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Blog posts tagged as 'SVK'

SVK’s genesis: a chat with Schulze and Webb

In July, on the day that we first published SVK, I sat down with Jack and Matt to talk through the ideas behind the project – both in terms of the storytelling and the business challenges of bringing it into the world.

This week we released the second print run of SVK, so I thought I’d share it on the blog.

Jack Schulze: I’d been reading comics a lot, they’re some of the most sophisticated graphic output I’ve been exposed to.

I was following the work of Warren [Ellis] and Grant Morrison very closely. I found something in common between them — in some of the stories they were writing they were folding the form of the comic back into the material of the story, so that the comic was sort-of self-aware.

Specifically I’m thinking of Warren’s ‘Planetary’/’Batman’ crossover, where there are different Batmen from the various eras brought into it – from Adam West’s TV Batman to tougher modern versions, perhaps drawn from Ennis or Frank Miller. The whole thing only works because there are 80 years of ‘Batman’ comics to draw on.

More recently I was impressed with the storytelling structure of Warren’s ‘Aetheric Mechanics’. Also, Grant Morrison’s ‘The Filth’, where at some points the characters interact with the gutters and borders of the comic page. And – all this against the background of my continuing obsession for Garth Ennis’ interpretation of ‘The Punisher’.

This is brave work — in terms of the broadest sense of graphic design. I started to think about how we might make a comic with those qualities. Of course, not being comics writers or artists, we came up with a loose idea about what we could do with the technologies of ink and printing to build a story which was about looking. We wanted to see how we could use the fabric of printing and fold that back into the narrative. Looking is a preoccupation of the studio going back to projects like Glancing by Matt Webb, through to the Here & There Maps of Manhattan.

Matt Jones: you wrote an outline proposal, with the project name ‘Blacklight”, in the spring of last year – 2010?

JS: Yeah. Once I realised with Matthew that it would be possible, and he could shape it into something we could formally include in the work of the company, I had to write it down and find a way to get it made!

Original SVK Proposal: codename "Blacklight"

MJ: So, in terms of that moment of thinking about it as a product, what was your thought process? As I remember, there was a distinct moment when it tipped into reality, and you said “we could do this…”

JS: Well, there are always a lot of ideas like that floating around the studio and that was one I’d been quite, sort of, bullish on and I think that it was something that we’d discussed for quite some years. At least I think you [nods at Matt Webb] had been aware of it — and when I brought it back to you, it was because I thought I’d found a way of making it. Not anything to do with money, just literally making it — getting it written and drawn… I think you saw something in it where it had the right sort of characteristics to fit a pipeline of work that we needed in order to get it somewhere…

Matt Webb: Yes. I think the job of the studio is to bring our own ideas to life – that it’s something inventive, hopefully something that has some cultural importance – but mainly to have fun, make stuff y’know? When you can make that kind of thing achievable, when it gets some kind of independence from the client work so you can do it yourself, that’s really interesting.

There was a realisation that it [SVK] could be a kind-of ‘crystal’ business in its own right. That it could be made to work through advertising, cover-price, direct sales, working with really awesome people. There’s something about the project – I mean, independent from the fact that Warren and Matt Brooker have made a really good story… that’s also … I don’t know… it sort of commoditises the tools of business in a funny sort of way — that those tools are at the service of creative works instead of the other way around.

JS: I think to expand on that, there was something that the map had taught us — that Matthew had found a way of allowing us to make anything we wanted — as long as it would pay for itself. And that’s the kind of objective, other than the cultural impact, that the project sort of builds its own infrastructure around it, and that it doesn’t cost us anything to do so, and maybe makes a small profit.

MJ: so it’s sort of a ratchet-effect thing — a system that could be used on other products?

MW: The system we have is putting physical things into people’s hands — with all that implies — warehousing, taking money, customer support…which is something that loads of other businesses have, big ones and small ones, but for us it’s completely new and it’s an investment, so this [SVK] is an excuse for us to make that investment

MJ: Jack, what’s your recollection of approaching Warren about SVK?

