George Wylesol’s new book Internet Crusader is made up solely of images from 1990s-style computer interfaces. The book is a visual and literary reinterpretation of what we see on our digital screens every day. “I was looking though some old sketchbooks I kept as a teenager, and came across a bunch of drawings I did of my computer screen back in the mid-2000s,” George says. “I remembered being bored in high school and just trying to copy exactly what was on my screen without editing or stylising it. I thought that was an interesting concept, so I decided to remake some of those drawings in 2017.” The book, which takes its name from a group of people who spend most of their time on the internet vigorously preaching their beliefs, imagines a post-apocalyptic world that is partially eliminated as a result of a software virus. By juxtaposing religious and demonic imagery with computer graphics, George fuses two seemingly oppositional ideas in order to stress the unprecedented power of the internet.
To begin with, George wrote out a script outlining what he wanted each page of Internet Crusader to look like. But it was only after signing a contract with Avery Hill Publishing that the Baltimore-based illustrator began officially designing the details of his graphic novel. “I drew everything and set all the type in Illustrator,” George tells It’s Nice That. “Without giving too much away, I deviated a lot from the original script as I worked on the book, and the story developed in a much more interesting direction than I had originally written. It became both a lot darker and a lot funnier than I had anticipated.” However, after some unsatisfactory test prints, he decided to redesign each of the 196 pages in the space of a week – a daunting but ultimately successful challenge.
“Finally, I printed all the pages out on my inkjet printer. I scanned each page into Photoshop and adjusted the contrast, which is how I got that fuzzy, desktop-printer-quality texture on each page. I was leaving for a trip to China and Japan, and had to finish the texture on like 50 pages overseas. I finished the confrontation with the Devil scene in the Newark airport, did a lot of the last chapter in a Beijing hotel lobby, and finally finished the very last page in a Kyoto 7/11.” Despite George’s unconventional workdays, his finished result is an evocative and imaginative story that reflects on anything from Christian webpages with pornographic adverts to God’s incessant emailing.
“After I did my last book, Ghosts Etc, I started working on a new one that was a more traditional graphic novel, with characters and a clear narrative story,” the illustrator says. “But I became really bored working it; drawing the same characters a million times was just so tedious and frustrating to me. I got about 40 pages into it before shelving it and moving on. I thought I maybe couldn’t do a graphic novel at all, since I realised I just really don’t like drawing people and characters."
Yet after continuing with the concept and “after experimenting a lot with the computer interface as a narrative device, I figured it’d be a great way to tell a story,” George continues. "Having that confine of just a screen was actually a pretty liberating way to develop the book. I realised that a graphic novel can be pretty much whatever you want it to be.” This alternative mode of story telling allows George literary freedom – developing unconventional narratives about popular subjects, as well as creative freedom – drawing a lot of characters and figures without repeating himself.
When asked how Internet Crusader builds on his expansive body of work, George says that the book is a collation of his key interests: “It takes a lot of imagery I like to work with – old technology, religious iconography, text and branding – and condenses it into one cohesive thing,” he says. “At first it seems a little disparate from my practice, especially if you look at my editorial work, but I’ve been working with this type of imagery really since I started drawing. Looking back, it seems like the most logical culmination of all my interests in illustration so far.”