Friday, January 26, 2007

Shatter #3

Shatter #3, June 1986, First Comics
writer: Steven Grant
artist: Steve Erwin & Bob Dienethal
colorist: Les Dorscheid
letterer: Rick Oliver

Long-time readers of A Comic A Day know that I have often both inadvertently and intentionally compared comic books that have very little in common. As a firm believer in synchronicity, I can easily find some link between any set of issues, if not through the dynamics of their respective stories, than in their production or packaging. However, today’s issue, Shatter #3, presented an uncanny connection with yesterday’s read, Utopiates #1. I didn’t look for this one; this one found me.

A read of yesterday’s post would reveal that Utopiates, a relatively new issue, was about a futuristic drug culture in which junkies shoot up manipulated strands of RNA to get a high off other people’s personality traits. The premise behind the main character in Shatter, published twenty years ago, is that his coveted artistic talent is the result of an injection of artist RNA. The coincidence is too curious to ignore. I wonder, were the creators of Utopiates inspired by this old series? While the RNA element was a catalyst for the Shatter series, at least in this issue the strange science wasn’t the story itself; where Utopiates was pure RNA-drug addiction. Erik Larson recently wrote on Comic Book Resources that ideas are everywhere. Did Utopiates elaborate on a minor idea to create a compelling comic book . . . or did they swipe it?

This peculiar parallel isn’t the only aspect that makes Shatter unique. As I read the issue and was befuddled by its plot, I wondered why the artwork looked so grainy, and why the lettering was so rigidly typeset. All became ironically clear when I read the letters page; Shatter was created on an Apple Macintosh computer. The pages were MacPaint files and printed on an Apple Laserwriter, which was undoubtedly cutting edge for its time, but now terribly dated. More astute may be aware of this series as a frontrunner in the use of computer programming to generate original comic art; me, I’ve never heard of Shatter. As for the editor’s claims that the comics of the future would be created exclusively on the computer, I’m grateful his prophecy hasn’t come true. Of course a majority of coloring and lettering in the medium is now digitally created and applied, but as a purist fanboy, part of the joy of reading comics is imagining the artist applying pencil to paper, sketching and solidifying their ideas on the page. Besides, in such a fickle industry when artists depend on the sales of their original and commissioned works for supplemental income, I don’t think prominent artists would allow such a technological revolution. The name of the book may be Shatter, but it didn’t establish any real breakthroughs, that’s for sure.

So, Shatter may not have made the connection with modern comics that was originally intended, but I’ve still found something to bring it into the present. With a different comic to read daily, I rarely follow up on the peculiarities I discover along the way. I don’t want one day to overshadow another, in most cases. Yet, in this case, I’m curious if the parallel between this issue and Utopiates isn’t just a coincidence. Stay tuned.

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