Writer: James F. Wright / Artist: Josh Eckert / Independent
What if it was illegal to touch another person?
We live in a world that still grapples with universal acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities, so it isn’t too hard to imagine a future where those reservations are taken a few steps further.
If you couldn’t hug your mom, or breastfeed your baby… If you couldn’t kiss your boyfriend or help an old lady across the street… What kind of world would this be?
Contact High, an Eisner nominated Digital Comic, answers that question while making your eyes puffy.
To be more specific, the story is set in a not so distant looking future where human touch is outlawed like a drug, and regarded as a disease. Those who seek it out are imprisoned, and the inmates are subjected to therapy-like sessions that manipulate them into accepting things as they are. We follow Ziggurat on his first day in jail, as he grapples with whether he will continue to live this bleak existence or fight for something that should be a basic human right. Because of the nature of the story, there’s no way you can’t relate to Ziggurat. He has motivations that I think we would all have if we were in his place.
I’m telling you, you’re gonna need a tissue box.
I first picked up Contact High from Co-Creator James Wright at Emerald City Comic Con. At conventions, I try to buy as much self-published creator-owned material as I can before my bank account starts to look at me sideways. Luckily, this was one of the first things I bought that weekend. The book initially caught my attention because it reads in a landscape format and I’d never seen that before in this medium. I was amazed by how out of the box it seemed while remaining so simple. And that was before I knew anything about the story.
I love comics, however, the more you read, the easier it is to get lost in the sauce. You can forget what a good story feels like. But every so often you come across a comic like Contact High that knocks the wind out of you and reminds you that a good story leaves you inspired.
Wright & Eckert do that by simply posing a question. At its worst, sci-fi provides us with an escape from reality, but good sci-fi answers questions about our future in hopes of informing our present.
The landscape format allows so much more to be explored on each page. The layout provides an extra layer of engagement for me. There are some panel layouts that I can truthfully say I have never seen before. They’re so creatively placed that they really dictate how you interact with the page. There are also a couple of really well-placed panel breaks that will make you laugh out loud.
And the art?! Even though you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover that’s almost what exclusively happens in comics. You don’t have anything to worry about with Contact High. In fact, the art fits really well with the theme and tone of the story. The colors are cold, which convey the loneliness of this world. And Eckert does a good job of making the patients/prisoners feel so different from everyone else. He does this best with body language. Most characters are wearing what is called a “Skinsuit”, so from afar, they all look the same. The only way to make them all look and feel unique is their body language. There’s also some bare-naked skin at some point, so you know, that could make someone stand out a lot as well.
Contact High provided me with one of the most genuinely pure comic book experiences that I’ve had in a really long time. It’s heartbreaking, touching, and most of all, inspirational.
If you want a story that will completely wreck you in under 10 minutes, this is the comic for you.
10 Skinsane patients out of 10
You can purchase a digital copy direct from the creators at Gumroad. Age recommended: 18+ for non-sexual nudity.
50% of sales go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and 50% of sales go to Lambda Legal.
Contact High has garnered a nomination in the 2018 Eisner Awards, the first ever for either creator. The deadline for Eisner Awards voting is June 15th and is open to all comics professionals in most capacities. So if you are eligible to vote, consider the creative team of Wright and Eckert for their efforts with this project.
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