Independent US publisher It’s Alive is now offering Justin Madson’s Breathers as digital editions, alongside the print format of this acclaimed series set in a post apocalyptic world where “normal” life continues despite disaster – a story reflecting our current world situation in so many ways.
Breathers follows a small cast of individuals as they struggle to make sense of the dystopian world they live in, as a virus is unleashed into the air, rendering it deadly to humans. Among them: a detective whose addiction to the drug known as “Filter K” takes over his life; a brother and sister who, due to recent events, start to wonder if the air really is deadly, or if it’s all just a conspiracy; a mother and daughter who will do anything to keep their family together; and a breather salesman who is looking to make amends for his past mistakes. They are all survivors of this virus-plagued world. They are all “breathers.”
Breathers is created, written and illustrated by Justin Madson, an artist and graphic novelist whose work also includes Carbon and Tin Man. Described variously as an “indie masterpiece”, “breezy in terms of time, though certainly not in tone” and “a commentary on our species’ way of letting things slide until they cannot be repaired”, the story was first as a series of mini comics in the 2000s, photocopied before collecting them in a 400-page volume Justin distributed on his own.
Eventually, the book came to the attention of some major names in the comic industry, including writer and artist Jeff Lemire, and Drew Ford at It’s Alive approached Madson about colourising the series and releasing it again to comic shops across the country.
“The gas mask idea just came from me doing some drawings one day, just sort of whatever came to mind. I really liked the visual and thought, ‘Yeah, I can use this. This could make for a cool story,’ Justin outlined to Chloe Clark in an interview on the Flyway web site in 2014.”My writer self then started to develop a story for these gas masks to exist in.
“I just tried to really think, rather matter-of-factly, what it would be like to live in a world where you had to wear gas masks all the time and I built a story around that. I really liked that the idea of needing gas masks to breathe affected everyone in this world, that everyone was equal, at least in that one aspect. Everyone needs to breathe.”