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Interview: Zack Quaintance finds the life of comics in DEATH OF COMICS BOOKCASE

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comics bookcase

Including the word ‘death’ in the title of a comic book could suggest that a funereal tone will be taking charge of the proceedings. But that’s not the case with Zack Quaintance’s Death of Comics Bookcase, Vol. 1, an anthology comic that takes a magnifying glass to the medium and finds it can celebrate, mourn, and offer necessary warnings on the future of comics by way of werewolf priests, living comics bookcases, and morally haphazard wizards.

The project, which hopes to get funded via Kickstarter, tackles a different genre in each of its stories, from fantasy and horror to superheroes, but they’re all woven into a wrap-around story that centers on the titular Comics Bookcase. The variety on display makes the book feel like a roadmap for all the things comics can do, highlighting the richness of the medium. It’s a book that accounts for a life in comics, which Quaintance has certainly led and is still living (he is currently the Reviews Editor for Comics Beat).

There is one thing that brings all these stories together: Quaintance’s sharp approach to satire. No instance of humor is there for the sake of a punchline. There’s thought put into each joke, of the kind that will inspire staring into distance to reflect upon the meaning behind some of them (like when you’re watching a movie and you realize the sword is actually a phallic symbol, or that the main villain is a stand-in for the author’s mother).

One story stands out for how personal it feels while still managing to be a solid horror story. The Werewolf Priest, illustrated by Anna Readman with colors by Brad Simpson, follows a journalist on the heels of a story about a priest that’s rumored to be a werewolf. It has the satire locked down, but it also succeeds in becoming a gleefully gruesome monster-of-the-week yarn that looks at immigration and the loneliness that comes with being a journalist in the process (pulling from Quaintance’s previous experience in the field). It’s strong enough to be its own comics series and it is a definite highlight.

Quaintance scripts all the stories but is accompanied by a different artist in each one. PJ Holden, Nick Cagnetti, Luke Horsman, Ryan Lee, and Pat Skott all lend their talents here.

I corresponded with Quaintance to get at just how Death of Comics Bookcase came to be, what goes into Kickstarting a book, and why that Werewolf story is so damn good.

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RICARDO SERRANO: Anthology comics can be strange creatures as they let you flex different storytelling styles while still feeling part of a unifying vision. You go for a different genre per story here. What did you hope would come through in each segment to keep it all together?

ZACK QUAINTANCE:
I didn’t initially plan to connect them at all, outside of the Death of Comics Bookcase framing device story that runs in between each. But in the process of working on them, a shared sensibility started to emerge. I really like comics that take absurd concepts seriously, and that’s absolutely what ended up unifying the book. The high concepts are very pulpy — whether it’s a werewolf priest or a war between sharks and apes — but there’s depth beneath that pulp, too.

SERRANO: One thing that’s present in each story is humor. Each one has its own tone though. What do you find in humor that helps you tell these kinds of stories?

QUAINTANCE:
The humor just kind of showed up. At no point did I think to myself, ‘Okay, time to make this funny.’ I spent quite a bit of time thinking about each story before and during scripting. I had the concepts for each early, but it took a long time to figure out how to first introduce readers to each world and then later how to wrap things up in ways that felt satisfying. At a certain point, I think I started trying to entertain myself. The longer I tinkered, the more jokes started to creep in.

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SERRANO: One of my favorite stories from the book is the Werewolf story, which actually says a lot about journalism in the process. It feels personal. How did you come about this story?

QUAINTANCE:
That story is based on my life. Well, sort of. I’ve never seen a werewolf, but after college, I did get a job at The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico Border. My first beat was night cops. It was a really rough time. I was 23 and didn’t know a single person for hundreds of miles. I’d drive around at night from car crashes to murder scenes to incidents with Border Patrol. I had really idealistic notions about reporting, but the paper there was on hard times. Nobody was reading it, nor did anyone respect it as a community institution. It was an intense mix of loneliness, violence, and professional futility. So, the comic has monsters, but for me the real horror is the young journalist reconciling his expectations with the reality of his job.

SERRANO: This isn’t your first time around Kickstarting a book. How have these experiences differed and what’s surprised you the most on this one?

QUAINTANCE: The last time I did a Kickstarter campaign, it was August 2020. Comics Twitter was alive and well, which made promo easier, or at least more centralized. Now when I have something new to unveil, I have five platforms to put it out on, and each one of those platforms works a little differently in how you have to court engagement. It’s more time consuming. The way I think about it is promo has gone from taking a highway, to taking a muddy road. You can still get where you’re going, but it’s going to take more pushing and patience.

death-comics-bookcase-zq-06.jpg


SERRANO: Already thinking of book 2? More Death of Comics Bookcase on the horizon?

QUAINTANCE: Absolutely! The plan as of now is to do at least three volumes. I’ve already got an idea of what will be in the second book, some of which will look familiar to readers of this volume. In fact, the only way there won’t be more Death of Comics Bookcase is if we don’t fund this one. I should also point out that two of these stories — The Werewolf Priest and Goldmask! — were designed as backdoor pitches. And while it wasn’t initially going to be, Nick Cagnetti and I changed the ending of Responsibili-Teen ever so slightly to make it so that character could also return. That’s a long way of saying, yes, absolutely. And the second volume would obviously be Reign of the Comics Bookcases.

You can find the Kickstarter page for Death of Comics Bookcase, Vol. 1 here.


The post Interview: Zack Quaintance finds the life of comics in DEATH OF COMICS BOOKCASE first appeared on Graphic Policy.
 
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