|JOSHUA HALE FIALKOV & NOEL TUAZON
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DF Interview: Joshua Hale Fialkov, Noel Tuazon blend mystery with medicine in Tumor: A Medical Noir OGN
By Byron Brewer
Private investigator Frank Armstrong barely scrapes by in the Los Angeles underbelly until “the big one” hits his desk. Locate and retrieve the daughter of a drug kingpin, and he can finally afford more than the one-dollar meatloaf. Unfortunately, the job offer arrives just as the symptoms of his fatal, late-stage brain tumor intensify.
Live – or, for some, re-live -- this gripping story from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Noel Tuazon as Oni Press presents a new deluxe edition of the 2011 Eisner Award-nominated original graphic novel, Tumor: A Medical Noir.
Dynamic Forces sat down with both creators recently to discuss the OGN, how it came to be, and its reprinting in August by Oni.
Dynamic Forces: Josh, first off, congratulations on your exclusive signing for creator-owned with Oni Press. Tell us how that feels and how that came about.
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Y’know, the past two years with Oni have been genuinely incredible for me. While I love every one of my creative partners, Oni has been there for me and supported me in a way that can only be described as family. Their passion for our books has just been … beyond words. They work their asses off and do everything they can to not just make them beautiful packages, but to get them in as many hands as humanly possible.
DF: Tumor is certainly an ominous name for an OGN, especially for those who have battled cancer or know someone who has. Please tell us about the graphic novel and what inspired the tale all those years ago.
JHF: After Noel and I collaborated on Elk’s Run nearly a decade ago, we both started talking about what would be fun to do next. The idea of Tumor, as a big idea, came to me, mostly, from dealing with a mystery illness, that despite doctors telling me wasn’t a brain tumor, I became convinced it was. That sent me down a rabbit hole of obsession and worry, and out the other end came Tumor. For me, though, it was also about getting Noel to just paint the pages in the sludge of Los Angeles, and cut through it with the love and tenderness of his every stroke.
Noel Tuazon: Josh had given me an earlier version (2006?) of the Tumor script along with descriptions of the characters to work from shortly after my work on Elk’s Run was done. The art was originally going to be all ink/watercolor washes but that changed (along with some of the story’s supporting cast) once the project got greenlit in 2009. I can’t remember, though, whether Josh mentioned his migraine issues to me when he first submitted the book’s original script. I do recall him telling of his medical worries in interviews and maybe tweets prior to the final version of the script.
DF: Tell us about Frank Armstrong as a character.
JHF: Frank, I think, came out of not just a tradition of noir tough guys, but out of the idea of a guy who SAW himself as one of them. He sort of fancies himself tougher than he is, and his flaw rests in there. It’s also … his strength.
NT: Josh stole my answer.
DF: As some recall, Frank isn’t exactly riding a magic carpet of luck in this tale. Tell us about his main titular challenge, and what role if any his late wife plays in the OGN.
JHF: A lot of the shape of the story came from the research, actually. When you have a late stage brain tumor, a lot of things start to go wrong. You lose track of time, you black out, you have hallucinations, visual, aural and tactile. Memories and reality blend. SO – From there, it was about how do you try and cope with that? How do you try to find a missing girl, who when you look at her you see your wife who’s been dead for twenty years, and, more importantly, how do you help someone when you blame yourself for what horrible things happened to them?
DF: Do you guys enjoy working together on these types of books? Tell us a little about your partnership/friendship.
JHF: Y’know, Noel and I have been friends for nearly a dozen years now. The work we did together remains some of my favorite work I’ve ever done. And, as we’ve been putting together these reprints, I think, at least for me, the spark has definitely returned, and, fingers crossed, there’ll be some new Fialkov/Tuazon jams soon.
NT: I’ve enjoyed working from Josh’s scripts! They’re never too wordy so it leaves so much breathing space for the art itself and I’ve enjoyed reading his other stories. Looking forward to some day working again on a Fialkov script.
DF: Noel, did you do the designs for the OGN? And did you play any role in the overall plotting/storytelling?
NT: I have to confess that Josh has put out the design ideas for the covers of the Tumor and Elk’s Run reprints while I’ve provided new illustrations for the books’ inside front and back covers.
JHF: You know, each of my collaborators brings so much to my books, it’s not even a fair question to ask. My books with Noel are singular to what Noel and I do together, just like my books with Joe Infurnari are singular to us, or the work I do with Gabo is singular to the two of us. THAT is what makes comics such a unique and special medium.
DF: Tumor strikes close to home for me, Josh, because my dad and granddad died of cancerous tumors. Do you have any such experience in your family, if you don’t mind my asking, that may play a role in the mood of this story?
JHF: My grandfather died of one not too long before this book, and my grandmother developed dementia not long after. Seeing how the two of them became such different people as their systems failed them was really haunting for me. The other part was that I was lucky enough to speak with a bunch of different people who had lost loved ones to cancer, and reminisce about the experiences. But I will say the most valuable might have been the time I spent with Dr. Arne Schiebel who was both a psychiatrist AND a neurologist, and had just a beautiful way of talking about the brain. Our conversations really led me to what, I hope, is a very accurate, if still fictional version of what actually happens.
DF: What other marvels current and near-future do you guys have coming from your kinetic keyboard and dynamic drawing table?
JHF: Coming up next, I’ve got more The Bunker and The Life After from Oni, plus the brand new Jeff Steinberg: Champion of Earth with co-writer and artist Tony Fleecs. Plus there’s the big ol’ relaunch of Aspen Comics coming this Free Comic Book Day, AND a miniseries with Brian Churilla on Godzilla for IDW. It’s a BUSY year!
NT: I’ve contributed to some anthologies the last two years including a 10-page story by Erik Radvon for Colonial Comics’ Vol. 2 edition, Red Stylo’s Killer Queen and Unfashioned Creatures and Broken Frontier. There’s also my collaborations with Eric Hobbs on his two GNs, The Broadcast and Family Ties (both from NBM) and Brian Buccellato’s Foster (OSSM).
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. The Tumor: A Medical Noir OGN hits stores August 24th!
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