JS: Well, we’d written the proposal and Matthew had written a structure of how cashflows and process could be described to make it possible and satisfying to everyone taking part. And the proposal was a combination of early thoughts — some of them very detailed and some of them much larger themes. It’s located in London, the idea of ‘looking’ being an important component, but apart from that we weren’t very precious. A lot of the remainder was up for grabs. After that, I think we just took Warren to the pub and poured beer on him until he agreed. [laughs] Beer-boarding!

MJ: Ah. [laughs] I had that recollection as well – I thought you might have more details!

JS: No! I think that was it! But I think also there was something that caught his imagination — which was that you could take the tropes of AR, Augmented reality… and do them in ink. That you were, y’know, augmenting the page. That you have a scene that has a reality common to everyone, and then a special perspective unique to a particular tool. It’s obviously not the same as augmented reality but it has a sufficient number of parallels to feel part of the same aesthetic.

MJ: Yeah, it feels for instance like the things Jamais [Cascio] is talking about in his essay in the book, the subjective realities that people will start to have through technology…

JS: Yeah and I think AR is something, as Bruce Sterling and Kevin Slavin demonstrate, that people like talking about despite its limited arrival in our hands — so I think in that respect it struck a note with Warren.

MJ: What’s struck both of you most about the process?

JS: I was amazed that from that proposal, and one meeting with Warren and Matt Brooker their communications and process was *so* well-oiled. That they basically just went and did it. In contrast to most of our projects into new territories that involve endless meetings and workshops, figuring out new processes… and although it was delayed by illnesses and various stuff… that the actual creative process — of making a narrative — was extraordinarily fluent. And I’m sure that was to do with Matt [Brooker] & Warren — I’m sure it’s not the same with every comic. And just to see in the result how much of the core important elements of the original concept have remained in, despite the fact there’s now an entire universe and story, I just found it very satisfying to work with someone with that level of trust…


MW: There was something amazing about how Warren took on the concept and almost reestablished it and made it his own. It’s an idea that could have very easily have become gimmicky, or be used just to look cool. But for it to have taken on so much of the core of the story — and it’s a cracking story — that was quite amazing. I don’t know how Warren does that.

JS: It succeeds as a comic in it’s own right — without the UV layer completing it…

MJ: you might have just answered my final question — what do you think of the finished product?

JS: I think it’s great! I’m really, really proud of it. It’s better than I could have hoped when I was imagining what it could be before it was written and drawn. And it’s just fun to see Warren’s process from the inside and have something that satisfying emerge at the end of it. I think it’s awesome.

MW: There’s something interesting about being a design studio and not being responsible for the… creative surface of what comes out…

JS: Yeah, that’s one of the core components… It’s been really interesting. It has been a true collaboration in that sense, in that the combination of figuring out the processes and the experience of the product, and having the early idea — that tangle of ideas happening with someone outside the studio. It didn’t seem like what I would understand to be a typical work-for-hire relationship. It seemed like everyone involved had their heart in it, and invested themselves in the project. I thought that was great.

SVK is available only online from

SVK is back on sale

We’re pleased to say that SVK is back on sale.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, SVK is a collaboration we’ve published between writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Planetary, Crooked Little Vein, RED), artist Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker (Stickleback, Lazarus Churchyard, 2000AD).

It’s an experimental graphic novella about looking – an investigation into perception, storytelling – and printing with UV ink…

SVK cover

The first print run sold out in 48 hours, and our second print run is now ready.

If you missed out the first time round, now…

SVK is go for launch

SVK cover

We’ve been working on making a comic with Warren Ellis and Matt Brooker.

Today we’re super pleased to announce it’s available, and the store is now open at


It’s something we’ve really enjoyed bringing into the world – and we hope you enjoy it too.

