Graphic novel about hacker activists shifting social app control to it’s top influencers eerily predicted social media’s toxic voyeurism and “evokes a shabby world of compromised morals,” says the FT
LONDON—February 11, 2021—Contraband, the breakout tech sci-fi graphic novel which forecasted today’s malignant world of social media mayhem, is being published by top UK indie label Markosia this spring.
Written by TJ Behe and illustrated by Phil Elliott, Contraband is an intense, dark foreshadowing of today’s tech-driven paranoia and online political chaos. When a hacker shifts real-time ownership of a wildly popular social app to each creator of its top-viewed video, rampant violence, misinformation and privacy invasion ensues – as people everywhere chase the money, fame and power of being ranked #1.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Thomas, Phil and their wonderful book into our growing family,” says Markosia publisher Harry Markos. “We’re looking forward to working closely with them to ensure Contraband is read once more in all its glory!”
The story centres on a self-styled citizen journalist forced to hunt down an activist sabotaging a ruthless entrepreneur’s dark web social app, Contraband. His search leads him into a voyeur underground where profit-hungry youths prowl city streets secretly inciting, staging and filming violent events to satisfy society’s accelerating demand for sensational content.
Published by Slave Labor Graphics in 2007, Contraband was one of the first social media-centric tech thrillers – and it has been praised by both mainstream and independent reviewers. The Financial Times says “Behe’s dialogue brings a hip, hyper-real energy to his plot, while Elliot’s deceptively plain artwork evokes a shabby world of compromised morals.” Entertainment Weekly notes “Behe’s critique of the public’s willingness to watch all manner of depravity is a righteous, if not an original, one.” Broken Frontiers believes Contraband is “as visionary as the technology Behe writes about.”
Contraband’s chilling collection of ideas in this earlier era may have seemed outrageous – but are now rampant in 2021. Dark web communication apps secretly serving criminals banned from Twitter, Facebook and other big name social apps. Rampant “happy slapping” with credibility-hungry kids filming violent, exploitive acts. Professional citizen journalists empowered with mobiles chasing down video stories to gain their own online fame.
“We had lots of fun dreaming up twisted outcomes for Contraband characters 15 years ago – but it turns out we also anticipated some of the more unfortunate social media trends,” says Behe. “There seems to be plenty of meaningful public dialogue around issues in the book, things like fake news, government spying, data privacy theft, video violence and techno-manipulation by big corporations.“
And whilst readers get the added intrigue of identifying social privacy predictions that have come true, they’ll find Contraband a thrilling, engaging visual tale – as mentioned by Wired: “The sci-fi thriller unfolds amidst vengeful relationships, insatiable desire, public outrage and mobiles that pack 1,000-volt electric nodes, pepper spray capability – Steve Jobs take note!”