When it comes to the discussion of death and where we go after, writers have explored the options at length. Some based on theological beliefs and others on philosophical ones. While others have just created their own, and why not? Until we ever know exactly what happens when we pass on, one idea is as good as another. This is the concept that actor/ author Chris Miskiewicz explores in his graphic novel from Z2, This is Where We Fall. In his new book, he creates a reality that people who die from a fall go to a certain place. In this case, in a desolate area and an old style western saloon. At least initially. As the story progresses, there are twists and turns and a resolution that is clever and original. Sound good? It is! Well let’s talk to the creator of this story, and welcome Chris Miskiewicz to GVN’s Talking Comics Interview.

Beginning Writing

GVN: Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today, Chris. So tell us a little about your beginnings. What first got you interested in writing and was there an author that inspired you in that ambition?

CM: I’ve collected comics since I was ten and have always been drawn to the limitless diversity of stories that you can tell in that medium. Then I dabbled in writing throughout high school and college, but nothing ever clicked with me on how to do it, or what to write. Or for that matter, why to dedicate the amount of time you need to devote to do that type of work.

At least until I read “Post Office” by Charles Bukowski. There was something about that book.  The way he was just a guy doing his everyday thing and finding a one or two page short story in something basic that happened to him that spoke to me. Then as the years moved on, I started working in different capacities behind the scenes in television and film. Eventually, I got curious about script writing, and that would probably be when I put all of these pieces together.

This is Where We Fall Concepts 

GVN: You have previously worked on a musical based graphic novel: Grateful Dead Origins. This is Where We Fall is a completely different genre and touches on a fascinating premise discussing concepts of life and death, and so much more. What inspired you to write this story and did the narrative change at all as you developed it?

CM: I wrote ‘This is Where We Fall’ several years ago after coming off the supernatural detective series Thomas Alsop, with illustrator Palle Schmidt. ‘Thomas Alsop’ was a tightly woven plot-heavy book, and I wanted to write something that was streamlined with a lot of action. In part just to see if I could pull it off.

I had the opening sequence written for quite a while where I was scratching my head thinking “and now what? This guy is totally dead. So, what if he’s dead? What then?” This leads to the book’s premise of an afterlife comprised of people who have died from falling, where the life you lived has nothing to do with where you end up. But instead the way that you die dictates that eventuality.

It became a heady science fiction plot with characters from various eras interacting in a place where none of their beliefs mattered.  In fact, everything they were told about religion or the afterlife was just incorrect. Vincent and I never really deviated from that but did explore it in conversations. The script changed and evolved as they all do once you get into the process of making a book, but those changes were always based on a “how can we show this better” approach, not with the general story and themes.

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Western Saloons

GVN: I loved how your story embraced so many different concepts both theological and philosophical and combined it with a myriad of environments. Especially the Western town environmental aspects in the beginning. Was this idea always a part of your original concept?

CM: It was, mainly, because it’s hard to write a western without including a saloon. But in a more “meta” way of looking at it, including places, vehicles, and locations like the western town which had somehow “fallen” into this world really intrigued me. Would that mean that a location went through some physical event like an earthquake that sent them to this world?

We did show this later in the book when Vincent Kings made the decision to have all of the panels in a particular city we visit slanted to showcase that it “fell.” But I was also thinking about the question of “how do cities fall?” Would that be economic, the death of a people, their spirits broken? I’m not sure the book ever directly mentions these things, but those ideas were interwoven into my process while I was writing it.

No Name Characters

GVN: You have created a nice mix of different characters to inhabit the narrative. (I especially love the cowboy character. I kind of hear Sam Elliott when he speaks). However you never really assign names to the characters, except maybe the dog…and this was debated by the Garbologist. Was that a conscious decision?

CM: It was. (And I tried not to give the dog a name as well, but enjoyed the jokes between him and the Garbage-Man too much to cut.) On a surface level, I was trying to say that who they were, and the lives they lived before this story no longer mattered to the narrative by not giving them names. However, I’m afraid that if I say any more about my other reason I’ll spoil the twist ending.

Working with Vincent Kings

GVN: I completely understand that. You worked with artist Vincent Kings on this project. What did Vincent bring to your book and did his work have any effect on the story itself? I only ask this because some projects have artist and writer become very collaborative and some have no real contact at all. Which process did this fall under?

CM: Vincent Kings is a fantastic collaborator and he’s had his fingers inside every part of this story since he signed on. He’s a trained painter who really loves comics. In regards to our process on this, we were both heavily involved in what we could show, how we would show it, what things should look like, feel like, all the way through. But most of all, if we could show what we needed to show in a better way.

We’d constantly be asking “How can we show this better?” And when we came up with something that he was excited about, even if it wasn’t what I originally envisioned on paper, eight out of ten times I’d go with it, and it was the right choice. For instance, there’s a robot mech-suit that has toilets for shoulders. That’s all Vincent. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but it completely adds an element that makes the scene work better. This entire book is a 50/50 collaboration all the way through.

Mitski Soundtrack

GVN: A three song Soundtrack was recorded by Mitski for your graphic novel. How did this come about? 

CM: Vincent and I had signed on with this book just as Z2 changed their business model. They went from being a standard comic book publisher to focusing on the multi-media collaborations with musicians. This included exclusive downloads for what they went on to call “graphic-albums.” Josh Frankel and Sridhar Reddy offered us the same opportunity for our creator owned book. After a few missed attempts, I put Josh in contact with Cyndi Goretski at Warner Chappell Music, who put the project in front of Mitski. She thought it was an interesting opportunity to score.

As time went on I was asked to produce several spoken word lines said by the Cowboy character, which Mitski included in the tracks, one of which even made its way onto her rendition of “The Baddy Man.” I always say that making comics is like being in a band. Everyone brings their talent into the mix and you end up with a piece of art that none of the players could have produced on their own. That sentiment very much sums up what the three of us have created here with This is Where We Fall.

In the Future

GVN: Thank you so much for talking to us. Before we let you go, do you have anything coming on the horizon you are free to talk about?

CM: My next book release is a music biography called, “Elvis: The Graphic Novel” which comes out later this year with Z2 and artist Michael Shelfer. And then Vincent Kings and I are shopping our next project together entitled “The Dark Blues,” which we’re hoping to have some news about to share shortly.

GVN: Thanks again, and we look forward to the release of Z2’s This is Where We Fall coming on May 5th. Z2’s This is Where We Fall can be found wherever great comic books are sold. Look for our review of this title, coming soon to Geek Vibes Nation.
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