Steve Tomasula
Stephen Farrell
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2004, English
Fiction; Fiction, Comics and Graphic Novels
ISBN: 9780226807409

From the Publisher. First pain, then knowledge. It’s the turn of the twenty-first century and Square, Oval, and the other inhabitants of Flatland find themselves slipping into a postbiological future where lying down with the scalpel is as common as buying and selling genes. VAS tells the story of one family at this moment in time, looking at what the body has been while imagining what it—and we—might become. Printed in the colors of flesh and blood, this stunning imagetext novel is ultimately the story of finding one’s identity within the double helix of language and lineage.

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Warren Lehrer

If the term “graphic novel” wasn’t already taken, and very clearly defined, this could be a good example of what such a thing might look and read like. Steve Tomasula and Stephen Farrell’s 2003 novel situates the geometric protagonists of Edwin Abbott’s 1884 novel Flatland in a 21st-century post-biological world. Father Square is considering whether to have a vasectomy, while mother Circle and daughter Oval want another child/sibling. The family story double-helixes down vertical staff lines, punctuated by genetic sequences, pedigree charts, and historical arguments for eugenics, cloning perfect babies, and denying “defective persons the right to reproduce. Farrell’s elastic and meticulously articulated design—which also references the language of comic books, big data, and a new-music score—could be accused of overpowering Tomasula’s writing. But no doubt, this is an interesting and ambitious example of an author and designer collaborating as co-equals on a fascinating read. Tomasula and Farrell’s next collaboration, TOC: A New Media Novel, is an interactive DVD that lives at the intersection of book, film, and game.

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