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[Al Columbia:] My dad, for some reason, didn’t have the sense that a child shouldn’t see horror movies. He took me to see a lot of horror movies when I was a kid, or I’d get to see them on TV or HBO. He didn’t seem to have that filter: “Oh yeah, maybe he shouldn’t watch that. It could be disturbing.” So I was exposed to a lot of very disturbing images at a young age, which later in life came back in a strange way to haunt me, which I would never have expected.
[Nicole Rudick:] In what way did they haunt you?
Intrusive thoughts of a violent nature haunted me, made me pretty sick, actually, for a few years. I couldn’t get them out of my head.
Images from those films?
I believe they had to have been, or the movies had to have influenced something. They were unwanted images. They weren’t fantasies but constant terrifyingly violent images or ideas piercing into my everyday life. I’d be watching TV and the next thing you know the newscaster . . . I would imagine, without warning, something bad happening to the people on TV or to somebody I knew. I couldn’t really look at someone without them immediately becoming dismembered or in some way murdered in my head.
Does that still happen?
No, not anymore. But it happened for a good three-year period, about three or four years ago, where I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t work on anything. I almost couldn’t function properly in everyday life. I never knew when it would happen. Not only were they scary images, but there was a spiritual quality to it that made me feel like something was in jeopardy, something wasn’t right with me.
–from Nicole Rudick’s astonishingly candid interview with Pim & Francie author Al Columbia for Comics Comics. Columbia goes on to recount the mental-health treatment he received for these visions, and for out-and-out hallucinations, all of which he says are exacerbated by the solitary act of drawing. This goes a long way toward explaining both Columbia’s maddening-to-his-fans lack of output, and to the chilling power of Pim & Francie — my favorite comic of 2009 — which of all the comics I’ve ever read is the one with “a spiritual quality to it that made me feel like something was in jeopardy, something wasn’t quite right.”