Joshua Hale Fialkov

Purveyor of sheer awesomeness.

Joshua Hale Fialkov is the Harvey, Eisner, and Emmy Award nominated writer of graphic novels, animation, video games, film, and television, including:

THE LIFE AFTER, THE BUNKER, PUNKS, ELK'S RUN, TUMOR, ECHOES, KING, PACIFIC RIM, THE ULTIMATES, I, VAMPIRE, and JEFF STEINBERG CHAMPION OF EARTH. He's also written for NBC's CHICAGO MED and SYFY's upcoming INCORPORATED.

Wondercon!

I'm going to be swinging by Wondercon in Anaheim this weekend for a single panel, hosted by ComiXology.  It's going to be about their submit platform, self-publishing, and all of that good stuff.  It's at 2pm on Friday in Room 209.   You may also catch me tomorrow at Gabo's table (Small Press SP-90) immediately after that panel. 

And, in case you missed it last week... 

LEGENDARY ANNOUNCES PACIFIC RIM COMICS written by me, drawn by Marcos Marz, and I, Vampire's Marcelo Maiolo!

and

ONI PRESS ANNOUNCES ELK'S RUN 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION hardcover collecting the original Harvey Award Nominated series.  

And as always, don't forget to pre-order your LIFE AFTER's, BUNKERS, and PUNKS comics!

See you in Anaheim tomorrow!

j.

Emerald City Comic Con

Hello Seattle!
Well, I said I was taking the year off... 

And I'm clearly failing at that.  Very last minute, but, I've got TWO big project announcements this week, which'll get followed up on at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend in Seattle, WA.  I've only got a few scheduled appearances, but, would love to see any/all/some of you while I'm there.  My schedule is as follows:
 

FRIDAY 

1:30 pm, Comics in Other Media Panel, Hall F

3:00 pm, Legendary Comics/Films Signing, Booth 1804

SATURDAY

5:00 pm, Oni Press Panel, Hall C

6:00pm, Oni Press Signing, Booth 212

SUNDAY

12:00 pm, Oni Press Signing, Booth 212

You'll also be able to find me near The Life After artist Gabo's table in Aritst Alley, which is NN-03.  More programming, ticket info, and such here.


Also, for a first look at those announcements, watch this space, and/or over on Twitter @joshfialkov. 

Hope to see you this weekend in Seattle (and also that it's not miserably cold.  I'll take either/or.) 

Jazz and the Failure of Exclusion

 Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

 Bix Biderbecke

Bix Biderbecke

I've been making my way through Ken Burns' Jazz documentary series.  There's an extended section about Bix Beiderbecke.  If you don't know, Bix was considered the 2nd best trumpeter who ever lived.  Second only to Louis Armstrong.  He was a Iowan farm boy who was inspired by Louis' recordings to teach himself and run away from home to become a jazz player.

In addition to his prodigious talents, he also had an epic drinking problem.  One that would eventually kill him.  But, before that, the documentary talks a bit about how hard a time Bix had because of segregation.  That because he was white, he couldn't go and play with the more advanced black players, and was constantly hitting a wall because he needed to be challenged, and he just wasn't by the white players of the day. 

It's such an interesting, backwards way to think about the race problems of the day, that I've been chewing over it for days.  That segregation hurts both sides that have been split apart.  That the sum is that much greater than the individual parts. The idea that that privilege is it's own sort of handcuffs is so rarely discussed.  And I get why, as the world's tiniest violins plays for the poor white people who couldn't be inspired, while the black people were oppressed, beaten, and pillaged by the dominant culture. 

But, still, I think the core idea is something worth discussing.  That this kid who was handed the world realized that without the best of the best available to him, then the world he'd been handed was a lead balloon.  That by ex-communicating a group of people, you're really ex-communicating yourself. 

The close-mindedness of our era, the us against them mentality that rules politics, and, especially, the inability to have a conversation with someone who's different from you, and not just in terms of race, but in as simple as semantics of ideas.  Without being able to open ourselves up to the other side of the world, to see the brilliance and joy, as well as the outrage and the anger, we're doomed as a society.  We'll constantly stand on the brink of our potential and always fall short.

The story goes that for one night, Louis and Bix met in a hotel room, closed the door, and played together.  The two men driving each other to be better, creating and destroying expectations simultaneously.  It was, by some accounts, the highlight of Bix's life. But, because society was too involved to see the brilliance that could be made from love and acceptance, it's just a story lost to time, instead of an album for the ages. 

