Pop culture writer and NERTZ podcast host Mathew Klickstein has an all-new, all-creepy graphic novel being released this week, Wednesday, June 17th, titled You Are Obsolete. Illustrated by Evgeniy Bornyakov and edited by Mike Marts, it is a sci-fi horror graphic novel set on an isolated European island where a disgraced journalist discovers that children have taken control via strange technology linked to their smartphones and are killing off all adults on their 40th birthdays. Published by Aftershock Comics the work is best described in his own words:
The easiest concision of You Are Obsolete would be to say something along the lines of Children of the Corn … with cell phones.
There’s obviously much more to it than that, but I think what’s been caught in a lot of the (weirdly stellar) reviews of the series is that it really revisits a lot of the classic 60s/70s/80s horror and sci-fi movies/literature tropes, which was my favorite part of putting together the books. I was really inspired by the likes of The Twilight Zone, Matheson’s original I Am Legend novella, Lovecraft, Kafka and the films of folks like David Cronenberg and John Carpenter for this one. That kind of suspenseful, slow-burn feel that has led to nearly every reviewer at some point referring to You Are Obsolete as “creepy.”
I’ve been studying, writing about, lecturing on and also focused a great deal of my book Nerding Out upon which the NERTZ podcast is based on the changing face of so-called “new tech/media.” And with such subject matter, and as per those substantive days of deeper sci-fi of the likes of HG Wells and Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison, et al, I really wanted to tap into the reality of what’s happening right now with new tech/media. So, there’s elements of that in the series as well. Both to shed some light on how these realms of evolving (particularly right now at such a rapid pace) and because I feel it makes the series that much scarier when there is some authentic topicality injected here or there along the narrative trajectory.
One of the reasons movies like Cronenberg’s Videodrome or Carpenter’s They Live continue to be so incredibly resonant is that they’re not just spectacularly engrossing stories with nuanced and complicated characters. They also touch upon something about society at large that is so universal that these films continue to be pertinent and in some ways prescient even today. Did I do that with You Are Obsolete? Only time will tell, but I sure tried to give the series that extra-oomph.
There’s also an entire installment (#4: “Chaos Under Heaven”) that is basically one long mushroom trip.
The dangers of modern technology and social media are important themes in Matt’s comic. We dug a little deeper on whether or not he thinks technology is a good or bad thing:
I’ll say this: it’s not so much the concept of social media or the concept of new-tech that makes me uncomfortable as it is the infrastructure that both built it all and that has come in from various sides to run it today.
I’m not so interested here in the content or the users as I am the machine behind all of this stuff. The machine that seems extremely broken and has been firing off sparks and springs and coils and washers and screws all over us for such a long time that it’s getting harder to stick with it without saying, “Hey, something is really wrong here with the way this particular tool works and with the people running how this tool works.”
It’s something I do believe strongly we need to continue scrutinizing, critiquing and working to evolve. The danger, though, with this as I’ve seen it is that there’s not only a strange pull to these devices and technology (some of which is very intentional, as we know). A lot of times it can feel as though if you do question or critique this technology and, in some ways, the “subculture” surrounding it, you’re doing something societally objectionable. Even if you choose to ignore it or not engage, you’re being combative or complacent, you’re being contrarian or even snobbish. You’re too stuck in the past. You’re going against progress. You’re being misoneistic. You don’t LIKE this stuff? What’s WRONG with you? Join us. It just feels weird at times, almost beyond being cultish to downright being religious. And if you critique or even discuss provocatively, you can be seen as a heretic.
Howard Zinn has told us in the past that we can’t be neutral on a moving train. If you apply that aphorism to what we’re talking about here, I’m merely saying that I think it’s important that we still have the choice of whether we get on that train or not, and not be disparaged or poked and prodded if we want to stay outside the train for a while as we survey the tracks, check the train’s trucks a little, see how the train maneuvers and wiggles and wobbles along its way before we decide to board … if at all.
Maybe we need to make a new train. Or come up with a whole other vehicle no one’s thought of yet. Why should we get on this train, why should we engage with this form of new-tech/media just because it happens to be the only version available, the version that came available first?
This discussion is a major element to You Are Obsolete, along with playing with that idea to a fairly dark conclusion that perfectly fits into the typical 60s/70s/80s sci-fi/horror scene.
Matt will be going on tour this week and You Are Obsolete is now available through Amazon.com.