TORTURE SQUID: Zach Taylor/VanderMeer Comic to Be Completed Soonish

Artist Zach Taylor has been working on preliminary sketches for a Torture Squid comic book/graphic novel. I’m providing him with a rough textual treatment for him to use as the basis for the storyline. We haven’t sought out a publisher–we’re going to finish it first. (Zach, btw, has created some great Evil Monkey for President swag, based on my EM persona, available here. Check it out.)

What’re The Torture Squid? Well, they’re a ruthless gang of anti-heroes who run amok through my fictional creation of Ambergris. They’re described in City of Saints & Madmen, in a story called “King Squid”. Below you can find Zach’s sketches and also the relevant City text for context. The resulting comic will be somewhat darkly humorous with a fair amount of slapstick. Should be fun.

Here are the original annotated entries from the “King Squid” bibliography that formed the spark for the idea.

Rogers, Vivian Price, Laying Low with the Torture Squid, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(The Torture Squid will always remain my favorite fictional creations. The books take as their premise that five jackanapes, steeped in the ways of petty thuggery, are transformed by the gray caps, through the medium of squidanthropy, into King Squid. As squid, the five of them—renamed Squidy Johnson, Squidy Macken, Squidy Slakes, Squidy Taintmoor, and Squidy Barck [the leader]—have lost none of their criminal ways. They take up their old prowling grounds in the decrepit Bureaucratic Quarter and wreak havoc on its citizenry. In this installment, Squidy Taintmoor suggests that the Torture Squid lay low for awhile, since the Cappan’s men are after them. By the end of this blackly humorous story, “laying low” has resulted in burglary, arson, armed robbery, and many other offenses against the law.)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Return of the Torture Squid, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(Squidy Barck and his mates decide to visit their mums, with disastrous results. Stepfathers take a beating, as does most of the criminal code.)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid and the Magnetic Rowboat, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(Squidy Macken finds a magnetic rowboat, possibly left behind by the gray caps, and the Torture Squid have fun propping it up near major thoroughfares and cackling as motored vehicles driving past suddenly find themselves stuck to it—windshield glass flying in all directions—and soon on the receiving end of demands from the knife-wielding Squidy Barck, Squidy Johnson, and Squid Slakes. At the end, they hijack one motored vehicle and smash it into a tree, laughing through their bruises.)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid Beat Up Some Priests, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(Squidy Slakes remembers how the priests who brought him up in the orphanage used to do mean and nasty things to him. Squidy Johnson suggests getting some revenge and Squidy Barck seconds the motion. The Torture Squid cruise the Religious District, punching out mendicants and stealing donations from collection boxes. In the stunning conclusion, they smash the stained glass of the Truffidian Cathedral and beat a confession of sodomy out of the Antechamber himself before Squidy Slakes breaks down and begins to cry—but, no: he’s not crying, he’s snickering. Squidy Slakes has been having everyone on—he wasn’t an orphan and a priest never raised him. The Torture Squid all share a good laugh.)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid Get Drunk in Trillian Square, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(One day, Squidy Barck wakes up in the Torture Squid’s west Albumuth Boulevard hovel and finds that Squidy Johnson is missing! Have the Cappan’s men found him and arrested him? Squidy Barck and the rest of the remaining Torture Squid spread out and cover the adjoining streets. No Squidy Johnson. Where could he be? As the Torture Squid search ever more desperately for their companion, they inevitably become thirsty. Many a pub receives their gruff demands for alcohol, until finally, after a number of adventures—one involving a squid club—the Torture Squid converge on Trillian Square, as pre-arranged. Who should they find there but Squidy Johnson, curled up on a bench, nursing a massive hangover from having snuck out for a “quick pint” the night before. The Torture Squid assuage their irritation by kicking Squidy Johnson into unconsciousness.)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid Pillage the Towers of the Kalif, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(In this slightly less successful book, Rogers takes the Torture Squid out of the familiar environs of Ambergris and sets them on a quest to plunder the Kalif’s treasure. By the time they reach the gates of the Kalif’s capital city, they are so drunk on cheap wine that they are mistaken for merrymaking pilgrims and allowed into the city. Once there, they proceed to pinch the bottoms of women, steal fruit from grocery stands, rob wealthy merchants, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Eventually, the Kalif’s soldiers arrest them, sober them up by torturing them in the dungeons, and then release them, naked, into the wastelands beyond the city’s walls. Less clothed, but a bit wiser, the Torture Squid sadly wander home. As Squidy Johnson remarks, “Foreign conquest is not as exciting as I thought it would be.”)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid Take on the New Art, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(Squidy Macken points out, one fine morning as the Torture Squid sit imbibing refreshments at the CafŽ of the Ruby-Throated Calf, that, as a group, they are under-educated. True, Squidy Barck once spent a semester at the Blythe Academy as a janitor, thus qualifying him to lead the Torture Squid, but in general they lack refinement. After Squidy Slakes punches Squidy Macken several times, Squidy Barck decides Squidy Macken is right. But how to become better educated? After some thought, Squidy Barck suggests that they attend a retrospective of the New Art down at the Gallery of Hidden Fascinations. So the Torture Squid don their best clothes, sharpen their knives, slick back their hair, and head off for the gallery exhibit. Once there, however, they are sorely disappointed. Most of the canvases seem unfinished—one is just a blotch of blue with some white blobs on it. Squidy Barck, embarrassed, decides maybe he should try to finish a few of the paintings—show the other Torture Squid some true culture. Alas, the museum guards try to stop them and the room erupts into a prolonged tussle, accompanied by the sound of knives tearing canvas. When the museum guards are finally disposed of, the Torture Squid turn their back on the gallery—and all “refinements”—although they read in the Ambergris Broadsheet the next day that spectators found their resulting performance art piece “oddly appealing.”)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid Torch an Underground Passage, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(One of Rogers’ simplest books, this title delivers exactly what it promises—the Torture Squid torch an underground passage. They spend 50 pages planning the torching. They spend 50 pages torching the passage. They spend 50 pages escaping from the Cappan’s men as a result. Many critics believe this book was ghost-written for Rogers.)


