“Modern Comics Wouldn’t Exist Without Politics” – Interviewing Eric Palicki On This Nightmare Kills Fascists

by Oliver MacNamee

You may have read our recent review of this Kickstarter campaign that’s fully funded and now printed and ready to rock! And, just in time for ECCC where you may be able to grab your own copy of  This Nightmare Kills Fascists by heading for Booth #1604, which we called the ‘Black Mirror’ of the comic book world. Politics, horror and a mix of comic book pros and up and coming new talents are contained in this timely anthology edited by Eric Palicki and Matt Miner.

We caught up with Eric to discuss the inception of the idea:

Olly MacNamee: Where did you guys get the initial idea for This Nightmare Kills Fascists? Was it as simple as wanting to comment on the dreadful state of politics at the moment, not just in America, but globally?

Eric Palicki: My recollection might be hazier than Matt’s, but I remember this came together on Twitter. One of us — Matt, I think — was remarking that he had a few short stories written, but that the market for shorter-than-an-issue comics can be, at best, hit-or-miss (and non-existent at worst). We talked about Kickstarter being the best place for stories of that length, and as we took a deep dive into the sorts of short stories we wanted to tell, the theme of TNKF kind of presented itself to us fully grown, as if from the head of Zeus. We were both deeply invested in the politics of the moment. That much was evident in the work we were doing. Surely our friends and colleagues were eying the world through a similar lens.

And here we are.

OM: As creators were found – or came forward – how did you go about coordinating such a huge and ambitious project? Any pitfalls or pointers for other would-be Kickstarters out there?

EP: We reached out first to experienced creators, knowing they’d deliver quality stories on time and with minimal editorial guidance. Creators like Eric Zawadzki, Justin Jordan, Vita Ayala, Ariela Kristantina, Chris Sebela, Ryan Ferrier, Ryan Cady, Phillip Sevy…the list goes on. Knowing we had a core group of seasoned comics veterans in place with whom could be mostly hands-off freed us up to take a chance on some lesser known creators. The result is something really special. Based on the reactions I’ve seen online, everyone has a different favorite, which is exactly what you want in a collection like this.

I want to shout out to Cardinal Rae, our in-house letterer for most of the stories in the book. If I had one piece of advice, it’d be to hire a letterer who delivers correctly formatted, press-ready files. Cardinal’s work in that arena, on top of lettering every story at superhuman speed, saved us so much time as we went to print.

OM: Was it cathartic for any of the creators, including yourselves, when creating these strips?

EP: I can only speak for myself, but I think the project in total was more cathartic than my individual contribution, and not just for the reason you’d think. Sure, I enjoy meting out fictional justice where it’s due, but more than that, this book is proof an audience exists for our message and also that Matt and I are capable of putting a book like this together in the first place.

OM: Where there any red lines you wouldn’t cross, or were you confident that each creative team wouldn’t let you down?

EP: I was kind of nervous, not so much about any red lines, but about redundancy. Thankfully, everyone else seemed to be conscious of that and intentionally approached the theme from an oblique angle, which kept the literal or figurative Trump-bashing to a minimum. The upside is, this project opened my eyes to a lot of perspectives about the world at the moment that I myself wasn’t conscious of. Tini Howard and Chris DiBari’s story “Devil Daddy” and Vita Ayala and Eric Zawadzki’s story “Diana The Hunter” — to give just two examples — absolutely belong in this collection but aren’t stories I myself would’ve or could’ve written.

OM: Given the history of comic strips are intertwined with political commentary, what are your thoughts on whether politics has a place in comics or not?

EP: Modern comics wouldn’t exist without politics, and anyone who says otherwise is intentionally turning a blind eye to the history of the medium. The Yellow Kid was political. Superman is political. The X-Men are political. Watchmen is political.

That said, it’s important to recognize that good and bad stories can both exist within the spectrum of political comics. There are hundreds of great comics that either directly or obliquely contain a political component, but there are also plenty of bad ones.

What Matt and I have endeavored to do here — and only time will tell where in the Venn Diagram we’ve landed — is to shepherd good comics that happen to be political.

OM: Finally then, are there plans for any future volumes if this does well?

EP: Plans are afoot, yes. I can tell you that our next book won’t be This Nightmare Kills Fascists, Too, but yeah, we absolutely want to do another book together. But I need a nap, first.

This Nightmare Kills Fascists is out now, and available at ECCC March 1st – 4th.