Open yourself to the world around you.  Experience things from every side, and put it into your work, make it your motivation.  Or, in other words, love everyone. 

FYI, here's the best jazz song ever recorded. 

 

If you HAVEN'T seen KEN BURNS' JAZZ, do yourself a favor.  It streams for free on Netflix and Amazon, or, the boxset is linked below.  It's my favorite Ken Burns film, and it'll change how you think about America, Music, and, perhaps most importantly, American Music. 


One Year Later

I don't want to die. 

I don't mean that in the sense that everybody wants to live forever.  I literally decided I didn't want to die.  I've had health problems pretty much from the time I was a little kid.   Some of that is rooted in my mom being unaware she was pregnant with me, while undergoing major back surgery (and the drugs that go along with that not being, ahem, great for the fetus...) to a massive bout of food poisoning when I was five or six years old.  I still remember the days (and what feels like weeks) I spent in the hospital on IV's because I couldn't take in solid food.  

I still have minor panic attacks when I see bees, thanks to my managing to get stung by about sixty yellow jackets (which I'm deathly allergic to) as a little boy, sending me into anaphylactic shock.  

I remember falling out of the hatch of a friends treehouse and catching my foot on the ladder, breaking my ankle but sparing my head.  And, for that matter, falling head first into an orchestra pit, and breaking my arm WITH MY HEAD.  

There's more things (hemochromatosis diagnosis in college, near diabetic coma a decade ago, I should really stop this list...) but, the fact is in spite of all the terrible things that I went through, and clearly had the will to fight through them, I always figured I'd die young.   It's something my friends and I have always joked about.  My buddy Tony Fleecs has always called me "Mr. Glass."  I've broken nearly every finger, toe, both arms, my coccyx, both ankles, and my nose.  I've been diagnosed with fibro myalgia, type '1 1/2' diabetes, osteo pinea, keratoconus,  a half-dozen kidney stones, a shattered vertebrae, and (famously) crippling migraines.  In other words, I've been falling to pieces pretty much from the jump. 

I figured, I work my ass off, I'll get the best work out of the way, and any time left over, that's bonus.

And then I met her.  Yes. It's that story.  I fell in love with someone so much better than me, so much more talented than me, and so much kinder than me.  When Tony made his first crack to her about my health, "How does it feel to know he's going to die before you?" And then, she started to cry. When I saw that look on her face, it started something.

I've been fat since the fifth grade.  At my top weight I was around 265, which for a 5'9" guy is... a lot.  I chiseled away some of that weight, and quit smoking (mostly), and managed to get my diabetes mostly under control.  And, as if to make damn sure things changed, she got pregnant.  And we had... her.  Hold on, let's get a picture of her in here for extra heart meltings.

But, even, then, primary to everything was getting enough work to pay for her to have the best life possible.  And I worked and worked, killing myself to get faster and better to make sure I could provide for her.

And then I got sick.  The migraines got worse. A simple flu would stretch out for weeks.  Slowly but surely, I came to realize that there are things more important than earning the most and working the best.  Things like her.  Both hers, actually.

And so, around two years ago, I bought a Fitbit and I started using a standing desk.  Then I started doing every phone call while frantically pacing my neighborhood like a crazy person.  Eventually I started jogging, and about one year ago today, I ran a 5k.  I did okay.  After that we (my wife has come on the crazy journey with me) started doing a race every month or so, all building up to the Disney Avengers Half Marathon.  

That kicked my ass, but, I did it.  I was the kid who used to walk around the track and smoke cigarettes while Gym class was going on.  And I ran a fucking half marathon.  

And then today... We did a 10k.  Which, technically, is not as impressive as a half marathon, BUT... I've been really, really sick once again.  I'm on week four of a cold, brought on by a change in my diabetes medication (as the one drug I've taken for a decade became suddenly ineffective).  Last night, I got home from attending Mary McCoy's wonderful launch party for her new book DEAD TO ME (name dropped only to help her sell a few books), and was about ready to die.  I was nauseous and dizzy, and ready to call it quits.  And then I looked at my daughter.  I looked at my wife.  I went to bed at 6pm, and woke up at 4am (which was really 3am, thanks to DST.)  I felt good enough to go.  Not great. Not 100%. But, I could do this.  Without having trained in a month, with an empty stomach and a cloudy head.

And I did it.  

In fact, I didn't just do it.  I beat my best time.  By a LOT.  Close to 5 or 6 minutes shaved off my usual time.  And I did it sick and tired.  And as I ran today, I felt shitty.  Really shitty.  I felt broken of spirit and weak of body.  

