• 07.05.11

BERG Designs Comic Where Subtexts Shine Under UV Light

The designers at BERG teamed with the comics superstar Warren Ellis to create a comic where extra story points are revealed under ultraviolet light.

BERG Designs Comic Where Subtexts Shine Under UV Light

At a time when comics are being shaken up by new media just as much as the music industry was lo those many moons ago, leave it to BERG to figure out a way to liven up the dead-tree experience most of us nerds still love. They’re publishing SVK, a new graphic novel that has Lost-esque easter eggs built right into its pages: Shining UV light on the pages “unlocks hidden layers of the comic,” they say. And just so you know it’s not some lame-o gimmick, it’s written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Matt “d’Israeli” Brooker — two creative heavyweights that no comics fan can deny.


As for what “SVK” is about, you’ll have to buy it online to find out — but according to BERG, “[it’s] a modern detective story, one that Ellis describes as ‘Franz Kafka’s Bourne Identity‘.” (Sounds pretty awesome.) The illustration style is my favorite kind in comics: flat and brutal but just slyly cartoony at the same time. And if you wave a tiny blacklight — which comes with the book — over the panels, you’ll see the characters’ hidden inner thoughts appear in UV ink, rendered with Ellis’s trademark acid wit.



Schulze describes it as “a comic about looking.”

BERG’s Matt Jones tells Co.Design that the project was borne out of an idea by cofounder Jack Schulze that they developed into a proposal which they took right to Ellis. You can see that proposal here — Schulze describes/pitches it as “a comic about looking”, and even dares to creative-direct the legendary writer about plotting and how the illustrations should look! Ballsy. But the final product hews close, at least visually, to this original document, so the tactic must have worked. From there, the UV-light-enhancement idea fit like a glove. “The nature of looking and perception are preoccupations of the studio,” says Jones, “going back to the Here&There maps of Manhattan [which also began as brainstorms from Schulze].”

Given Ellis’s proclivity for dystopian futurism and BERG’s penchant for weird techno-wizardry, we’re betting the story involves some interesting variations on themes of augmented reality. (The UV trick on the comics page is a pretty good analog to that effect.) But knowing Ellis, you can be sure he thought of uses for this “peekaboo” trick that go beyond easy laffs and obvious thrills. Considering that this is the man whose twisted brain birthed cult hits like Transmetropolitan and Hellblazer, you might want to steel yourself before waving that UV lamp around willy-nilly — you never know what you might not be able to un-see.


[With reporting by Teressa Iezzi]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.