I Thought You'd Never Ask: Joshua Hale Fialkov

You know the drill: another installment of "I Thought You'd Never Ask." Another week, another 5 questions with one of my comic creator pals, questions which your average reporter would never think to ask. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll say "thanks for the distraction from work." Check out these archival interviews with Phil Hester, Ron Marz, Rick Loverd and Rob Levin.

Up to bat this week is Joshua Hale Fialkov. Aside from being ruggedly handsome, Josh is also prolific writer. He got his start self-publishing like Western Tales of Terror and Elk's Run (which was eventually picked up by Random House for the trade collection). He also self-publishes the hilarious Punks the Comic with artist Kody Chamberlain. He launched the first comic exclusively on Amazon's Kindle with Tumor, which is about to be released as a hard cover collection by Archaia. He's done work for Marvel, DC, Harris, IDW, Boom! Studios, Del Rey Manga, and of course, Top Cow (Pilot Season's Cyblade and Pilot Season's Alibi). Currently he's working on a top secret original project with Top Cow, which I can't tell you about. I could, but then I'd have to kill you. Also you should know that Josh is bigger than life, but smaller in person than you would think.

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Filip Sablik: You grew up in Pittsburgh, went to college in Boston, and now live in Los Angeles. What's up with the cowboy shirts and hats? Not that I mind, I happen to think you're a snappy dresser and if I may say so, clean up quite nicely.

Joshua Hale Fialkov: The cowboy shirts... just sort of found me.  I had a bluegrass band in college, and one of the other guys in the band lived in Arizona, and when I went to Tucson so see him one summer, I found what was probably my first snap button cowboy shirt.   There's something that's classic California about them, even more than a guayabera.  Plus, I'm sick in the head for the Western genre and good classic country music.  
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Plus, I'm a big barrel chested guy, and for the most part, guys built like me wear nothing but t-shirts.  It's just because most other shirts aren't comfortable.  And, if I'm around the house, I'm no different.    But, my mom raised me well, so I know that a T-shirt's just not enough most of the time.  I've worn flannels and dress shirts, but, the cowboy shirts seem to be made for barrel chested guys, so, you can look sharp and be comfortable.   

So, if you're a barrel chested cowboy fiction loving Californian, head down to Downtown Los Angeles and get yourself the finest snap button Cowboy shirt.

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FS: I'll take that under advisement. But why three names? It's not like Joshua Fialkov is a common name, so what's the story behind Joshua Hale Fialkov?

JHF: Heh. I really like making designers lives hell as they desperately try to fit all 300 letters onto a single line on a credit page.   

Again, I think it's one of those things that happened without much rhyme or reason.  My dad uses all three of his names, and I feel like my last name is so hard to pronounce for most folk that the middle name gives them a way out.  They can just say, "Hey Joshua Hale..." and I'm fine. 

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There was a time when, like I'd assume is true for most people with hard to pronounce last names, I wanted to just use a pseudonym, or just chop off my last name, but, at the end of the day it felt like a betrayal to my parents to give it up.  I'm the sum of them, and that includes all three names.  
Plus, I keep the Hale as it's a tribute to my mother's late brother who I never got to meet.  From the sound of things he was an amazing guy (and the boy accordion champ of South Africa!) who got killed in the prime of his life, while he was serving in the Israeli army.

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FS: You know, that make total sense. As a guy with another hard to pronounce last name, I toyed with the idea of a pseudonym at one point. Even had one thing printed with the pseudonym, but it felt dishonest in a way. Plus it's much more fun to watch people struggle over pronouncing your name.

While I've never been (you've never invited me), I've been told (by you) that your DVD screening room is a thing of legend. So convince me why I should make the jump to Blu Ray. Is it really that much better? Or have we reached the era of "good enough" and some things don't belong in crystal clear, eye melting high definition?

JHF: Look, I'm the wrong person to give you a coherent reason why it's worth it.  I have a sickness.  I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I gave up smoking a couple of years ago (aside from at comic conventions, cause, c'mon, I'm not Superman), I'm a workaholic, and I have eyes only for my wife.  A guy needs a vice, and my media collection is definitely mine.  

