It’s incredible to think of a writer of Eisner and Harvey Award nominated works as someone who could be underrated, but if you could use that for anyone, I’d use it for Joshua Hale Fialkov. The guy has been putting out quality work for years, with his books “Tumor” and “Echoes” earning him a ton of praise in recent years. But with a high profile DCnU launch title in “I, Vampire” coming this week (see our review in an hour) as well as a new Image book in “Last of the Greats” coming in October, it’s clear that his star is one on the rise.
Today on Multiversity Comics Presents, we talk with Fialkov about working in comics, how he scored a gig on a DCnU book, what we can expect from it and “Greats,” what the future holds for him, and a whole lot more. Check it out after the jump, and thanks a ton to Josh for talking with us.
Joshua Hale Fialkov: There’s a freedom to writing comics that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. That does come with a price though… There’s fewer comics fans than those of just about any other medium, so, that freedom means less people see what you’re doing. But, finding a balance between the two worlds seems to be the key to it all.
Although you’ve been working in the industry for the past decade or so, you’ve really hit it big with Tumor, Echoes and a bunch of other titles arriving in 2010 and 2011. How has the process of breaking into the industry for you been, and what advice do you have for others looking to do the same?
JHF: It’s been a long ride, that’s for damn sure. Look, I’ve been doing what I do for long enough that people who were my fans when I was starting are now moving up the food chain and into positions to hire me. There’s also just the fact that I’ve gotten better. I don’t know that had I broken through five years ago, I’d’ve had the skill to do it properly.
That being said, the key to it all is to keep working and putting out books. The more you do, the better you get, and eventually people will notice.
You’re someone who has primarily worked in creator-owned comics, but are now breaking into the Big Two (specifically with DCnU launch book I, Vampire). For you as a writer, what are the biggest differences between working on a creator-owned book versus a Big Two book?
JHF: Well, look, on a book like ECHOES I can do epicly horrific things to my characters with very little fear of retribution from anyone but my readers. Working for the big two, you have to answer to them, and while there’s still a bit of freedom, especially on a book like I,Vampire, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let me kill Andrew Bennett.
How did the I, Vampire job come together for you? What attracted you to it as a project?
JHF: My work got into the hands of Bob Wayne who passed it around the office, landing in the hands of Assistant Editor Wil Moss, who’d actually been a fan back when he was a journalist. Then, when I,Vampire came up for them, I think they had the guy who wrote Vampirella who’s known as a horror writer, so why not? I sat down with Editor Matt Idelson at Emerald City Comic Con, and we just really hit it off. Similar personality, identical taste in comics, just an instant connection. That was pretty much all it took.
I, Vampire, at first, sort of stood out as a black sheep of the relaunch — it seemed hard to place where it could fit. Since, it’s been picking up buzz, and these days you see nothing but positivity heading towards it. How’s it feel to be getting that buzz, and how difficult was it for you to overcome the stigma of the oft-dreaded “V” word?Continued below
JHF: It’s great, and I think it’s got a lot to do with people reading my other work, which is even better. Y’know, I’ve been writing some extremely odd horror books for the better part of a decade, so, my fans tend to trust me, and I think for new readers, once they saw the art and heard me talking about the book, they saw that it’s not what they think it is.
Comics fans have a tendency to jump to the very worst conclusion almost all the time. We fear change and new things. It’s a pretty terrible trait that we as a group need to change.
How big of an influence was Twilight? Be honest.
JHF: I mean, look, I should be so lucky to write something as successful as Twilight that reaches that many people. But, no, that’s not really my bag, and my goal was to do a book that hit a lot of the good things about Twilight, while also hitting what I love about the vampire fiction genre.
Okay, real question: how important was JM Dematteis’ original work? Are Andrew and Mary pretty much the same Andrew and Mary, or are you going to be layering differences into your new story?
JHF: There’s some differences… The House of Mystery stuff isn’t technically in the DCU, and the timeline for my stories and those stories are a bit… hazy. But, all of that stuff happened, and there’s references and beats related to the original series that fans of it will notice, and hopefully, will intrigue new readers to seek out those amazing comics.
The first issue does a wonderful job of balancing the horror elements with the romance aspect between Andrew and Mary. As a writer, how difficult is it to achieve that balance?
JHF: For me, that’s what this book is about. How loving someone means loving what’s awful about them as well as what’s wonderful, and that, sometimes, you can’t even begin to turn it off. She appeals to the animal inside him in a very concrete way that I don’t think he can ever truly ignore or turn off. That’s what drives the characters, and therefore what drives the story for me.
The book does a phenomenal job of setting up the place of the vampires and dark creatures in the new DC universe — especially with Andrew’s line about Superman and the Green Lanterns. What kind of role do you see Andrew and Mary’s people playing in the world as a whole?
