What drew indie comic book writer Josh Fialkov to Emerson College was the school’s strong liberal arts reputation.
“I’ve wanted to write and create since I was a kid,” Fialkov said. “I was producing radio serials on my Fisher Price tape recorder at age 4. And these were real serials, where I actually had a whole programming slate of recurring shows.”
Fialkov, Emerson class of ‘00, grew up in Monroeville, Pa., just east of Pittsburgh, a city he said has strongly influenced his storytelling.
“I worked in the mall [where] they shot Dawn of the Dead in,” Fialkov said. “I worked at the same theater that Tom Savini was mounting his gore soaked production of Dracula in. Pittsburgh is a very noir city and a very horror-filled place.”
Those noir and horror influences are evident in Fialkov’s Eisner Award-nominated graphic novel Tumor (with artist Noel Tuazon) and his psychological thriller Echoes (with artist Rahsan Ekedal).
“Where we come from and where we are influences our work because it changes who we are,” Fialkov said. “My work is the sum of every place, person, song, book, play, movie, TV show and novel I’ve ever experienced.”
Fialkov counts the time he spent in Boston among the biggest influences in his life.
“Being in Boston expanded my taste a lot,” Fialkov said. “Being surrounded by people reading Ibsen and watching Frankenheimer, and being equally drawn [to] both had probably the biggest influence on what I do.”
After a friend raved about Emerson’s theater program, Fialkov decided to visit the college and see for himself.
“I instantly fell in love with Boston, and immediately felt at home,” Fialkov said. “I miss the city deeply.”
Fialkov majored in theater and, despite not being allowed to double major, he took an bachelor degree’s worth of film classes, enough that he was able to graduate a year early.
“I was equally interested in being a performer and a writer/director at the time,” Fialkov said, “and when I auditioned and interviewed it seemed like the program was going to flexible and supportive of that.”
Fialkov read comics as a kid, but his interest waned during his high school years.
“I realized my money would be better spent on buying guitar equipment and impressing girls,” Fialkov said. “In that order.”
During his time at Emerson, Fialkov said he would read the occasional issue of Usagi Yojimbo and Concrete, but it wasn’t until after he moved to Los Angeles after graduating that he fell back into the writing habit.
After graduation, Fialkov and his writing partner wrote spec scripts. To make ends meet, Fialkov worked on film crews around New England, filming commercials and low-budget movies. He also worked at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge.
A producer had attached himself to one of Fialkov’s scripts, and he and his writing partner packed up their stuff and “started the long migration to Los Angeles on Sept. 9, 2001.”
By the time Fialkov and his writing partner arrived in L.A., their production deal had fallen through.
“The world wasn’t interested in the sort of achingly dark stuff we were writing,” Fialkov said.
With his film career stalled, Fialkov returned to the comic books he loved as a kid.
“I was getting more and more frustrated with my career and direction in life,” Fialkov said, “and suddenly, there they were, like a 32-page stapled piece of salvation.”
Fialkov’s salvation sparked within him a need for a creative outlet, and the newly-rediscovered comic books provided the perfect opportunity.
“I never really thought about writing comics until I came back to them,” Fialkov said. “I was pretty seriously depressed and needed an escape, and comics were just … there.”
Fialkov began writing comics “as a way to actually create finished products out of my ideas that I could share with the world.”
Read the first two issues of Josh Fialkov’s Echoes, illustrated by Rahsan Ekedal, for free online at Comic Book Resources and visit his website at thefialkov.com