Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Creator Spotlight: Josh Fialkov's "Echoes"

Creator Spotlight is an ongoing series of interviews with popular creators in the comics industry, with a specific emphasis on how comics are born - from the initial pitch to the final draft. These articles are written on behalf of Orlando, Florida's A Comic Shop.


Art by "Echoes" artist Rahsan Ekedal.

  *First Issue Spoilers Ahead*

Wrtier Josh Fialkov’s new comic “Echoes” was an original idea about a schizophrenic named Brian.
            “’Echoes’ was born out of my research for my last book, ‘Tumor.’ I stumbled across some of the side effects of both Alzheimer's and schizophrenia while working on research for that book, and it just sparked an idea for me,” Fialkov said.
            Filakov’s previous projects at publisher Top Cow are what gave him the opportunity to have his original story published. 
            “Because I'd worked with them before, I've got a great relationship with everyone over there,” Fialkov said. “After the success we had with ‘Alibi,’ which they created, but I wrote, it just seemed natural to find something else, and ‘Echoes’ was at the forefront of my mind at the time. Because I had that existing relationship, the process was actually a lot easier.  Dealing with a smaller company like Top Cow, once you get someone on your side, it becomes a fast moving snowball. In this case, I was lucky in that I pitched it to both Filip [Sablik], the publisher, and Matt Hawkins, who runs the place with [Marc] Silvestri, simultaneously, and I think the book fit in with their plans for Minotaur [Press] pretty succinctly.”
Minotaur Press Imprint.

            Top Cow’s recently revived Minotaur Press brand is a place for sophisticated, adult, complex books with clear, understandable hooks, according to Fialkov.
            “I think that if I was in any other medium, I'd be considered fairly mainstream, but in comics what I do is so different than most of what's published that I have a hard time finding a place to fit in,” Fialkov said. “Which if you look at my publishing history and how wide and varied it is, you get a picture. What Minotaur is, is a place that does what I do.
“My goal with a lot of what I write is not so much to reinvent the wheel as to give you a new perspective on it. ‘Echoes,’ to me, is a look at mental illness and trauma through an odd shaped lens that couldn't be written by anyone but me.  It's – hopefully – a singular experience between my reader and me. That's what Minotaur has allowed me to do with, I think, some success.”
            When trying to get an original story published, Fialkov noted the importance of networking and persistence.
            Once I'd established myself, sold “Elk's Run” to Random House, and so on, I started to meet and talk with various publishers about working for them. But you still need to chase and push and prod.  Maybe some of the more successful guys out there would disagree, but no matter how easy or good the relationship is with a publisher, getting somebody to part with their money is a challenge. With Top Cow, I did quite a bit of work for hire – for the better part of two or three years – for them before I was in a position to do a project that I created like ‘Echoes.’ Most publishers won't even listen to pitches, let alone green-light them, unless you have an existing relationship with them,” Fialkov said.           
          “The idea behind working with a publisher, for me, is this: You keep them in the loop and give them every chance to say no or make suggestions along the way, so that at the end of the project, there's nothing there that surprises them and makes them freak out,” Fialkov said. “You want them to be there, at your side, a part of the process. And this is sort of a trick on my side because you're still doing exactly what you want, but you're offering up a way for them to be involved and take ownership over the project themselves. Which means you have someone who's championing you, rather than fighting you. They want the project to be great, because it's their project, too.”

The Fialkov himself. Image from www.TheFialkov.com

            In the first issue of “Echoes,” the protagonist finds a chest full of dolls made from the remains of several young girls; an image Fialkov said played a key part in hooking Top Cow on the story.
            “I think because it's so grotesque and also not something that you see, it's just an effective striking image,” Fialkov said. “And it's sort of the perfect thing for our protagonist because he feels like a puppet, like a doll in his father's games.”
            The inspiration for Fialkov’s characters having mental disorders comes from events in his personal life.
            “I'm terrified of losing my mind. My grandfather had a brain tumor, and my grandmother is currently suffering from Alzheimer's. So I see that as a potential thing down the road. And I had some fairly weird neurological issues that at one point or another were diagnosed as a possible tumor to unexplainable nerve damage,” Fialkov said.
            Fialkov stressed the importance of telling a personal story.
            “You need to find stories that you're passionate about, that resonate with you on a personal level, and that you feel have to be told. So much of what happens in comics today is people doing stuff out of fandom or out of Hollywood dreams. But the fact is you have to spend the time to make something magical and beautiful and perfect, and then, all of that other stuff will happen,” Fialkov said.
            Aside from “Echoes,” Fialkov’s other projects include an issue of “The Darkness” for Top Cow, a Jean Grey Marvel Girl one-shot for Marvel, “Punks the Comic” and a new graphic novel “Helltown” for MTV Geek, and an unannounced project with friend Tony Fleecs for Oni Press. He also teased that a movie for his first hit, “Elk’s Run,” is in the works.

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