John Campbell has been softly crackin’ a kind of mopey wise about the futility of futility at Pictures For Sad Children since 2007, and I have enjoyed it. Campbell really found his voice over the past six years, and the simplicity of a few line variances from panel to panel can readily communicate a panel message.

Like mythological Eskimos and words for snow, John Campbell has over thirty different ways to communicate a sigh.

Recently, Campbell has put together a somewhat “out of scope” offering called DMT, sixteen individual stories about sixteen individual trips he has taken using the drug of the same name. It is a strictly PDF offering costing $10 $3+ USD, available at a site other than his main one.

Fans of Campbell will note the same core ‘minimalist’ art style, combining uniform stick figures, thick, hand drawn lines and lettering. The 9-panel layout is elegantly used here, allowing the story to unfold at an unhurried pace; these stories are not a rush job. Color is judiciously used to differentiate both state of mind and potency of object, which does a great job of guiding the reader through a psychedelic experience. At its best, these stories come through very strong, most notably the ‘PATTERNS‘ page; I heard every sound being drawn.

oh. OH.

The trouble for the reader occurs here when the stories aren’t happening. Information about the drug itself (origin, usage history, legalization status) is lumped in at the beginning, in the same drawn and lettered format, which robs the first three non-title pages of the energy they built.

More jarring to the flow of the stories are the purely typed info pages that entirely break the reader out of the flow; one has the sneaking suspicion that one is reading a Powerpoint slide; fine for an afterword, but distracting within the narrative proper. Finally, the transition pages between each trip story could stand more clarification; a simple “trip 01” style numeration would tell the reader that this is a break, the subject is changing, more story will not be found by staring at this page for another minute.

This is clearly an experimental work for Campbell, in a number of ways. He had amazing times with drugs and friends and, at one point, his rabbit, and wants to turn see if he can turn his elastic perception into tales. Sometimes he hits those notes with an amazing depth and sensitivity (“i feel like a musical instrument that has been forced to believe it is a person”), but though the stories themselves are not rushed, the layout and design of the overall book feel like they might be.

Finally: given the $15 USD price point of his collected Pictures For Sad Children, which is a physical book, plus the (often) hit and (just enough, sadly) miss presentation of this work, I have to say the $10 USD price is a stretch. As it stands, I would be comfortable with $3; with more work, $5.

Overall, DMT is good. With a little work, it could be great.

Update: John has recently changed his billing for DMT; you can now pay as little as $3 for it, and more if you like. Thanks, John.

About The Author

is a Storyteller character sheet in a d20 world. He loosens his bowels across the literary landscape and complains bitterly when the landing doesn't favor punctuation. His head hurts very much right now and is unable to come up with a hundred words about himself because of this.

Cory has been writing on and off for DTC since 2008 as time permits. He has enjoyed genre fiction ranging from old 50s comics dug up from a grandmother's attic to modern, world-spanning tales of Moral Significance. Resident "Marvel Guy" and Bendis Apologist.

Turn-on's: walks to Oakland Chinatown, old radio shows, adherence to and respect for internal story logic.
Turn-off's: this headache, over-strong tea, blatant disregard for internal story logic

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