Joshua Hale Fialkov currently doesn’t have a second to breathe. The busy creator just finished up his Top Cow series Echoes, to great critical acclaim, is launching an Image series in October called Last of the Greats, and if that wasn’t enough, is helming one of DC’s New 52 titles, a relaunch of the romance/horror comic I, Vampire. Oh, and he took some time to chat with us, too, so that’s pretty nice:
MTV Geek: Okay, Josh… Let’s talk about Echoes. That book seems to have done pretty well for you, huh?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well, the reaction has been amazing. We're in the triple digits as far as positive reviews go, and, our first issue sold out. That being said, getting people on board an independent comic is a Sisyphean task. Our industry is just not set up for risky books. And nobody's to blame for that, really. Well, except for, maybe, all of us.
Geek: For people who haven’t picked up the book yet, what’s the pitchline?
JHF: ECHOES is about a guy named Brian Cohn who suffers from schizophrenia who finds out from his schizophrenic father, on his deathbed, that he was a prolific serial killer. This of course completely unhinges Brian who's schizophrenia spirals out of control, and is made even worse when his father's murders start up again. It's a psychological thriller with some pretty grizzly horror thrown in for good measure.
Geek: One thing I thought was particularly cool about it was the repetitive (in a good way) structure, where each issue essentially started the same exact way. Can you talk about that a bit?
JHF: I'm a big believer in easing a reader into the rhythm of your story. Part of how you do that is visual echoes (pardon the, er, pun) of what's come before. So that regular tap tap tap freee-ow of the first three pages helps to really accomplish that, I think. I'm all about using technique in addition to plot and character to help capture a reader's attention.
Geek: There’s more than one application of “echoes” in this book…
JHF: Sure, we've got the visual echoes as mentioned, we've got the echoes from Father to Son, and, we've even got the- Oops, that's a spoiler.
Geek: It also was very much a slow burn, I think… Were you concerned about that at all, as new comics often have a hard time getting a grip in the marketplace? Also, feel free to say, “What! It was a fast burn! You’re crazy!”
JHF: Well, I think that the payoff at the end of the issue is enough of a fast burn that you come back for more. And, I've seen our numbers, I know that we didn't lose readers from issue to issue, so, that's a good thing. The trick, of course, is balancing the tone and feel of the book with the 'shape' necessary to sell the thing to readers, meaning page 1 - 5 need to have your concept and hook and page 20 has to be batshit insane to keep their attention for next time.
Geek: You’re releasing the series as a trade now. Given that it was structured for the single issue, how do you think it reads in trade?
JHF: Well, the Hardcover collection is ultra plush. Anyone familiar with my last book TUMOR will see that it's the same dude behind both. It's beautiful presentation with a ton of extras, and well worth the twenty bucks it costs.
Geek: I understand there was a little bit of a snafu in getting the book out there. So Josh, how can I get your book, huh????
JHF: There were some issues for retailers, but we got it all ironed out, so, if you go to your local comic shop, they can place orders using order code #APR110423. It's $20
Geek: And I believe you have a few Harvey nominations. Continuing to tee these up for you, how would one go to vote for the Harveys? And what’s your feeling on the nominations and your competitors?
JHF: Aw, shucks. It's great to be nominated, and even more of an honor because of the other amazing folk we're nominated alongside of. People can vote up until the first week of August over at http://harveyawards.org/
Geek: Let’s move on to talk about Last of the Greats, from Image. What’s the general idea of this book?
JHF: We stand on the brink of the apocalypse, and the only chance we have for survival rests on one man, a demi-god who's family of other, more kind and loving demi-gods were murdered by us. So, y'know, he REALLY hates us. We only have one thing to bargain with, and it's the earth itself.
Geek: On the surface, it looks like another “Superman gone bad!” book, but was that the inspiration? Or something else?
JHF: Well, for me, I was looking at books like Mark Waid's Irredeemable, Alan Moore's Supreme, and Mark Millar's work, and felt like I actually had something valid to say in the genre. This is very much my own book, and more in line with my other work than it would appear at first glance. The book is about perspective, how, from his point of view, The Last is not only justified, but, actually, being a right guy. I mean, we murdered his family, and he's still going to bail our asses out, y'know? I really wanted to explore the consequences of man's inhumanity and lack of empathy up against a figure who's very soul stinks of selfishness and malevolence.
Geek: What can you tell us about The Greats?
JHF: The Last's now dead family were each ten foot tall Adonises, each one grown from the Earth, influenced by the continent that grew them. They're the personification of all that's good and right in the world. They came and brought us peace and joy and happiness, and we shit all over them.
Geek: And humanity in this book… We only get to see a few people in the preview issue, I’d imagine things will open up from there?
JHF: The first arc sees things very much through the prism of the Last himself. We have him and the people immediately around him pretty much driving the story as mankind tosses and turns in its new status quo. But, in the arcs going forward that we have planned, we get to see things from the man in the streets point of view, especially as mankind realizes that nobody is coming to bail them out of their shitty decisions.
Geek: From reading the preview, there’s clearly a lot of back-story going on here… There’s a lot covered in the first issue, but I’d imagine you have a lot more to go?
