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Answering the Siren’s Call: A Peek Inside Nick Sousanis’s New Comic Book Nostos

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Nostos Excerpt By Nick Sousanis

For Eisner-winning comics author Nick Sousanis, comics are a way of thinking and exploring possibilities. Their multimodality allows us to see the world from entirely new perspectives and offers powerful tools for teaching and learning. Here, the creator of Unflattening shares sketches and drawings from his forthcoming work, Nostos, which looks back at what made us what we are—from the birth of the universe to conception and beyond.

Author - Editorial Staff

Date - 25 November 2023

Time to read - 2 min

Nick Sousanis Nostos Sketch

Where it all begins: a piece of paper is a magical place to think in ways you couldn’t otherwise. One of Sousanis’s spread layouts in process.

“We draw not to transcribe ideas from our heads but to generate them in search of greater understanding.”

from Unflattening by Nick Sousanis
Looking Outward Looking Inward Drawing Nick Sousanis Nostos

Looking outward and inward: a finished spread from Nostos, with parallel narratives and references to Supernova HB9, Copernicus’s heliocentric model, Halley’s comet, red and white blood cells, DNA, Primo Levi, milk, CO2, and more.

Looking Outward Looking Inward Nick Sousanis Nostos Sketch

One of the many sketches Sousanis made to think through the finished drawing above. All of his spreads play with reading flow in different ways. This reading path forms a circle, intended as two separate arcs that come apart and back together to bridge the top and bottom.

“Observing events in time and graphically noting them in a spatial sequence is a fundamentally human thing,” says Sousanis. “We read a page sequentially, left to right, top to bottom in the ways that we read text, but because comics are visual, we can't help but start to make connections across the page, start to see the lower right connect back to the upper left. We make connections in multiple directions and even within the words and the pictures.”

Nostos By Nick Sousanis

Sousanis thinks a comics page can dispense and accurately represent information and be aesthetically beautiful (or at least visually interesting). He says balancing those two aims is always at the top of his concerns in the work.

Nick Sousanis Nostos Chapter Sketch

“What a chapter looks like before it looks like anything to anyone but me,” says Sousanis about the sketch above. Once he figures out its structure, he can begin.

Nostos Excerpt By Nick Sousanis

The opening chapter to Nostos forms a 15-foot long, 22-page continuous sequence.

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Unflattening breaks new ground in the use of visual narrative for the expression of abstract ideas. Beautifully drawn and brilliantly conceived, it is an instant classic.”

—Forbes
Nick Sousanis Unflattening 9780674744431