It stands to reason that if you’re reading this site, you’re a fan of comics. Some folks step away from collecting at different times for varying reasons. And then some come back. Adam Besenyodi recently wrote a book, Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan, that documents his history as a fan. As described at Amazon: “With a mix of humor, recollection and insight, Deus ex Comica explores how the Marvel Comics stable of titles influenced Adam’s pre-teen and adolescent years, his rediscovery of sequential art as an adult, and the pleasure of watching his own son’s first steps into the comic book universe.” This Saturday, Free Comic Book Day, Besenyodi will do a book signing at Bill’s Books and More comic book shop in Canton, Ohio, from 12pm to 3pm.
Tim O’Shea: How did you score Tom DeFalco to write the foreword to your book?
Adam Besenyodi: Oh, man! Tom DeFalco. I put Tom in the “legendary” category with regards to comics and Marvel, so it is still kind of crazy to me that he wrote the foreword to my book. I met Tom through LinkedIn, actually — the professional networking site. I introduced myself to him and we struck up an online friendship. In early 2008, I started sharing with him the online Deus ex Comica series I was writing for Field’s Edge, and Tom was really supportive and encouraging of my writing.
Around mid-year 2008 I decided to turn the online series into a proper book, and as I was wrapping up the first full draft of the book in December, I began to think about including a foreword and who I could ask to write it. Tom has always been quick to respond and this time — even amid the holiday crush — was no exception. He graciously looked past the awkwardness of my proposition and immediately agreed to write the foreword to the book.
One thing I have found since returning to the comic book culture is that the people responsible for creating these incredible worlds with rich histories and lush visuals are, by and large, really approachable. Whether it’s at conventions or in online communities, these personalities, these people put themselves out there and are happy to chat with the fans who appreciate all their hard work.
O’Shea: Once you started digging into the old collection, you decided not to fill in the blanks of your collection — except for the Assistant Editors’ Month event. Why did you choose to fill the gaps on that Marvel event in particular?
Besenyodi: Assistant Editors’ Month was such a unique event, and it hit at the perfect time in my life — I was 13 years-old and in the throes of comic book collecting. I think because it had such a finite life, a distinct beginning and ending, I thought I would be able to jump in the pool, gather them up, and get back out. Unfortunately, like most everything else, it didn’t go quite like that.
Buying those Assistant Editors’ Month back issues I was missing — or more importantly, the quest for them — opened the doors for me to feel OK about buying other back issues to fill Original Collection holes. I haven’t yet started buying back issues from ongoing series yet, but I have been filling gaps in my classic Marvel limited series. Books like Bob Layton’s Hercules minis, Claremont’s Magik series, the entire Falcon run, stuff like that.
Incidentally, my editor and friend John Booth tracked down that last Assistant Editors’ Month issue I was missing (The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #13) and gave it to me to celebrate the completion of the book.
O’Shea: In becoming a fan all over again, you really were struck by the work of Ed Brubaker. But are you a fan solely of Brubaker’s Marvel work — or have you checked out his independent projects or work for DC?
Besenyodi: I am amazed by the world of comics out there that I never knew existed. Coming at this with fresh eyes and an open mind, I have discovered so much else in the world of comics. Using specific writers as launching pads has really helped in that exploration. The four current writers that have had the most influence on me are Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughan, and Matt Fraction.
Through these writers I have ventured outside of their House of Ideas work and into stuff like Bendis’ Torso and Vaughan’s Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man. Stuff like Brubaker’s Gotham Central and Fraction’s Casanova are certainly on my “to read” list. It’s just a matter of time because there is so much out there to explore.
This huge selection of comics both past and present isn’t overwhelming so much as exciting. I see it as a sign that I have plenty of good reading in front of me, no matter what the industry does.
O’Shea: Do you explain in the book why you favored Marvel over DC in your initial collecting days?
Besenyodi: That was a topic I did not examine in the book because I think my initial Marvel versus DC approach had to do with the same two things I see most often cited about the Marvel Universe by folks far more qualified than me who actually study this sort of thing. First, the characters are fallible. I recognized that even as a pre-teen. Second, although the stories go in fantastic directions, they are set in the real world. Even though I’d never traveled to New York City as a kid, I knew it existed in the world I was living in.
I loved the Super Friends cartoon on Saturday mornings, and I have a few issues of DC comics in the Original Collection (Flash #299 and a handful of Green Lantern come immediately to mind), but overall those titles and characters never really connected with me once I got heavily into reading comics as a kid. Heck, I didn’t read my first Batman comic until December 2008 when a friend gave me DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore trade paperback where I read Batman Annual #11 and The Killing Joke! I have since come around, because that same friend also gave me The Long Halloween, and I have branched out from there.
