When a gunman fired on Las Vegas's Route 91 Harvest music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, 58 people lost their lives and more than 800 were injured by gunfire. It was the worst mass-shooting in United States history, and follows a decade where the issue of gun violence has become more and more prevalent for those living throughout the 50 states.
In response, writer and artist J.H. Williams III, himself a Las Vegas resident and known for his work on Batwoman and Promethea, decided to curate a benefit anthology comic for those who were affected by the shooting. This year that project sees publication in the form of Where We Live, which is scheduled for release on May 30 through Image Comics.
The anthology sees more than 150 writers, artists and editors involved, all curated by Williams and Wendy Wright-Williams; alongside editor Will Dennis and Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson. Running at more than 300 pages with a $19.99 cover price, the anthology will include work from Neil Gaiman, Amy Chu, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Tess Fowler, Dave Stewart, Joe Illidge, Ariela Kristantina, Mark Millar, Gabriel Rodriguez, Mike Mignola, Cliff Chiang and many more.
Ahead of the book's April 16 final order cutoff date, CBR spoke to Williams about his role co-creating and curating the anthology, along with his own contributions to the stories told inside.
CBR: The shooting in Las Vegas last October was the worst mass shooting in American history. Las Vegas is your home, and this must have been a hugely impactful event for you, your friends, and your family. What was your reaction to seeing the news?
J.H. Williams III: Shock and horror. Well, I guess that came second, actually. We saw it being reported on Twitter first, and my first reaction was kinda not accepting it, like it had to be a joke. But obviously within seconds my mind realized... no, it can’t be a joke. Wendy [Wright-Williams] and I were away from home for a friend’s wedding that weekend, and that Sunday night we were up all night waiting on every bit of news to find out what was happening, frantically trying to reach people we know and love to make sure they were safe. It was a horrible, helpless feeling, especially being away from home in another state entirely.
It seems like this is happening at least weekly. As I write these questions, in fact, a news story has broken about a further shooting in America [on April 3 at Northern California's YouTube headquarters]. Why is it that America faces this issue? Do you think this is something which can be dealt with?
It’s become a sickening regular thing, and I don’t understand it. I don’t think any of us can understand it. We certainly can’t fully understand the causes of it. All we can really know is that certain types of weapons allowed do make it much easier to kill large numbers of people in only minutes. If this problem can be dealt with, it can start by getting some common sense about the proliferation of these types of weapons. What is being used in most cases, are actually weapons designed for war -- that is their only purpose.
Dealing with the tools being used by people to kill other people can have an impact on the frequency, and the mass casualties and death, but it doesn’t address the "why" of these incidents at all. That is something else entirely and I imagine it would take a very in-depth study and exploration of what is going on in the psyche of our society that has led to these extreme acts and how often they are occurring.
Your response to the shooting was to announce Where We Live, a comics anthology benefit which will be released by Image. Firstly, where will the money raised by the anthology go?
It’s going to go those in need, victims of the shooting. The funds will be delivered to a GoFundMe set up by Nevada. We’ve made special arrangements to do this.