My latest comic, “S. A. Andrée’s Ill-Fated Expedition,” can now be read online in the most recent issue of inkt|art. The issue focuses on comics journalism, and there’s a handful of great nonfiction stories featured, including work from Eroyn Franklin and Sara Drake.
I have been fortunate this past year to have worked on so many projects for which I have found a wealth of photo references. As with my pieces on the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the Radium Girls, my most recent project focusing on S. A. Andrée’s 1897 expedition to the North Pole was well documented with photographs, which made my job much easier and also a lot of fun to research. The photograph below was taken by Nils Strindberg (a cousin of playwright August Strindberg) just after Andrée’s balloon crashed onto the ice after being airborne for just over two days, and was also the first photograph I found when I started reading about this story.
Alec Wilkinson, author of The Ice Balloon, also references this photograph as being the first he saw of the many images Strindberg captured with him camera. In the first chapter of his book, he describes the eeriness of the photo’s lack of horizon, due to the whiteness of the snow blending with the whiteness of the sky. He says at first he assumed that it was staged, and, upon realizing it was not, was filled with a sense of dread for the two men pictured. “Their craft is wrecked and the landscape is forbidding,” he says, “and something about the static quality of their forms makes their situation seem utterly hopeless.” Like Wilkinson, it was this photograph that inspired me to seek out more information on Andrée and his journey, and eventually create a short comic about the incident.
In 1897 Andrée’s ambition to be the first person to reach the North Pole, and to do it using a hydrogen balloon, seemed such a fantastically modern concept that is could have been ripped from the pages of a Jules Verne novel. The expedition captured the world’s attention, and the European press flocked to Sweden to cover the sensational launch of Andrée’s balloon, taking many photographs as part of their coverage.
After the team had embarked on their journey, it had been young Strindberg’s responsibility to map the area from above using a highly specialized cartographic camera. Once they were grounded, however, Strindberg used his camera to document the harrowing trek the men made across the ice in their attempt to return to civilization.
Strindberg was a skilled amateur photographer, and had even won a photography contest before leaving on the expedition. Many of the nearly 200 photos he took of their journey have excellent compostions, and capture chilling moments. In 2004, Tyrone Martinsson published an article including digitally enhanced versions of some of Strindberg’s images.
I was also very lucky to have discovered the Facebook page of the Grenna Museum in Grenna, Sweden, where many of the artifacts of Andrée’s expedition are kept. Their page on Facebook includes several photographs of their collection, including many items significant to Andrée’s story.
Two weeks ago, I debuted two brand-new minicomics at the 2013 Stumptown Comics Festival. For those of you unable to attend the fest, copies of those minicomics can now be yours when you visit my Etsy shop! There you will find new listings for The Unusual Death of Gregory Biggs and Unfortunate Mishaps in Aviation History, in addition to all of my older minicomics for sale on the site.
For anyone living in the Vancouver, BC area, I’ll also be at the Vancouver Comic Arts Fest in two weeks, selling these and other minicomics, and of course copies of the Hic & Hoc anthology, Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends!!
It’s been over a week since I attended the Stumptown Comics Fest, so I apologize for the late update. As you may have read on the blogs of many exhibitors and attendees, this year’s show was fantastic. I met lots of super talented artists, sold a stack of books, and just generally had a great time.
It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I spent the majority of my time at the show hawking Hic & Hoc’s brand new anthology, Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends, the collection of nonfiction mystery comics that I spent the last year editing. It seemed to go over well with the show attendees, and I sold more of them than expected. If you’d like your own copy, you can pick one up at the Hic & Hoc online store!
I also had two brand new minicomics debuting at the show last weekend. I finally got around to putting out a print edition of The Unusual Death of Gregory Biggs, a short true-crime comic based on a strange murder that took place in Fort Worth, Texas in 2002. I also had copies of Unfortunate Mishaps in Aviation History, a little minicomic collecting my story about Franz Reichelt (previously seen on The Hairpin), and a brand new, never-before-seen story about S. A. Andrée, the Swedish balloonist who tried to be the first person to reach the North Pole in 1897 by flying over it in a hydrogen balloon. If you’d like to learn what became of Andrée and his team, you can pick up a copy of the new minicomic in my Etsy shop (Gregory Biggs minis are available also!).
I spent the majority of the show behind my table, so I didn’t leave at the end of the weekend with the usual haul of new comics. I did, however, pick up a few gems on the rare occasion that I ventured out onto the floor. I managed to grab volumes 1 & 2 of Maryanna Hoggatt’s Adult Babysitting, her collection of beautifully water-colored stories about being a bartender here in Portland. I also made sure to get book three of Tyrell Cannon’s story Gary, about the notorious Green River Killer. I was pleased to have the pleasure of meeting, among other folks, the very talented Andy Warner, who was graciously willing to trade with me for a copy of his The Man Who Built Beirut and a collection of his Brief Histories of Everyday Objects. I’m such a fan of Andy’s work, and for those of you who don’t know, he is totally the next big thing in nonfiction comics. You heard it here first, y’all.
Stumptown Comics Fest 2013 was a fantastic show, and now that it’s over I feel ready to tackle VanCAF in a couple of weeks and then CAKE. If you’re going to be in Vancouver or Chicago during those shows, please swing by and say hello!
Are you going to be in Portland, OR this weekend? Come find me at the Stumptown Comics Fest! I’ll be at the Oregon Convention Center, Saturday the 27th, from 10am-6pm, and Sunday the 28th from noon-6pm.
At the show I’ll have copies of the brand new Hic & Hoc anthology, Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends (edited by Yours Truly), all of my old minicomics (SPAZ! #1-5 + The Collyer Brothers), plus two BRAND NEW minicomics: The Unusual Death of Gregory Biggs and Unfortunate Mishaps in Aviation History. You can come find me and my kickass tablemate, Max Young, at table J03.
I’ll also be selling a few books from Hic & Hoc Publications, specifically, these ones:
Hope to see you there!