Selected images of 'Nuclear Futures' Comic Zine
Three-colour risograph print, orange, aqua and teal on colour paper. Pencil line-art with digital colour.
This project involved the design and creation of a three colour risograph printed comic centring on themes of the climate crisis and long-term nuclear waste storage. This piece was my final outcome on the Illustration with Animation course at Manchester Metropolitan University, and won The Elephant Award 2022 and gold in the Creative Conscience Awards 2022.
Since 1981 scientists have been attempting to design warning systems that could mark underground nuclear waste repositories for up to 10,000 years: the time it will take for the toxic waste to break down. These warning systems must be decipherable for people who share no languages or symbols with modern humans. Therefore, many of the proposed warning systems involve pictograms and ‘hostile geography’: ominous man-made structures that cover the ground above the site.
My comic follows a human society discovering one of these warning systems 10,000 years in the future. In this future modern society was destroyed thousands of years ago by conflict and climate change, but humans have evolved to survive and thrive in the new desert landscape.
What really interested me about this project was the opportunity to portray a community that lives symbiotically and respectfully with nature, and without social issues such as racism, wealth hoarding, and gender inequality. The sci-fi genre has always been a vehicle to explore and recontextualize current social issues, so I wanted to use the flexibility of genre to its full advantage. In this future, humans have evolved to have no obvious difference between the sexes, and clothing is not gendered. I wanted to see what kind of impact this would have on how the viewer interprets the characters, as gender plays a huge role in all modern narratives whether you want it to or not, so it’s interesting to me to see what happens when you remove it all together.
The final product is a limited edition of handmade risograph printed comic zines: 24 pages printed on colour paper in teal, orange and aqua riso ink, 18.18 x 25.7cm. I chose risograph because it is a very environmentally friendly printing method, as it uses less electricity and does not create any harmful ozone or toner emissions. The retro aesthetic of riso that comes from the speckled texture and limited colours also helps visually link my comic to pulp sci-fi works from the 70’s and 80’s, cementing it within the genre.
I wanted to use this work to communicate a positive vision of a human society that is not destructive and unjust. As young people we live with a constant climate anxiety and are bombarded every day with information about the irreversible damage we are doing to the planet. In the midst of all this chaos and devastation, it becomes hard to even visualise an alternative way of living. I wanted to present a less destructive version of humanity to help create hope for change and show that other options are entirely possible. However, the central motif of the nuclear waste repository serves as a reminder of the dangers of sealing off our problems and leaving them for future generations to discover. This narrative is both a vision of hope and a cautionary tale.