Joshua Fialkov: Echoes and Beyond

A comics interview article by: Steve Wilcox

To anyone who knows me, it should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of Joshua Fialkov. Not just his writing, which is outstanding, but also of him as a person. Over the short time I have known him, he has always been very generous with his time and advice. These days, if you haven't seen his name in the credits of some of your favorite books, then you're probably reading the wrong books. His comic Elks Run with Noel Tuazon got him the attention of comic book critics, and his follow-up project Tumor, also with Noel, was the highest selling graphic novel for the Kindle app. Lately, his name has been appearing more and more in books by the bigger publishers.

Last December saw the release of the first issue of
Echoes, a five issue psychological horror book, published by Top Cow. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and a deluxe hardcover of the series was just released. I had a chance to ask Josh a few questions about Echoes and some of his other work, including last week's DC New 52 book I, Vampire and The Last of the Greats, coming this Wednesday from Image.

Wilcox: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us here at ComicsBulletin. As you know, I've been a fan of yours for a while now, and it seems like more and more people are becoming Fialkov-Fans. Let's talk about the just released Echoes hardcover. Can you give us a quick sales pitch on what it's about and why we should buy it, for those unfamiliar?

Fialkov: Echoes is the story of a man whose father confesses on his deathbed to being a prolific serial killer. Well, when the murders start up again after he dies, the son becomes convinced that he is following in his father's footsteps. It's a helluva lot of fun for something so bleak, and that's probably my favorite thing about it. We've gotten positive reviews in the triple digits, it was nominated for a bunch of Harvey Awards, and, while we lost them all, winner Scott Snyder called it his favorite book of the year. He's a friend, so I suppose that's cheating a bit, but, still.

Wilcox: The story has a strong sense of family throughout, primarily with the relationship of Brian and his dad. Even with Brian's father dying pretty early on in the first chapter, his presence is still felt all the way until the final page. I've seen you mention your dad before, is any of the relationship between Brian and his father autobiographical? Not that I think either of you have schizophrenic tendencies.

Fialkov: Well, we did use to go on killing sprees... Nah, y'know, it had more to do with my kid and me then it did with my dad and me. Although, y'know, part of getting older, obviously, is starting to realize the things that your parents did for you and how it affected your life path, and how the things that used to irritate you about your parents start to become things you do. I've got horrible outdoor allergies, for example, and so I'm constantly coughing and clearing my throat, just like my dad does. I've got a tendency to drift into my own world and shut out the outside world, just like my dad does. All those things are there, and, at the same time as wanting to pass on all the good, I also want to be sure to not pass on the bad. That's a lot of pressure, and Echoes was my way of dealing with that.

Wilcox: You've worked with the artist Rahsan Ekedal on a few different projects (Cleaners for Dark Horse and an issue of The Crazies for Top Cow). Was this project one that you conceived with him and his style in mind or was it something that you had pretty much complete before his involvement?

Fialkov: This was always for Rahsan. There was a bit of time early on when I didn't know if we could find him the money and time to do it that I talked to a few other people, but, in reality, I know the book wouldn't have been something else entirely with a different artist. Rah and I understand each other in a really special way, and our communication creatively is just perfect. It's a wonderful relationship.

Wilcox: The storytelling technique you used was similar to another book of yours, Tumor, where the timeline keeps jumping back-and-forth. In both cases, this helped the reader identify more with each book's protagonist. What gave you the idea to use that technique with Brian in this story?

Fialkov: I think comics at their core are about Point of View. The reason we feel a close connection to these characters, no matter how far removed they are from our own lives, is the medium itself. I mean, we feel sympathy and empathy for Batman, and he's a billionaire sociopath who endangers kids! But, so, as Scott McCloud talks about, so much of comics is the gutters, the space between the panels, that the reader becomes a key member of the creative team of the book, and their experiences color the story in a unique way. To me, that just begs for subjective storytelling.

Wilcox: You've teased that Brian's story wasn't over. Can you give us any hints as to where we might catch up to him the next time we see him?

Fialkov: Well, I'd say Brian's story is pretty close to over, but he's got a wife and a kid out there who knows. That's where I'd go if we got to do more. I love sequels that diverge from format. Or, like the Japanese Ring films where they're cyclical. Something that's just not a sequel because people want sequels, y'know?

Wilcox: From reading your Twitter posts and your Facebook updates, I know you're a huge fan of Doctor Who. What was it like working on a licensed character like that?

Fialkov: It was amazing. Y'know, so much of comics is licensed characters, right down to Superman and Batman. They're characters we love that we don't own, so, I look at a TV tie-in the same way I do those characters. These are my chances to say whatever I have to say about characters who've played a huge part in my development and growth. It's an honor to get to do that, and to hopefully build up new fans around the world for these brilliant pieces of fiction.

Wilcox: The story itself, without giving anything away to those who haven't read it yet, is a lot of fun and visual. I had never heard of Blair Shedd before. How did you two come to collaborate?

Fialkov: Blair's terrific isn't he? Blair and I were put together by Denton Tipton at IDW, and we really hit it off. Blair's a problem solver as an artist, and I was a bit more experimental with this script than I usually am and really gave him enough rope to either hang himself or do a helluva a rodeo. Blair really slayed on it.

To be honest, one of my favorite things about the story is that it is light. I've been so far down in the muck and mire with my writing the past few years, that when I do get a chance to do something that's just plain fun, I jump at it.

Wilcox: Are there any plans for you to write more Doctor Who stories?

Fialkov: Denton and I have talked, and I'd like to think there's much more on the horizon.

Wilcox: The DCnU relaunch is getting a lot of press and I know I, for one, was ecstatic to see your name listed as creators involved - and then surprised to read it was on I, Vampire. What can you tell us about the new series and why it deserved to be one of the 52 new books?

Fialkov: I,Vampire is a dark, dark book. It's about the vampires of the DCU deciding they're done acting like dogs and want to take their fair share of the pie. It's told through the POV of Andrew Bennett, who's a five-hundred-year-old vamp, and the first vampire he sired, Mary Seward who became the Queen of Blood, essentially the leader of the vampires. Andrew is not evil, not driven by the hunger, and is tormented by his decision to turn Mary. The book starts with the final nail in the coffin of their relationship. It's a love story told through the prism of a hard horror story, so it's got that great Gothic feel to it. I think probably the reason it's a part of the 52 is that it's so different from everything else and yet is a key part of the DCU and what it's about.

DC comics were always this wide range of genres, from the Western stuff to the House of Mystery horror stuff, plus, all of the Romance and Action comics and on and on. I,Vampire is a step in that direction, showing that DC isn't just superheroes.

Wilcox: Finally, you were nice enough to send me a preview PDF of your next Image book, The Last of the Greats, with artist Brent Peeples. Having read the preview, I would have to agree that it is quite a departure from your other work, though it does have something I think all your books have in common -- The "Oh, shit!" moment. What can you tell readers who are still on the fence as to whether or not to pick it up?

Fialkov: It's so hard to talk about books and promote them without spoiling them. Because the surprise and the joy of the book is really its selling point. Yes, it's an alternate history with superhero-like gods, but, it's just really not that. Last of the Greats is my attempt at crossing two of my favorite genres -- the superhero and political thriller -- into one thing. The book is twisty and turny and bat-shit insane, and I just really, really hope people give it a shot.

And look, it's much more accessible to mainstream comics audiences than virtually anything else I've ever done. There are explosions and death and blood and exploding heads. And Brent Peeples is turning into a star in the making. Now, I just need people to order enough copies that I get to keep him to myself.

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