New Book Day: The Beast

Over the past year, I’ve been collaborating with a Nicole Burton and Hugh Goldring from Ad Astra Comix, Patrick McCurdy from the University of Ottawa, David Haeselin from the UND Department of English and The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, and some remarkable contributors to produce an expanded, digital version of The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

The book has been available as a comic for the over a year (and you can buy it, in the U.S. from AK Press and in Canada from Ad Astra), but our expanded digital edition offers a good bit more content putting this remarkable comic in a wider context.

THE BEAST digital edition cover 1

Here’s the media release:

Ad Astra Comix Partners with the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota on an Expanded Digital Version of The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is thrilled to announce a collaboration with Ontario-based Ad Astra Comix to release a new expanded version of the provocative graphic novel, The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

The Beast takes a critical look at the media war over the tar/oil sands debate and the endless struggle for the public’s imagination. The original, paper version launched on Earth Day, April 22, 2018, and emerged from a collaboration between Patrick McCurdy, Associate Professor in Communication at the University of Ottawa, Ad Astra’s writer, Hugh Goldring, and illustrator, Nicole Burton. The project brought together McCurdy’s academic research on environmental communication with the genre of comics.

The Beast seeks to stoke a public debate on the incessant role of public relations campaigns on shaping the public perception of the tar/oil sands. These campaigns discourage thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the cost of tar/oil sans and, instead, for the public is forced to “pick sides”: the environment or the economy; protestors or industry; live with or without oil. The Beast cultivates a more ambiguous and ambivalent middle ground through what David Haeselin, UND English and contributor describes as, “A compelling investigation into the people behind the media messages that shape how we think about energy.”

It tells the story of two recent college graduates, Callum and Mary, who find themselves negotiating a muddy path between environmental activism and having to live and work in a world driven by the resource-extractive industry. “The Beast is a reminder that if we are going to save the planet, we need to be honest with each other, and ourselves,” said Goldring.

The Expanded Digital Edition includes the original published comic as well as four new critical essays by Patrick McCurdy, Kyle Conway, Tommy Wall and Chris Russill, and Benjamin Woo along with an interview with Hugh Goldring and Patrick McCurdy.

McCurdy says, “The academic edition brings together a collection of scholarly essays intended to further conversation and reflection about how energy resources and environmental resources are talked about and understood. While the comic focuses on Alberta’s oil sands, The Beast addresses issues which are equally relevant to the oil fields of Texas and California to the Bakken shale which sees how these energy sources and the future of these resources are framed in the media matter.”

“The Digital Press is excited to partner with Patrick McCurdy and Ad Astra Comix to publish this expanded version of The Beast. This book has already attracted international attention for taking on a difficult topic and expanding the debate beyond academia and specialized media”, said publisher, Bill Caraher. “The free, expanded, open-access version of the The Beast puts the project in a critical context and opens this work to new audiences, including in North Dakota, who struggle with tensions around ‘making a living on a dying planet.’”

The newly released The Beast is available for free as a download at

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota serves “to publish timely works in the digital humanities, broadly conceived. Whenever possible, we produce open access, digital publications, that can attract local and global audiences”.

For further insight, read the LA Review of Books August review of The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet.

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