“I thoroughly enjoyed SVK, which either in spite or because of its concision is somehow Dickensian, and while quite thoroughly dark, is also quite touching. Memorable. And couldn’t be done as well, or even be born, in any other medium at all” – William Gibson, author of Zero History, Spook Country, Neuromancer etc., in his foreword for SVK.




Evolving an imaginary logo

Another batch of SVK torches have arrived in the office… Which reminded me to tell the story of the SVK logo.

Alex and, before him – Matt Brown, had been working up some fairly slick logos; which didn’t seem to quite fit with the story or the world of Thomas Woodwind.

I had a bit of a brain-fart and sent the following to Alex and Jack to see if we could spike it in a new direction.

Heimdall is the public brand – it’s the respectable, publicly-traded corporation with the big HQ – that’s got a polished logo that cost £18 million quid from Wolff-Olins or Interbrand.

SVK is a skunkworks project.

Its logo was never meant to be seen by civilians. It’s an in-joke, a source of nerd-pride. It’s been developed by sociopathic geniuses who haven’t talked to anyone normal since 1998. It’s likely got a logo that they generated in WordArt Wizard in Powerpoint.

It’s perhaps more of the world of the sorts of insignia that Trevor Paglen collects

Of course – this is a reasonable, plausible direction – but we are also making an object that we want people to respond to – so maybe it shouldn’t be completely unpolished.

Perhaps then…

The nerds in the SVK team picked the most socialised one of their number to beg the person in corporate marketing and design whose iphone they once de-bricked to give them a spare hour before the pub to tidy it up

“no, i’m afraid – it’s above your pay grade to ask what SVK means. sorry yeah, no it’s an awesome logo. thanks. it’s just a joke for the guys. yeah i was being a dick. etc.”

Hey presto. They got a logo.

Other things that got thrown in the pot…

Goat’s eyes are unnerving (to most people?) and often feature in the portrayal of the demonic…

Although this one seems quite sweet.
Ol' Goat Eyes

And… some of Gavin Rothery’s awesome art-direction evolution and process around the movie Moon, …aaaand fictional logos in James Bond Movies…

Oh, and I almost forgot – Warren pointed us at SCHWA. Remember SCHWA?


Here’s Alex’s evolution of the SVK logo based on those discussions and influences…

SVK Logo development

And what the final version looks like:

SVK: logoside

Standby for more SVK news…

SVK at the printers, next stop: warehouse

Last week we visited Pureprint who are brilliantly managing the complex and specialist task of printing SVK with invisible inks. We documented the comic going through the handsome machines of the printing world:

As well as being an investigation into printing and optical experimentation, SVK is a test of our own supply chain management and product launch processes. Today has been named “SVK Friday”, we are all working together on getting SVK a bit nearer to launch.

We have a whiteboard full of todos; press releases, web, blog, print and email copy, a photoshoot, a website, email templates, postal and shipping tests, managing warehousing and fulfillment, advertiser relations and customer support infrastructure.

SVK Friday

Setting up direct sales like this is new for us, and there are still final tests to do and kinks to iron out to make sure that an order on a website results in an comic in your hand. More news as it progresses!

SVK vs Kinect

I’m at FooCamp, and I’ve brought a copy of SVK fresh off the press to show some of the folk here.

The Make space at the O’Reilly HQ has Greg Borenstein showing the possibilities of Kinect-hacking, and we were playing around with pointing the UV torch that will come with SVK at the Kinect sensor… and found it punches a hole in the point-cloud of depth-data that the infra-red structured-light of Kinect senses…

The SVK as seen by a Kinect

It’s quite a striking ‘sensor-vernacular’ image, and my folk-physics explanation of it (at midnight last night, after some Lagunitas IPA) was that the UV was cancelling out the IR – but it might just be that any LED torch light source might have the same effect – just blowing out the sensor – can’t find anything online as yet…

The SVK as seen by a Kinect

I’m away from my physicspunching colleagues who would put me right in short-order I’m sure (as probably, someone here at Foo will today) but if you have any thoughts…

Update from Greg in email:

For the record, my bet is that the torch’s universe-whole punching power came from its plastic sleeve. Things that are reflective tend to do that by bouncing the IR back directly at the Kinect and giving it a blind spot. Check out the hole where Max Ogden’s eye should be in the scan we made of him last night:

Max wears glasses and his lens’ reflection caused this.