That being said... if you have a HD TV and you don't have a Blu-Ray player you're missing out.  We can start with DVD's on a Blu-Ray player.  The player's upscaling ability is unreal.  They're taking what is essentially 1/2 of the information required to truly fill up all of those pixels and smoothing them out, filling in the gaps, and making it look damn close to HD.  There's no other way to get that level of quality, and that includes the so-called Progressive Scan or Upscaling DVD players.  The Blu-Ray makes your DVD's look almost as good as your TV can look.  

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Then there's the Blu-Ray discs.  They're sort of a mixed bag.  A lot of movies that had new transfers done for DVD in the past five to ten years are seeing Blu-Ray versions that are essentially just a raw HiDef version of those previous prints.  So, they look good... not amazing, but good.  There's just a huge amount of detail work needed on a HD transfer for a player that can pick up every single scratch and fleck of dirt.  But, then, there's the new transfers.  There's the Casablanca Blu-Ray, for instance, which looks like it was filmed a week ago.  You see things in the background, details that you never knew were there.  Or, the biggest suprise for me was the re-release of the original Prisoner on Blu-Ray.  The footage looks like it's been cleaned with tweezers and an infinite number of OCD ants.   The first second it comes on, you think that there's been a mistake and they've accidentally included the remake of the show from last year instead.  Every single sign, badge, and banner, that I always assumed said something, but had no idea what, are completely legible.  
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It's quite literally the next best thing to having a collection of 35mm prints and a full time projectionist working in your house.  Plus, they're cheaper than DVD's for the most part as far as New Releases go.  

Add to that the bonus features which, while still evolving, are pretty damn cool.  I mean, you can control your movies with your iPhone!



FS: Okay, you may have convinced me to look for a Blu Ray player. You're obviously a massive fan of film and television and even got your degree in writing and directing. Why comics? And related to that, your work in comics is pretty varied from Elk's Run to Punks to the stuff you've done for us like Cyblade and Alibi. Do you approach each project the same way or is there a different process for different genres?


JHF: I've done a lot of work in film, television, and theater.  Each of them are wonderful for very different reasons, but, none, to me, have the power of comics.  Comics are an auteur medium.  Even when working on a huge corporate icon, there's a level of freedom that is just non-existent in any other mass media.   Having dealt with network, studio, and executive notes, working in comics is truly a cake walk.    Unfortunately, I think a lot of that has to do with the much smaller audience we have, as well as the much lower budgets of a comic book as opposed to just about anything this side of local public radio.  

A made a feature film when I was in college.  Raised the money myself, put together a crew of amazing, kind people, and made it.  The movie suffered because I needed a much bigger canvas than I could afford.  When you do the sort of off-kilter stuff that I do, finding somebody willing to part with enough money to make a film is a Sisyphean task.  With comics, my partner in Hoarse and Buggy and I financed and produced professional caliber comics for next to nothing.  And I got to tell the type of stories that I wanted to tell without compromise.  

Unless you're independently wealthy, or the son of a media mogul, I don't think you get to do that in any other medium, and that's just plain amazing.  

Money aside, comics is a medium that bleeds from every inch of our sociological psyche.  Comics are everywhere, and they're so ingrained in us that we don't even realize just how prevalent they are.  It's that true spirit of America.  A couple of guys in a room decide to put on a show and the whole world turns up to hear what they have to say.  Comics is that blending of Ripley's Believe It or Not with Shakespeare and a little bit of Aeschylus thrown in for good measure.  Who doesn't want to do THAT for a living?

Tumor - The Trailer from Joshua Fialkov on Vimeo.


FS: What's the one question you've always wanted an interviewer to ask, but you've never been asked?


JHF: "Is that a banjo next to your desk?"

Yes it is.  Yes it is.

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FS: Well, I can't say I saw that one coming. I should have... but I didn't. Thanks, Josh.

Filip Sablik is the Publisher of Top Cow Productions, Inc. He’s been in the business for nine years and just officially entered his thirties. Occasionally, he does a bit of writing and drawing. He loves comics.
Top Cow Productions, Inc. was founded by Marc Silvestri, co-founder of Image Comics. Top Cow currently publishes its line of comic books in 21 languages in over 55 different countries. The company has launched 20 franchises (18 original and two licensed) in the industry’s Top 10, seven at #1, a feat accomplished by no other publisher in the last two decades.

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