(Image created by Mark Roberts, from City of Saints)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid Trash a Restaurant, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(For once, the Torture Squid do not instigate the nastiness. Squidy Barck and Squidy Johnson sit in the River Moth Restaurant minding their own business when they are recognized by members of a rival gang, the Moth Heads, who happen to be walking by. A fight ensues, during which Squidy Barck holds off the Moth Heads by throwing chairs and dishes at them while Squidy Johnson goes around the corner for reinforcements. When Squidy Slakes, Squidy Johnson and Squidy Taintmoor join the fracas, the Moth Heads soon find themself on the receiving end of too many blows to count and wind up being chased down the street by the Torture Squid. Not content with the evening’s activities, the Torture Squid then proceed to blow up a bakery and set a motored vehicle on fire. As Squidy Johnson says, “Them Moth Heads provocatated us.”)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid’s Stint in Prison: Memories of Beastly Childhoods, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(Perhaps Rogers’ masterpiece, this book relates, in six chapters, the childhood experiences of Squidy Johnson, Squidy Macken, Squidy Slakes, Squidy Taintmoor, and Squidy Barck—while, in the story’s present-day, all five occupy the same prison cell. Surprise, surprise: only Squidy Barck had a genuinely bad childhood, his mother a prostitute, his father unknown, and out on the street by the age of 10. The rest were the sons of privileged members of society who simply preferred thuggery to honest work. In chapter six, the Torture Squid break out of prison after beating the guards half to death and the previously nostalgic feel of the book gives way to the usual merry mayhem.)

Rogers, Vivian Price, The Torture Squid’s Last Stand, Small Books/Big Dreams Incorporated.
(Enraged by the Torture Squid’s criminal activities, the Cappan raises a small army dedicated to their eradication. In the climactic final scene, the Torture Squid, cornered in a barn outside of the city, escape by setting themselves on fire and running through the shocked encircling troops to the freedom of the River Moth. Finally released into their natural element, they never return to hthe city, “although even today mothers tell the story of Torture Squid’s exploits to their aspiring young thugs.”)

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