Introduction

There are many injustices, gathering threats, and ongoing atrocities in our wounded world.

We ignore them to stay sane. I was horrified to hear the screams of my son's rabbit when our dog got a hold of it. Its suffering was terrible before it died.

But I had a chicken dinner that week, though that chicken's journey to my table surely included equal agony.

I think most people, at least those who read enough to have picked up this book, are aware that humanity's growth and activities are eating up our natural capital faster than the processes that created it can replenish it. It's not all about to disappear - several billion years worth of biological development takes more than a couple of centuries to destroy. But the trend is not good.

If humanity endures (I'd say global climate change and the famine it threatens are its greatest threat), it will be in an ever-more-ragged world, with fewer organisms sharing it, more deserts, more social breakdown, a vast catalogue of loss.

(Unless some magic nanotechnological wand appears to wave it back into green fecundity, that is. A pleasant dream, that.)

So why aren't we organizing ourselves against the threat? Taking action, every day. Like a war (the old kind, where folks stateside were urged to sacrifice?).

Other things tug at us. We ignore it.

This is a story of some people who can't, and how a (politically) normal guy gets radicalized by them. All it takes is making him face the things we know are there, but which cause us to turn away.

Looking back on it now, I'm struck by a few things.

One, the conscious stylization of starry skies. I think it works; this is a long tradition in comics, from Kirby's famous dots to Wood and Williamson's graceful floating shreds of Milky Way to Jim Starlin's fifty-planets-in-close-proximity approach to space.

Two, the repeated surrealism, facilitated by Concrete's imagination. My logical mind keeps Concrete in the real world; my left brain wants to draw wild visions.

Three, I really did research the dickens out of this one.

Four, the effectiveness of occasional silent panels. Concrete jumping into the sea at night, running away after he's broken the glass door, seeing the eagle from below the water - these achieve what I crave in fiction, the quality of a unique moment. Sometimes panels with words do, too, but words tend to tie up the package with a neat bow. You "get it," so you don't contemplate it, as you would a painting.

On the other hand, comics are a literary form, and I want to hear a voice when I read. Prolonged silent passages lose me.

Five, TV counts for everything in politics. Everything. The coming cheap, global camcorder will be the greatest tool for social justice the world has ever had.

I had positive reactions from Earth First! when the story first came out. They ran a good review in their journal, and offered the book for sale, saying it was a good introduction to the movement.

But I may have blurred in the story the distinction between the Earth First! movement, an above-ground protest and civil disobedience group, and the Earth Liberation Front, an underground movement given to sabotaging ecologically destructive development. It gets a lot of press as an "eco-terrorist" group, but they've never hurt anybody except in the bank balance. Still, they receive top FBI attention.

Last month, as I write this, one ELF-connected group has been indicted for a series of arsons, including a greenhouse of genetically-engineered poplars at the University of Washington and a SUV dealership. It's been years since the arsons, so somebody must've informed. One arrestee committed suicide in jail (allegedly; you never know with jailhouse suicides). The FBI ranks "eco-terrorism" as its #2 priority after Al Qaeda, before militias, skinhead groups, or abortion clinic bombers/assassins.

Could be overlap between the two groups. They're unorganized (intentionally), so nobody knows what people do on their own. But to tar EF! with the "eco-terrorist" brush is unjustified. It's radical, yes, but a different critter.

--Paul Chadwick
Friday Harbor, WA
2006

home | who is concrete? | concrete collections | gallery | comics by chadwick
essays & articles | bio | contact | friends & links | the world below
reviews | matrix online | paul's blog