Today, I had the great pleasure to sit down with the distinguished and accomplished author of Zomburbia, and the comics, 100 Girls, Gear School, and Infinities Return of the Jedi, among other great things. We talked about his story “The Secret of Magic” in our acclaimed anthology, Evil in Technicolor.
VB) Stage magic versus “real magic” is an important element of the text, and relates to the title. For you, who are the greatest stage magicians, and who are the greatest “real magicians”? What influence do they have on your work?
Adam Gallardo) I liked the idea of an occult magician hiding in plain sight as a stage magician, though my character Christopher Dark, has mostly failed as a stage magician because stage magic is so hard.Occult magicians in real life that inspired me do so in a negative way – they display ways not to behave or lead your life. Magicians like Crowley seem to use magic as a way to accumulate person power and hold sway over others. They leave a lot of broken bodies in their wake. Though they often make great, compelling characters – like Jack Parsons who helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory – they aren’t exactly role models. Stage magicians: I tend to like debunkers. Penn & Teller are great examples of this, though the tradition goes back to Houdini. Ricky Jay was an amazing performer who also wrote extensively on the history of stage magic. Finally, there’s a card mechanic that both Christopher and I greatly admire named Richard Turner. There’s a great documentary about him called “Dealt.” If you don’t know Turner and his work, that’s well worth watching.
VB) You have worked in both comic books and fiction. What do you find is different about storytelling craft in these different mediums?
Adam Gallardo) I’m trying to figure out how to say this without alienating any of my fellow comics writers… While you need to have a firm grasp of both story and character for both, the biggest difference is that comics writing doesn’t require much artfulness while writing description. With novels, you are creating a world for the reader, using language to evoke everything from setting to mood to pacing, etc. A comics script is a set of instructions to everyone who will have a hand in making the comic – the artist, the colorist, letterer. And generally the comics writer tries to be as concise as possible, so scripts don’t make a great read. I’ve been taken to task by editors that my comics scripts are a bit too wordy because I try to evoke for the artists involved what I want the readers to experience; that’s maybe an example of my prose writing bleeding into my comics writing.
And I feel that I should say that I enjoy both kinds of writing equally. Both exercise different muscles and require different skills.
VB) How has quarantine and the pandemic impacted your day to day life?
Adam Gallardo) COVID has ground my life to a virtual halt. I am not working at the bookstore where I’d been assistant manager for several years. I’ve been offered the opportunity to come back, but just can’t imagine doing so at this point. Here in Oregon, the number of cases is still on the rise – just a few days ago, we had the highest number of reported cases for a single day. I can’t see myself returning to work before there’s a vaccine or treatment. I love my job, but not enough to die because of it. My kids’ school district has decided to begin the school year virtually this year, so a large part of my day is spent as a sort of teacher’s aid. Really what the virus has done is shrink my world. I leave the house to go grocery shopping, to get take-away food, and to go on solitary walks where I hope not to encounter other people. Once this is all done, I don’t know how I’ll return to the world of regular social interactions.