Although Marvel remains the bulk of my diet, I supplement it with some Vertigo and IDW and the like. Along with the good suggestions from my local comic shop owner, I’ve been fortunate to become friends with the hosts of the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast and the folks on that forum, who are always offering a variety of recommendations.
O’Shea: In singing the praises of your original 1980s collection days, have you heard from some of those era’s creators?
Besenyodi: Unfortunately, not yet. I would really like to get copies of the book into the hands of folks like John Byrne, Larry Hama, and others from back in the day just as much as I’d like Bendis and Vaughan and Brubaker and Fraction to see it. Steve Epting was encouraging of the online series of columns and Bryan JL Glass has been supportive of the book, all of which is great!
I’m hoping that, over the course of the summer convention circuit, I might be able to make some connections and get copies of the book in the hands of the industry people who have been so important to me, both past and present.
O’Shea: How does your wife feel about you instilling a love of comics into your son?
Besenyodi: My wife is very lovely and very tolerant and, thankfully, has an appreciation for geek tendencies. Our son is a huge Star Wars fan. He loves those movies — both the old and new trilogies, the Clone Wars, all of it. So it wasn’t a very big leap for him to enter the world of comics.
We’re both thrilled that he has a love of reading, regardless of whether that is chapter books like Bunnicula or DK guides or whatever. He currently has the monthly Clone Wars and Batman: The Brave and the Bold comics that spun out of their respective TV shows on my pull list. And I supplement his comic reading with the occasional trade paperback or Marvel Adventures monthly issue.
O’Shea: Who have you gotten to draw the cover and how did that come about?
Besenyodi: The cover art was done by the very talented Dave Wachter. Dave has done work on the covers and pages of critically acclaimed indie comics, including Scar Tissue, Fiendish Fables, Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, and his new Western series The Guns of Shadow Valley.
I had some ideas about making the cover look like a comic book cover and doing some “POW” type graphics for the chapter title pages, but wasn’t sure how to make any of it happen. (I eventually dropped the idea of the stylized chapter title pages.)
I met Dave on the 11 O’Clock Comics and Marvel Noise Forum and was really blown away by his stuff. I reached out to him late last year and that got the ball rolling. Other than suggesting it play off of either the loose interpretation of the title (“God is in the comics”) or the subtitle (“The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan”), I didn’t have a real sense of what the main image should be.
I emailed Dave my rough sketch ideas about the cover, and we got together by phone New Year’s Eve day to talk things through. He immediately latched onto the idea behind the subtitle and suggested pulling some inspiration from Giant-Size X-Men #1 and that great Gil Kane/Dave Cockrum cover of this new team of mutants bursting through the image of the original X-Men.
Dave did the original art image and the coloring. I ended up being the one to add all the other elements to the cover: The title and copy, along with the subtitle banner across the top and date and issue number in the corner circle, all meant to evoke the old “Marvel Comics Group” banner and corner box. But none of it would mean anything without that incredible, eye-catching image from Dave.
When Dave sent me his first original sketch, I was completely blown away and knew I had made the right decision in having him do the cover art! I think Dave’s cover image, combined with the other title elements, really bring home the idea of a comic book cover and the book pops off the shelf. I loved the process of creating the cover so much that I even included an “Evolution of a Cover” afterward in the book so everyone can see how the cover was developed.
O’Shea: What was the most challenging aspect of writing these columns?
Besenyodi: I didn’t set out to write this book necessarily. It was an evolution as much as a process. In early 2008 I decided to write about my rediscovery of the comic book culture in an online essay called “Gateway Drugs” (which eventually evolved into the first chapter of the book, “Reboot”). My friend John agreed to publish it on the Field’s Edge site and it sort of took off from there. I began developing more columns on returning to the comic book faith over the first half of 2008, and by summer I knew I could turn it into a book. I had ideas for eight other columns that I wrote as chapters, then went back and reworked the existing web installments to work in the context of the book.
The most challenging aspect of writing the book has also been the most fun… piecing together the parts of my childhood that that had seemed long forgotten. The simple act of digging through my old long boxes and pulling out issues was amazing, and full of questions and fuzzy memories. Reconnecting with that past in order to put things in perspective and the proper order was the biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding. I think because of that exercise, I will be able to better appreciate my son’s obsessions and my wife’s hobbies.