What is it?

NOW is the beam of a flashlight
straying around a deserted file
making dustgrains to dance for a while
and to fall back into eternal night,
a smothering sea of tar.

Who holds the light, what is his task?
Must he reveal our malformed shape
and the awaiting darkness with no escape?
Forget and die, it doesn't pay to ask
for dustgrains we are.

(Unknown 23th century poet)

The sixth Seal is a professional quality black-and-white graphic novel (or a comic book, whichever you prefer), intended for mature audience. It can be seen as a science fiction story but you don't find the usual gadgetry, or it can be read as a horror story without the cheap supernatural prop. There is a mix of psychology, philosophy, myths and religion but the result is something quite different. It would be perhaps easier to tell what it is not: it is NOT death rays, testosterone heroes, mad scientists, oversimplified solutions or other standard comics stuff. To get a better idea you have to read it by yourself.

The characters
Daphne is the central character in the story. She is deliberate and sarcastic, and may appear quite haughty to outsiders, especially when her behaviour is occassionally unusual and unpredictable. She has a strong sense of duty and aggressively defends her point. But if the chances for an effort to succeed are small, she is likely to give up altogether, not even trying. In the situations that she will encounter during the story one could sense sympathy towards her unless she was herself the first to reject any such offers of personal involvement. That does not, however, prevent her from maintaining an ambivalent attitude between self-pity and irony at her own expense.

Thalia is less eccentric than her reference mate, and more easy-going and social, although her exceptional intellect may cause some friction. She is very much a person living in the present, taking the life as it is with a sense of awe. In the story she is dead, or at least Daphne thinks that she's dead. Or perhaps she really is dead in the dream universe of Daphne. Anyway, this fact does not anyhow prevent Thalia from taking part in the story. Life is wonderful and death seems to be even more so. If somebody really tries to find feminine vs. masculine antithesis in the story (which really is not a major point) then Thalia could be seen as a model of "perfect woman". In fact, she is so perfect and self-satisfied that most men would probably find it uneasy if not outright frightening to interact with her.

The artificial creature who takes a form of psychiatrist in the story is the nihilistic antithesis of Thalia. Armed with ice-black reasoning he does the job he is created for but denies the benefits. Daphne has to choose whether she listens to him or Thalia. Although an artificial intelligence has no natural gender, the one in the story is clearly inclined towards masculine role. Makes me ask, if and when people create artificial minds, will they share the same defects we already have, and indeed, should they?

Q & A corner

No, I do not have the faintest idea of when this book is ready. If I manage to draw one page in a couple of weeks, and the total page count is something near one hundred, you can make a rough estimate. I am doing this as a hobby, and in any circumstances I cannot allocate more than a couple of hours per day for drawing (lately it has been more like a couple of hours per week even if I use all my free time for this project).

- Why is the main character a woman? Is this some feminist crap?
Well, this is not an average sci-fi plot, with lots of spaceships, death rays and mad scientists, so if you were looking for that, too bad. This is a story about human relations and the pain of loss seen by the eyes of two very close friends. Some people might consider that feminine. But first of all, fascinating young women are...fascinating.

- Hey man, are these gals lesbian?
Frankly, I don't know. I'll let Daphne answer: "It's none of your fuckin' business, bozo!" Uh, well, Thalia? "Daphne is right, even if she presents her case in a less constructive way. First, our age recognizes the wide variety of human sexual behaviour and individual's rights to express him/herself. People also make distinction between different kinds of physical and emotional contacts, where the questioner seems to have very mechanistic understanding of the subject. Thus it is at least as indiscreet a question as any other concerning some bodily function. Second, the reference group is much stronger a tie than the ancient monogamic relation based on sexual attraction. Sexual matters are a secondary question only. Therefore the above question can also be seen as an insinuation of behaving by the animal instincts instead of intellectual ones and as such is indeed an insult." Ok, that was a good example of how to answer a question without answering it. Let's hope that everybody got the point.

- What do the hieroglyphs in that skulls picture stand for?
The transcriptions for the text in the arm and thigh are: Htp di n kkw mwt tAfn mAa.t mr anx D.t, and sxA/s nb.t nHH sn.t/s, respectively. They can approximately be translated as: an offering for the darkness of death: Daphne, beloved of Truth, may she live forever, and may the Lady of Eternity remember her sister. I am, of course, not very fluent in ancient Egyptian, so if you have a better translation, just drop me a note.

Teemu Mäkinen (