World Comic Book Review

A Deep Six’d Publication

4th October 2022

Evermore (review) (and an interview with writer Joshua Gamon)

Writer : Joshua Gamon

Artist : Aleksandar Bozic Ske

Lettering : Jérôme Gagnon

Cover : Flavio Giron

Markosia Enterprises, 2019-2022

The idea of there being different worlds where different rules apply is part of the underlying structure of the ars scribendi. Not all books deal with new realities, of course, but those which do (books of fiction, that is) usually take it upon themselves to make sure that the aspect of world-building does not detract from the overall experience of the tale being told, unless it is the world-building idea itself that must be taken into account as forming the basis for a wider appreciation of the product: take More’s or Campanella’s utopias, for instance, where all revolves around the islands and their political structure, fiction being here used to talk about the political hortus conclusus of the imagined lands and the hopes of their creators.

What we see in Evermore, then, is a wise mixture of world building and narration, where both penetrate each other so that the final product, a short series gorgeously written and drawn, is given a solid and clear shape that manages to highlight the deftness of its structure. There is not much to say about the way the story is told, both visually and through its dialogue, as by telling too much about it would detract from the wonderful experience of simply diving into it. Odd as it may sound, this book needs no presentation of the story because it is the narrative itself that by opening up to its readers manages to close off the world around us and immerse us into its own architecture.

There is, then, an interplay between realities, not just the ones we find inside the book (the reality of a plague-ridden London and the [un]reality of fairy tales), but also those that separate ours from the fictive world(s) of the pages in our hands. Where universes are set apart from the logical distinction between the concepts of true and false, reading as an act becomes the key to giving words and drawings a reality that sets itself between the limits of what is rationally possible. Reading, in other words, is a path towards giving life to what is an act that cannot be confined to the borders of the pages.

As the layers of the process of meta-narrative are put in motion by the writer and the artist, Evermore does not stray away from the issue of art being a didactic medium that can (should always?) act as a platform for a discourse percolating into our own lives. The characters it presents show traits we can find around us, and the core issues here presented (love as a decisive factor for living and surviving, mental health and the necessity of stability, family ties, authoritarianism) do resonate with us without coming off as too blunt, too direct and not enough nuanced. A lesson, therefore, that is taken directly from those very fairy tales the series uses as a canvas on which a melange of reality and unreality is to be painted.

A tale set in a world where fiction is turned into a parallel world where some become aware of their own unreality, Evermore is therefore first and foremost a story superbly told, where its structure as a piece of fiction is highlighted by a deft and intelligent knowledge of this art form. A product that is sure to leave its readers satisfied, it is a testament to the importance of writing and to the plethora of worlds that the human imagination has been able to give birth to throughout its long and sometimes tortuous existence.

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Interview with Joshua Gammon

1. Where and how did you come up with the idea for Evermore? Were there any books or authors that inspired you?

JG: Evermore was based on my all-ages one-shot called Abigail & Rox, originally published by Digital Webbing Press back around 2007 or so. Then, the 22-page comic focused more on a younger Abigail and her adventure as she travelled into the cursed book of fairy tales to find her grandfather, Fredrick. Much of the plot’s framework and characters remained intact when the story became Evermore. See, I never really planned to return to the concept. I was content leaving comics behind me as I pursued other avenues, mostly writing novels. But there was something within me, a feeling, really, of something left unfinished. A yearning, maybe. I think I wanted to see how I matured as a writer, so I went back to the premise, as an experiment, and just simply changed the narrative from a child’s to an adult’s. And with that, the entire perspective changed. So, the concept of Evermore became a father who ventures within a cursed book of fairy tales to save his daughter, and that 22-page one-shot became 150 pages. Imagine watching a Disney movie as a child, then the same one as an adult: that once-adorable concept of say, Beauty and the Beast, becomes a case of Stockholm Syndrome. Whimsical was subverted into despair. Adventure became survival. Fantasy was grounded in something more tangible. Motivations and morals hovered within the grey. Fredrick isn’t a classical hero who rises to the occasion; he’s a parent trying to save his child, by any means. It was a fascinating concept to explore. So, I wanted something a little more character-driven than swashbuckling. As for inspiration? Well, outside of the source materials of Alice in Wonderland and other classic stories, I often explain Evermore is akin to The NeverEnding Story meets Heart of Darkness. The classic conflict of a stranger coming to town is my favorite one to explore.

2. In your series, there seems to be an interplay between reality and fiction, but not just in the way it is presented in the story, rather as a discourse between our own reality and the ones in the book. What is the relationship between us, the readers, and the worlds your characters live in?

JG: Fredrick Fellowes is essentially the Everyman. The readers can project themselves onto the character. Their pasts may share similarities with his. Maybe their wants or insecurities. There is truth in fiction, as it is said. As I was writing this story, the fledging virus swiftly became a global pandemic. I lost my grandmother, my father, and best friend all within a year of each other. Grief and madness and anger and fear are primal emotions we all share. Loss is something we all experience. How do you explore real-world experiences within a piece of fiction without belittling them? In Evermore, Fredrick’s last moments with his daughter, before she disappeared, were from a place of anger and worry. You have this overbearing father doing what he believes is just in the age of the Spanish Flu, to protect the only family he has left. But all Abigail wants is her father. You have that very historical event, one that now, still, parallels our own, serving as a rift between them, one that’s ever-present in the fantasy, even when he’s dealing with monsters and card guards, war pigs, and other conflicts along the way. No matter the escalation, his daughter is the only resolution that matters to him. He doesn’t want that fight to be the last memory shared between them. In part, it’s a selfish reason, but my last conversation with my own father was an argument. Sometimes something so small can eclipse a lifetime of other memories.

