Melek Zertal’s latest publication looks at the “in between scenes” of an X-Files investigation

Sleepless follows Dana Scully through the more mundane parts of the day that you wouldn’t normally see.

12 March 2020


The X-Files may have last aired in 2002, but if you are one of those people that is still avidly watching reruns online, then we’ve got just the thing for you.

Algerian illustrator Melek Zertal has devised a new adventure for Dana Scully in her latest book Sleepless. “We follow FBI special agent Dana Scully, from famous 90s TV show The X-Files, through a new investigation: The sun hasn’t set down for two days in a small Massachusetts town, and she’s sent over to figure out why,” she tells It’s Nice That. “We follow the in between scenes of an investigation, the ones where there is no action; the meals at the local diner, crashing at the motel after an unproductive workday, gazing into the sun, the infinite work calls.”

Approaching a subject that is adored by vast amounts of fans is never an easy task, but Melek’s focus is evidently different to a normal episode of The X-Files. Rather than centring on the story and traditional plot, you see Dana Scully in the moments never normally seen on screen. Instead of the show’s normal fast pace, the illustrations evoke calm and relaxation.

The subject is one close to Melek’s heart, and something she has long had an interest in (even writing part of her MA thesis on the evolution of Dana Scully’s character). “I’ve always had a fascination with The X-Files and her in particular. Growing up, it was my mum’s favourite TV show, and it was airing every Saturday night, after my bedtime,” she says. “Years later, I got to discover it on my own and I now share this passion with my mum, a scientist herself.”


Melek Zertal: Sleepless

The story follows the plot of a momentous episode (season seven, episode 17), that was the first directed by Gillian Anderson – Melek goes on to mention that it is the first episode directed by a female after 155 by men! The interesting thing about this episode is a change of pace, accompanied by Fox Mulder being out of the picture, both of which are reflected in the book. “It’s much slower than the rest of the series, and is focused on Scully’s own beliefs and how they shift – from a highly scientific scepticism to an opening to other perspectives, spiritual and sensible,” says Melek, who splits her time between Oakland and France. “She also shifts from her usual role of one-dimensional self-sacrificing mother to a more sensitive, spiritually embodied person.”

The relaxed and pensive tone of this latest piece of work reflects Melek’s overall style, much of which is influenced by popular internet culture. “It’s soft colours, melancholy, beautiful girls, sadness – I feel like this should be answered by other people though, not me,” she explains. “A patchwork or curation too, because most of my work is foraging through the internet or social media to find references and things to reproduce and putting them together.”

Melek graduated in 2017 from Haute Ecole des Arts du Rhin in Strasbourg, and has wasted no time in amassing a body of published work. This notably includes Fragile, published in 2018, which she plans on building on alongside some other larger projects. “The sequel for Fragile should be out for Los Angeles Art Book Fair with Colorama in early April 2020. Also another zine is coming out for NYABF in September, and a real 150-page book is due for release with a French publisher in September,” she says. “2020 is a big year for me publication wise!”

GalleryMelek Zertal: Sleepless

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Melek Zertal: Sleepless

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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