Candler Comics Writer Matt Wilson Moves Beyond Parody to Find Deeper Humor
Matt Wilson remembers tagging along with his older brother, Brian, to comic book shops near his family home of Shelby, N.C. Brian was interested in the investment potential of comic books. The younger Wilson had a different motive.
“I didn’t know about the collectibility aspect of it,” he said. “More than anything, I just liked reading them. I’d find some books to buy and I would just read them over and over again, cover to cover.
Wilson never outgrew that love of comic books. For 10 years, he has co-hosted “War Rocket Ajax,” a weekly podcast devoted to the genre. And as he developed into a writer, it was perhaps inevitable he would tell stories in comic book form.
Wilson has published two comic books on the heels of crowdfunding campaigns—the newest is an absurdist and dystopian tale titled “Everything Will Be Okay.” Wilson has a booth Saturday at the Asheville Comic Expo, inside the US Cellular Center.
“Before I ever wanted to write comics, I was writing comedic essays for classes in school,” Wilson said. “So it was really just a way of combining my interests, where I could things that are comedic and also combine that with my love of comics.
Wilson studied journalism and spent a few years as a staff writer for the daily newspaper in Chattanooga. Even then, he contributed parodies and comic essays to the National Lampoon, McSweeney’s and Cracked. He published three books under the pseudonym King Oblivion PhD, with titles such as “The Supervillain Field Manual” and “The Supervillain Handbook: The Ultimate How-To Guide to Destruction and Mayhem.” He and his wife moved four years ago to Candler.
“My initial writing about comics-like characters were fully parodies,” he said. “Like, here are some tropes you can identify if you’ve ever read a comic book. You know, how these characters are vastly confident in face of consistent failure, these characters who fail over and over again, but keep going.”
Wilson wanted to bring his dry comedic sensibility to comic book form, and he raised money to pay an artist, colorist and letterer to bring to life “Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective.” . In the midst of writing the series of stories, Wilson found himself moving beyond parody.
“I wrote the first issue hoping it entirely would be parody,” he said. “But parody exhausts itself really quickly as a type of story. It’s not really a story—it’s a filtering of a story that already exists. As I was writing this, I realized there had to be more to this, or it wouldn’t be fulfilling for me.”
For his new comic series, Wilson has evolved his comedic voice. It’s right there in the title—in “Everything Will Be Okay.” Wilson’s characters deal with what he calls a “kitchen sink of disasters”—from climate change and nuclear war to monsters and zombies.
“The situations are absurd. There’s an absurdity to the very premise and there’s humor in that premise,” he said. “But I have to view the characters as real or having real emotions or feelings, or they’re not enjoyable to write and there’s really nothing for them to say.”
Wilson has developed a community and audience for this work largely through his podcast. That’s how he met the people who collaborated with him to bring his two comics series to life.
“One thing you have to get out of your head if you’re going to create comics is the idea of ‘my vision,’” he said. “I am part of a community of people who write, draw, color, letter and edit comic books, and from them I’ve gained a greater knowledge of what the process entails and what the collaboration is really like.”
Wilson earns his living writing corporate communications, so he doesn’t feel pressure to make money through his comic books or any of the four podcasts he produces. Still, he makes time to attend comics conventions, where he hands out sample issues of his comics like business cards, hoping to attract a distributor.
“There are stories that can only be told in comics,” he said. “Even if there’s a large group of people that believes this is an immature endeavor, I don’t think I could ever stop myself from pursuing it.”