Jason Shiga


Do yourself a favor and check out Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile.

It’s a great Choose Your Own Adventure book using panels instead of the entire page, resulting in 3,856 story possibilities. It’s maddening and insanely fun.

If you can’t find the book, there is an iPad app, which works really well!

“Meanwhile” begins as our young hero in dire need of a bathroom, knocks on the door of a mysterious recluse. His mansion is in fact a wonderous laboratory filled with amazing inventions: A mind reading helmet, a doomsday device and a time travel machine (although it can only go back ten minutes).

Which invention will young Jimmy play with? YOU, the reader get to decide in my branchiest and most complex interactive comic to date. “Meanwhile” works via a network of tubes connecting each panel to the next. Sometimes these tubes split in two giving the readers a choice of which path they would like to follow. Sometimes these tubes even lead off the page and onto tabs sticking out from other parts of the book.


I am a big fan of Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile.

It’s a mistake to go into this book thinking it’s a “chose your own adventure” book. This book is a puzzle. There is a complete picture, a complete understanding of the world, that you can put together, and what you are doing is exploring this world by making choices. If you’re expecting an adventure you might get a little frustrated when you find yourself looped back in the story and rereading a scene. Keep investigating. Solve the mystery. I was obsessive with this book. It took me about a week, but I went through the whole thing, and I will say that the ultimate revelation of the world of Meanwhile is epic and even disturbing. After you know what this story is about, even going back to the beginning and choosing vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream turns out to be a kind of disturbing ending. I think this is truly an important comic book. 
Zach Hazard Vaupen's Top 5 Favorite Online Comics of 2014

I’ve read a lot of comics this year, both in print and online. I might do a top 5 print comics list later on, but I’ve read many more comics on paper and it will be more difficult to condense all I’ve read into a Top 5 or even Top 10.  I don’t love reading comics online, but there’s a lot of good work that hasn’t made it to print yet or will can only exist online that would be a shame to miss. So without further rambling, here are the 5 online comics I enjoyed the most this year (in no particular order):

1. On Hiatus by Pete Toms (read here)

Not only is this one of my favorite comics this year (online or otherwise), this is one of my favorite comics of all time. This has some of Pete’s best artwork to date, not to mention the writing is funny, exciting, and poignant. Pete Tom’s is kind of like the Charlie Kaufman of comics and also kind of like the David Lynch of Charlie Kaufmans. On Hiatus is a comic about what it means to be washed up and whether there’s a line between being an artist, an entertainer, or something more.  This comic was really summed up for me in a monologue in Part 2 about God as a has-been. Pete is doing work that is propelling the comics medium forward and On Hiatus holds its own as both a piece of art and a piece of entertainment. I hope this comic is released in print some day because I’d love to have it on display in my home.

2. When The Darkness Presses by Emily Carroll (read here)

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about a comic that can only exist online. Emily Carroll is probably a “duh” person to mention, everyone knows and loves her stuff, but it’s for good reason! This comic really pushes the online format. It jumps back and forth between a standard webcomic layout for day scenes, complete with fake banner ads Carroll designed herself that later become subverted by impending horror, and night scenes that are hazy and happen over a solid black page background. It all works together to become another very creepy comic that Carroll is renowned for. A short but sweet (or sour) comic that should be experienced by all.

3. Demon by Jason Shiga (read here)

Demon really took me by surprise. Or rather, Jason Shiga took me by surprise. I only discovered his work this year and I find it all very exciting. This guy is a great storyteller. This comic updates daily M-F and I check it every day reading only 1 page at a time. That’s how exciting this story is. I think Shiga’s comics are best experienced going into them knowing nothing, but I will say that I highly recommend this comic to fans of Death Note. 

4. Actual Trouble by Michael DeForge (read here)

DeForge makes so many comics and they’re all great. He also puts a generous amount of his work online. This isn’t my favorite comic of his this year but it is my favorite comic of his that he serialized online this year. This isn’t exactly a comic per se, more of an illustrated short story, but I’m still counting it. The art and colors are great and the story is another classic DeForge bizzare love story. Read this comic, and then go read the rest of his comics online and then buy Lose 6 and then subscribe to his Patreon to get even more comics!