JHF: Oh yeah, there's a lot that's not told that's going to get parceled out as we go. I sat down early on with our editor, Rob Levin, and went over the full twenty-year history of the Greats time on Earth as well as where they came from and what they are. The hope, of course, is that we build enough of an audience that we get to tell all that.
Geek: Talk about Brent Peeples art in the book… What does he bring to the table?
JHF: He's an amazing talent, with a level of commitment you just don't see a lot of. He works his ass off and is just getting better and better with every page. On top of that, he's got to be one of the kindest, sweetest guys I've ever worked with. He's going to be HUGE, and I'm just glad that I get to work with him before he's too fancy to work with me anymore.
Geek: Another project you’re working on is DC’s New 52 book, “I, Vampire” – how’d you get hooked up with one of the first 52 new DC books?
JHF: They came to me on their own. I'd met Bob Wayne and talked to him a bit about my work and where I came from in the indie side, and he introduce my work to the powers that be over there. So, it was incredibly flattering to be given both the opportunity to relaunch a property that I actually really enjoyed as a kid, plus I'm working in a group with some of my favorite people in comics like Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, and Paul Cornell.
Geek: For those not familiar with I Vampire, what’s the big idea, guy?
JHF: I, Vampire is about Andrew Bennett and his lover, Mary. Andrew was turned into a vampire in the late 1500's or so, and found himself invigorated by the transformation, so, when he came home and found Mary there, he realized it was a way for them to be together forever... Except, the change made Mary go absolutely crazy. She became the Queen of Blood, the de facto leader of the world's vampires. Well, flash forward to a few years ago, when it becomes clear that Vampires are an endangered species. Andrew managed to convince Mary to make the vampires go into hiding. They stop feeding so that they stop being hunted. But, for years now, they've been living like second class citizens, and Mary can't take anymore. Our book starts with Mary telling Andrew that she's done getting pushed around, and it's time for the vampires to inherit the earth.
Geek: There was a 24-part series back in the day… How much are you pulling from that, and how much is you going totally original?
JHF: Their characters are the same as in those stories. I made a point to keep as much of that in continuity as possible. But, we're telling a whole new story that doesn't really reflect backwards much. This is present and forward thinking fiction. So, yeah, if you want to find connective tissues, it's definitely there, but, it's not going to get in the way of a new reader enjoying it.
Geek: It’s a horror romance book… So how much is romance, and how much is horror? Split down the middle?
JHF: It really is split down the middle. I've done so much hard horror in my life that I wanted to do something that was different. I feel like there's a compelling love story about how we change as people and yet our loves are always there. When you break up with someone, it's not so much that you fall out of love, it's that they stop being the person you thought they were. That's what this is. Now imagine having to deal with that person for five hundred years and to never be able to say 'no' because you have to protect humanity from extermination.
Geek: There’s still a big question mark about how much inter-book continuity there will be in the New 52… Is I Vampire set firmly in the DC Universe? Will Superman fly by every once in a while?
JHF: Oh yeah, firmly in the DCU, and you will see major DC characters in the book. But, I want to do it in a way that both bridges new readers from superhero books in to my corner of the DCU, AND hopefully bridges our more indie minded horror readers into the DCU. I look at it as an even exchange situation. And, y'know, being buddies with the writers and editors of the Batman and Superman books helps, too.
Geek: I know you’re probably a liiiiiitle biased, but there’s been a fair amount of controversy on DC’s initiative. What’s your take on it?
JHF: I think it was time. I mean, clearly Marvel sees that too with their Season One initiative. Our industry is in pretty dire shape considering how popular our main characters are in the rest of the world. If we don't take drastic action to bring in new readers, there won't be a comic industry for me to work in. I have a mortgage payment now, so, y'know, that's key.
But, seriously, DC's aspiration with all of this, at least to my knowledge, is to keep everything that works and make it more accessible. As far as the stuff that's new or a reinvention, it's being handled by people who genuinely love the material and want to do the most awesome job imaginable.
Geek: Additionally, there’s been a lot of talk about gender, and other diversity in the New 52 books. Given that you have a romance comic, I’d imagine there is focus on female characters?
JHF: Oh yeah, Andrew and Mary are co-leads, and then we have more female characters as the series goes on. We also have Jenny Frisson painting our covers. She's amazing (and a she in case that's not clear.)
Geek: Any thoughts on the whole diversi-controversy in general?
JHF: I think it's being blown out of proportion. There's amazingly talented women in comics, unfortunately, they just aren't working for DC right now.
Geek: Before we let you go, any update on Helltown, your project with… Well, I forget which publisher. I'm sure it was someone good.
JHF: Sigh. It's taking forever because of the research on my end. I'm striving to write a massive, historically accurate, noir-western epic, which, it turns out is harder than you'd expect. I've got about 50% of the script written, and the artist, Steve Bryant should be starting on pages very, very soon.
Geek: For those who don’t know, that publisher is MTV Comics, by the way. SO GET TO WORK. Last but not least, anything else coming up for you?
JHF: Wait, all of this isn't enough? I'm also going to be relaunching PUNKS with Kody Chamberlain right here on MTV Comics That should be very, very soon. More updates and news from me on twitter @joshfialkov or on my blog at http://www.thefialkov.com