And then... I thought about them.  My two precious women, the literal wind beneath my broken, weak wings. And I ran. 

And so, in some ways, I've always been.  Before I was running towards death.  Smoking and eating my way to an early grave.  But now, I'm running away from it.  I'm running to make sure I'm here to watch my daughter graduate, become a Doctor/Lawyer/Marine Biologist (simultaneously) and to celebrate a retirement of some sort with my beautiful, regal queen of a wife. 

I'll never stop running. If things go bad, and I backslide, I know that it won't be for long, and it won't be permanent, because I have the most important people in my world there to support and lift me up.  

That's what today meant. That's what running means.  And that's why I'll be here for as long as humanly possible. 

Proudest of...

This weekend, I attended the Long Beach Comic Expo.  While there, I got to sit on an over stuffed Image Comics panel.  Towards the end we got asked a pretty typical question, that started at the opposite side of the table.  ”What are you proudest of in your career?” I sat there and thought about it.  I listened to each of my panel mates thoughtfully answer about the piece of work or story or accomplishments that made them truly proud, and then finally it got to me.

What I’m proudest of, what makes me the beam with joy most about my comics career is… that I’m working with my best friends.   The people I collaborate with, on each of the books I’m making right now, are some of my absolute favorite people on earth.  They’re my betters, my contemporaries, but, most importantly, they’re my friends.  

The relationships of honesty and trust that I have with Joe Infurnari, Gabo, Kody Chamberlain, Tony Fleecs, and Bernard Chang, each of whom are doing books that we co-own, makes me feel immensely proud to be their partner. 

But, it doesn’t actually stop there.  The more I’ve thought about my answer, I realized it’s true in my personal life, too.  My wife is my best friend. The reason our marriage thrives is that we don’t just say we’re best friends, we actually are.  We’re completely honest with each other, share everything, and hide nothing. 

My daughter, she’s my best friend, too.  I love her, and respect her little crazy child brain, and all the insanity that spews from her.  

Making friends was always hard for me as a kid.  Hell, even as an adult.  I’m head strong and have a big mouth, but the upside is that you never don’t know where you stand with me.  So, to stand here now, surrounded by people i love and cherish… 

I should add right before I gave my answer on that panel, I gave the quick warning that after watching and reading lots of My Little Pony (thanks to the wife and daughter), this might come off a bit… stilted, but, Friendship really IS Magic.  Look at the things you’ve done, the things you’ve accomplished, and just think how it would’ve been possible without the people who surround you, support you, and cheer for you. 

So, there’s your sentimental story for the day. 

My First Time

I remember walking down Forbes Avenue, with my two best friends, Neal and Dave.  It was the middle of the week, beginning of summer, and hotter than hell.  As we walked past a liquor store, a wild eyed man grabbed me by the arm.  

"I JUST GOT OUT OF WESTERN PSYCH, MAN!" Neal and Dave quickly stepped away, as the guy held on tight to me.  He pulled out a snipped medical bracelet from his pocket. "I NEED MONEY. RIGHT NOW." I looked to my friends for support, but, we were 13 or 14 years old, and they were, probably rightfully so, trying to make sure at least two of us made it to 16.  I fumbled in my pockets and handed the guy a few bucks. 

"NOT ENOUGH, MAN! NEED MORE!"

I looked at him and said, “I’m a teenager, dude. I don’t have money.” He processed the words and released me.  It seems the psychotic episode was over once he realized I wasn’t worth much more than three bucks and a handful of change. 

I adjusted my shirt, put myself back together, and walked over to my friends who played it off like a totally normal thing that just happened.  So, I did the same.  Then, Dave pointed down the street, passed the Beehive (the coolest coffee shop/art house theater/medieval castle in the world) to a small stairwell off a side street.  

We knew this neighborhood well, spending every free hour at the Beehive, or looking at the paraphernalia and clothes and posters at Tela Ropa, or thumbing through records at Oasis and the old Jerry’s Records.  But this was somewhere new.  The sign outside read “ICE NINE.”  We huffed it up the little narrow stairwell and into the place that would forever change my life.  

The store was decked out in the style of punk rock simplicity.  Everything looked DIY, from the Zines to the poorly designed bound manifestos with black covers and white text saying things like THE ANARCHIST’S GUIDE TO CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE and COMMUNISM NOW.  There were the more standard things like the old printing of The Anarchist’s Cookbook, and the Cult of Bob Subgenius stuff. I remember (probably incorrectly) some underground comix and even a role playing game or two.  