5. Thunderpaw by Jen (read here)

Last but not least is Thunderpaw. This comic is beautiful with so much animation and work put into it. It’s trippy, funny, manic, paranoid, everything you could want in a comic about 2 young dog people. Jen’s been working on this for a while but has been posting a lot more lately. Go read it and support her patreon so she can make more! 

There you have it! If you read any great comics online this year, reblog and add to the list. I’d love to see what everyone else is reading.

Empire State by Jason Shiga.

For those who have the Empire State hardcover, Shiga hid a secret message in the end pages of the book. I would’ve never known about it unless Gene Luen Yang hinted about it on his site.

Even then, it look me about 45 minutes to find it.

When I saw Shiga at a signing at Meltdown Comics, apparently I was the first person who was not his friend to find it.

If you find it and message me what it says, I’ll tell you the rest of the story :)

Jimmy is a stereotypical geek who works at the library in Oakland, California, and is trapped in his own torpidity. Sara is his best friend, but she wants to get a life (translation: an apartment in Brooklyn and a publishing internship). When Sara moves to New York City, Jimmy is rattled. Then lonely. Then desperate. He screws up his courage, writes Sara a letter about his true feelings, and asks her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building (a nod to their ongoing debate about Sleepless in Seattle). 

Jimmy’s cross-country bus trip to Manhattan is as hapless and funny as Jimmy himself. When he arrives in the city he’s thought of as “a festering hellhole,” he’s surprised by how exciting he finds New York, and how heartbreaking—he discovers Sara has a boyfriend! 

Jason Shiga’s bold visual storytelling, sly pokes at popular culture, and subtle text work together seamlessly in Empire State, creating a quirky graphic novel comedy about the vagaries of love and friendship.

I feel webcomics caters to the stuff young people are into like video games, dating and breakups, friendship and ninjas. But it ignores the stuff that occupy the lives of older people like the unending dreary monotony of parenthood, suicide fantasies, existential dread and slowly watching all your friends and family wither away and die.
—  Jason Shiga (from here)

A special Summer Reading Series post in conjunction with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s BookDragon:

If you liked Meanwhile by Jason Shiga, try Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes because both show the unlimited possibility of numbers.

Read the Smithsonian BookDragon review here.

First Look: Jason Shiga Talks Immortality and Philosophy in DEMON
We sit down for a chat with Jason Shiga about his existential mindbender, DEMON, and reveal the cover to First Second's collected edition of the series.

You guys!

The Beat just revealed the cover of Jason Shiga’s new graphic novel series DEMON!  It’s going to be wild – and coming your way in October.


Catchup with the record of my September and October reads. All absolutely brilliant in different ways. 

Empire State by Jason Shiga.  Library Call Ref 741.5 973 SHI-[Art] - A touching story where much of it is told by the facial expressions, body language and silences of the characters.  This made me feel a lot.  So much more is said by that which is not said.  Having growing up in a traditional north-asian inspired context, “down” in multi-racial/cultural South-East-Asia, much of Jason’s experience is very familiar, both painfully and laughingly so.  


Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.  Library Call Ref 741.5973 BEC-[Art] - This book surprised me.  It’s highly studious and literate, full of literary references some of which I had only a faint knowledge of. Despite the “scholarlyness” of the content, it was also a very very good piece of storytelling.  The reader gets to piece the story together, from different sections taking place in different places and times, some of which overlap, and this brings a richness to one’s understanding as well as the opportunity to predict how the whole turns out from little visual clues, throwaway lines.  Much more satisfying than a straight linear timeline narrative.   Parallels, Contrasts, Circles, Cause-&-Effects, Overshadowings, Rhymes. Given it’s content, I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy in the Singapore National Library.  This is a very beautifully plotted and presented book, and should be read by as many as possible.  


Asterios Polyp - David Mazzucchelli.  Library Call Ref 741-5 973 MAZ-[Art] - There is a LOT in this book.  Ideas about design.  Ideas about ideas.  Ideas about thinking.  Ideas about relationships - with ourselves, our surroundings, and with others who exist and some who do not.  My experience with Mazzucchelli was limited to his brilliant pencils for Batman Year1 and Daredevil BornAgain mini series’.  This was a different side of the storyteller that his Marvel and DC work simply did not hint at.  It’s a surreal story, but very human at the same time, very real and grounded, in a metaphysical sort of way.  My last sentence does not seem to make any sense, and that’s probably because I’m trying to put in words something that should simply be read, experienced.