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.

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)

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.

Meanwhile: An SF adventure comic

Meanwhile was published three years ago as a mammoth choose-your-own-adventure comic, but it began life in 2005 on Jason Shiga’s wall. The cartoonist (and mathematician) plotted all 3856 possible stories in an elaborate flow-chart so he could keep track of them while producing the book. And then, last November, in collaboration with text-adventure writer Andrew Plotkin, he released Meanwhile as an app. An app I downloaded as soon as my friend Chris Baker informed me of its existence last week. 

True, I haven’t played with the print comic, but the iPad seems like the perfect venue for this story, which serves up everyday choices – chocolate ice cream, or vanilla? – alongside more extraordinary ones. After using the (possibly mad) scientist’s bathroom in a rush, would you rather try out his time machine, his memory-reading device, or his… Killotron?  

“The inventions that you get to play with are all very standard science fiction tropes,” Shiga has said, "but I try to add a little twist to each one.“

One of the possible time machine subplots is ”’a reworking of Hilbert’s Grand Hotel.’ (The Paradox of the Grand Hotel is a paradox proposed by German mathematician David Hilbert involving a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, all occupied, which can still accommodate more guests by shifting all occupants to the next room or to a mathematically-determined other room according to different situations.)“

There are, I can attest, many different loops to get stuck in. 

Obviously, if you’re looking for deep emotional layers, you won’t find them here, but Meanwhile offers intense puzzle-solving pleasure – and, just as important, tantalizing frustration. I’ve gotten far enough in to understand the complicated relationship between the characters, to read people’s minds, to (repeatedly) kill everyone, to confront "myself” and try to explain things and then resort to violence instead, and to end up in strange utopian worlds, but I don’t think I’ve solved it yet.

Maybe I’ll never think I’ve solved it yet, but everything I’ve read online suggests that you know when you do.  

If you finish Meanwhile and are in search of more Jason Shiga pleasure, Bookhunter and other books are available free at his site.

Maud Newton

Where Chicago’s Underground & Alternative Comic Artists Gather

Back in the middle of June, Origami attended CAKE and got the opportunity to talk to some of the greatest independent comic artists in the US, such as Jason Shiga and Joe Tallarico. We look forward to learning more about Chicago’s hidden gems and hopefully work with a wider scope of talented illustrators. CAKE Chicago has a tumblr which we follow and spotted another open call for Origami artists to participate in. Click here to read more!

Books: Meanwhile

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A strange messed-up blend of a comic, video game, mathematical equation, one of those “choose-your-own-adventure” books you used to read as a kid and some strange, alien, avant garde art-object that’s always one step ahead of what you think is going to happen next - or whatever: Meanwhile by Jason Shiga is anything but typical.