The guy who worked there had hair like the drummer from Faith No More (although, to be fair, my memory paints him as the actual drummer from Faith No More, which, is probably unlikely.) 

Standing in the doorway, taking it all in, I felt like i’d found a new home. A new life that catered to my addled adolescent mind.  We spent as long as we could in there before we made the guy uncomfortable, or possibly, vice versa.  One of my friends probably bought something, and then we headed back downstairs.  This was a landmark moment for me. This place was a gateway to me.  

I stood with my friends outside for a moment taking it in, and then I said eight words that would change my life. 

"Why the fuck is it called Ice Nine?"

They immediately dragged me back upstairs and plunked down cash to buy me a copy of CAT’S CRADLE by KURT VONNEGUT.    We headed to the Beehive ordered coffee (which I undoubtedly did not drink), and I started to read. 

I remember that day so vividly because for the first time, on the stinking hot (literally) second floor of that converted movie theater, I would read the author who would forever alter my life.  It was funny and nasty, heart-breaking and sarcastic, fanciful yet realistic.  It was a culmination of all of my favorite things.  From the Sci-Fi of Aliens and William Gibson, to the satire of Bloom County, to the humanism of Chekov and Ibsen.  And, oh yeah, it was written by a rumbled weirdo who looked about as cool as I felt.  Somehow, this old dude with a curly mop of hair and a hideous mustache was speaking to every fiber of my being. 

I spent the rest of that summer banging through everything i could by him.  Galapagos, Breakfast of Champions, Player Piano, Sirens of Titan, Deadeye Dick, Slapstick, and Mother Night.  I banged through the short stories and what ever essays I could find.  I was a believer.  I adopted his posture in my own short story writing, trying to be both acerbic and emotionally provcative simultaneously.   It wasn’t an easy fit, but it was what I aspired to. 

The one book that eluded me is SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE.  For some reason, the punk rocker in me said that a book that was THAT popular and that was TAUGHT IN SCHOOL had to be a piece of shit.  I remember reading the first few pages and just completely not getting it.  

I figured everybody writes some crap once in a while, even Vonnegut.

Vonnegut remained one of, if not the, most important writer to my life.  I think that I continue to this day to try and ape what he does best, and, I’d argue that some of my work that holds up the best is the stuff most directly influenced by what I learned from him.  

I learned how to tell impersonal stories in a personal way. How to inject yourself into your stories (albeit, less specifically than he does), and I learned that thumbing your nose at your own work is the only way to ever truly understand what you’re trying to say. 

I say all of this because there’s a Documentary about Vonnegut up on Kickstarter right now.  A documentary you should probably help support, because, first off, I want to see it, and second off, there is no more influential writer on the 21st Century of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and, perhaps, even literature in general.  His finger prints are all over every one of us banging away at telling stories that are both high concept and achingly personal.  

As a post script to this story, I did a chronological reread of all of Vonnegut’s novels almost a decade ago.  When I got to Slaughterhouse Five I considered skipping it, remembering how much I hated it as a kid.  But, after I re-read it, I did something I rarely do. I read it again.  And again.  Three times in a row.  I couldn’t get over how wrong I was and how important and powerful that book was.  That book led me, very specifically to two of the most important projects I’d ever do.  TUMOR (which dealt with Time Travel in a very different way, but, still…) and THE BUNKER (which, y’know, has a lot of similarities to it.)  If you HAVEN’T read Vonnegut, that’s where you need to start.  It’s a masterpiece, devastating, hysterical, and, most importantly, extremely human.  

Clipboard

After just using this metaphor to an editor, I thought maybe I could use it to talk about my writing process.

I’ve got a huge project that I’ve spent the better part of December putting together with a collaborator.  I was given a green light to go to script, which was then pulled back a day or two later.  So, okay, I move on to other work… EXCEPT-

My brain doesn’t quite work like that anymore.  I imagine my brain as a clipboard.  It’s a notepad filled with all of my ideas for the script/project/thingy I’m currently working on.  So, if I move off of that project and onto another one, just like with your computer’s clipboard, you’re going to lose that data.  You’re going to get a lot of links to cat pictures and think pieces on Fight Club. 

And yes, I have systems in place that allow me to hold multiple projects in my head at once, but, and I mean this literally, so much of what my process is amounts to conceptualizing (in head/notes) and then typing the finished product.  Not writing it.  The conceptualizing goes so far as to actually be my writing process.  I understand what a script is saying or means, I understand what well over 2/3rds of the dialogue will be, and then I start writing.  

