Jason Rodriguez here, editor of Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened, a graphic anthology coming June 26th from Villard Books featuring 16 stories of deceit, redemption, love, and intrigue inspired by used postcards.
Jonah’s a swell guy. He’s given me the keys to CBR for a full week and I plan on using it wisely. Yesterday I chatted with Rick Spears and Rob G about their contribution to the book. Today I’m with Ande Parks, the writer behind “Taken on Faith.” Ande was a catch – the man behind “Capote in Kansas” and “Union Station” simply had to be in “Postcards.” I hooked him up with Joseph Bergin III, whose work I first became familiar with after working with him on Western Tales of Terror. Ande and Joseph’s story was based on a postcards mailed January 19th, 1912, to a Mr. Holmes Falkenstein of Huntington, Pennsylvania. It reads:
“Always glad for news of ‘doings’ on the Hill.
Good news rec’d thanks for telling me. $10,000 looks pretty good. HR Gibble called at my home today. Glad he was the one chosen as trustee. Bible term here well attended. Royer has made a good impression.
Minnie A. Will”
|This postcard inspired Ande Parks’ story “Taken on Faith.”|
Jason: Your card is my favorite card. I loved this card so much that I was afraid to give it to anyone. It just has this perfect, “Great Gatsby”-like feel to it. Names like Holmes S. Falkenstein and Minnie A. Will and H.R. Gibble and Royer. Talk of Capitol Hill and $10,000 grants and Bible Term. I almost felt like no-one could do it justice (don’t worry, you did). I have to know, though – the first time you read it, what was your impression of the principles involved? How did you see them?
Ande: Jesus… way to crank up the pressure! You’re right, though, there was a lot of potential there. When I first saw the card, I knew something special could be done with it, but it did take me some time to figure out a path to get there. Right away, I sensed some desperation in Mrs. Will’s tone. Maybe I was reading something into it, but I wanted to do something about that unique, sick feeling that only being somehow short on money can create.
I also wanted to play with the mention of the Bible School. That led me to my own past, actually. My grandparents lived in a small Kansas town that has once been home to a thriving Wesleyan college. By the time I saw the campus, though, it was deserted and ghostly. When I read the postcard, the images of those abandoned buildings came back to me, and I started to connect those images and feelings to the thoughts about money. With that, I had the back story for Mrs. Will.
As for our other main character, doesn’t the name Holmes S. Falkenstein sound like it belongs to a conman? Just the name gave me a queasy feeling… a feeling you might get in the presence of a man you know is just too slick for your own good.
Jason: I certainly wouldn’t trust a Holmes S. Falkenstein with much of anything. What I love about pulling stories out of these postcards is that, often, we’re forced to pull most of the characters’ traits out of their names. You hear a name and you have to decide what kind of person he or she is. If it’s “Bob,” whatever, he can be a plumber or a mass murderer. But a name like Holmes? You have to respect that.
|“Taken on Faith” Page 1|
I wanted to get you in the book because of the excellent job you did with two other historical fiction graphic novels, “Capote in Kansas” and “Union Station.” I don’t think “Postcards” could really be considered a true “historical graphic novel,” but the stories are based on a piece of history. It’s just a really tiny piece. How did your experiences with “Capote in Kansas” and “Union Station” compare to this story? Did the lack of a firm foundation force you to look to similar histories – like Wesleyan College?
Ande: There are some similarities in the approach, but it’s a very different animal. With both “Union Station” and “Capote in Kansas,” I had big historical frameworks in which I had to place my themes and story. With the postcard, all I had was a little glimpse. That gave me a lot more freedom in fitting a story around the material.
Yeah, I wanted to make our story fit the card as much as possible, but it was more important, in my opinion, to create the same overall feeling the card gave me.
With a story of this length, I think it’s about an impression. Maybe Will Eisner or Archie Goodwin could present a complete, fully-realized story in eight pages, but I’m not sure I’m up to that challenge just yet. I just want to hit the reader with something they’ll remember… some emotional response that will linger. In this case, I was hoping to evoke an emotion similar to the one the postcard left me with.
Jason: Between limited real estate and wanting to evoke an emotional response from the reader, how crucial was Joseph’s interpretation of your script? You were pretty involved with the art in all stages, which I love, personally, but how do you go about making sure your vision comes through while allowing Joseph to have his own take on the piece?
|“Taken on Faith” Page 2|
Ande: Well, we’re still talking about a visual medium, and the thing is going to fall flat without solid, convincing art. Fortunately, you guys hooked me up with Joseph and he really brought the right tools to the party. This is a challenging story, filled with very quiet moments of desperation. It’s not the kind of thing a lot of guys are good at, frankly. Joseph portrayed the characters with great subtlety, so that I think the reader will really get more out of the story than just what the text tells them.
When I write a script, I always try to include as many visual cues as I can think of. It might be overkill at times, but I figure it’s better to offer too much info than too little. I also always encourage the artists to change or ignore my suggestions. I don’t work with anyone I don’t trust that way, and I want this to be a true collaboration.
With “Taken on Faith,” Joseph was patient enough to listen to my input as he went, which is a nice luxury for me to have. There will always be little surprises for a writer when the art is done. Having input throughout the process, and being able to tweak the dialogue after seeing everything allows all of us to be sure we’re on the same wavelength. I think we end up with a more cohesive product as a result.
And we’re moving along, ladies and gentlemen. Monday we’ll talk with the always exciting Robert Tinnell. He has some words to say about his story, “The Midnight Caller: Holiday in Hades,” and his collaborators, Brendon and Brian Fraim. But, for now, go to the Postcards site and see what we have on our promote page! Wallpapers, badges, banners, and flyers – what better way to say, “I love you,” then by posting our mark all over the internet?
PS – Don’t forget to bring the pies for Christmas dinner.
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