By: Adam McGovern
July 21, 2020

Off-Topic brings you over-the-transom, on-tangent essays, dialogues and subjective scholarship on an occasional, impulsive basis.


A moment that stays still for us is the most elusive, for we move on. Disasters, doomsday climate, falling towers, are over in an instant and we carry that picture with us wherever the loss drives us away to, forever. Who will write the history, paint the portrait, of emptiness?

Some artists are sketching their first drafts. Jen Ferguson’s heraldic banners, classic arches and gothic entablatures, modern diagrammatic arcs and vintage prosceniums of unfurled birdwings are monuments in the making, an organizing principle for the playful chaos and meaningful memories that her whimsical shorthand records — indoor holidays, unscientific folly, medical heroism, exploding protest — preliminary frames for the images we’ll want to keep and look back on, if there’s a forward out of this.

For now we’re thinking inside our boxes, but these are presents to each other. Ellen Lindner’s panels make the static vibrant with the emotional currents that run beneath and through. Her recourse to the truisms of therapy her mom lives by but she’d never had much tolerance for suggests a kind of “precovery” from the ongoing sequester of our lives. Peter Rostovsky’s poetic, pre-faded images from a quieted life feel like advance memories, which suggests a future. Josh Neufeld’s oral history from his brother’s frontline fight for medical supplies takes us to the middle of a crisis that’s far from over, which at least keeps us mindful that nothing ever is.

Kristen Radtke’s sidelong compositions convey the segmentation of moments when mobility is marked off and awareness is concentrated; both a partitioning and an immersion, her story highlighted in a medical palette of blue and white that is both sterile and serene. That story is about the sundering of contact and a possible lifetime of looking through each other’s windows, or zoom screens, or comic panels, still feeling what we cannot touch.

And so we link our phantom limbs, exchanging sparks of life at the length of pens, paintbrushes, styluses, cameras and keyboards. PANDEMIX is a collection of COVID-themed messages in bubbles set out across the uncertain shores. This is how it begins.

Curated by Dean Haspiel and edited by Haspiel and Whitney Matheson,, PANDEMIX: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ’Rona, 56 pages, full-color, is available digitally July 21 at for $5. All proceeds go to The Hero Initiative, which aids comics creators in need.

Images excerpted above, from top: Owen Brozman; Jen Ferguson; Ellen Lindner; Kristen Radtke; Peter Rostovsky; Josh Nuefeld; Peter Rostovsky


MORE POSTS by ADAM McGOVERN: OFF-TOPIC (2019–2024 monthly) | textshow (2018 quarterly) | PANEL ZERO (comics-related Q&As, 2018 monthly) | THIS: (2016–2017 weekly) | PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HELL, a 5-part series about characters in McGovern’s and Paolo Leandri’s comic Nightworld | Two IDORU JONES comics by McGovern and Paolo Leandri | BOWIEOLOGY: Celebrating 50 years of Bowie | ODD ABSURDUM: How Felix invented the 21st century self | KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: FAWLTY TOWERS | KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: JACKIE McGEE | NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM: JOAN SEMMEL | SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRO and THE LEON SUITES | FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM: JULIA | FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: KIMBA THE WHITE LION | CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM: WASHINGTON BULLETS | KLAATU YOU: SILENT RUNNING | CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM: QUINTET | TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: HIGHWAY PATROL | #SQUADGOALS: KAMANDI’S FAMILY | QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: LUCKY NUMBER | CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM: JIREL OF JOIRY | KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Data 70 | HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM: “Freedom” | KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Captain Camelot | KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Full Fathom Five | A 5-part series on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos | Reviews of Annie Nocenti’s comics Katana, Catwoman, Klarion, and Green Arrow | The curated series FANCHILD | To see all of Adam’s posts, including HiLo Hero items on Lilli Carré, Judy Garland, Wally Wood, and others: CLICK HERE