I equate my process, to some degree, with automatic writing.  I hold so much of the process in my head prior to typing, that once I actually set about trying to type it out, it’s closer to an edited second draft than it is to what would appear to be stream of consciousness. 

Which is, in all honestly, probably a short coming of mine.  I don’t like working a story out on paper. I don’t like grinding away at draft after draft.  I like to conceptualize, contextualize, understand thoroughly, and THEN i like the typing part. 

But, in the meantime, the project that’s taking up all of my clipboard is on hold, and I gotta work on other stuff in the meantime. Because that’s the job.

Three Birthdays - Sablik, Chamberlain, and Infurnari

This week is the birthday of three people I’m extremely close with.  One is someone i’ve worked with before, one is someone I’ve worked with for almost a decade, and the third is someone I’ve only known for a couple of years, but has changed my life completely.  I wanted to talk about each of them and what they mean to me.

Filip Sablik filipsablik

I met Filip Sablik when he was a rep at Diamond Comics.  He was the guy who all the small publishers talked about because if you had him on your side, your book had a bright future.  He wasn’t my original rep (that was the equally awesome Robert Randle), but he was a fan and a huge supporter in my self-publishing days.  

Our paths crossed properly when he arrived at Top Cow.  We became fast friends, and eventually, when Filip moved up to EIC of the company, he became my editor.  He did something that few editors do, and he did it instinctively.  He trusted me.  When we’d talk story or ideas, he’d think it through, raise his concerns, and then let me go and do what I do.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that ECHOES remains one of my favorite books.  A lot of that was from Filip giving Rahsan and I free reign to do a weird book in a peculiar way.  Every project I did at Top Cow, Filip had my back and taught me that collaboration can be a very, very good thing.  

Sadly, he’s out of the editing game and is instead riding high over at boom studios.  They’re immensely lucky to have him. 

Kody Chamberlain   kodychamberlain

There are few people on earth I like as much as Kody.  We come from wildly different backgrounds, have wildly different political views, and disagree about a lot of things.  There’s one thing we both believe in.  Craftsmanship. We believe that part of the job of being an artist in any medium is taking responsibility for your work, and doing it in a reliable sturdy fashion.

What amazes me no end with Kody is how manages to do that but also imbue everything he does with sheer genius.  He’s got ideas pouring out of him, and into his hands.  He enhances every project he’s on, from the most mundane work for hire to the insanity of his own work.  And, while I love our book together, PUNKS, the one that really knocked me on my ass was SWEETS. 

Kody takes the workmanlike attitude in a really peculiar way in Sweets.  He trusts that anyone who buys the book is willing to go for the ride.  He trusts his own storytelling and craftmanship so much that he lets the audience actively play a part in the storytelling.  He never tells you what you just read or pulls together the various threads into a conventional sweater.  Instead, he worries about the emotional life of his characters, and lets his deft hand do the rest.  

It’s an inspiration beyond words, and something I think about every day with every one of my scripts.

Joe Infurnari joeinfurnari

I met Joe through the comic book equivalent of Kevin Bacon, Dean Haspiel.  Dean thought Joe and I could do some cool work together on an anthology that was being put together, and introduced us.  It was love at first read.  Joe and I exchanged books, and each read them on the way home from Baltimore Comic Con.  About ten pages into TIMEFUCKER, I was in love.  

The thing about Joe’s work that really pushes my buttons is that he ground everything in reality.  Even a book as absurd and over the top as Timefucker has rules that it lives by, and those rules always work.  And when they don’t, there’s a damn good reason for them.

He brings that process into our collaboration for THE BUNKER.  Joe is singly focused on making the best product there is.  He’s fearless that way. He gives me notes that are more well thought out, more full of brilliance, than most any editor I’ve ever worked with.  

There’s a bunch of stuff on the internet these days about Writers taking advantage of Artists, and, I have to say, with Joe and I, I’m definitely taking advantage of him.  Not only does he provide some of the most insanely inventive art in comics today, but, he’s also helped me through some of my hardest plot walls with grace, dignity, and brilliance.  Working with Joe is like a two for one.  You get a brilliant artist who’s also a brilliant writer. 

In fact, that’s true of all three of these guys.  Each of them goes so far above and beyond the simple description of their jobs, that they make everyone around them not just look better, but actually be better.  

That’s a better gift than anyone could ask for. 

Happy birthday my friends.