Though I generally consider myself a pretty rational human being (though that, in itself, might be an oxymoron), much of my work as a writer and cartoonist has been reactionary. Not in the flipping-out, unconsidered manner, but rather I observe something and then my work is a reaction to that stimulus.
In recent years, memoirs have exploded. It's a confession-a-thon out there, but guess what? There are only so many variations on the themes of "I survived this illness/addiction/upbringing" before you realize the unmerry-go-round is passing the same scenery again and again, like the background in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. That's not to say some of these yarns haven't been fascinating reads, but enough already.
Though they're more varied than ever, I've also had a growing concern with a lot of the "serious" graphic novels of late. In their desire to be taken so, humor's been largely abandoned in "comics." I've always had a tendency to make with the droll, even (especially) in tandem with the darkness. I also like genre stuff, but have noticed there seems to be an innate feeling of inadequacy (or low expectations) among many of my peers who read and publish sci-fi and horror. It's like they assume the audience consists of little more than fourteen year old boys in Slipknot t-shirts whose literary appetites extend no further than the prose equivalent of a Danzig CD cover.
Still, graphic novels can now be found easily in most mainstream booksellers and direct market comic shops now boast plenty of customers of the homogametic sex. It's a new day, America.
So, memoirs. Memoirs in prose. Memoirs in graphic form. During the run-up to the 2008 election I was filled with guarded optimism and deep-rooted pessimism. As I alternated between pondering our potential collective fate and figuring out what my next project would be, a phrase popped into my head: "speculative memoir." Why be limited, I thought, to recounting what's already happened? Granted, true depictions of actual real life aren't necessary in doing a memoir (James Frey, J.T. LeRoy and Margaret B. Jones, anyone?), but how liberating would it be to create a memoir of events yet to happen?
A number of years ago I did a roman à clef in comic form called Beg the Question. I'm proud of it, but although it was inspired by my life, it's a work of fiction. I now wanted to do a work of fiction that was, at heart, more true to my life than anything I'd done. It was unvarnished in its depiction of the way I think about and respond to things. I wanted to capture my relationship to my wife, Michele, the love of my life. But with mutants, cannibals, zombies and satirical depictions of figures from current events and our culture.
From this kernel popped From the Ashes, a six-issue miniseries starring Michele and me, set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of New York City. Think Cormac McCarthy's The Road, only funny.
Comics don't often feature married couples (especially ones that have been together for nearly two decades), unless the marriage is a setup for Lockhornsian discord. The work of R. Crumb and his wife Aline is an exception, but generally wives get the short shrift. In advertising it goes the other way. Wives are capable whizzes and husbands are floppy-limbed borderline-retarded man-children. In real life the divide isn't always so obvious.
Anyway, with female interest in comics growing daily (both in the creation and consumption of), it was especially important to me to make Michele as vital on the page as she is in real life. I consulted her throughout the process of creating the book (most evident in her pre-apocalypse workplace scenes; after all these years I still can only barely comprehend the intricacies of Michele's corporate field).
The story begins in September, 2008. I didn't want to date the story by making it too topical, so I fought the urge to get into the election cycle. Obama. McCain. Didn't want them in there. If I set my apocalypse in the lead-up to the election it didn't matter who won. I didn't want this to be an exercise in hysterical finger-pointing. I figured it would be best to start with the utter devastation of most of mankind and leave plenty of room to conjecture on the exact cause. Granted, it was eight years of Bush/Cheney that fostered this apocalyptic fantasy, but why play "the blame game?"
From the Ashes is my speculative memoir of "might yet be" (well, not really). It's an open love letter to my wife -- but not a gummy, icky, Nicholas Sparksy Harlequin Romance kind of thing. I don't want to leak spoilers, but readers of the HuffPo should take special pleasure in the messianic depiction of a certain scary TV pundit (who for satirical/legal purposes has been renamed "Rile O'Biley"), far-right religious whackos, celeb corpses, tinges of Oz (as in The Wizard of and not the HBO series). With nearly six billion dead, there's plenty of room to share my nuclear holocaust.
Issue #1 of Bob Fingerman's From the Ashes will be available in-stores on May 13, 2009 from IDW Publishing.
For further information or to buy online, please go here.