this type of comic described as "Walking Around Comics" or "Video Game comics" which I think would refer to the fact that they aren't really written in a traditional way. I think everyone at Fort Thunder came upon this style of non-writing in a genuine way. We played video games, we explored abandoned buildings, we wandered around Providence, we lived in a cavernous and weird space. I think the stories emerged from all of those things.
We never talked about it, so I'm just guessing, but I think there was an interest in very pure, stripped-down storytelling. Just moving characters through spaces. That's it. Exploring the basics of storytelling.

You stick to a very basic six-panel grid throughout the book, which I don't think you ever vary from. Why? What did this format give you in terms of storytelling that a different set-up wouldn't?

I felt as though the consistent six-panel grid would help the reader lose themselves in the story. I believe it helps the read forget they are reading a story drawn by an artist's hand, instead they can completely experience the story as if they are there. That's the hope at least. I didn't find it limiting at all, it was a lot of fun actually. Also, this story is unlike a traditional comic because it's meant to actually feel like this is actually happening to the reader, through their own eyes.

What was the biggest challenge of maintaining that "first-person" look for the book? Was there any point where you worried you were going to have to break one of your rules?

I had to really carefully consider the dialogue. Our one-armed friend in the story talks to us, the reader, and asks questions. I wanted it to feel like he was carrying on a conversation with the reader. There's a couple times in the book where we the reader pick up an object. Since I didn't want to show our hands, I would do a panel of the object that we're picking up, an axe for example. I would hope that the reader would then understand that we did pick it up and could use it. My favorite sequence is where we shoot a weapon, that was a leap of faith and I think it worked.

You don't show the main character at all, but you also don't show the zombies much, apart from a leg or arm here or there. Why? What did that decision give you in terms of building tension in the book?

I made a couple attempts at sketching the zombies thinking, of course, that I should include them, but I kept finding ways to avoid them. I wasn't sure why, but it never felt right. Ultimately I decided that it just wasn't necessary for the story I was trying to tell. The story is about traveling around with a stranger and becoming friends. Are any zombie stories really about the zombies? I don't think so. The stories and movies are about the survivors having to form relationships. The blood and guts cheapen that. Plus, what a fun constraint, to draw a zombie book without ever showing a zombie? That's crazy.

The main relationship in the book is between the main character (i.e. the reader) and the one-armed man. How important was that relationship to the book's coherence and story arc?

I think that's the whole story. It's about making a friend and then having to say goodbye to him. I really came to like that character and I didn't want to let him go.

Peggy Burns at D&Q mentioned that you are teaching comics at SCAD. How did you end up doing that? What has that experience been like?

I had been teaching Illustration for years at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in Baltimore and really enjoying it. SCAD has an actual Sequential Art major and that really interested me, so I traveled to Savannah to visit and really fell in love with the department, the faculty and the students.
I teach classes like Character Design, Introduction to Sequential Art, Alternative Comics, Cartooning, and Materials and Techniques. It's funny, because I feel as though I've learned so much about comics and cartooning by having to teach it. In order to teach a subject you have had to clarify what it is in your head, broken it down, carefully considered everything about it. I've critiqued hundreds of pages of comics, maybe more, and I never get tired of problem-solving with the students, figuring out ways to arrange pages and panels to help them tell their stories.

I also understand you're going to be doing a panel at San Diego with Anders Nilsen and Jeff Smith. Can you give me a preview of what you'll be discussing?