JHF: Hopefully, a big part. I’m working towards so pretty huge stuff, and I already have a couple of crossovers planned. The nice part about a lot of the DCnU is that a lot of us are buddies, and we’re all trying to build something bigger than our individual books together. Plus, issue 4 we’ve got John Constantine, and then a few other guest stars down the road.
Andrea Sorrentino is…in a word…a revelation. His art on the book is phenomenal and recalls Jae Lee. How has it been working with him, and how did that pairing happen?
JHF: That’s all Matt Idelson. Andrea’s name has come up to me through a bunch of different people over the years, and Matt realized that his time had come. Andrea is terrific. Works his balls off and makes some extremely beautiful pages. I love getting to watch him change and grow and become something new and different with each page. He’s really on his way.
How does it feel to be part of such a historic initiative as the DC relaunch?
JHF: It’s stressful as hell! But extremely exciting. I know that we have a bigger stage right now than comics in general have had in years, and I intend to dance like my life depends on it.Continued below
Your other big project right now is your soon to launch Image title Last of the Greats. What can readers expect from this title?
JHF: It’s a dark alternate history superhero book. Which sounds thrilling, right? It’s about these super beings that appeared on earth twenty years ago. They brought us peace and love and health and equality… and we murdered them for it. Now, we stand on the brink of the apocalypse, and there’s only one of the Greats left… we need his help, and he’s, frankly, not a fan of us. That’s where the story starts. It’s an absolute blast to write, and I’m thrilled to get it into people’s hands in a couple weeks.
What were the origins of this title, and how did you hook up with Image for it?
JHF: I had an editor tell me that I’ve never written superheroes. This isn’t true, cause I’ve done stuff for Top Cow and Marvel and DC (hell, I wrote Superman/Batman!) But, the perception of me is that I’m this horror noir guy over in the corner, and I think that it’s been a handicap to my career. The fact is most people reading comics read superheroes predominantly if not exclusively. So, fuck it, let’s get ’em where they live. Doing it at Image was a no brainer. There’s nowhere else in comics where you can do a book like Last of the Greats and truly succeed.
The first issue kicks off on Sept. 11, 2001 — obviously a significant date in history. Were you pretty nervous about featuring that date as part of this book?
JHF: Well, that’s sort of the point. In Watchmen, in order to show the big difference in the society you see Nixon is still president in the 80’s. Well, what’s the equivalent? What’s the one event that defined the decade we live in now? It’s not Watergate or any of our political scandals, it’s 9/11. Once you understand what 9/11 means to a fictional universe, I think then you can almost short hand the rest of history. We know exactly how different the world is within those three pages.
I have to say, this book, in a way that is similar to Irredeemable, feels like the bad is insurmountable for the side of good. Humanity, to put it bluntly, seems screwed. How far along do you have this planned, and when are we going to see a little from what Team Humanity has to offer?
JHF: We’re scripted through the first arc, and plotted through the first year. We get ourselves a legitimate hero in the first arc, but, that hero, like our villain, isn’t necessarily what they appear to be. I like the idea of always being off balance and having characters who exist in the gray of morality rather than the cut and dry of good or evil. But, yeah, it gets pretty fucking bleak pretty quickly.
Also like Irredeemable, the first issue does a brilliant job of establishing that the typical bad guy is sort of understandable (in a genocidal sort of way) and the typical good guys are a little less than honorable. How difficult is it to write a title in which there really isn’t anyone to root for as a reader, and what attracts you to that idea?
JHF: The idea, and who knows if it works or not, is that you sort of root for everyone, just at different times. I feel like Beaumont, who’s essentially our point of view character as the book continues, also serves, suspect though his actions are, as a more relatable hero that drags you through the story, just as he’s kicking and screaming and begging for something to keep him alive and going.
Your artist, Brent Peeples, is someone I’ve never come across before, but someone whose work is really solid in the book. How’d you bring him on, and how is he such a great fit for the book in your mind?Continued below
JHF: I met Brent at NYCC last year, and we took a shine to each other. He’s only been in comics a few years, and he’s growing with leaps and bounds… The pages of Issue 4 and 5 look like a totally different artist he’s grown so much. He’s a sweetheart, and I feel immensely bad for the horrible things I force him to draw on a regular basis.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of characters and creators as well as do your own work as well. But if you had the chance to get one book off the ground with your choice of collaborator(s), what would it be?
JHF: Y’know, I’m pretty much doing what I want to do right now. I’ve got a new book with my Tumor collaborator Noel Tuazon that’s being drawn right now, Rahsan Ekedal of Echoes and I talk regularly about what’s next… I’m working on a ton of stuff, and all of it is satisfying, dream come true type work.
What else do you have coming down the path?
JHF: That book with Noel is called DEEP VALLEY and it’s sort of Altman-esque ongoing crime series about the ass end of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. I’ve got a few more surprises coming from DC that should be announced come NYCC or shortly thereafter… And more of what I’m already doing. Best thing to do is to follow me on Twitter @joshfialkov or my blog http://www.thefialkov.com for what I’m up to.