What is at the intersection of Washington, DC, and comics? Meet Matt Dembicki, editor of the recent comics anthology District Comics: An Unconventional History About Washington, D.C. It’s an engaging collection of stories that illuminate both well-known and forgotten stories of our capital city.
Excited about seeing Matt speak at the RG? He’ll also give you a chance to try your very own drawing as well! We asked Matt to tell us a little more about his work.
Q: District Comics seems to bridge genres. How would you describe it?
It’s a collection of unconventional stories about the nation’s capital–told in a comics format. I think what makes it particularly unique is the different narrative styles–many of the stories are told from the first-person perspective. For the more contemporary stories, we went to the original sources and interviewed the subjects. When that wasn’t possible, we interviewed family and friends and even delved in personal letters. With the older stories, the writers went to original source material to get a feel for the story. For example, for “Impartial? Washington’s First Newspaper,” writer Gregory Robison visited the Library of Congress to get a first look at the original newspapers cited in the story.
Q: Which story or tidbit from the book do you think Mensans would most enjoy?
That’s a tough one. I guess it would depend on people’s interest. Personally, I enjoyed “Karat” because we had an opportunity to do several interviews with former CIA agent (and accused spy) Brian Kelley. Brian was full of stories–he was working on an autobiography at the time of his death in 2011–so it was a bit difficult to focus on one story and fit it into the scope of the book. But writer/artist Peter Conrad pulled it off. I especially like how Peter had two stories running simultaneously. I really enjoy that approach.
Q: As you know, our RG has a superhero theme, so we kinda have to ask: who is your favorite comic book superhero?
Swamp Thing. The run by Allan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben in the 1980s had a huge effect on me. It was a superhero horror story the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. The stories were creepy and the art was different from the typical house styles at the Big Two, Marvel and DC Comics. I also enjoyed the original run on the series by co-creators Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson in the 1970s and–even though I don’t read the monthly superhero “floppies” anymore–I think it continues to be one of the best written mainstream comics around.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring comic book artists?
I would recommend to make comics that you enjoy making. If it’s superhero comics, then make superhero comics. If it’s autobiographical mini comics, then make them. I think a lot of folks new to the industry have high expectations of breaking in as the next Frank Miller. When that doesn’t happen, they become disheartened and stop making comics. Make comics because you love the medium and you love making comics. In terms of breaking into the business, it takes a while. You have to put in your time–making comics (which is a pretty solitary affairs), going to comics shows, networking, etc.
Q: Do you have a favorite local comic book store you would recommend?
I shop at Big Planet Comics. It has four locations in the Washington area (D.C., Vienna, Bethesda and College Park). They are very knowledgeable and carry an incredible variety of comics, from self-published mini comics, to indie publishers to the mainstream publishers. Several employees are also involved in running the annual Small Press Comics Expo in Bethesda. That is an amazing comics show that every comics fan in this area should attend at least once.
Q: What’s your next project?
I have a few in the works. The first is a comics anthology that will be a fundraiser for an ocean conservation organization. I’m also inking and lettering a historical graphic novel on set in the 1800s in North America. Both are scheduled to be published in 2014 by Fulcrum Publishing.
Q: Where can people connect with you?
I have a blog and I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I seem to do more of my posting on Facebook and need to do a better job updating my blog. 🙂
Thank you, Matt!