Bryn Ziegler's Don’t Look Into The Abyss and Other Philadelphia Comics

By Alina J. RSS Wed, June 14, 2023

The Art Department is thrilled to host the launch of Don’t Look Into The Abyss, a new graphic novel illustrated and published by Bryn Ziegler

Ziegler is a book and comic artist specializing in intimate, interactive books exploring themes of queerness. Don’t Look Into The Abyss is a single-player choose-your-path game with a simple premise: you are an adventurer traveling through a vast expanse. You must find your path while confronting the elements, traversing the stars, and most importantly… avoiding The Abyss. However, Don’t Look Into The Abyss also has several secrets that make it a unique experience. Don't Look Into The Abyss will be cataloged in the Philadelphia Comics Collection, our growing holding of comics made by local artists accessible in the Art Department, and library users will soon find a copy of the deluxe edition in the library's Map Collection

The launch will open with a conversation between Bryn Ziegler and Joshua Abraham Kopin, followed by a book signing. Kopin received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He has published comics in Keywords for Comics Studies and the journals American Literature, Inks, and the Journal of Comics and Culture. He lives and works in Philadelphia.

To attend this free, after-hours event, please register in advance:

A display from the Free Library's Philadelphia Comics Collection curated by Ziegler and Kopin will be on view during the event, and a companion bookbinding workshop will follow on June 29. Ziegler is thrilled to pair Don’t Look Into The Abyss with a display from The Philadelphia Comics Collection because she loves finding inspiration and making connections in the robust Philadelphia comic-making and book arts communities. The selections on display include comics by local artists Pat Aulisio, Steve Teare, Olivia Fredricks, Colin Pezzano, Nicole Rodrigues, Jaz Malone, Rechelle Payne, Kate Schneider, Lale Westvind, and Eileen Echikson along with examples of historical comics held in the Art Department like those by George Cruikshank and Frans Masereel.

Bryn Ziegler and Joshua Abraham Kopin describe their selections from the Philadelphia Comics Collection below:

  • Delphinium by Pat Aulisio - We selected Pat Aulisio’s Delphinium for two reasons. First, for Aulisio’s use of color. Delphinium’s harmonious three-color palette, especially the use of pink and a cyan blue, is reminiscent of the color choices Bryn made for Don’t Look Into The Abyss and highlights the importance of palette to tone and pacing of comics. The second reason is Delphinium’s science fiction subject matter. Aulisio paints a picture of a world parallel to Earth, where everything appears fine… but things take a turn for the unsettling. This reminded us strongly of Don’t Look Into The Abyss and its initial pretense of normalcy.
  • The Spider Grandmother by Steve Teare - The Spider Grandmother made its way into this display for its print aesthetic. Teare’s comic is risograph printed. Risograph is a sister print process to offset lithography: it requires a similar file setup and the layering of transparent inks creates a similar effect. The Spider Grandmother utilizes the signature risograph pink, creating a pop of color reminiscent of Pantone 184 in Don’t Look Into The Abyss.
  • Spacing by Olivia Fredricks - Spacing was chosen for three reasons. Its atmospheric pink and purple colors, Fredrick’s diagrammatic layouts that successfully slow down the reader and give a sense of time passing, and the grainy tactile quality of the halftone.
  • Soma by Colin Pezzano - Soma was an obvious choice! Soma, like Don’t Look Into The Abyss, celebrates the fusion of formal printmaking craft and sequential narrative. Soma’s Free Library book launch was also the inspiration behind Bryn working with the Free Library to launch Don’t Look Into The Abyss! Soma also shows a wonderful progression from earlier examples of woodcut graphic novels like Masereel and Ward.
  • Simulation by Nicole Rodrigues - A few of Nicole Rodrigues’s books have found a home in this display. Rodrigues and Ziegler share a love for themes of space and social commentary. Simulation’s story gives a glimpse of human nature colliding with technology. The technology in the story is helpful, harmful, and experimental — it reminds Bryn of how technology today, no matter how beneficial it has the potential to be, frequently outpaces regulations and tests morality.
  • Smile by Jaz Malone - Jaz Malone’s Smile might seem like an odd choice, as it doesn’t make use of the more recognizable visuals of comics like panels or speech bubbles, and it doesn’t follow a traditional narrative structure. But in terms of content, Smile is maybe the closest selection to Don’t Look Into The Abyss. Malone’s book of self-portraits explores different versions of the self and reminds Bryn strongly of the parallel outcomes present in Don’t Look Into The Abyss and the philosophy behind creating moiré patterns by layering variations of the same image.
  • After Me by Nicole Rodrigues [not yet cataloged] - This is Bryn’s favorite Nicole Rodrigues comic in the collection — and it’s not even cataloged yet! In After Me, Rodrigues plays with the book’s structure by including transparent pages that function both formally and conceptually. The pages are a physical separation of foreground and background and a tactile element that keeps the reader holding the book.
  • Charm Meson by Rechelle Payne [not yet cataloged] - In Charm Meson, Rechelle Payne uses science fiction, rooted in real-world scientific research, as a conduit for introspection. This short comic will stay with you long after you finish reading. It deals with the splitting of self in a more literal way than Don’t Look Into The Abyss, but Bryn felt a strong conceptual connection.
  • Headland by Kate Schneider - Schneider’s Headland was chosen for a simple reason: Each page of Don’t Look Into The Abyss was hand-painted before being translated into offset lithography, and Ziegler loves the hand-drawn quality of Headland. Ziegler appreciates Schneider’s sensitivity to line and color and finds it a joy to spend time with this book.
  • Variety of Ink Bricks - How could we not? These anthologies gather together the exciting range of styles present in the Philadelphia comics community.
  • Grip by Lale Westvind - Grip is a bright and colorful book paired with an impactful narrative. This book was also originally risograph printed, and this edition has kept those textural and color qualities, which are reminiscent of the offset lithography used to print Don’t Look Into The Abyss.
  • Panic Attic by Eileen Echikson - We were drawn to Panic Attic for its bright colors and delightful use of a folding book structure.
  • The Toothache and woodcut novels by Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward - We selected these exciting historical examples of graphic novels to show the progression of the comic as we recognize it today and celebrate the long partnership between the craft of printmaking and visual sequential storytelling. These books also exemplify the range of the Art Department collection — here at the Free Library of Philadelphia, you can trace comics back hundreds of years! If you love comic history, we also recommend making an appointment to marvel at the Hokusai Manga.

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