Joshua Hale Fialkov is all about the karma. If you’re a fan of independent comics, and have been paying attention over the last several years, you might have heard of his book, ELK’S RUN. The story of a small town that will do anything to keep their isolated existence intact has given the California-based writer its fair share of heartache and triumph, changing publisher hands over the course of what seemed a lifetime until landing itself at Villard, a division of the Random House Publishing Group and garnering a total of seven Harvey nominations. It’s been a long, rough road but as said earlier, Josh is all about the karma and in the end, things are back on track. He’s got several projects in the pipeline and between PUNKS, his collaboration with artist Kody Chamberlain, the soon to drop ELK’S RUN trade and TUMOR, a new series with ELK’S RUN artist Noel Tuazon, Fialkov is making sure he doesn’t need to depend on karma – not when it’s joined by hard work, solid writing skills and pure determination.
Josh looked up from his heavy workload to answer a few questions about his projects, music and why Howard Chaykin doesn’t hate him.
KLEID: Rumor has it that at this year’s Harvey Awards where your book, ELKS RUN, was up for seven nominations, you were told that “this guy better change his name or he’ll never make it in comics.” As someone who’s got a big ol’ TPB from a major book publisher on the way along with many other fires in the iron, we know that’s the far from the truth. Tell us, Mister Fialkov, how have you made your way thus far in comics?
FIALKOV: I’d just like to point out that Howard Chaykin, who said that, effortlessly and correctly proceeded to then say my last name. It’s Russian, so it’s phonetic. You say each syllable. It’s really not rocket science, people. Anyways, I was into comics as a kid and lost interest when I realized I could better spend my money trying to have sexual relations with girls. After that didn’t pan out, I came back to comics. I went to school for screenwriting and playwrighting, and had a feature film get made (it’s terrible), and I sat about trying to come up with my next thing, and, well, the experience of making that movie made me realize that it’s hard to have a big imagination with such a little budget on film, so comics became the natural place for me to do the crazy stuff I wanted to do. I started out learning the medium by doing a webcomic and some mini-comics that got a little bit of acclaim, which I used to launch my first proper comic book, the horror anthology Western Tales of Terror. The experience and exposure of Western Tales really got my nerve up to try Elk’s Run which was a concept I’d wanted to do for a long time, and could never quite figure out what to do with it. Once I saw Noel Tuazon’s artwork, I knew that the story could be told the way I want it to.
KLEID: ELKS RUN has a long and checkered publishing past. Mind giving the good people of Internetland a quick rundown? And how did the collected edition come to land at Random House?
FIALKOV: Self-Published by Hoarse and Buggy Productions for the first three issues (still available online at www.hoarseandbuggy.com, mind you), and then after less than stellar sales, especially considering the stellar reviews, we foolheartedly moved over to Speakeasy. I wouldn’t so much say that Speakeasy published the book as mismanaged it. Just every step of the way they were dropping balls left and right, and we pretty much immediately realized that the book’s days were numbered.
Random House had approached us before moving to Speakeasy about picking up the TPB once the series was completed. When it became clear that the issues would probably never be released, they stepped in and saved the day. It’s really pretty amazing how it all worked out, actually. Literally could not be better.
KLEID: What’s PUNKS? I’ve seen this collaboration you’ve got going with Kody Chamberlain jumping around the internet and it’s been praised by folks from Warren Ellis to Brian Bendis. I dig me a good story about Abe Lincoln and a guy with a fist-for-face but something tells me there’s something beneath the punk rock surface. Izzatright?
FIALKOV: Ah, Punks. Punks is what happens when Kody and I let every deviant thought and desire that runs through our monstrous bodies loose on the page. Everybody loves it, but… well… nobody’s publishing it yet. It’s really pretty fucking insane, so I guess I don’t blame anyone for being anxious about publishing it, but, well, it is what it is. At it’s essence, it’s what Kody and I both feel comics are missing right now. Abe Lincoln and Morrissey jokes. Cause everybody loves a Morrissey joke, and if it’s delivered by Abe Lincoln? I have a feeling the flacid penis of the comics industry might just find pharmaceutical-grade testosterone pulsing through their clotted veins.
I’m a dirty, dirty, pretentious little fuck.
KLEID: Besides being a Harvey-Nominated writer with juice in the mainstream press – ELKS RUN got an ‘A’ from Entertainment Weekly – you also monkey around with other forms of art… like music. Tell us when you learned to rock n roll and what your plans are?
FIALKOV: I’ve been playing music since I was a kid. Came from a musical family, and started playing piano at 5 or 6, woodwinds at 10, guitar at 12, and just sort of picked things up as they came up. At one time, I played over a dozen instruments including the Banjo and Washtub Bass, so, who’s punk rock now?
Anyways, I had a Punk-Jazz-Metal fusion band in high school (nobody knew what to make of us, and it ruled) and then various folk/bluegrass/roots music bands in college, most of which involved copious amounts of drinking and shouting. Then I recorded an EP and sort of called it a day.
I just started back up a few months ago, and I really, really missed playing. It’s nice to have a hobby again. Especially one that allows me to embarass myself by publicly offering acoustic versions of new wave mopery.
KLEID: Since we know you’re not changing your name, what’s next? What are the next five years like for Joshua Hale Fialkov?
FIALKOV: Well, I’m working on the follow-up to Elk’s Run right now with Noel. It’s not a direct sequel, because, y’know, that’d suck. But, I think if you dug Elk’s Run, you’ll dig this. There’s some random preview art up on my blog, but it’s probably still a year away from being in a form where it’s available for public consumption. Aside from that, I’ve got a handful of projects in various states of go/no go/maybe go, hopefully some of which will be big announcements to come. Or, y’know… small disappointing ones. Either/or.