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Storytellers fascinate me, a fact that is hopefully obvious given my affinity for interviewing them. Over the years, I have mined creators for information to varying degrees of success — some folks want to open up, others … not so much.
Chris Wright, writer/artist of Blacklung, showed a willingness to discuss his creative process to an extent I rarely get — and for which I am eternally grateful. Case in point of the quality of his answers, consider this one-sentence excerpt: “I love Tchaikovsky, and Mahler, and Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen, and Cormac MacCarthy, and Tarkovsky.” All that in one sentence. Blacklung, which was released Nov. 7 by Fantagraphics, was best described by my Robot 6 pal Chris Mautner as “a bloody seafaring tale about a man determined to do what it takes to meet his dead wife in hell.” Wright’s debut graphic novel is part of today’s Fantagraphics Cyber Monday Sale. If you want to get a taste of the novel, Fantagraphics offers a 12-page/4.9 MB Blacklung excerpt for consideration.
Tim O’Shea: This book is dedicated to the late Dylan Williams. Can you talk a little bit about the impact that Williams had on your career?
Chris Wright: I don’t know if it’s so much about “career.” I mean, Dylan was a guy who touched a lot of people, and I was sort of on the periphery of that. I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, but he saw my stuff around, and offered to put a book of my work out, and that book became Inkweed, which is kind of a menagerie of short stories, and drawings. I’ll always be grateful to him for that book, and for his interest and encouragement in general.
Critic Rob Clough reports that Dylan Williams, the publisher of the idiosyncratic small-press outfit Sparkplug Comic Books, is dealing with a serious health crisis. And as with many problems involving people who’ve dedicated their lives to this art form, there’s a win-win solution: You can help support Dylan financially simply by buying some of Sparkplug’s awesome comic books.
Which ones, you ask? Good question! My first and foremost recommendation would be John Hankiewicz’s Asthma, one of the very best comics by anyone since the turn of the millennium — a cutting, haunting masterpiece of image-making and image-juxtaposing that’s one of the rare instances where calling it “comics as poetry” doesn’t make you feel like an idiot. There’s also Chris Cilla’s The Heavy Hand, a funny, foul-mouthed and strange science-fiction comic, or Inkweed by Chris Wright, a stunningly well-written short story collection about Muppet-like monsters in very human struggles.
Williams does important work with Sparkplug, putting out work of sparkling intelligence, with visuals that run the risk of not having a built-in audience for them. By publishing what he publishes he seeks to create that audience. That takes guts, putting your money where your mind is like that, and Dylan deserves to be rewarded for it, in sickness or in health. Right now, it’s in sickness, which makes buying his books an even better idea.