3. While reading your series we are presented not a few topics that can be part and parcel of our experience. Racism, for instance, the relationship between a single father and his daughter, or the issue of mental health. Do you think that comics are a good way of asking readers to focus on these problems, therefore creating a platform for a deeper discussion (and understanding)?

JG: Well, I can say, without any doubt, that writing this story was a form of self-therapy. But Evermore isn’t trying to preach anything from a soapbox. Here, it’s a story set in London’s interwar period. I didn’t want to ignore what came before it. You had a generation of young people who didn’t come back from the war. Some who did survive came back shell-shocked and were ignored or disenfranchised by their own country. Mental health was then and still is, considered taboo. Compounded with that, the Spanish Flu also killed millions more. Fredrick served. He was a field surgeon in the war, then he helped to treat the infected after the outbreak when he was not burying the dead in mass graves. In Evermore, the denizens all have ink for blood. It’s even in the meat of livestock, eventually staining the teeth of other humans trapped within the book, black. But, much like real-world historical events, classic literature often alludes to a writer’s own prejudices and beliefs within their works. So, even after Fredrick leaves London behind, racism, prejudice, xenophobia, etc, all those ugly things are still very real, even in the world of make-believe. There, his red blood becomes its own currency to others. And then, later on, Roland’s ink blood becomes a currency to a secret organization that will be revealed in issue six. But everything mentioned above is just my style of writing. History and historical context are what keep me writing. Comics can be fun and silly. Some invoke conversation or ask hard questions. Others are beautiful and haunting treatises of the human condition. Evermore, to me, is simply a story about family. Depending on your own experiences, ‘family’ can come with many contentions.

4. How important, would you say, is fiction? What kind of role does it have in our own lives (and reality)? Is escapism a psychological necessity?

JG: I remember, some years ago, James Frey wrote a book called A Million Little Pieces. It was a story marketed then as a non-fictional account of the author’s substance addiction. It was a best-seller, a hit with the readers, the talk of the town—the thing was everywhere. It provided a cautionary tale to some, to others a reprieve. Then, the truth came out: the story was a work of fiction. The writer was executed in the court of public opinion. Future copies of the book came with the author’s apology inserted into every issue. I remember working at a bookstore at the time. People were returning the book en masse; I’d often find torn-up copies on the shelf. It was a bizarre overreaction.

Here’s the thing: that book’s message helped people, based on a true story or not. But the minute it was revealed to be a work of fiction, that message was lost. People felt betrayed by the author, not the story. And I often wondered what does the author have to do with anything? Once a story is out in the world, it’s in the ether. It belongs to everyone, everywhere. They can confer with friends, and every person would have a different take on what the story meant to him or her. Fiction is a way of telling the truth under assumed names. It’s voyeuristic. It’s perverse. Surreal. Readers are the flies on the wall. We are the spy, the other woman, the hero on a quest, Fiction helps us relive a part of our youth many have outgrown. To some, it’s a link to the past. And I think, as readers, we trust and expect authors to treat us kindly along that journey. Comic book writers and artists, when you see them at conventions, you kinda want to celebrate with them. Thank them. Geek out together. It all comes from a place of love. Some years back, I saw Neil Gaiman read in Edinburgh at Usher Hall. Every seat was taken. Thousands of people were in attendance. Outside, scalpers were trying to hock their tickets for ridiculous prices. For an author. Not The Rolling Stones. Now, try to imagine if every story told by Neil Gaiman was revealed to actually be true. Sandman and all.

5. What are your plans for the future? Are you going to explore more of Evermore’s world, or are you going to write something completely new, maybe focusing on a new sub-genre (cyberpunk, for instance, realism, etc.)? 

JG: Well, issue six of Evermore will be coming out soon. I’m very excited about it, and I think people will especially love this last issue. The artwork is nearly complete, then it’ll need to be lettered. Its publisher, Markosia Enterprises, has mentioned to me the series will be collected in print. And with that release, I plan to include ten more pages of story. It could be an epilogue. It could be expanded scenes. You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out! But not to give too much away about the ending, the story of Evermore will continue. However, it is finite. It’s planned as three volumes. Timewise, there’s no telling when they’ll be released or if it’ll have the same creative team by then. But I can say this new Evermore story will heavily feature a vastly different Sleepy Hollow and introduce a literary character I always wanted to use but who had only just become public domain: Arsene Lupin.

As for now, I am currently writing a horror miniseries called Arctic Circle. Imagine if John Carpenter adapted an HP Lovecraft story, but more in the spirit of the former’s Prince of Darkness than the latter’s At the Mountains of Madness. It’s going to be a bloody good time!

Thanks for the interview.

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Mr Gamon’s website is located here: https://lovecraft13.wixsite.com/joshuagamon/about-4 which includes more information about this title and links to purchase.