My version of what I think we'll be discussing is our thoughts on building and inhabiting these fantasy worlds in our comics. I'm not a big fan of the term "world building" but maybe that's what it's about.
When I draw these fantasy landscapes and fantasy characters, I really have to visualize them in my head and inhabit those spaces in order to really make the drawing believable. The artist must fully believe it in order to pull it off. It has to be real to the artist. I think you have to draw what you know, and even though I am drawing fantasy apocalyptic environments and caves, etc, I am pulling from places I have know.
I imagine the panel discussion will be me just nodding my head and agreeing with everything Jeff Smith has to say.
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Brian Ralph

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Giant Robot intervies BRIAN RALPH about his unique DAYBREAK

Updated August 1, 2011


The comics of Brian Ralph are packed with effortless, raw energy yet arranged in a ridiculously knowledgeable and sophisticated manner, belying both his punk rock roots as a part of the Ft. Thunder scene and product of the Rhode Island School of Design. Building on the primordial, mostly wordless, and much loved caveman-meets-time-machine opuses Cave-In and Climbing Out, Ralph's latest collection boasts storytelling that is as bold as the brushwork. Following an engaging panel at Comic-Con led by Drawn and Quarterly's creative director Tom Devlin regarding the epic literary adventures of Anders Nilson, Jeff Smith, and Ralph, I had to follow up with the professor of sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design for more thoughts on Daybreak and more.

MW: What's it like for you to revisit finished works and then compile them? Are they time capsules for your personal life and events as well as for your artistic progression? Do you ever get sentimental when reading them?

BR: Normally I don't get sentimental for old work. Once it's done, it's done. I don't ever reread the old work either; I just move on. But with Daybreak, you are right. I do get a little sentimental I really enjoyed that character of the one-armed guy. In a weird way, we became friends over the course of the comic. I was basically drawing an imaginary friendship and I didn't want it to end. But I knew I had a responsibility to move on.

MW: Daybreak's second-person perspective/first-person shooter style is quite unusual in comics. Were there ever difficult moments in writing when you wished you didn't do that? Did you ever consider changing the perspectives like Rashoman?

BR: It was a very exciting experiment, but I never regretted it. I really feed off challenges and working my way into difficult storytelling situations. I had established a couple of rules for myself, like, "never show the reader's character's hands or body" and "never let the reader's character speak or have a word balloon," which created some interesting problems. But it forced me to find creative solutions. I did entertain the idea of killing off the one-armed man and then allowing the reader to meet someone new, but I just liked the one-armed guy so much I couldn't bear to leave him behind in the wasteland.

GR: Are you as educated in writing stories as well as you are in drawing them? How did you go about developing your writing technique?

BR: That was something that came up when Anders Nilson and I talked. That we just thought of a bunch of cool things that we wanted to happen in a comic, and then figured out the story around it. It strikes me as a pretty irresponsible way to tell a story, but I have been guilty of it in the past. And I have heard of the style described as "video game storytelling." Is that bad? People say, "It's just a bunch of stuff that happens." Is that bad, too? I don't know.

I never studied writing, no. But when I sit down to draw a comic, I'm not just allowing it to happen. I do have a plan for what I want and I don't want it to be some contrived, formulaic package, either. I want it to be unexpected.

MW: Most readers know about your connections to Fort Thunder, but are you a fan of Kirby, Steranko, Eisner, and the old guard of comic makers, too?

BR: I love Jack Kirby. I don't know that his work has informed my writing, as much as my art. I think I watched a few Twilight Zone marathons when I was a kid in New Jersey and that, if anything, formed the base of my storytelling. I've just been trying to find creative ways to retell the "Time Enough At Last" episode with Burgess Meredith.

MW: The post-apocalyptic environment with rocks, trash, and tons of debris is something you excel at depicting. Is that something you can draw on cue now, or do you have to immerse yourself in that now and then to do so?

BR: It's a world that I keep going back to because it's a world I know so well in my head. I enjoyed spending time there and I like to draw it. However, spending so much time there over the course of drawing Daybreak got really depressing, and I told myself that I was done with the "downer" environments and that my next project was going to be super happy. But I'm sure I'll return.

MW: I'm really proud that your Reggie-12 strips ran in Giant Robot. Is a compilation really going to happen?

BW: Yes. I'm absolutely confident that Drawn and Quarterly will collect it. They've given me a "shrugged-shoulder-and-a-yeah-I-guess" agreement to publish it.
 
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Brian Ralph

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