You can actually do wickedly clever things with a mirror and the Kinect to pull different bits of space into the depth image. It’s like being able to cut-and-paste space. For example, Kyle McDonald is trying to use the trick to scan all sides of an object at once.

I like using it to make wormholes…

SVK feature in Judge Dredd Megazine June 2011

As we get closer to shipping SVK, there’s a bit more appearing about it.

Matt ‘D’Israeli’ Brooker, our incredible artist and co-creator is interviewed in the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine this month.

Alongside insights from the man himself about working with Warren, the technology and techniques he employed to illustrate SVK – there’s a bit of a scoop…

…in that there’s a sneak peak of his awesome cover art for SVK

SVK in Judge Dredd Megazine

Supply-chain, Very Koncrete.

SVK is at the printers…

Here’s what several thousand ultra-violet torches and comic bags look like, which will join with the printed book imminently.

If you haven’t signed-up yet, you can at


Stand-by for action!

SVK Update: Introducing Bulmer

SVK is tantalisingly close to being in the world.

We’ve got all the story and art, we’ve got some special guest contributors, we’ve got boxes and boxes of UV torches en-route from China… So, not much longer now.

May = getSVK.

In the mean-time, some more DVD extras… I’d like to introduce you to Thomas Woodwind‘s assistant – Bulmer

Here’s Matt ‘D’Israeli’ Brooker’s character sketch from the beginning of the project:

Bulmer development sketch

From Warren’s character notes…

WOODWIND’S AIDE: pushing thirty, still living like a student, unhealthy and pallid
with a shock of black hair that looks like it was dipped in tar before being stuck
to his head.  Owns only t-shirts.  Works in t-shirts and y-front underpants at all

HIS BASEMENT: he has a ground-floor flat (maybe Shoreditch?  Maybe Camden
Town or Hackney?) with use of a basement, and that’s where he’s set up.  Imagine
NASA Mission Control as furnished by Steptoe And Son.  There is an actual order
to what’s in here — tables, workstations, laptops and a couple of iPads, real
high-end stuff like fabbing machines and printers that print metals and microscopes
and Other Stuff, and also a lot of junk and shit — but probably no-one can see it
but him (and maybe you).

And, here’s Matt Brooker’s final art for Bulmer’s basement ‘batcave’…
SVK: Bulmer's "batcave"

And… just a reminder – I’ll be showing a few more sneak-peeks of SVK this Saturday at Sci-Fi London’s comics day.

Matt Jones speaking at Sci-Fi London Festival, 30th April – on SVK, and the work of Warren Ellis

I’m pleased to have been invited to speak at Sci-Fi London’s Comics day, on Saturday April 30th about the work of Warren Ellis – our Chairman-Emeritus and collaborator on SVK.

I’ll be alongside friend-of-BERG Matt Sheret and Ian Edginton (co-creator of such wonders as Stickleback, Leviathan and Scarlet Traces with frequent collaborator D’Israeli, co-creator of SVK).

I hope to show some sneak peaks of SVK as well as discussing the influence our dialog with Warren and comics in general have had on our studio.

Here’s the panel description from the Sci-Fi London site:

3.30pm – The work of Warren Ellis
Writer Ian Edginton (who collaborated with Ellis on X-Force), Matt Jones (principal, BERG design who commission Ellis’ new comic SVK) and Matthew Sheret (writer, whose love of comics started with Warren’s work) discuss the work of comic book / multimedia writer Warren Ellis who has penned some of the most influencial SF comics of the last twenty years.

Followed by 20 min preview screening of new documentary – “WARREN ELLIS: CAPTURED GHOSTS”

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